The Value of Self-talk

I used to have episodes of panic attacks. After the panic attack subsided I’d remain in a heightened state of anxiety for days in dread of more panic attacks. This heightened state of anxiety led to more panic attacks, more anxiety, more panic attacks, etc. It was a vicious cycle.

Eventually I learned that the primary cause of my panic attacks was some small change in my body that I would pick up subconsciously and that would lead to fearful thoughts just below my conscious awareness. These thoughts would lead to the rush of adrenaline that fueled the panic attacks. For example, I noticed I often had panic attacks at the beginning of Fall. When I paid attention I became aware that there was a very slight thickening feeling in my bronchia. I was experiencing a small allergic response. I would subconsciously pick up on this and I’d have thoughts just below my conscious awareness that I was suffocating. But even after I discovered this I felt powerless to do anything about it. I tried talking to myself about what was going on, for example, “This is just a mild allergic response. I am not suffocating.  My bronchia are just swelling a little. This happens every Fall. I never suffocate.” Etc. But this did not lead to an immediate reduction in adrenaline and panic so I didn’t pursue it. Until one day I did. I just kept talking calmly to myself about what was really occurring just as I would to a friend having a panic attack. And lo and behold I found that talking to myself about what was really occurring eventually did reduce the adrenaline and therefore the panic. It wasn’t immediate. It took a few minutes, but it worked. The adrenaline would go down and the panic would subside.

This lesson in persistently correcting thoughts and giving them time to work is something I’ve taken with me into this process of attaining peace. Originally I let the ego’s (personal thought system’s) thoughts run on and on and felt helpless to do anything about them. I learned that arguing with the ego only made its guilty, fearful thoughts more real to me. But when I persisted with correcting thoughts, rather than arguing with the ego, I found relief. Guilt and fear did not subside immediately when I corrected the thoughts that induced them. But they did subside subsequently if I was persistent in correcting the thoughts. I learned to not let the ego have the last word. If it said something that I could not dismiss but which I feared, I corrected the thought so that it did not remain the last thought in my mind.


The ego gets to you by repeating the same false, negative, guilty, fearful thoughts over and over again. You hear these unconsciously or consciously and you believe them. So you have to do the same thing with the facts. You have to counter with facts the ego’s thoughts over and over again until the facts undo them. You must correct the ego’s thoughts with thoughts that you believe. If you do not believe in what you say to counter the ego it will not work.  And the correction must be specific if the thought is specific. General thoughts will not correct specific thoughts. So, for example, if the ego says you are an idiot for making a social faux pas do not say “The ego is an illusion. Everything it says is false” unless you can see that the ego is an illusion and everything it says is false. Say instead, “I didn’t commit a sin; I just made a simple human mistake. There is no god outside of me that will punish me for this. I’m not perfect as a person and I never will be. I am perfect in Truth.” More than just saying this, think about the meaning what you are saying. Sometimes you may have to repeat correcting ideas many times before the ego will stop using specific circumstances for attack. But self-talk does eventually work. If it wasn’t a useful tool the ego wouldn’t use it!

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Learn about the books The ACIM Mentor Articles, The Plain Language A Course in Miracles, 4 Habits for Inner Peace, and Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace at www.acimmentor.com.

Comments

Anonymous said…
What to do if I'm afraid of the personal thought system?
When I hear its thoughts and I don't like the way it makes me feel, I feel kind of helpless and ending up thinking why I'm doing this to myself. Why can't I stop?
I just distract myself with other things until painful thoughts subside but I don't confront them like you said on correcting these thoughts.
ACIM Mentor said…
The personal thought system is just a thought system. It is just a collection of thoughts, not facts. It does not have power over your mind. You do. If it's running on it is because you are letting it run on. Empower yourself by applying what is in this article.
Christine said…
Remember - it's not a "life or death" epoch, with evil giants, monsters, or gladiators chasing you, a "who will win" kind of battle...rather,it's a ping pong match played in the basement rec room of the home you grew up in.
will said…
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will said…
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will said…
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will said…
Anonymous,

I don't know what your situation is but if these thoughts are persistent and are causing you problems in your life which it sounds like they are you might want to consider seeing someone at your local mental health center. The fees are on a sliding scale and if you don't have money they will see you for free. Some things that go on in the mind we are just not able to deal with on our own. Modern medicine can be a life changing help.
hannah said…
love this so much,thank you xx ive found that using this 'dont let the ego have the last word' technique has helped me see much more clearly what i really believe of the egos story and what i was just.. being dramatic with. bottom line of this is clarification is that i can really focus on forgiveness in deeply held, previously hidden, specific guilt stories, rather than chasing the same old surface stories around.
Hal Seeley said…
There are probably as many ways to stop listening to the personal thought system (ego) as there are people. I have used this same example that Liz describes myself and it has worked for me. I recently attended a retreat where another way to look at our thoughts was presented and I offer it here for you to consider.

