We just completed another rewarding workshop last month with a very wonderful group of people. We are always amazed at the progress people are able to make over the weekend with the strong support and camaraderie of the group.
It is truly incredible to watch how caring and supportive people can be toward one another when they share a deep mutual understanding of the feelings and experiences in dealing with this fear. It also provides much solace to know that we truly are not alone with this challenge.
One of the things that came up over and over during the weekend is the need to train our minds to focus on more positive thought patterns that serve us and support us rather than undermine us. It is quite common to fall into the trap of conditioned, automatic patterns of thought and reactivity that fuel anxiety, fear, and self-doubt.
It is very important to become more aware of these tendencies and to learn to identify when this is happening so you can pause, reflect on your self-defeating beliefs, thoughts, and images, and consciously choose to change the direction of your thoughts.
The phrase, “My mind is my ally” can be used as a cue to remind yourself that your mind needs to support and encourage you, rather than work against you, and it is up to you to train your mind to go in the direction you would like it to go, rather than let it go wherever it feels like going or where it is used to going based on past conditioning.
The key is to become conscious and aware when you are beginning to get caught in the web of negative, self-defeating thinking. Next, redirect your mind as soon as possible with a positive attitude about your increasing self-awareness rather than feeling frustration with yourself over the tendency towards these self-defeating thought patterns. There is an analogy of how planes get to their destinations:
Planes are often off-course as they attempt to reach their destination. The way they arrive at their final destination is through a continual process of self-correction, where the instrumentation allows them to get back on-course over and over and over again, finally arriving where they set out to go.
This is a very similar process to how our minds will often be “off course” in how we are thinking about and responding (thinking in negative, self-defeating ways) but the more aware we become that we are going in the wrong direction, down a path that does not serve us, the more quickly we can self-correct and get ourselves back on-course in thinking in more positive and supportive ways.
One way to work on this is to consider the continuum of thoughts and feelings from the most negative to the most positive along the continuum. If you are in a negative mindset over speaking or performing – or something else in your life – see if you can “inch your way up” the continuum by thinking about one thought that would provide some relief from your current negative thoughts and feelings that is slightly better than how you are thinking and feeling about it right now.
Then, inch your way up some more by thinking of another thought that helps to provide just a bit more relief and continue with this process until you start to feel a bit better (and keep going further if you would like until you are feeling much better)!
We can’t expect ourselves to go from a very negative mindset to feeling really good in one fell swoop, so it helps to “inch our way up”, little by little, as the mind adjusts to small, incremental changes in how we think and respond to something that is upsetting us.
Our thoughts (and self-talk) have a huge impact on how we feel and the choices we make (such as to avoid or to step up to our challenges), so the more we can train our minds to focus on things that serve us and support us, the more we will generate feelings that allow us to feel more comfortable with ourselves and our challenges.