I believe the most life-changing -- practical -- personal development skill you may ever acquire and learn to use is the conscious management of Negative Self-Talk. This is the Voice that corrupts all others -- self-defeating, self-sabotaging. It's the Channel where the mind viruses of the Collective are stored and replayed on heavy rotation.
It's the inconsiderate person in the theater who talks over a film. It's the chatterbox who won't let you enjoy your favorite song. It's the unruly child that won't let you read or concentrate.
A Career based on journaling?
From the time I was old enough to read, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. During my elementary school years, I assumed that career would look something like a cross between C.S. Lewis and Judy Blume.
Yet, when I was thirteen years old my guides started insisting on the word "diarist" -- not "journalist" (I asked, all the time). Really? A diarist? Who makes money keeping journals? I started to read a lot of famous diarists -- Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf... I was confused about how this could be a key to my future writing career -- maybe disturbed is a better word -- most well-known diaries emerged only after the authors were deceased. Or they were personal records of people whose lives were significant for other reasons.
Of course, this was decades before the invention of blogs... So, what do you know? Now, writing journals (blogging) is indeed a type of writing career.
My Colored Journal Concepts
In my teens and twenties, most of the journals I wrote in were precious objects -- the people close to me regularly gave me gorgeous designer blank books as gifts, of all different materials and colors.
Rather than keeping purely chronological journals, I began to simultaneously maintain multiple "topical" personal writing projects -- the concept for each journal was defined by a metaphor based on the book's physical appearance -- usually this was a "literary" color-filter device.
The various diaries/topics had evocative, dramatic names like:
- The Book of Blood, Wine, and Roses -- a dark-red silk cover, with an on-going diatribe of passion and anger
- The Book of Gray Skies -- a smoky velvet cover like a rainy Sunday, chock full of gag-inducing melancholy teen angst co-authored by Eeyore
- The Book of Leaves -- a pulpy Japanese rice-paper affair bound in actual dried leaves and held closed with a twig-and-hemp clasp, minimally marked with brief, haiku-ish, Zen-wannabe observations of the natural world
You get the idea... Oh, the drama! I chuckle at young Slade.
In my thirties, I began to keep identical "standardized" hardcover black sketchbooks -- since then, it's been serious, intentional, utilitarian, and ultimately digital. The End of the Rainbow on my bookshelf is marked by a major turning point.
The Book of Faded Green
The last colored diary I wrote was bound in mossy suede and was called The Book of Faded Green. At that time, I began working with the concept of Gratitude journaling and Morning Pages (as in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way). I realized something painfully horrible about all the diaries up to that point -- they were all so G-D Whiny, Pathetic, and Negative. Who would ever want to read that? I didn't even want to read it.
The healing green energy of my heart chakra, the life force of my spirit, had faded -- and I needed desperately to change the channel.
When my guides say "Faded Green"
When I do private readings for clients who are suffering from a severe case of Heavy-Rotation Negative Self-Talk, my guides will simply say "Faded Green" -- it's a kind of clairaudient short-hand, a personal frame of reference for a very specific prescription that the individual requires.
The form of the "assignment" our guides will suggest will vary slightly from one client to the next, but it generally means they require an exercise to consciously identify, shift, and re-train their word-choice.
Your Re-greening Exercise
I am speaking from a place of personal experience -- I have so much compassion for this psychic dis-ease -- and I know that the only way I shifted these voices of negative self-talk is by becoming very strict about allowing them.
Often, I read your background emails for private consultations and all the focus is on what's wrong, what you don't like, what you can't, why you can't...
I reached a real breaking point with this madness when I was twenty-nine years old. To some degree it was an epiphany, where I detached from my years of journaling enough to read them objectively -- and I found that they were pages and pages and pages of What Was Wrong.
It's not realistic to think that you won't encounter challenges or respond to them emotionally or feel daunted, but you can put in place and practice some rules regarding negativity.
At that time, I started that new faded-green journal to train these thought patterns (whether you actually write/journal or simply think, the word choices you make have power and it takes practice to re-train your habitual thinking patterns).
I made a simple, overarching rule that I was NOT ALLOWED to state or list what was wrong without also presenting some potential solution. For example "I keep bouncing checks. I suck." Can't stop there -- it must be transmuted through taking it one more step. "I keep bouncing checks. It sucks. For the next month I am going to write down every expense I have and balance my check book and account every day if necessary to keep this behavior from continuing."
"I'm depressed. I need to go to my therapist but I don't like the one I have." Can't stop there -- if I'm going to list such a statement, it needs to have a potential solution attached -- something -- an Action -- I can at least TRY. "I'm depressed, and I'm not happy about the therapist I have. I am going to make some calls and find some other counselors I can interview."
Yeah, all these types of actions are a bit of "extra work" -- but they are the only thing that will create change. And whether or not the actions themselves "work," the most important component is training your mind to recognize the limited, self-defeating thoughts when you have them and carry the thought process forward, at least one step.
So, make a similar rule with yourself: You are not allowed to list an excuse, a dislike, a fear, and simply leave it at that. If you stop there, you will stay there.
The inertia will be reinforced and it will eventually become paralyzing. Momentum can also be reinforced and increased... Just like the "little negative thoughts" are not One Big Bad Bomb, yet are small, cumulative negative self-speak sprinkled throughout your inner dialogue, the Potential Positives work in the same way -- not One Big Magic Solution, yet a mosaic of small hopes and visions of something better, brick by brick, word by word.
I'll give you an assignment, to start changing this right now. You don't need to start an entire journal -- you can try a one-off writing exercise:
- Write yourself a letter or an email and let your Negative Voice have total control over the microphone -- invite it to do its pissy, complaining, pathetic best. How ugly can it really get? Go for it!
- Then, read back over it. Copy and paste it into a new document or email.
- Go through this letter line by line, sentence by sentence...
- For every negative statement, I want you to present a solution. "I really hate looking for a job BUT I'm... going to do it anyway." "I hate making calls or putting in applications BUT I'm... going to put in 3 applications this week... BUT I'm... going to send out one resume each day."
A Phenomenal Sign
Something really bizarre and physical happened to me and my Book of Faded Green. I don't know if it was the oils on my fingertips, the wear on the nap of the suede from being handled, or some combination... over the course of the months that I worked with that journal, the color began to darken and the surface became worn, bright, and slick. By the time I filled it, the cover of that journal had become bright and shiny green... like a new leaf.