We tend to say a lot more negative things to ourselves than we do positive ones. If you haven’t really listened to your inner voice for an extended period of time, consider doing so, at least for a couple days. You’ll probably be surprised at some of the negative thoughts that go through your mind. We often make comments to ourselves that we would never say to a friend. Simply being aware of these thoughts is the first step to changing our inner voice.
Having an awareness of your inner thoughts is important for many reasons. For one, your inner thoughts reflect your subconscious and the subconscious controls a lot of our conscious actions and how we show up in the world. Anything that changes or increases your awareness of your subconscious can also change your experience in the world.
With that in mind, I want to share a life-changing experience I had a few years ago. I was at a seminar where the facilitator was discussing the inner voice and she brought up the concept of an angel voice. She described it something like, the voice that comes out to protect you from your negative thoughts, inner critic or judge.
At that moment, I remember thinking I had no idea what she was talking about and I couldn’t consciously remember feeling like there was a positive voice to balance or calm the negative ones. The truth was that I didn’t have one, at least not one I could count on when I needed to hear something positive or shift me out of my negative thought spirals. Then we did this very interesting exercise, which seemed odd and was completely out of my comfort zone. I went through my discomfort and put my skepticism aside and I’m so glad I did.
This was the exercise (as I remember and experienced it):
We got into groups of 5 with one person in the middle and the other 4 people formed a close square around that person. The person in the middle closed their eyes and remained silent throughout the exercise. 3 of the other 4 people were “negative voices” and the 4th person was the “angel voice”. I don’t remember how long it lasted in total, probably 3-5 minutes, but it started with only the 3 negative voices speaking.
That was a challenge in itself. Having a group of compassionate and empathetic people being told to say negative things to someone they don’t know is a rather interesting and confronting experience. For almost the whole class, saying negative things was harder than being in the middle and hearing them. A definite sign of how many negative things we tell ourselves each day and how conditioned we are to accept the negative things we hear.
After a period of time, probably a minute or two, the other person (the angel voice) started speaking, saying only positive things. That ended up being an incredibly powerful experience for a lot of us. For me personally, I received confirmation that I didn’t really have a positive inner voice and I immediately knew I wanted one.
When the “angel voice” started talking, I quickly realized how much better those words were to hear than the ones the other people were saying. My mind was drawn to hearing the positive words and that one voice soon drowned out the other 3, even though the other 3 were individually at least as loud, if not louder. My mind had been craving a positive voice to go with the negative ones inside my mind and now I finally understood what that would feel like.
Having that feeling sense is incredibly important and definitely speeds up the process of changing your inner voice. Even if your mind understands the concept of a positive inner voice, without feeling one inside your mind, it’s much more difficult to create an effective one for yourself.
In my opinion, there is no one way or best way to change your inner voice, although no matter what tools you use, paying attention to your thoughts is a critical part of the process. Beyond that, play to your strengths and you may have to learn or develop some new tools to be effective. A lot of people use meditation and visualization to help, although for me at the time, I had little experience with either of them, so I didn’t use them much.
Additionally, my negative voice told me I simply wasn’t good at them. One of many negative inner thoughts that turned out to be completely false, although it would take another couple of years to gain some experience and competence with those particular skills. As a side note, if you have never meditated or had negative previous experiences with it, there are many different types and some will work much better for you than others.
I can only speak for myself and what helped me change my inner voice most. I honestly, I don’t remember the entire process or how long it lasted. A significant shift happened gradually over a year or two, though the process is ongoing. I do know that decreasing the frequency of negative thoughts came first. I think I had to make space for the positive ones to come in.
One tool that was very effective for me during this process was journaling, which I used in a couple different ways. First, I would simply write down the negative thoughts that went through my mind. Just as with keeping a nutrition journal, writing down what you eat or in this case what you think, is a great way to develop awareness. This action will also start to change your behavior.
As a side note, the morning after writing the above paragraph, my first client (without any knowledge of me writing about this) says to me, “You know, just writing things down really does change your behavior.” She was referring to a nutrition journal, but it holds true for many things. Writing things down increases our awareness and makes us take more responsibility for our thoughts and actions. It may seem like a small thing, but it yields huge results.
The other journaling thing I did was to make note of any negative thoughts that were especially triggering or highly emotionally charged and I would write about them. Exploring things like why they affected me the way they did or what messages I was sending myself and why I might be doing that. For me, this was a way to bring these things even more into my consciousness, so it became easier to identify and decrease my unhelpful negative thoughts.
Another simple, yet surprisingly effective tool was told to me by a friend and mentor at the time. She told me to use the word “period” as a way to both draw attention to and interrupt negative thoughts. This was great for me, because I used to ruminate a lot. I would commonly find myself up in the middle of the night (sometimes for 2-3 hours) cycling negative thoughts and life experiences over and over. I felt helpless to stop them until they ran their course.
Once I realized what I was doing, I would say “period” and the negative thought train would stop, at least for a little while. Over time, the length between negative thought spirals increased and now they rarely happen and I don’t remember the last time I had to say “period” to stop them. Eventually paying attention to your thoughts becomes the default and you don’t consciously have to use the original tools much anymore. Usually only during traumatic life events or times of high stress when we more commonly revert to old unhealthy habits and patterning.
Interestingly, I don’t remember when or how it happened, but eventually I noticed that in the space where there used to be negative thoughts, positive ones were sometimes there. I don’t think I used specific tools to cultivate them or increase their frequency. I believe they were always there within me, I was just never able to let them be voiced. My negative ones were simply too abundant, too strong, and too familiar, perhaps even comfortable to me at the time.
As with pretty much everything in life, the more you practice and the more consistent you are, the better your results will be. Whether you do what I did or use your own combination of tools and strategies, you can definitely create a much nicer atmosphere within your mind. To be clear, we will always have some negative thoughts. I don’t believe it’s realistic or healthy to prevent them completely, deny, or ignore them. The goal is to find a healthy balance between the positive and negative and not let the negative thoughts overwhelm you or control your life. That I believe is absolutely attainable.