We have to start thinking differently before we can do something differently, and I’m not referring to the Law of Attraction. There are very real, biochemical changes that take place in the brain, depending upon what you’re thinking about.
Try thinking about a lemon—its yellow color, its puckery sour taste. Almost immediately, you’ll start to salivate. That’s because thinking about something caused an actual biochemical change in your body.
You’ve probably heard this idea before and thought, “Sure, I get it, but how does one actually do that? It’s exhausting to change thoughts.”
Change the Channel
It is exhausting (and practically impossible!) to change thoughts. That's why, when I’m working with clients, I encourage them to change the channel.
Arnold and Amy Mindell, creators of a style of therapy called “Process Work,” think of people as having “channels.” These channels are ways of receiving information that inform how we think or act. Dreaming is a channel. Movement is a channel. Language is another channel, and one of the most direct pathways to changing our thoughts.
When we start purposefully choosing different words, the brain experiences what is called an “interrupt” in pattern. A neuro-linguistic “interrupt” is that moment of pause where the brain is trying to process something unexpected or new.
That “interrupt” is your small moment of stillness, when something didn’t run in the same way. It's a pinpoint of access to making a change.
For instance, I often talk about BEing a journey rather than Being ON a journey.
My guess is that this phrase causes an “interrupt” for your brain the first time you read it, because usually people say that you are “on a journey.”
Why don’t I phrase it that way?
Because I want people to think differently about starting something new. To be on a journey conjures up the end result. To be “on” something means there’s “on,” and then there’s “off.” With that, there’s a lot of to-dos and pressure.
However, to be something can be continuous: we’re always being something, whether or not we’re choosing what to be with consciousness.
Let’s look at some other examples:
I have to quit my job because I’m not feeling inspired by this line of work.
I get to quit my job because I’m not feeling inspired by this line of work.
Which one feels lighter?
Which one feels more powerful?
Which one gives you a choice?
There’s a huge difference between having to do something and getting to do something, and when we choose one phrase over another, our brain notices.
An entire biochemical response can follow, which effects how you feel.
With practice, our old, habituated ways of thinking transform. You’ll soon find that you start thinking, “Why am I telling myself that I have to do this? Clearly, I’m choosing to.”
Here are some examples of things that people say without thinking about how these words affect their thoughts and feelings.
The words: I don’t know or I don’t understand
Unconscious message you send to yourself: Lots of confusion and not knowing.
The words: I can’t.
Unconscious message you send to yourself: Not being confident. You might not feel you are capable in a given moment, but how does it serve you to keep reaffirming that?
The words: Always, especially when used as I always feel like or I always do
Unconscious message you send to yourself: If something’s “always” a certain way, how will you find confidence that it can change?
The words: Never, especially when used as, I never feel like or I can never
Unconscious message you send to yourself: If something’s never happening, how’s it going to change?
Language is energy.
I don’t mean that in the “woo-woo” way. I mean that literally. Talking takes energy.
When we continue to define a day as “bad,” or to reiterate over and over that something is “difficult,” we actually create more mental blocks to seeing change.
If you want some simple approaches to working with this concept, here are courageous practices.
Spend a day noticing language. This might seem like far too simple of a practice, but I guarantee that if you dive into it with the intention of taking something away, you’ll gain enormous insight into the subtle messages you're sending yourself.
Write down your observations. For instance, you might have a habit of saying “I don’t know." You might realize that you have an avalanche of defeating inner self-talk, perhaps even a complete running dialogue that you never noticed before.
Make room for gentleness. As you’re listening to your own internal dialogue, or the language choices of others, make plenty of room for compassion. The first toward making a change is being aware of your habits.
Feel the fear, dive in anyway, and transform. Before you can transform your relationship with fear (and the inner dialogue is fear-based), you’ve got to get clear on what it is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, how it operates.