Listening to Negative Self Talk (and a prompt)

When you sit down to write in your journal,  after morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.

Pitt pen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald All rights reserved. 2008.

Your head fills with yakking.  Monkey mind starts right up with the to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, I don’t write checks anymore. Where is that checkbook? I haven’t written a check in months. You don’t need to do that anymore. I must have put the checkbook in my desk drawer, and I’ll bet it slipped back, so the desk drawer jams. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.

More likely, your talk is not neutral, but damaging. Journaling helps the negative self talk crank up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist if you spend time writing by hand.

So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? Repetition. Endless repetition until you cave in and believe them. You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. You’ve heard what they have to say from your parents, a mean teacher, a thoughtless sibling. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent. The more you push the thoughts away, the more they persist. Sit down and examine them, and they are not only not original, they are often spoken in voices from the past. And you are animating them. The voices in your head are yours. Your fear. Your insecurity. You make them up. And as evil parents in all the TV after-school movies say, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”

On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now, isn’t it?

Start writing.  .  . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. Her book, “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art” will be published in July of 2011.

Real-Life Affirmations

It’s time for some tough love. Affirmations have gotten a bad name, and reading through a lot of them for this article, I can see why.  We’re encouraged to chant lies at ourselves in the mirror. “I can do anything I put my mind to.” No, you cannot. Here’s an example: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian body-builder and current governor of California, might want to be President of the U.S., but he can put his mind to it all he wants, he’s

 

Taming Your Gremlin by Richard D. Carson

 

not going to be President. He wasn’t born in the U.S. and unless the Constitution changes, he’s got to settle for something less.Some positions and careers are out of our reach, and the sooner we get realistic, the faster we an set realistic goals–big ones, tough ones, to be sure, but realistic ones.

“I deserve respect and all good things,” sounds hollow in the mouth of a banker who lied about mortgage loans and sent half his clients into bankruptcy.

It’s time for tough-love affirmations. Ones that feel real to you, that inspire you because they are based in your truth and seem possible, even if they are hard. No cheap, starchy filler in these soul-supporting challenges.

“Universe–you supply the quantity, I’ll handle the quality.”
“All prayers are answered. Sometimes the answer is ‘no’.”
“I am in charge of my happiness. . . .what can I do to have more?”

 

Red ball, green lawn.

 

The purpose of affirmations is to change negative thoughts to positive thoughts. This takes persistence. Lots of persistence. The first thing my coaching clients say is, “If the universe wants me to have it, it will deliver it to me.” Really? If that were true, then the universe must want me to have bills, because that’s the only thing that gets delivered to my house. Food, gas for the car, clothing—none of those show up at my front door on their own. Neither does happiness and success, they both take effort, planning and work.  I believe in the universe, but I don’t believe in the fairy goduniverse.

The next thing my coaching clients say is, “I can’t replace the negative thoughts. You can’t get rid of a thought.” So I ask them to try something. You can do it right now. Close your eyes and imagine a red rubber ball rolling on a green lawn on a sunny day. Can you see it, rolling down the slight slope? Ahhh, nice. Now, think of a $20 bill. See the rectangular shape and the fancy number “20” in

 

That's Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

 

each corner? The man on the front is Andrew Jackson–a long face, full white head of hair. See it? Great.  Ummm, what happened to the ball?

Yep, you replaced one thought with another. You can change your thoughts, you just did. And you can use positive thoughts to change negative thoughts.

Now, what are your real-life, no-nonsense, get-tough affirmations? Leave them in the comments section and I’ll choose a winner and send him/her a copy of Taming Your Gremlin: A Guide to Enjoying Yourself by Richard D. Carson. It’s a short, illustrated book to help you get rid of negative self talk. That’s the cover, up at the top of the blog.

Let’s hear those tough-love affirmations. . .

Contest winner: Susan at OrganicsYes is the winner! (Drawn at random). Send me your address, and I’ll send you the book!

Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and writer.

Negative Self-Talk, or Lizard Brain

Negative self-talk expands to fill up your brain.

You know the feeling. You are about to go into an interview and you think, “I’m going to screw this up.” And you do. “Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be,” you think. “The universe doesn’t want me to have this.” Give the universe a pass. This is your own doing.

The closer we get to success, the more we sabotage ourselves. Why do we do this? Because of a lump of cells close to the brain stem that broadcasts negative messages on lack and attack. The more we listen, the louder it gets.

Research shows that we need about a five-to-one ration of positive to negative feedback to be productive. Here are some other statistics:

  • 65 percent of American workers say they received no recognition for their work in the last year.
  • 22 million workers are not interested in their work or actively dislike it.
  • Bad bosses increase the risk of stroke by 33 percent.
  • When you tell yourself something is “too hard” your stress levels increase, and you are more likely to fail, even if you have done the same thing before.
  • Increasing your positive attitude even a little starts to add years to your life–as much as 10 years.

