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Changing your internal dialogue or “The naysayer you can control”

“Oh wait, that’ll never work because...”, “I would do, but...”, “Don’t be silly, if you’d been destined for that, you’d be there by now.”.

Not the voices of those around you, but possible examples of your thoughts, at least on occasion I’m guessing. We all have internal dialogues going on; the thoughts that pop into our heads, perhaps the imagined conversations from our very convincing, internal “truth sayer”?

An interesting question is, how truthful are we with ourselves? And then, if we are not being totally honest with ourselves, what is leading to that? Finally, can we change our internal dialogue for the better?

I personally tend to have mini internal films of imagined future events during the first half hour of waking, on some days. Some are inventive, positive ideas which I try hard to remember and write own later. Others are dream-like, imagined conversations based on a mix of prior experiences with others and my beliefs of their expected behaviour. These are not always positive ones.

What I have come to realise is that the mini films I choose to play in my head are not real, they are an example my internal dialogue with myself. Where they are positive, I indulge them, gain positive feelings from them and put things into action based on them. Where they are not as positive, I try and reflect briefly on why I had those thoughts and work out how I will act to avoid the made up outcome I just imagined. Or simply observe that it is an unlikely, worst case, or even impossible scenario. Then I get on with the day in a much more positive frame of mind.

I’d like to make a few statements at this point. I’m keen to offer thoughts that are helpful and useful, but only within the limits of my skillset. I’m not offering ideas in this post, nor on any others, as solutions or processes for dealing with any concerns or issues that may be due to undue anxiety, symptoms of undue stress or anything similar.

If you think anything like that might be occurring, you of course have my best wishes, but can I please suggest you look at health, government websites, or recognised support agencies in your locality, to get some advice.


We tend to build up internal stories, of our own making, that hold us back mentally and slow down the potential pace of change we could achieve in our lives. Many of these stories we can spot, unpick, and potentially change.


What leads your internal dialogue to convince you of limitations...?

Write down one or two of any hindering thoughts or mini films you recall and ask “what is leading you having this thought?”. Really probe to get to the answer: maybe you think history will repeat itself, maybe you just feel you know it’ll happen to you. Then take that answer and ask yourself again “Ok, so what makes me think that?”, and repeat a few more times... you’ll get closer to the real reason.

This approach is not an idea of my making, you’ll find well talked about, often under the description “The 5 whys” or similar. I prefer, personally, to ask “What is making me think that?” rather than “Why?” as I have found that questioning phrase leads to better insights.

I’d really encourage you to write these thoughts and reasons down, by hand or electronically. I’ve mentioned before that the act of committing things to paper/screen forces the brain to really organise its thoughts, as opposed to convincing yourself that you have done so.

Now, really look at the reason you’ve got to.

Ask yourself some questions about the thought process you just went through.

  • How honest is your internal dialogue about things you can, or can’t, do?

  • What things can you do to change the projected outcome you see in our mind?

  • Are the other people definitely going to interact as you project? How could you act things differently to change how they might respond?

  • How would you reimagine the circumstance more favourable outcome? What did you do differently and why do you think the other party will act differently?

  • What will you specifically do differently in the circumsance or with that individual?

The main point here is to become increasingly aware of the stories we tell ourselves, work out when we are doing so in a negative way and decide to tell ourselves more positive stories. Or even conclude there is no real underlying reason, it’s just the story you’ve been telling yourself.

The follow on is then taking actions ourselves to get more of the positive outcomes we want to have. We’ll come back to that in a future post on forming new habits to replace old ones, especially in terms of behaviours and reactions to others.


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