Our internal dialogue can end up determining so much of our entire outlook on life. Often, we do not even know where these inner thoughts come from - or - what is the source of the emotion that make us feel the way we do. Many of us are not aware of this almost subconscious self-conversation since our thoughts speed along at such a rapid rate, and can layer on top of each other or collide together into an indiscernible ‘mood.’ Sometimes we may feel blue or upbeat, or just indifferent, not really knowing exactly why. Our nervous system and chemistry can certainly play a role in determining our ever-changing emotional states. Conversely, these inner thoughts can set off an array of chemical and neurological reactions. It is a bit like the proverbial – what came first, the chicken or the egg? There are so many contributing variables to how we feel in any given moment. However, I would like to direct the purport of this blog to deciphering this inner dialogue, particularly how it may relate to defining who we are and how we feel about our own self in the world we live in.
I recently heard a young teenage girl, struggling with overcoming an ongoing addiction to opiates, express out-loud that she felt she did not matter. “Why should I matter, no one cares about me, no one knows who I am. I am just a nobody. Hell, I don’t even care about myself. I’m a nothing.”
Powerful and painful words to hear from anyone and yet, quite similar to the victimizing words uttered by anyone going through addiction or alcoholism. The more you drink, the more you hate yourself. The more you use, the more you lose yourself. The vital reasons for living become obscured from your inner field of vision. Unfortunately, the muffled cries of your inner self, trying to escape the addiction prison, often fall upon your own listless perception.
What does make us matter? Do I matter in this world, and why? There are some very interesting, yet varied social factors that are applied today both directly and indirectly when determining the ‘value’ of any human being. Let’s explore this more. If I am wealthy, certainly this can influence many aspects of my life – the kind of area I live in, the schools I may attend, the opportunities I may acquire simply because of my wealth. If I am an attractive, good-looking person, this can play an important role in my self-identification, depending of course on how great a value and importance I place on this outward perception of my body. If I have the opportunity of being educated and suited to learning in school, I then have yet another component influencing my self-perception and mental development. Certainly, if I am popular and people tend to like me, again my inner self may absorb this feedback, and in fact, may come to rely on its continuation. This kind of list can go on for pages, of course.
Now, let us flip or reverse these assertions. If I am born poor, and grow up in a struggling, destitute environment, how does this affect the vital perceptions of myself? Suppose I am not very competent with my studies, then what resulting consequences am I looking at? Suppose I am not physically attractive, perhaps awkward in my movements, what will happen in my life as I grow older? And, if people do not seem to like me and I become isolated in life at an early age and become an outcast or retreated loner – well, we can easily surmise the kind of resulting inner dialogue that may perpetually fill my mind to where it is the only awareness of myself.
Fortunately, there are many ingredients influencing our lives that shape us. One of the most important of these is love. If we are cared for, nourished with love and healthy affection, we may overcome many of the peripheral aspects of our environment. Look at the shining examples throughout history that have worked and grown through seemingly insurmountable obstacles only to achieve not just great personal success but also contribute so much to others. I often think of Helen Keller, who despite her blindness and deafness emerged as a force of love and beneficence to others as well as a wise and prolific human being. Most importantly, she did not do it alone.
If my internal dialogue becomes filled with critical or demeaning thoughts about others, or myself certain states of consciousness will overtake me. It is no surprise that people who are highly critical of others are hiding their own internal criticism. Imagine a parent always criticizing their child’s physical appearance while not providing unconditional love and acceptance. Underneath this veil of contempt and lashing out is the parent’s own highly critical dialogue regarding their own self. What is often done to us in early life can be easily passed on to our own children if we have not sorted out the falsity that surrounded us and decide we are not going to repeat those negative patterns. The same is true with addictions – we know that it often ‘runs in families’ – an environmental, social influence.
So, does each one of us matter? The answer is yes. However, this answer can be carelessly rejected by our own mind. It is so easy to accept our insignificance more than our significance. Are we not just one person in a world with billions of people – a minute cog spinning in the wheel of life? And, if we do not lay claim to any notoriety, fame, wealth, beauty or success – how easy it can be for one to begin to utter those self-destructive internal thoughts – “I don’t matter, no-one knows who I am, no one cares about me, I’m just a nothing.” Over time, these messages to ourselves become a pernicious habit. We can in fact, lay claim to an internal dialogue that creates our own adopted inferiority complex regardless of whether we are born into a family where every seeming benefit is laid before us or whether we are born into a family struggling to meet daily needs.
It is important to reject these negative messages about our own self. We do not have to lay claim to fame and wealth to find love for ourselves. Often those who have achieved much in the world, be it fame, success, notoriety, become chained to such accomplishments and rely heavily on their continuance. Their internal thought processes of determining their self-worth may have easily lost sight of the important value of seeing themselves detached and removed from those outer labels. Essential to living a healthy life, physically and psychologically, is the ability to balance our own egos with an honest integration of knowing who we really are and how we treat others and our self through the course of daily living.
One moment of contemplation about the magnificence of a single human being, in this case, our own self, will dignify what our creation is. This can be and should become our meditation about who we are. The miracle of a single eye, our heart, our brain, our lungs, the feelings we have, our memory, our ability to think – is this not something wonderful and amazing and truly uplifting? Isn’t the phenomena and marvel of a single human being – the body, mind and soul – enough to establish our significance in the world? It should be and it can be, if we allow it to be so. Our perception can open up to a renaissance of what we regard as valuable and important. Listening to the kinds of thoughts we have internally about ourselves and others is a beginning. Rejecting many of the self-destructive and highly critical thoughts we can possess in any given day is like breathing in fresh air and drinking fresh water. Allowing thoughts of love, peace, nurturance, and compassion for ourselves and others can become a positive practice that will eventually become a habit that will affect our entire outlook on life. Self-esteem, self-actualization and love gains force as we practice it.
In any given moment, when the negative messages start pummeling our self-concept, causing a mood swing towards being down on ourselves, or feeling that we do not matter in this world – take a deep breath and allow these messages to have their moment. Start a practice of accepting such negative thoughts as simply a temporary and habitual chorus that will take some practice and time to leave. Do not attribute any more to such negative thoughts. Then, with your full concentration, say something to yourself that is caring and nurturing. I particularly like when I utter to myself, “I am a loved creature in this universe and I can be happy in this moment. I deserve to be content and stable. I accept myself for who I am in this moment.” These are positive, concise, straightforward messages to one’s self. The only thing to remember is that it takes practice. Over time, you will find that those nagging, disagreeable internal messages will be replaced by approving, loving reflection. You must try at first to believe in the possibility of what you are pronouncing to yourself – there obviously has to be some element of truth to your internal commentary.
For instance, if you really are a nasty, disagreeable person, and you utter that you are a good person – well, suffice it to say, you can say this message to your own mind a thousand times, but will you really come to accept it? Of course not. Better yet, if you are an alcoholic and you attempt to dupe yourself by continuing to affirm that you are not an alcoholic – no amount of habitual, repeated dialogue will convince your inner self. Our deepest consciousness can discern truth from fiction. A person can develop and foster this pre-disposition to replacing old behaviors with healthy ones. In order to accept these newer, positive thoughts and forms of conduct, one simply needs to believe in their honesty and truthfulness and accept them as a new standard of how to live with yourself.
It takes patience and diligence to change the kinds of thoughts we have. Replacing the negative inner dialogue with positive, loving thoughts will bring forth a new you. Until next time . . . keep the inner dialogue positive!