It has been said that we have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. That equates to between 35-48 thoughts per minute! Your internal dialogue is a steady stream of consciousness that flickers between the past, present and future; concepts, ideas, pictures, sounds and feelings.
Our mind is on the go 24 hours a day. Even while we sleep our mind is on, just in a different way.
We get asked one question often ‘how do you stop your mind’ – and for the average person, the answer is simple: you don’t. In fact, in daily life, you don’t want to stop your internal dialogue, you want to manage it.
There are times that it is useful to stop your mind and the internal chatter, and that would be during a meditative state; even after much practice, not many people get to a space of internal silence. In daily life, internal silence would not be a good thing. We need our inner chatter, our inner thoughts, our internal dialogue and conscious mind to be on and working for us.
What we don’t want, however, is for us to be working for our unconscious mind. This happens if our mind is filled with so much chatter that distracts us from the task at hand, or if it is primarily negative in nature, fearful or if there are self-sabotaging patterns that take over productive strategies.
In Buddhism, they call the unsettle, restless, uncontrollable mind the monkey mind. Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkey’s jumping around, screeching, chattering and carrying on endlessly.
We all have a monkey mind – some are louder or drunker than others, calling for our attention – especially if there is fear involved. In a fear-based mind, the monkey mind points out all of the imminent dangers, pitfalls, potential failure opportunities and what could go wrong.
The fear of failure, fear of success, need for control, perfectionism, pessimism, naysayer mind is filled with drunken monkey’s.
In NLP we have a presupposition that is “You are in charge of your mind, and therefore your results”. We recognise thoughts as just thoughts – not the truth but a bias. When we can view thought as merely a thought, it takes the power out of it.
Let’s look at it this way – every thought you have automatically creates an immediate chemical reaction which produces a feeling, this feeling directly leads to an action (even inaction is an action), which in turn leads to the next thought.
Thought – Feeling – Action – Thought – Feeling – Action – Thought — Feeling – Action, ad nauseam.
Therefore, to truly manage your internal dialogue you need to manage the feeling that is created from the thought.
NLP contains many tools to help you do just that.
Let’s take an example of a person who has a fear of failure which in turn has created a need for perfection and a need to be in control. This, in turn, may create procrastination – because if it’s not perfect and if they aren’t in control then they may fail – so it’s better to not start something than fail.
Unconsciously there is a thought to do X, which leads to a feeling of ‘I might not get this right’, which leads to procrastination or inaction.
Using NLP we can use a tool like Unconscious Pattern Change which utilises a person’s timeline to identify where a pattern of emotion, behaviour or thought comes from and we can then change the neurological and biochemical trigger that has been created. In this example, the fear of failure may have come from when the person was 3 years old and they spilled a glass of milk and got in trouble for it. Something as benign and innocent as a small child being scolded for a behaviour they may or may not have been in control of is enough to create a lifetime pattern that gets in our way.
Before you can even start to change these emotional triggers from your thoughts, it is important to begin to simply be aware of the thoughts you are having. This awareness creates a pattern interrupt which can lead to a different outcome. Instead of: Thought – Fear – Inaction it can become Thought – doubt – New thought.
Start with being aware of your thoughts and then move to the understanding that they are just thoughts and nothing more than that. With this simple insight, the thoughts become just a rumour and we can start to short circuit the old neurological patterns and create new ones.