The quality of your thinking is played out in the quality of your self-esteem.
When you have been through a crisis like addiction, your self-esteem is battered and you may have difficulty controlling negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts and negative self- talk equals negative self-esteem. You already know this.
It’s a simple idea and therefore you might assume that there is a simple solution – Think positive thoughts. This philosophy has been around for years, but hasn’t had the significant changes we expected.
Why is this?
Mainly because our psychology is a little more complicated than this…
Dr Leonard Orr, a leading psychologist coined a term that encompasses the process of building self-esteem.
What the THINKER thinks, the PROVER proves.
This characteristic as well as the way we process information work together to build our self-image.
Your senses take in about two million bits of information per second. Your brain can only work with about 138 bits per second.
What happens to the rest of the information?
Your brain filters it out. It literally takes each piece of info, puts it though a filter which determines if the info should be processed and stored – or not.
The filter plays the role of the PROVER.
The thinker is your thoughts and your self-talk.
Let’s look at how this works:
If you often talk to yourself in a derogatory way, then affirming events will not go through into your brain.
Let’s say you often tell yourself: “Man, you are stupid.”
You begin doing this when you are very young. You repeat this statement to yourself a significant amount of times as you grow up.
This entrenches the statement in your filter. Your PROVER adopts this statement as a fact.
You fail a test. This information is passed to your brain via your senses. It gets sent to your filter/ PROVER. The PROVER asks: “Does this support the ‘fact’ that you are stupid? Yes it does”. So the failing of the test is allowed through and is stored in your brain. The PROVER has confirmed what the THINKER is thinking.
You get a distinction for a test. This information is passed to your brain via your senses. It gets sent to your filter/ PROVER. The PROVER asks: “Does this support the ‘fact’ that you are stupid? No, it does not.” The fact is discarded. It’s as if it never happened. The fact that you have achieved a distinction is NOT stored in your brain.
Over time this process becomes automatic and subconscious. You are not aware that it is happening. All you feel and know is that you are stupid.
As an addict, your THINKER may be thinking thoughts like:
- I am useless
- I am worthless
- No-one loves me
How can you overcome this?
You have to consciously change the process, until you have done it enough times to convince the brain, the THINKER and the PROVER that things have changed.
The secret to building a strong self-esteem
The Evidence Diary
If you want to change what your THINKER and PROVER are doing, you have to work consistently and consciously on building evidence that contrasts what your THINKER is thinking.
Your Evidence Diary can be kept on your phone/ computer or in an actual journal.
Start by writing down anything you can remember from your past that proves the opposite of what the THINKER is thinking. Small incidences, comments, compliments, passing grades at school…. anything will do. You may have to ask someone to help you with this. Remember your brain hasn’t been storing this info – so ask you parents/ friends so you can get a start.
I helped a young client of mine with this exercise. Mathematics was a problem for him. When he got to university, studying Engineering, he continued to battle with Maths. He managed all the other subjects (which used plenty of Maths!). He started an Evidence Diary. For two years he recorded every compliment, every good mark he got, every time someone came and asked him for help and anything else relevant.
He also consciously stopped this thinker from thinking, “I’m bad at Maths”. If the thought popped in his head, he would merely think, “I don’t need that thought; my Evidence Diary proves that I’m good at Maths”.
He is now in final year and loving his coursework.
There are two things to do to change the destruction of your THINKER and PROVER.
- Become aware of your thoughts. If a negative thought pops in your head, let it go. Remind yourself that there is some evidence to the contrary.
- Religiously add to your Evidence Diary – no matter how small or big the entry. Make sure you continually add to your Evidence Diary on a daily basis. This could take months and that is fine. Eventually when you have filled in pages and pages, you will find that you have shifted the process of the THINKER/PROVER to a more constructive one.
Building a strong sense of self-worth and thus your self-esteem can only be done by you and you alone. No-one else has the power to do that work for you.
Having a strong self-esteem is the basics you need for a happy and fulfilled life. Building a strong self-esteem is essential in your rehabilitation journey. Working on improving your self-esteem is a gift to yourself, and also to the world.
Start right now.