Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dredging Up the Dark Side

The beliefs we have and the thoughts we think have a profound impact on what happens in our lives. We can radically alter our internal dialogs as a mechanism for transforming our outer worlds. One challenge in this endeavor, however, is that we often are not aware of our thoughts and beliefs. Many of these are ingrained in us far below the level of consciousness. Although we are not consciously aware of these beliefs and thoughts, they are constantly exerting their influence in our psyches and in our outer lives.

When I first started therapy for my eating disorder back in 1984, my therapist had me start a practice that I continue to this day. That practice is to work with positive self talk statements, or affirmations. Working with these statements (writing them down, recording and listening to them, and saying them out loud) has changed, if not saved, my life. I’m a big believer in the power of minds, and the absolute capability that we have to change what goes on inside our own minds. I’ve even created an ever expanding product line called, PathPositives, to provide access to sets of positive self talk statement to address a variety of challenges.

I’m always amazed at how many people tell me they don’t have self esteem problems and they like themselves, yet they struggle with all sorts of problems: addictions, excess weight, bad/self destructive habits, dysfunctional/unhealthy relationships and other issues. When we have healthy self esteem and really like ourselves, we don’t tend to have severe disturbances in our lives. The proof is in the outer circumstances of our lives. If things are ‘messed up’ we have some ‘messed up’ thinking go on in our consciousness.

One of the first things my counselor/teacher had me do when I began this practice was to ‘ferret out’ the negative self talk that I had going on inside. I was shocked and amazed at all the negativity that came out of me when I did this! I had no idea that I had all that crap in there!

The way he had me work on this was to take two sheets of paper and lay them side by side. He gave me a list of affirmations (mostly to do with self esteem) and asked me to write them over and over again on the first piece of paper. If any negative ‘stuff’ came into my mind while I was writing, I was to change to the other piece of paper and write down the negative thoughts and feelings that were emerging. For example, If I was writing, “I, Nola, am a good person” as my affirmation, and suddenly, “You’re stupid!” came in to my mind, I was to write that down. It was amazing the volume, variety and viciousness of what came out of me as I did this. I had an eating disorder, and severe body image distortion, so some of my affirmations were about being healthy and fit. I won’t repeat some of the horrible things that would pop out of my mind when I wrote affirmations that were in any way positive about my body. I shudder to think about how mean I used to be to myself!

This process is called ‘dredging.’ It allows us to dig up and fully face what’s REALLY going on in the background process occurring running in our subconscious mind. We can’t deal with what we are not aware of. We must become aware of our true thoughts and feelings about ourselves in order to be able to restructure and reprogram our internal belief and thought structures.

The purged material is for our information only. We are to use it to become aware of the truth of our feelings about ourselves, then destroy those pages. The goal is to purge for as long as the negative ‘crap’ is coming up, then just continue the process of working with the positive self statements to flood the mind with new programming. In this way, we are not ‘denying what is there’ we are simply exposing the problematic content of our minds/sub conscious and replacing it with more accurate, healthier self perception.

Lots of people who advocate doing affirmations, neglect the all important step of facing the truth of what is in our current consciousness and working to release it gracefully and lovingly while we embrace a new, more accurate and healthy sense of ourselves.