When we talk to ourselves, the brain listens

Susan Murphy is a SMART Recovery meeting facilitator in Flemington, NJ, and a recovery advocate from New Hope, PA.

Words matter.  The stories we tell ourselves matter.  How we narrate matters.

Here is an embarrassing story.  I ate cookies for breakfast.  I was obsessing this morning over not getting something I really really REALLY wanted.  I found it hard to shift my focus.  (But then again, I barely tried.  I almost seemed to enjoy reveling in my mood.  What’s up with that?)  My mind started racing more.

I went to brush my teeth, and put sunscreen on my face prior to walking my dogs.  I looked in the mirror and this stupid little poem popped in my head:

Put the sunscreen on my face
You are a disgrace!

I then stopped myself cold, seeing my reflection in the mirror, and realized in a very quick moment that allowing myself to be run by this negative narrative went against my values.  I stood there, and paused for a moment.  I then consciously changed my silly poem to:

Put the sunscreen on my face
You have grace

I paused to let it in.  I saw in that moment, how the shift in words gave me a whole different feeling and direction in my body.  Yes, when we talk to ourselves, the brain listens.  A simple pause, a truth, and a shift in direction happened.  Yes, and I can chose words that move me in the direction of my values.

I leashed the dogs up and went outside.  While I walked, on this cold and beautiful day, I still had quiet echos of ruminating going on in my mind.  By capturing the word and the feeling of grace I was better able to put my attention on the present.  The ruminating (it was over my offer not being accepted for a “dream” home I wanted) changed to disappointment.  I then put my attention on recalling what I am grateful for, and setting simple goals for getting back to focus on the day, a day of possibility, in front of me.

 

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