Listen to what you are saying to yourself.
I went to a training a while back. The training was on working with chronic pain and opioid addiction. I don’t treat addiction, but I love the trainings that this center puts on, and I always get something great out of them. This one, in particular, gave me something that I use over and over and over again in session, and with myself.
The speaker, Dr. Mel Pohl of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, was discussing the patients that he works with in the clinic. They experience very real chronic pain from real circumstances and have become dependent on opiates to control their pain. The goal of the clinic is to help patients detox from the opiates and then gain a balance in their physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual selves.
The training was full of good stuff, but the thing that stuck with me to this day was this….
The Dr.Pohl recounted the patients that came into his office day after day saying
“Doc, I’m dying here, I need my meds.”
“Doc, my pain is a 15 out of 10, I can’t do this!”
“Doc, my pain is KILLING ME!”
Dr. Pohl paused, looked out into the audience and said
“Listen to what you are saying to yourself.”
“If your pain was a 15 out of 10, if it was killing you, could you even be in my office right now? Could you even be speaking? No. Listen to what you are saying to yourself.”
Here’s what I took from this. This patient was obviously not a 15 out of 10 on the pain scale. Their physical and emotional addiction was telling them that they were, and they were listening. And when they listened to that voice, they told themselves a lie, which felt like a truth, and then that lie became their truth. Their minds and bodies listened to that truth and they began to act on it, tricking themselves into “needing” the medication.
We may not all be struggling with addiction, but we all let that voice inside lie to us, and that lie sure feels like truth, and if we aren’t careful, it can become our truth. When this happens, it begins to influence how we act, feel, and even filter new information.
Here are some examples I see a lot
- I’m socially awkward/don’t know how to talk to people
- I’m not loveable/worthy
- I can’t do it (public speaking, test taking, healthy confrontation)
Let’s use the first one as an example. If we have the belief that we are socially awkward, this will obviously affect how we think and feel going into social interactions. Our mind will begin to over think things or self judge, causing us to be, in fact, socially awkward. Our central nervous system will kick in, we will feel nervous, fidgety, or panicky. We might then begin to avoid social situations because of this anxiety and awkwardness. In a drastic case, this could lead to isolation and withdrawal from friends and family members, thus confirming the belief that we are socially awkward. One might even begin to believe that they aren’t loveable or worthwhile.
We told ourselves something, and our body and mind listened and reacted accordingly.
So, what can we do about this? Well, a lot of things really. It all depends on what works for you. I will write future posts about thought challenging, affirmations, and, of course, mindfulness. But a great place to start is to listen to what you are saying to yourself.
Don’t take everything that goes through your mind as truth. If you think about pink elephants running through your neighborhood it doesn’t mean they exist. Your mind is able to tell the rest of you that that is an unrealistic thought. You can use this process to filter through some of the more difficult thoughts and feelings you have. Your mind is a powerful thing, it’s time to put it to work for you, not against you!
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Pohl, visit his website.