The Stop! Technique
There’s a wonderful technique for effectively interrupting negative self-talk and getting you back on a positive track. As with most techniques and methods I write about this is one I use for myself. Before I describe the “Stop Technique,” itself, I need to set the stage, so to speak, by explaining what is going on in the mind when negative self-talk is incessantly occurring.
Although I am sure that brain scientists would not be able to find in their research what I am about to describe, I find this is a useful way to explain what is going on in our minds when negative thoughts abound. The mind operates like a committee of parts (or voices.) Each part has specific tasks that it is responsible for. Some of the prime players are the creative part, that invents new ways of doing things and the protective part, that wants to make sure that the person will remain OK and will do whatever it thinks is necessary to protest the being t keep it safe. It is this latter one that sometimes, in an effort to ensure that we remain OK will go to extremes. I view all the parts as benevolent in that they are doing what they do because they think they are acting in our best self-interests. Sometimes though, the methods they adopt and utilize to achieve their goals are lousy ones.
For instance, the part that keeps folks smoking cigarettes actually has good intentions. It wants the smoker to be at ease while being alert as well as giving him something to do with his hands in uncomfortable social situations. Cigarettes do all of those things but unfortunately, the smoker gets slowly destroyed in the process. Good intention – lousy choice of method.
The same is true for that part that keeps generating negative self-talk and paranoid thoughts. Its good intention is to protect the person against doing or thinking anything that might lead to failure or disappointment. A lousy method though because it causes inaction or over-cautiousness which can produce that ultimate failure that it wanted to prevent.
With this in mind, here is the “Stop Technique.” When I become aware that that part of the mind is engaged in incessant negative self-talk or conjuring up doomsday scenarios about current activities, potential partners or current projects, I engage the three-part “Stop Technique.”
The first thing I do is, either out loud or to myself if there are others present, to say, forcefully, “STOP!” I say it in the same voice as if I wanted to command a child who keeps nagging and nagging me to do something for him to the point that I am ready to do grave bodily damage, to shut up. As I say “STOP!” I take my hand, palm-forward and push it out and down (towards the little demon). I say and do this with enough force and positive intention that it will get the child, or in our case, the mind, to stop making noise at least for the moment.
Step two is to use this period of silence to take a deep breath and go inside and talk to that part of the mind that is generating the negativity. Acknowledge and thank it for its good intention and let it know that you received and considered its messages. Then invite the part to quietly observe how your new ways of doing things are working out, letting it know that it could always, in the future point out impending problems, but at this point, just observing without comment would be appreciated.
The final step in this process is to say to yourself, “Now where was I?” which will bring you and your attention back to whatever footwork you were doing before the negative thoughts or voices interrupted that process.
This may work for you that first time through. The chances are, though, it might take repeated efforts before the inner mind understands that you will no longer be sidetracked by negative thoughts.
©2018, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC
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*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) is the former Executive Director of Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services, Inc. ( http://www.la-youth.org ) and has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or