So what does this mean? It means that you have to start with yourself, turning negative thoughts and critical talk to positive talk. Then pass it on. How?

  • Stop the automatic critical thoughts when you see someone poorly dressed, fat, or with weird hair.
  • Hang around positive people. Negative people’s snark might be more fun, but when you aren’t with them, it’s likely to be turned on you, leaving you with increased paranoia.
  • Hang around positive people more. They are more productive. Negative people fill your head and heart with ideas that drag you down.
  • Tell people what they are doing right. They are likely to do more of what they are appreciated for.
  • If people need a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative, do your share to keep your own positive comments five times higher than your negative ones.

Think this is all new-age, woo-woo stuff? Nope.

  • Seth Godin, the entrepreneur who writes about change (and has written 10 bestsellers) writes about the damage lizard brain causes.
  • Steven Pressfield (the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) encourages people to cover the canvas, fix the details later. But start, and do as much as you can in one positive swoop.
  • Pressfield’s advice: “My writing philosophy is a kind of warrior code—internal rather than external—in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I call “Resistance” with a capital R (in The War of Art). The technique for combating these foes can be described as ‘turning pro.'”

So put down the negative anchor and pick up the positive wings and try them on. They’ll fit just fine.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who teaches businesses and individuals how to talk to each other, in positive ways.

Theme Thursday: #6 6/18/09

It’s Theme Thursday–the day I post some interesting links to creative topics. I invite you to do the same thing, and post your blog site in the comments.

You’ve seen several sketchbooks in various cities. Here’s one by Free[k]hand–Sketch in the City. This one has a clever video so you can see all the pages.

Anna Hawthorne discusses the Trinity of bookmaking–the concept, the physical, the visual in this blog. It sounds boring, but it’s not. OK, I’m biased. I’m a content person myself.

I love writers who know they have gremlins (negative self-talk) and take up a stand against it. Joanna at Confident Writing did a good job in this post.

That’s it for today. My new website is launching and there are some problems I have to go fix.

Check in on QuinnCreative and see if the new site is up. If it has a pale green background, you’ve found it.

Below are previous Theme Thursdays.

Creative Play 6/11/09

Creative Play 6/4/09

CreativePlay 5/21/09

Creative Play 5/14/09,

Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Taking Classes With the Gremlin

When you go to an art class, does your gremlin go with you? If you read this blog, you know that a gremlin is the negative self-talk that accompanies us when we start a new art project.

That gremlin comes with me to most new classes, and it takes an ugly shape. I walk in and feel, courtesy of my gremlin, that I am the stupidest person in the room. Everyone else is nicer, more talented, and more lovable.

brush pencils

brush pencils

When the teacher comes in, I instantly believe that she/he will dislike me, not help me, think I am stupid. Given a minute’s worth of time, I will embellish this enormously to “prove” I am right.

“See? She’s asking that woman how she discovered the class. She doesn’t care about me!” In the shortest of time, I am five years old again, pouting. The teacher suddenly becomes my angry, demanding mother who just wants me to not associate with her.  I’d like to point out that I’m a life- and creativity coach, and I know exactly what is happening, and it still happens.

What to do? It’s a trick I learned at coaching school. It’s called “self-management.” Yelling at yourself that this is stupid behavior is not going to fix it. That’s turning to the gremlin for help. And the gremlin, that beast of negative self-talk, will make you feel more guilty and stupid.

Here are some tips in getting calming yourself so you can enjoy class.

1. Breathe. This great exercise is something you can do anytime anywhere. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a second, then let it out through your mouth. Do this deliberately paying attention to relaxing your shoulders. You will immediately feel lighter.

2. Add a thought to your breathing. While you are breathing, think, “I expect nothing.” It’s a way to crank down your neediness. It’s also a way to detach yourself from the outcome. When you are detached from the outcome, for example “making the best journal cover in the class,” you are free  to simply learn a skill, to enjoy learning.

3. Jot down, quickly, your worst thoughts. Do this on a scrap of paper, not in your journal or on the class notes. Go ahead, write them down. “The teacher hates me already.” “I am not going to like her.” “Who does she think she is?” Whatever that thought is, write it down. Look at it. You will feel a pang of guilt and recognition. Now, circle the entire list, put a big “X” through it, and write over it, “I’m going to have a good time.” Your brain “gets” the crossing out and the idea to have a good time. Your brain will help you out, as long as you tell it what to do.

4. Think of something nice that will happen. “I will have a good time.” “I will learn something fun.” “There are nice people in this class.” Again, your brain helps you out with what you are thinking. Give it something good to work on.

5. Smile at your neighbor and ask a question. “Is this the first class you’ve taken from this teacher?” “How did you find this class?” Getting into a conversation with someone else keeps your mind focused on something other than your own rampant imagination.

