Our internal monologue that feeds our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is a lot like a mixtape.
As a child of the 80's, I recall using cassette tapes to record my favorite songs from the radio so that I could enjoy them later. Our brain does this automatically with the messages we receive through life, picking up on the strongest signals to record internally without us even knowing it. This mixtape is the subconscious soundtrack of our lives.
Yet, often these messages are unpleasant and even harmful. Over time they may become distorted and worn out from repeated use. They may even get mashed up with other messages by accident. Before you know it, your internal monologue may feel like torture. There's good news... you can change it!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performed a study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that identified 10 of the most damaging "broadcasts" before we turn 18:
Assess your risk: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Questionnaire
The messages we perceive during these experiences inform how we think about ourselves, others, and the way the world works. Just because people have these negative experiences does not guarantee that they will not bounce back.
There are protective factors that counterbalance some of the negative messages that lead to resilience:
Feeling loved by a parent.
Perception of being enjoyed and loved by someone.
Being comforted when sad or scared.
Feeling at least one adult will help you.
Someone asked about school performance.
Focus and planning for the future.
Structure and boundaries at home.
Having someone to talk to about problems.
Having accomplishments recognized.
Internal self-motivation and hope to make life better.
Assess your resiliency: Resilience Questionnaire
When negative messages are louder than those positive messages, we experience distress. That may look like depression, anxiety, anger, confusion, trust problems, and acting out. Just like those old cassette tapes, your internal messages are changeable!
You can experience hope and healing:
Identify the negative messages - Ask yourself, where is this coming from? What about my life experience has taught me to think/feel/act this way?
Challenge negative messages - Are these really how I think and feel about my self, others, and the world?
Identify positive messages - What strengths do you have? What nice things have others said about you? What are some "wins" in your life (even the "small" ones)?
Change the tapes - Get into the practice of picking up on the frequencies you're responding to and change the tapes as needed.
Fight the static - There will be doubt. Beginning this process will be awkward and uncomfortable. You're fighting the way you have always thought and felt.
You are worth the fight toward a happier and healthier life. Whatever you do, don't give in to the old messages that keep you from all you can be. Feel free to borrow some tracks from my internal mixtape:
We are always here to help you through this process, to call you on your crap, to push you toward health.