We talk so much about negative self-talk, self-esteem, and our inner-voice. All of these tie into the conversation that our body and mind have with each other. What and how we think influences everything in our lives—even our involuntary physical responses.
We make choices based on how we think about our world, our friends, our work, our abusers, and most importantly ourselves. While recovering from abuse, though, it can be tough to determine whether a particular idea is our own or our abuser’s. Is it based on lies or reality? Does the thought really reflect on the person or object we are thinking about? Or is it a reflection of our own distorted sense of identity?
In order to regain control over our inner-monologue, and make sure it is based on reality (not a reflection of poor self-esteem), we need to find a way to gain insight. This is a process that takes time and effort, and will not reap overnight success (most likely). But every small adjustment is a step on the road to recovery.
After all, this is a process. We are supposed to get there one step at a time! Not all at once!
Start Questioning Yourself
I don’t mean this as doubting yourself, but in the literal sense of the word: asking yourself questions about your thoughts and emotions. This is how you will begin to gain insight. One great way of doing that, is through The Work of Byron Katie.
She suggests you ask yourself these four questions
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Not only do these questions allow you an understanding of where the thought originated, but they also look at how the thought influences and defines you.
I have, of course, seriously simplified The Work concept here. But if you are interested in it, I highly recommend Byron Katie’s website where the whole process is explained in far more detail and with additional steps to help you make changes to your inner-monologue.
Why Even Bother?
Why would you even bother to put in all this effort? Well, because this is where you really heal yourself. Our minds are constantly processing thoughts and information, and if our processing system is askew, that means we are seeing the world from the wrong angle.
For a long time, because I was viewing myself as unlovable, I would take every snarky or grumpy remark that people made around me as a comment about me. I would bend over backwards to cheer people up, or better their circumstance. Even if that meant compromising my own time or wellbeing. In other words, I took responsibility for their emotional wellbeing, just like my abuser taught me. It left me emotionally drained and raw. It made me feel I had to work for affection, and compromise my wellbeing too. Those are some pretty dangerous beliefs to hold.
Now that I can experience someone else’s grumpy mood as their issue, I can still try to help them or cheer them up, but it does not reflect on my worth as a person. Just because someone is tired or frustrated with something does not, in fact, mean they do not love or appreciate me. Even if the thing that frustrates them is me. I love my partner deeply, but he can still annoy the jelly out of me!
The Peace and Quiet of a Balanced Mind
The biggest upside to gaining control over my inner-monologue has been that my head is a far more positive place to hang out. Where before I would jump to conclusions (usually the worst ones) and would take things way too personallyl, I was constantly second guessing myself and my life.
But now I can see the things that need improving without losing sight of what I already have in my life. I can make choices about who to hang out with, who to help,and what I want to do—all based on my own thoughts; not my mother’s voice cussing me out inside my own head.
Find a way that works for you. We are all different, and we each have our preferences on how to tackle our healing. Promise me one thing, though! Start taking control of your inner-monologue!