Imagine there is one great ego mind that generates thoughts and that we are the receivers. Each person receives thoughts and acts on thoughts pertaining to their particular beliefs of life and who they think they are, and if that person goes with the thought or thoughts as if they are his or hers, the thoughts return to the great ego mind a bit stronger having gained strength from casting our awareness on them. After gaining strength they return to the source of their strength and the cycle continues. We can now give consideration that these thoughts are not ours. As an example: I live here in Las Vegas and used to have a serious gambling problem that required some professional help with my addiction. The thoughts of gambling, the desire to gamble was almost a constant thought. Now since I do not gamble anymore and no longer have the desire to do so, the thought of gambling is but a faint thought as it enters my mind. As I no longer cast my awareness on the thought of gambling the thought grows dimmer and dimmer as I no longer give it strength to continue. I am no longer giving it a circular path. This works very well now that I realize thy are not my thoughts. From Lesson 10, ACIM: My thoughts do not mean anything. The reason the idea is applicable to all of them is they are not your real thoughts. We only think we think!
Once I accepted that these thoughts are not mine there was an instant release of any guilt or irritation of thoughts I had previously attributed to myself. Now as a thought enters my mind from the great ego mind, I no longer cast my awareness to the thought and they return in a much more weakened state until one day they no longer return.
Anonymous said…
If music lifts you to the Heavens, "You Never Walk Alone" sung by Josh Groban can strengthen your walk when fear strikes. Carinos Deb
Thanks Liz.As a new/old boy to ACIM, I'm now up to lesson 113 in the Workbook and still going strong. This Self-Talk you mention, surely this is what we are doing in our daily practice.Subconsciously as we repeat the lesson we are saying to ego to "get behind me, Satan"."Serenity and perfect Peace are mine,because I am one Self, perfectly whole,at one with all creation and with God".Amen.
Desert Dreams said…
Thank you, Liz. I thought this was timely and helpful. Plus, it always touches me when a person opens up to what had been 'so' for them. It helps me to feel connected to them... and so I feel connected to you.

I will definitely try more self-talk.
Anonymous said…
I'm curious about why forgiveness was not mentioned in your answer. I've been thinking of forgiveness as the answer to everything. Or is the process you talk about another form of forgiveness and you just didn't identify it as such? Is this the right mind or the Holy Spirit correcting the personal thought system?
Mark
ACIM Mentor said…
Mark, the right mind IS the Holy Spirit. And you are correcting your mind, not the personal thought system. It's not going to change. But your mind can change by choosing to not listen to it.

True forgiveness is recognizing that only the Truth is true. It's only valuable to use forgiving ideas in self-talk when you are truly able to experience the Truth as true. Otherwise it's just a nice idea. Your self-talk has to reflect your current state of awareness or it will not work. So, yes, I did mention this in the last paragraph.
will said…
The topic of the mind was (and sometimes still is) something that caused me endless frustration and discouragement. The word is used loosely both in the Course and outside of it when people are writing about the Course. In some articles I have been reading it kept switching back and forth between the “(human) mind” and the “(Christ) mind” making it very difficult to understand since the word mind was used for both. This is a frustrating obstacle in the text when it is talking about the ego (mind) and the split (mind). Liz you have a mentor note on lesson 63 that left me scratching my head:

"Your entire mind is what you think of as 'you' and everything that you perceive. Nothing that seems ourside of you is really outside of you, so when you accept Peace for your mind, you accept Peace for everything that is in your mind as well."

After a little bit I got it but it reminded me of the distance between people who are well grounded in the metaphysics and those that aren't. Light years.
ACIM Mentor said…
It's a process, Will. Those who are well-grounded in metaphysics were once light years away from where they are now. Willingness is all that is needed. The understanding comes with the experiences.

I didn't really get that I am mind until I had spent quite a lot of time paying attention to what was going on in my mind. In any situation that gave me a charge I sorted out the facts at the level of form from the story I told myself about the facts. I came to see I lived not in the facts but in the story. I am always in my own mind. The more I paid attention to the mind the more I realized that is where I have always been.
"All is infinite MIND, and It's infinite Manifestations".God is Mind, Spirit,Soul, Principle, Life, Truth and Love.This is all that exists, which is Incorporeal,Divine, Supreme,Infinite. More and more I'm finding ACIM is an up-dated version of Mary Baker Eddy's textbook "Science and Health".All the comments are really helpful to me. Thanks.
will said…
Liz,

A very important part of what you are saying(for us as students)is the level of commitment in which you were practicing the course.
ACIM Mentor said…
And it took over 20 years for peace to come to stay.

My commitment was to being aware of Truth, not so much to practicing ACIM. The books were pointers. The HS was the Teacher to Which I continually turned.
will said…
OK. You had said above that you spent a lot of time paying attention to what was going on in your mind so I assumed...that you sorted out the facts at the level of form...

Here's the deal. When I was in AA and was trying (being taught) to learn how to do the program the things you mentioned were like gold. They really did open the door to things I might never have realized. Ask Courtney.
will said…
Because we are on the internet...I don't mean the things you specifically are talking about above were important to me in AA, it's the internal process, the time spent, all that kind of stuff. It gives a picture of what it takes to do this program. No one can give that but the old timers. You read the Text or the Big Book and if you don't have a sponsor or mentor you spend years working this out for yourself. Anyway, it's not that important. Maybe it's just my curiosity...
Christine said…
Hey, George Arthur Fordham - I "was" where you "are" 14 years ago!! CS to ACIM... All it is is like changing canoes in the same pond - the Message will become clearer to you, and less and less worldly...I really consider Christian Science a great starting point I was ushered into...right from a baby. Oh, I think it is singular: "Infinite Manifestation" without the s at the end?
ACIM Mentor said…
I'm not sure to what you are referring, Will. I did sort out facts from the story I told myself at the level of form.
Thanks, Christine, your experience gives me more confidence, as I still have doubts and I'm inclined to get angry with the world I see around me.It is becoming clearer to me that I need to relax,smile and laugh a little at the illusion and insanity of this "persons world".On the mbescienceinstitute there's an article by Peter V Ross written 1933 which you could have taken out of ACIM had it existed then.Mary and Helen were both scribes, perhaps it goes deeper than that.
jerryo said…

When anxiety is attached to a memory it helps to create determinism.
The deterministic behaviour is the attempt to avoid re-experiencing that anxiety.
The forcefulness of the determinism depends upon the intensity of the anxiety.

Its a loop

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