This is a suggestion that might make far too little sense….at first. But stay with me….
Most of us are familiar with telling ourselves “don’t do that” or “stop it” or “leave it alone” or “control yourself.” And I invite you to reflect on what and how you feel when those thoughts are prominent in that big brain of yours. For most of us, those sentences set up RESISTANCE! Tell yourself: don’t eat that donut; don’t say what you really think; stop interrupting people; don’t talk about it now; don’t argue with the boss/colleague.
When we tell ourselves to back off or stop or give it a rest…. another voice in our heads typically argues with the statement. “Why not?” “I want to!” “I never get to do/eat/say what I want.” Protests in our heads literally invite rebellion, and typically rebellion invites a “wrong-headed” decision or action.
Reflect on your childhood. You are playing outside and a parent calls you inside for dinner. You continue to do exactly what you are doing! A second call. You keep playing. Only when the voice escalates and sounds a bit threatening, do you reluctantly comply. Now you either slowly begin a process of evaluating your behavior/your resistance and decide to change your behavior; or you continue building on a pattern of resistance. Eventually you don’t need the parental voice to trigger resistance OR self doubt. It’s built into what we psychologists call your own learned/internalized parent voice (or ego state). At the most basic level, it just means your “go to posture” is to resist the voice that says stop…..
So what if instead of giving yourself “NO MESSAGES” and building in resistance to something that might be truly good for you, you turn the concept around … into a positive choice.
What the heck does that mean? Something like this: I can choose what NOT TO DO. I can choose NOT to bring up my new idea in the meeting if I’m not ready. I can choose NOT to discuss a painful issue in a relationship when I sense the other person is not ready. I can choose NOT to eat everything on my plate or have that extra glass of wine or eat things that I know are not good for me. The psychological point is that you are CHOOSING TO NOT DO SOMETHING vs telling yourself you can’t….
Splitting hairs? Perhaps. But I want to challenge you to “play with the idea.” A client tried it with this example: He had to decide whether to move to the East Coast or stay in his current location and job. He was stuck. He was telling himself I can’t/I shouldn’t…..so I just said: What would you like to choose NOT TO DO? This kind of thinking actually moves us to strategic thinking. To considering options as choices vs “I must” or “I should”…..
As I said, just try it on yourself. Pick something simple. And if it does absolutely nothing to move your brain in a different direction, an easier direction…..let me know!