Where does negative self-talk come from, and why would anybody choose to indulge in it?
Well, first let me define what I mean by negative self-talk.
It’s that little voice, usually a squeaky little voice, which constantly narrates in your head, and talks down to you. It’s the one which, in essence, has taken over from your Narcissistic Mother. It’s the one which says:
You can’t do that! You’re useless. You never achieve anything. You’re not worth looking after. Nobody likes you. You’re no good. You’ll never succeed, etc, etc
Here’s the thing: humans are born with lots of unconnected nerve endings in the brain called neurons. A big part of the work of a baby is to literally make connections between those neurons. Those connections are called neural pathways. That is, for example, how we learn language. We make a connection/neural pathway between the image of, say, a cat, and the word ‘cat’.
The more we reinforce that neural pathway between the image of a cat and the word ‘cat’ the stronger it grows. That’s how repetition helps us to learn: learning is deliberately creating a desired neural pathway.
This is a brilliant system as it means we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time – we’d go mad if we had to do that.
However, it depends on the right input in the first place. If, somehow, we saw the image of a dog and learned the word ‘cat’, then the system would still work perfectly, but because we had started with wrong information, our brain would be wired wrong, i.e. we’d think that the dog was a ‘cat’.
The same thing applies to the sense we make of the world. If we are loved we learn that we are loveable, and that connection gets fixed in place.
And our mothers’ messages acted like affirmations, creating those neural pathways: You can’t do that! You’re useless. You never achieve anything. You’re not worth looking after. Nobody likes you. You’re no good. You’re worthless. You’ll never succeed, etc, etc
Even if our mother didn’t teach us this in as many words, we humans are very clever at gathering evidence and coming to conclusions. Which again is a very useful trait but can backfire. Because we’ll experience how she treated us and tell ourselves the wrong messages!
And so our neural pathways were created, and that little voice, that negative self-talk is nothing more than those neural pathways being triggered.
This is very good news. It means – and this is so, so important – that:
Just because we think a thought, doesn’t mean it’s true.
I would love that everybody would know that. It’s so powerful.
It means that if you think, I can’t do that, or I’m useless, I’ll never achieve anything – that it’s not necessarily true.
Now, an honest assessment of your abilities is no harm. If I – five foot nothing, middle-aged and overweight – say, I can’t represent my country in basketball – then that’s probably true.
So, if you think one of these negative beliefs, just conciously think to yourself: Ah, there’s that thought again. How interesting. But that thought isn’t true, and doesn’t serve me, so I’m not going to think it any more. Instead I shall think [insert empowering thought here].
Stepping back and observing the thought, with mild interest, is so, so empowering and freeing. It takes away the power of the thought.
Over time the original, negative, neural pathway will wither, and the more empowering thought will take its place. However – it’s hard to get into the habit of observing the thought instead of being immersed in it, and the key phrase about changing it is, ‘over time’.
There is one way, though, of turbo-charging those changes, and it’s using EFT. EFT is simple to do, easy, and powerful. You can learn more about it here. I swear by EFT. It has changed my life for the better, and continues to do so, and so I am an unabashed advocate for it.
Mothers With NPD:
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What other DONMs say: