Mental stressors arise from the limiting and negative thought patterns that you carry. When your your values, beliefs and attitudes get distorted, it can compromise your immunity and affect your health. If you can discover your mental stressors and what triggers them, you can take specific and targeted actions to recover from them.
Beliefs drive behaviours
As we grow up, we all develop a belief system that drives our values, attitudes and behaviours. Many of our beliefs form during our early childhood, imbibed from our parents and other authority sources, including books and role models. This belief system helps influences how we think and behave . Understanding this ‘inscape’ helps you deal with situations better and promotes improved self-worth.
One of my good friends is a sensitive, intelligent and creative man. A great listener and witty conversationalist, spending time with him is always fun. We share many common friends who seek him out for advice. Yet, I know that he constantly feels deeply inadequate. He shrugs off compliments indifferently and accepts criticism far too readily. In a heart-to-heart talk with him, he told me that his father, who constantly expressed dissatisfaction with his academic performance despite being an honours student, had left him feeling small; that nothing he does is ever good enough. He has lived most of his life based on a belief that he had not chosen.
Self talk: What voices are in your head?
Our mind is in constant chatter, with a series of voices saying this, that or the other. Much of this mental activity is not really new thinking on our part, but merely the product of old programming which was installed in our minds at an impressionable age and which continues to replay again and again, in different settings.
If we are fortunate enough to have installed positive thoughts in our belief system, our self talk will be life-enhancing. But with life and human nature being what it is, many of us carry limiting beliefs which have been inscribed into us by well-meaning but critical parents/elders and reinforced by our own judgmental nature and life-experiences. The result is negative self talk, from what psychologists call our ‘super-ego’ or what we call our ‘inner critic’.
Limiting beliefs and negative self talk are a major source of mental stress, which eats away at our immunity, however robust. Not for nothing do the Buddhists call it the “monkey mind.” Clinical hypnotherapists say: “Everything begins with a thought.” Heaven and Hell both exist in our mind. They are created there and can then somatise into our physical bodies as health or disease.
The Inner Critic
Superego – The psychological support
Our superego is a necessary and important part of our psychological make-up. It is our internal boundary-setting, safety mechanism, which emerges around the time we are 1-3 years old.
Superego becomes more demanding
As our personality takes shape, our superego too becomes more sophisticated. Instead of sending us only generic safety messages, it now sets standards for us to meet. In this way, it creates notional boundaries and more importantly, it produces a false sense of ‘intact-ness’ when we stay within those boundaries. The cage of our limiting beliefs has started to form.
Superego becomes your inner critic
By the time we become young adults, our education, life-experience and the superego’s notional boundaries have been well set. As we engage in the quest for career, life-partner and life-style, the superego comes into its own, becoming our Inner Critic.
For many of us, our Inner Critic is a familiar voice-in-our-head: sometimes seductive, sometimes harsh, but always insistent. It becomes the ‘false-prophet’ in our lives and exhausts us by making us play a game we can’t win.
Here are some examples of negative self-talk/ inner critic messages, drawn from the work of Don Riso & Russ Hudson on the Enneagram.
- “You are OK if you are good and do what is right. It is not OK to make mistakes”
- “You are OK if you are successful and others think well of you. It is not OK to fail”
- “You are OK if you are responsible and do what is expected. It is not OK to trust yourself or others”
- “You are OK if you are strong and in control of the situation. It is not OK to be vulnerable”
- “You are OK if you love and serve others. It is not OK to have your own needs.”
We can now appreciate how constricted the cage of our limiting beliefs is and how much stress it can cause us. So uncovering them and re-programming our inner critic messages becomes hugely important.
Meet the Inner Coach
The counter-balance to the Inner Critic is our healthy conscience (we call it the Inner Coach). Only when we learn to access and activate our Inner Coach can we silence the Inner Critic’s strictures and reprogram our beliefs.
The Inner Coach has a very different energetic quality, which is unmistakable.
- It is a quiet voice, almost a whisper. If we are not sufficiently sensitive/ attuned, it’s gone.
- It usually appears in moments of stillness, rather than in moments of activity or strife.
- It speaks in puzzles, paradoxes, metaphors and symbols, not in binary “either/or else” terms.
- Its messages are always based on wisdom/empowerment (open boundaries), never rules/ limits (closed boundaries).
Here’s your chance to examine the beliefs that have grown roots in your psyche and cause stress. Take a few minutes to introspect.
- Looking back over your life: what are some of your core beliefs? How did they originate?
- What is the recurring self-talk that goes on in your mind? How loud is your inner critic?
- When was the last time your inner coach spoke to you? How did you act on its guidance?
More from this series
|Title||About the article|
|Uncovering Physical Stressors||The key factors in maintaining optimum physical health are diet, exercise, rest & relaxation, personal habits (smoking/ alcohol) and sociability & laughter.|
|Uncovering Mental Stressors||Our mind is in constant chatter, with a series of voices saying this, that or the other. Limiting beliefs and negative self talk are a major source of mental stress, which eats away at our immunity.|
|Uncovering Emotional Stressors||In this article we will explore where negative emotions come from and how they can be managed.|
|Uncovering Spiritual Stressors||Sometimes our physical, mental, emotional and systemic levels may not reveal what is really going on, at least, not enough to explain the manifestation of a life-threatening disease like cancer. In many such cases, the stressor may lie in the spiritual aspect of our selves, which we have to delve into.|
|Uncovering Relational Stressors||We are all part of a system: family, workplaces, societies, etc. The quality of our relationships determine the health of the systems we live in, and the health of the system plays a big role in our own health.|