The gremlin is a powerful force and will go to most classes with you, but you don’t have to make space for him next to you at the class.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who teaches business communications and journal writing.

Journal Prompt: Negative Self Talk

When you sit down to write in your journal,  meditate or write morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.

Your head fills with yakking.  Monkey mind starts right up with a to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, but before I do that I have to balance the checkbook to make sure I have enough money to take

Gremlin of Negative Self Talk, Pitt Pen on paper (c) Q. McDonald 2009

Gremlin of Negative Self Talk, Pitt Pen on paper (c) Q. McDonald 2009

out. Where is that checkbook? It was in my desk drawer yesterday, and now it’s not. That desk drawer jams, maybe it’s the checkbook. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.

More likely, negative self talk cranks up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist.

So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent.

On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now.

Start writing.  .  . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She teaches writing and journal writing through QuinnCreative. (c) 2009 All rights reserved.

Doubt

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, has this to say about doubt:

“Every other month I am ready to quit writing. The inner dialogue goes something like this: ‘This is stupid. I am making no money, there’s no career in poetry, no one cares about it, it’s lonely I hate it, it’s dumb, I want a regular life.’ These thoughts are torture. Doubt is torture. If we give ourselves fully to something, it will be clearer when it might be appropriate to quit. It is a constant test of perseverance. Sometimes I listen to the doubting voice and get sidetracked for a while. . . .Don’t listen to doubt. It leads no place but to pain and negativity. . . There is nothing helpful there. Instead, have a tenderness and determination toward your writing,  a sense of humor and deep patience that you are doing the right thing. Avoid getting caught by that small gnawing mouse of doubt. See beyond it to the vastness of life and the belief in time and practice.”

We all have doubts about our decisions, our choices, our life. Doubt is like getting nibbled to death by ducks. There is no way to back up, it surrounds you. Make a decision. Right or wrong, you will know, but if you doubt, you just sink deeper into doubt.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

Nicer Voices in Your Head

Yesterday, I started a story about the negative chatter we all have in our head. Mine was running my life. It was negating what I was learning from books. When I was reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I loved it. But afterwards, my negative self talk made me think the books was useless and being cynical was clever. Here, then, is what happened next. . .

Getting rid of negative chatter. . .
Once I started to meditate, I began to want the negative self-talk to stop. A friend suggested I replace the negative chatter with positive thoughts. Affirmations? Me? Impossible. Not me. I forced myself. “I am a creative person.” “I am good at problem solving.” “I am strong.” “I am talented.” At first, it seemed ridiculous, selfish, vain. Then I noticed that I WAS a good problem solver. People were asking me to help them with their problems.

. . . opens the door to powerful change
Something else happened. I began to lose the negativity I thought was part of me. I quit doing something I had always done well—using my wit to criticize others. . I stopped telling people why their idea wouldn’t work. I didn’t like the protection my public face gave me anymore. I wanted my life to contribute, not denegrate.

Visualize change, create change
Using the same technique I used for meditation, hushing my mind, I began to imagine situations that seemed hard to me. Speaking to people. Explaining what I do. In my imagination, the people smiled at me. They were happy with what they heard. I had something useful to say. The more positive things I imagined, the more positive things I noticed when I was in training sessions or at art shows.

Last October, on a cool, but sunny day, I recognized myself standing at an art show, laughing with some other artists. I was happy. It was exactly what I had envisioned in the leadership course from three years before.

Change isn’t instant, but it gets easier
Visualization works because you focus on what you can do to influence the outcome positively. And once you’ve envisioned something, you begin to work on making it happen. To make it happen, we push away the negative, and choose to replace it with positive thoughts and actions. The choices are sometimes hard, but they are fueled with small successes and moments of joy. Change does not happen in a day, or a week, but it grows with each decision you make to make a positive choice instead of a negative one.

The Alchemist returns
Eventually, I bought another copy of The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. It seemed to be a new book this time. Filled with deep truth in simple terms.

“The old man leafed through the book, and fell to reading a page he came to. The boy waited, and then interrupted the old man just as he himself had been interrupted. “Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because you are trying to realize your Personal Legend. And you are at the point where you’re about to give it all up.”
“And that’s when you always appear on the scene?”
“Not always in this way, but I always appear in one form or another. Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen. There are other things I do, too, but most of the time, people don’t realize I’ve done them.” (p.25)

I finished reading the book and purchased 10 copies, which I’ve given away to people who want to transition into a different stage of their life. The negative self-talk will always be with you, but as a friend of mine says, “it’s always with me on the way to a show, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let it drive.”

–If you don’t want to tackle learning how to meditate, you can start with daydreaming. It’s easy and you get great results. Tips for daydreaming. If you prefer to cut and paste into a browser, it’s here: http://quinncreative.com/id34.html