I’ve written before about the value of raising awareness of your self-talk and two exercises to raise it. The first is to write out your self-talk. The second, and harder, is to voice it. I still consider the first — writing your self-talk a few times a day every day for a week — one of the best, if not the best, self-awareness raising exercises I know of. I start each client with it and each learns tremendously. For that matter, I did it again myself earlier this year and learned a lot from it.
They learn a lot. For an exercise that costs zero cash to do and takes only a few minutes a day for a week, I can’t believe everyone doesn’t do it at least ones.
It’s amazing to pay attention to how your mind works for the first time in your life — to become aware of what you think every moment, literally. Since most of the time it passes below your awareness threshold, like a fish in water, you don’t notice it.
Yet it creates most of your beliefs, filters everything you perceive, and determines the value of most things. And it’s incredibly judgmental and repetitive.
I’m not sure how well people understand that exercise from a written description. I noticed my mind working recently and found communicating it worked well and got people laughing, mainly, I think, from recognizing something they thought was just them.
Do these thoughts sound familiar to you while waiting for luggage at an airport? Did you think only you thought that way?
I wish my bag were here. Ah, here comes a bag. I hope it will be my bag. It looks like my bag — it’s the same size and color, but, darn, it doesn’t have the same wheels. It’s not my bag. Darn. That guy over there just got his bag. I wish I got my bag. Then I could leave. I remember that one time my bag came out second. If only my … ah, here comes another bag. I hope it’s my bag. Is it? No, it’s red and mine is blue. That isn’t my bag. I wish… ah, here comes another bag. It’s my bag… no. No, it’s not my bag. It has the same color and size, but it has one outside pocket and mine has two. Why do I always have to wait so long. It was such a long flight. I think I deserve to have my bag come out earlier… ah, here comes another bag. Is it mine? It looks like mine. Darn, it is bigger than mine. It’s not my bag. I wish my bag came out. Should I get out my phone and call that I’m here? No, I can do that after my bag comes out and I don’t have to grab it. Oh, even that woman got her bag and she was annoying the flight attendant. Why should she get her bag when I haven’t gotten mine?
I think you get the idea. Note that you can write similar passages for nearly every situation.
Most people when I share that text, usually speaking off the cuff, laugh out loud. They know they think that way, but they’ve never expressed it nor heard it expressed. They feel like only they think that way, like it’s their own private secret they’d be too scared to share, like others would catch on to how petty, repetitively, and judgmentally they think.
I think they also feel relieved that other people think like they do. They feel understood.
Anyway, try it out yourself with another situation. The point of the first exercise I linked to above is to write passages like this one, though you don’t have to do it as long. Most people find it hard to do at first, which is why I have them do it for a week. Practice makes identifying and expressing your thoughts easier, which raises your self-awareness.