I am one of the few person in New England who looks forward to snow (except for the shoveling part). But a couple of weeks ago my enthusiasm limit was reached for the white powdery "stuff." I showed up for work to find my parking lot covered in eight inches of slush from the previous days snow. My irritation spiked. I fumed internally, "How can I expect my clients to show up and slosh through this "stuff?"
The landlord was called and I got the word on when the parking lot would be plowed. Mind you my aggravation was valid. But after addressing the problem, my irritation didn't abate. Internally my conversation went like this...
Observing Self: "You are still angry...is that helpful?"
Irritated Self: "No, but this is real! I deserve to be annoyed. This impacts my work."
OS: "But do you need this feeling? Does it assist you in any way at this time?"
IS: "No, but it is authentic and anyone would feel this way!"
Eventually, I practice what is taught to my clients and remembered "the way your brain fires is the way it wires." My favorite brainwave music was turned on and a little Emotional Freedom Technique tapping created the needed shift. But I noticed that there was a definite tug of resistance to letting go of my irritation. Internally, there was an objection, "but you are entitled to this feeling."
Often when we feel entitled to our negative feelings, we fertilize them and let them take root. Occasional pedestrian irritations like mine do not rewire your brain. But when repeated over days, months and years we create an entitlement and a mind that is hard wired for negative feelings.
Yesterday I was breezing through a book written by Dr. Herbert Benson MD. He wrote "Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief" back in 1996. Benson is a pioneer in mind/body medicine and in bringing spirituality and healing into medicine. He explains how even innocuous internal chatter over time can create dire consequences neurologically. He states....
“Because the brain is ever changing, we have the ability to rewire and modify those automatic reactions in a process sometimes called “cognitive restructuring.” ... Every new experience, every new fact entered into your brain changes its configuration and your awareness and understanding of who you were, who you are, and who you will be. Because of the brain’s intrinsic malleability, you have the opportunity to literally “change your mind.” (p. 272)
We can change our "mind" toward the positive and we can also negatively condition our brain to scan for distorted threats and negative input. Dr. Benson goes on to state...
“..we develop what Dr. Donald Meichenbaum of the University of Waterloo calls a “confirmatory bias” in which we seek out only the information, people, and situations that match our mood and feelings of self-worth. To break this chain of events, you must change you internal dialogue.” (p. 275)
One of the first steps to changing your internal dialogue is to commit yourself to what I call "noticing" exercises. Experiment over a couple of weeks and check in morning, afternoon, night and notice whether your internal thoughts and feelings are focused on something positive or negative. It can be helpful rate you brief internal check with a low, medium or high rating.
If a pattern of negative thoughts or feelings is discovered, you could blame it on people, places or things (one part of me shouts, "that works for me!). But if you want to restructure your "confirmatory bias," what you are hardwired to notice, then look for ways to create a shift in what you are feeling and thinking.
Some negative feelings and thoughts are a wake up call to create changes or to take action. These are a gift. Of concern is when our internal chatter and negative feelings are excessive, distorted or unnecessary. In our modern high tech multi-tasking world - there is a tremendous amount of destructive mental chatter.
My favorite shifting techniques are...
- "positive reframes for negative perceptions
- meridian tapping or Emotional Freedom Technique
- sound work through vocal toning, brainwave music, Tibetan Singing Bowls or drumming.