Listen to Yourself
Rea L. Ginsberg, LCSW-C, ACSW, BCD
Act the way you want to feel,
And soon you’ll feel the way you act.”
~~ Age-old ditty
The internal dialogue is ceaseless. It goes on and on, often and even regardless of our will to silence it. This conversation is profound. It is a true expression of who we really are. It takes place outside the constant influence of current social pressures. It is intensely private and usually cannot be guessed by others except at the will of the thinker.
It has incalculable value.
Thoughts are free. Who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
With powder and lead. Thoughts are free.
This condition of protected internal freedom permits change to take place without potentially adverse consequences from the outside world. If the inner dialogue is positive, equilibrium is attained and peaceful proceedings rule. Instinctively, we seek this internal balance, this homeostasis. If the dialogue is predominantly negative, it causes continual psychic pain, instability, and stress. In that case, some relief is appropriate, perhaps required. Palliative care. Palliative Self-care.
First, are you listening? There’s a talk going on. It’s you and YOU. Who knew?
We are accustomed to thinking in terms of social support, to receive comfort and confidence from others, from outside. We give little or no thought to our ability to reaffirm and reinforce ourselves from inside. We have no guidelines for listening to our own inner conversation. Then, we have no guidelines for changing a self-conversation that we refuse to hear and admit. Listen. Meaningful change is possible only when we can perceive our own inner Voice.
The temptation to run away is strong.
Change is hard to bear.
Take courage and listen.
Notice and note the sounds from 'silence' inside.
There is a difference between what is and what ought to be. It is that difference that moves us to change.
Negative views can be transformed. Requirements are concentration, focus, persistence, effort – the will to succeed. Failure to try this approach might even constitute deliberate, intentional self-abuse. We do have the ability to listen inward. Where we find negativity, we then have the Self-care responsibility of turning it into positives, providing not only relief from stress but also beneficial self-affirmation. This often leads to increased benefit in social interactions, passing positives along to others. In a chain reaction, the whole community may well profit.
There is power in positive thinking. Positive emotions are linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease.
For some people, being happy comes naturally and easily. Others need to work at it. How does one go about becoming happier? That's where positive psychology comes in. This relatively new field of research has been exploring how people and institutions can support the quest for increased satisfaction and meaning.
Happiness and joy are empty air castles without a foundation. People who can self-affirm are more capable of that basic support structure, that understructure, of Hope, inner peace, community, compassion, and contributing citizenship. Happiness and joy rest on those. What is inward will be reflected outward, just as the outward can transform the inward.
Note that Hope is not passive. It is unlike optimism, which is largely passive. "Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope." Hope is a belief and an active virtue. It takes strength, bravery and fortitude to hope. It is a mainstay, a chief support of delight.
Often we know our inside Self from surprising ourselves with the outside. For example, “I’m probably wrong, but xxx.” Another example: “I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but xxx.” Probably wrong? Not the smartest? Listen. Did you hear it? That is not confident, supportive self-talk. On the contrary, it is self-negating, self-effacing. Reach for better.
Awareness makes a difference. Self-awareness. Before speaking, we should think of a positive remark to replace the negative. “Here’s another useful idea...” And “This might be a better way to…” Just so: these changes involve radical inner discussion and debate. Words have consequences. Reframe the debate and its underlying issues. Rewrite tomorrow.
Turning the pesky “I can’t” into a firm, elegant “I can.”
It isn’t easy or natural, but it is possible. If so, then do it. Or try it.
The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.
Positive self-talk is convincing. We can learn to listen to our own words as they are spoken. That is action. Then the associated feeling tone gradually changes our minds. Action can regulate feeling. Feelings may follow action. This, from psychologist and philosopher William James:
Action seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feelings go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.
Listen inward. It can be an astonishing, instructive, and life-altering experience. We hear the music beneath the noise. It is a noteworthy pathway not only to the freedom of independence but also to essential-moral-truthful interdependence.
[Concerning inter-dependence]…society is a place where we undertake collective responsibility for the common good. Citizenship in such a society has a moral dimension. It involves loyalty and the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others.
Some groups view targeted introspection as an ethical imperative, an obligation to Self and community. We live not only for ourselves but also for others. We must dare to create ourselves accountably. "In the great circle of life, we are all connected."
We are resilient, flexible, and need to grow. We need to expand and become. Optimum health demands it. Inside returns to outside, more mature and ready for compassionate community membership – one of the ultimate moral aims of human life. Listening to oneself bears gentle, faithful fellowship and allegiance. It is the harmonious on-growing hum of deep, rich, lucid self-awareness.
Listen. Act. Become.
Flourish –Thrive –Prosper –Expand –Grow –
Greatness lives within all of us;
Anything is possible.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
1. Old German song about freedom of thought. Composer & lyricist unknown,
Of course we also know of another perspective on freedom of thought, the Soviet-style Russian way. Generally, we call it “brainwashing,” later also understood as “self-censorship.” Brainwashing can be defined this way, according to The Free Dictionary:
Intensive, forcible indoctrination, usually political or religious, aimed at destroying a person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replacing them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs.
Fascinating - and terrifying - descriptions of a whole system of censorship of thoughts are told here: Marianna Tax Choldin, PhD, Garden of Broken Statues: Exploring Censorship in Russia, Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016. Professor Choldin, a Russia scholar, created a special name for this complicated, frightening, and all-encompassing phenomenon; she calls it “omnicensorship.”
