What is all of this negative self-talk we engage in everyday? It is prevalent like a disease and most of us coaches, see it in action in various forms in the people who come to us. It comes in the form of self-doubt, judgment, lack of self-confidence, etc. All of these characterizations are labels that are hard to deal with because they feel like sentences or diagnoses. I decided to step back and take it in and see if I can break it down into pieces we can handle. Here is what I came up with and this applies to any thought about another that enters our minds:
1) Understanding/Evaluation – This is our brain doing its job, trying to figure out whatever it is we are interested in. For example: John seems angry today, maybe it is his job that makes him angry, or maybe there is trouble at home. His wife hasn’t been happy lately either.
2) Point of Separation – This is when we try to separate ourselves from what we have observed or see ourselves as different from whatever it is we have just evaluated. Same example above: At least I am happy at my job, my wife is much happier than John’s, or my life is worse than John’s. End result is: I am different from John (better or worse).
3) Emotional Reaction – This comes as a result of 1 & 2 and it is what starts a whole chain reaction of potential gossip, feelings of self-righteousness, condemnation, ridicule, etc. Same example: Thank God, I am not alone in being miserable, I am glad I am not John, or I feel bad for John. These thoughts are the beginnings of an inevitable chain reaction.
Since I am a firm believer in going at a problem at its source, I’d like to see if we can prevent step 3 by proper handling of step 1. Once John has been observed to be angry, we have choices to make: we ask him what’s wrong, we forget about it, or we make up stuff. Forgetting about it may not work especially if we really care about John, have to deal with him, or are the curious type. Making up stuff is step 2 or point of separation pulling us toward it. In other words, the need to be different from John drives us to make up stuff. Asking him what’s wrong is the opposite of point of separation, it is the point of connection. When we go to someone and ask them what is wrong, we are reaching out to them, we are saying to John, “I see and feel your anger and would like to know if I’ve made an accurate observation”. Of course, things don’t just end here. If John for example decides not to confide in us, we have choices again: we can then jump on to step 2 and continue, or we can believe that John does not want to share with or connect with us, so we can choose to let it be and stop the chain reaction.
The point of separation unfortunately, is the deep chasm that we tend to find ourselves in even when we don’t really consciously intend to. It is this deep cellular programming that goes on in humans. It’s what tells us that we are this identity, body, job, place we live in, etc. And of course, all of these things are different than what others are experiencing, hence the conclusion is that we are different.
The point of separation is the source of all the negative chain reactions in history and what we witness today in the news 24/7. What’s amazing is that when people realize that they are not that different, then there is this deep understanding and calm that seeps in right before they deny it and unconsciously continue on with the chain reaction.
Once we realize that we do have a choice in what we think and ultimately what we believe, we can indeed put an end to the chain reaction. We can start at the source, by being aware and alert in our thinking, noticing when the mind’s job is done and we feel this tug to jump into believing that we are different and separate. This is where self-mastery begins. It is the ability and conscious practice of being alert, attentive and responsible for our thoughts. Try it (simple but not easy) and be prepared to see how your world will change, because it will.