As a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, I’m in the Positive Psychology business. However, that doesn’t mean I’m always positive.
To the contrary, I’m wired for anxiety, hypervigilance, and negative self-talk that’s designed to keep me “safe.” In other words, I’m much more likely to beat myself up for every fucking mistake than I am to pat myself on the back for a success.
Sound like you? Read on.
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In my own recovery, as well as the coaching I do, I’ve been combining knowledge and techniques from a variety of sources such as NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and Mindfulness.
One technique that I’d like to share is what I’m calling Flip the Script (original, I know 😏). It’s simple but powerful — check it out.
It came to me while driving to a date a while ago, and the usual anxiety and mental chatter popped up. I thought all sorts of things…
“What if I’m awkward?”
“What if she just wants to be friends?”
“What if we go back to my place and I forgot to clean something embarrassing?”
“What if it leads to sex and I don’t perform well?”
“What if sex goes well and I become attached too quickly?”
“What if my feelings are reciprocated and I shut down?”
“What if, what if, what if?”
That’s the shit that goes through my head by default.
In the Workplace or Business
“What if I can’t deliver this project on time?”
“What if I didn’t do it right and they fire me?”
“What if I can’t get enough clients?”
“What if I try this new venture and waste a lot of time and money?”
“What if I lose everything and wind up on Skid Row?”
“What if I succeed, but my victim mentality screws things up…again?”
Running on Autopilot
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Back when we were kids, a lot of us learned to be hyper-attuned to our parents’ every move and every mood. We took on roles such as The Hero: making the family look good by trying to be perfect. Or The Mediator: making sure all the members of the family are placated and the fused system is in balance.
Unfortunately, experts have discovered that living under toxic households where the self is abandoned in favor of the system, can lead to codependency, subconscious triggers, and even PTSD. This wires the brain for safety rather than exploration, and anxiety over playfulness.
When we take these states into adulthood, it’s like we’re always “on.” There’s rarely a moment where we can just quiet our minds and stop tuning into the negative station in our heads.
In my circle we call this KFUK Radio.
This is also known as rumination, and it’s our brain trying to predict every outcome of every scenario, or trying to gain more information by turning the thing over and over in our minds. Or — perhaps most insidiously — we kick our own ass repeatedly in hopes that:
a) we’ll save ourselves from some imaginary punishment and
b) we’ll never repeat the same mistake again.
While it might seem counter-intuitive, constant negative thinking and internal dialogues about how stupid, broken, or incompetent we are, does not make us less likely to repeat those patterns. It makes us more likely to.
The more we replay stories in our heads, the more we strengthen those neural pathways, and the more likely it is we’ll go down those paths on autopilot.
It’s a fallacy we picked up in childhood, when we thought we were responsible for our parent’s behavior toward us — that by both searching for answers endlessly and self-deprecating on overdrive, we’ll solve that painful puzzle.
The Inner Critic
My latest theory on the inner critic is that it’s a voice I hear while looking for guidance. In essence, I’m looking for a “parent” to help me not repeat that mistake, but unfortunately it’s been an abusive one.
Now, I consciously listen to a different voice — one that’s much more productive and accepts my human fallibility. It’s no use listening to an abusive voice if ultimately it’s counterproductive.
Listening to a different voice is a key component of what’s to follow.
Flip the Script
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“What if her and I really hit it off?”
“What if I show up with an attitude that no matter what, we’ll have a great time?”
“What if it leads to sex, and if it’s awkward, we can just laugh about it?”
“What if my feelings are reciprocated, and it doesn’t mean she’s gonna manipulate or drain the life out of me?”
“What if I find what I’m looking for, and I accept it?”
To do this effectively, I recommend asking yourself questions that are the polar opposite of your negative ones, and do it before it goes from your mind to your body. Catch them before your emotional brain internalizes those messages as truth, and you can replace those negative feelings with good ones.
In doing so, you will start to rewire your nervous system for positivity, while activating your parasympathetic nervous system.
Doing this effectively takes repetition, imagery, and emotion. In fact, by visualizing positive turnouts, you’re likely to experience the emotions and body sensations that embed themselves into your subconscious over time.
When your mind and body become synchronized in these ways, lasting change is achievable. Just remember — change your thinking as soon as you start going down that negative path.
Many of us operate in a constant state of anxiety, always scanning our environment for potential threats. Unfortunately, we become so accustomed to our mental and emotional state, that any situation that challenges it is seen as unknown and unsafe to the subconscious mind.
This is the greatest barrier to success for most people. It’s not that we can’t achieve our goals, it’s that we don’t believe — at our deepest level — that we can accomplish them. As a life coach, I can tell you that people place all kinds of blocks in front of them, and keep themselves stuck in the same patterns.
By doing this work — this mindfulness in our day-to-day to catch those negative messages and think the opposite, we can implement one of several techniques to rewire ourselves for success.
Imagine approaching a woman you’re interested in, radiating with positive energy from the thought that she’s gonna like you, and that you’re a catch. You’re gonna come off as non-needy, non-creepy, and much more likely to say something that’ll land you a date.
I can pretty much guarantee that if you approach her full of self-doubt and radiating negative vibes, she’ll be hesitant to even talk to you. You’re not gonna feel safe and secure to her, because you’re not projecting confidence.
A man who’s in his positive is in his masculine, and that’s attractive to women.
You’ll also be much more likely to attract higher paying jobs, promotions, more clients, and more opportunities by operating from a place of gratitude and abundance.
One of the greatest challenges we face in getting there, is the stream of negative massages that go through our heads, rehashing the past, looking for more information, and attempting to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes.
To break out of this anti-success mindset, we can simply flip the script on those messages and replace em with new ones. I won’t say recovering from anxiety and negativity is easy, but here’s a simple practice and a quick win against that bullshit we play on repeat.
Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash
“What if I don’t have all the answers, and that’s alright?”
“What if I focus on the journey and not the outcome?”
“What if no matter what happens, I can handle it?”
“What if things really do turn out great?”
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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