2. “Positive Psychology,” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, undated,
3. Rabbi Lord Jonathan H. Sacks, PhD, 1948 - present, Celebrating Life: Finding Happiness in Unexpected Places, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2000, p. 175.
Editorial note: optimism may not be as absolutely passive as Sacks suggests. We could argue that optimism also takes quite a bit of courage for some people because it is not always a natural state of mind, although it is pleasant enough. Additionally, optimism is often the background from which Hope springs. We can agree that Hope is an active virtue and does take courage.
4. Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862, Walden: Or, A Walk in the Woods, first published in 1854.
5. William James, MD, 1842 - 1910, “Action seems to follow feeling…” Quote from Goodreads online,
Please see also a brief summary of the field of "neural linguistic programming" (NLP) for interesting similarities to the William James ideas:
6. Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844 - 1900, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
7. Rabbi Lord Jonathan H. Sacks, PhD, The Great Partnership: God, Science, and the Search for Meaning, London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 2011, pp. 102-103.
Please see also the website of Rabbi Sacks @ http://rabbisacks.org/
8. Mufasa, King of Pride Rock, in "The Lion King," Walt Disney Pictures animated feature film, first shown on June 15, 1994 in Los Angeles and New York City.
Image credit: abstract music tree, www.newdesignfile.com
Tags: #PositivePsychology #SelfTalk #SelfAffirmation #community
It's about what it is,
It's about what it was,
It's about what it can become.
~~ after Theodor S. Geisel, The Lorax
A Splendid Cover-Up
by Frank L. Iber, MD
I was a fortunate fourth year medical student in 1952 in being assigned for my senior six-week Internal Medicine experience to a brilliant woman doctor totally committed to the welfare of our assigned new hospital admissions. Our leader was a big-boned, tall woman with boundless energy and enthusiasm. She was responsible for four students, yet made a habit of being with each of us from beginning until our initial evaluation was complete with every patient, 24/7.
At all hours, she was neatly dressed, hair combed and very well put together including makeup. All four of us had the highest respect for our leader who was there if we needed her, but was unobtrusive in allowing us to perform largely independently. Over the many hours of working with her, I observed that her heavy makeup concealed some sort of deeply pigmented birthmark on her face, but never mentioned this to anyone. After this, her final year of training, she joined the permanent faculty of our department.
Some four years later, when I returned from my Army service and was then completing my training, our team was assigned the care of a 19-year-old woman who was rescued from a fire with major burns on her face and neck. Before the burns, she was very pretty and proud of her beauty. The plastic surgery team participated in her care, and she healed with almost no scarring but total loss of hair on one eyebrow. She asked to be followed in my clinic because she believed I would help her as her burns healed.
After two months, garish red blotches remained on one side of her face and neck. These blotches were impossible to overlook. Plastic surgery readily restored her eyebrow with punch biopsies from her scalp, but there was nothing they could do for the disfiguring redness. This did not change after six months, and my patient was becoming withdrawn and depressed and reluctant to appear in public due to her disfigurement.
I recalled the excellent job my earlier teacher had achieved in covering her birthmark, and I wondered if she might be willing to help this young lady. I approached my doctor colleague privately and with some trepidation, for I had never let her know that I knew of her concealing makeup. I told her concisely of my unfortunate burn victim and her now deep depression over the red blotches. I then asked if she would be willing to see my patient and guide her with covering cosmetics. She smiled at me and said, “Of course.”
After some thought and planning, she met my patient and me on the next visit in a private room borrowed from the nursing staff near my clinic. After introductions in this private area, displaying her well made-up face, she wiped all makeup off her face, revealing a massive and highly discolored red/brown birthmark that occupied most of one side of her face. She told my patient that she had had this since birth but was helped at age 7 or 8 with makeup lessons to successfully hide it. She then proceeded to apply her regular makeup, and in under ten minutes, her defect disappeared. She then applied her skill and her tubes of makeup to our patient. To the young lady’s amazement and delight, her red splotches completely disappeared. They worked in front of a large mirror so the patient could see just what was done. My colleague then gave the patient reasonable amounts of the two different products that she had used and advised the patient where to buy them at the lowest cost.
Over the next three months, my doctor friend held two further training sessions on cosmetic use. With the successful cover-up, the patient’s depression disappeared, and she emerged from her cocoon of despair, a renewed lovely woman. I was forever grateful to my associate for this priceless and selfless gift to this bright young woman, turning her life around.
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
“Abstract young lady portrait in a wide brimmed hat,” www.123rf.com
“Sketch of girl covering one eye,” www.themighty.com
“Girls makeup vanity illustration – makeup brushes in a pot,” www.pinterest.com
This essay first appeared in The Broadmead Journal of Poetry and Prose, Cockeysville, MD: BRA Writers Group, Spring 2018, pp. 26-27.
Dr. Iber is a retired gastroenterologist, a specialist in diseases of the liver. He has written widely and taught extensively. He maintains many active interests in addition to his profession, including the travels of Lewis & Clark. He loves dogs, woods walks, and flowers. “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” He is a riveting storyteller. He and his wife live in suburban Baltimore MD.