Day 317: Challenging Negative Messages

Yesterday, in a therapy group, we did an exercise where we challenged negative messages.

As I tell people, I have yet to encounter a human mind that does NOT generate negative, self-critical messages, like these:

You’re too selfish.

You’re not smart enough.

Why try anything?  You’ll  fail again.

You are weird.

You are worthless.

Arrghh!  I hate writing those messages. And whenever I do this exercise in group, I hesitate to invite critical messages, because they are SO painful and toxic.

But every time I invite these messages in, we have a chance to look at them anew.  And challenge them.

Here’s how the exercise works:

People think of some familiar critical messages. Then, a group member is chosen to be the voice of a critical message, repeating that message over and over again.  Other members can challenge that message, however they choose.

For example:

Critical Messager  You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  I am NOT too selfish!

Critical Messager:  You’re too selfish.

Challenger: What you call selfishness is just me taking care of myself.

Critical Messager:  You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  I am SO SICK of you telling me that. That doesn’t help me.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger: I am no more selfish than anybody else.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger: What about all the times I haven’t been selfish??

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenge: My friend says I’m not selfish enough.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  SHUT UP!!!

I personally LOVE doing that exercise, because I usually  get to yell, in a socially acceptable way.

Some things I notice, whenever a group does that exercise:

  1. People do NOT want to be somebody else’s Critical Messager.  They say, “I don’t want to say that horrible thing to somebody!”  (This gives me the opportunity to invite them to apply that kindness to themselves.)
  2. In response to  challenges, the Critical Messager usually changes tone — softening, hesitating, even stopping.
  3. People often express gratitude for the exercise, when it’s over.

If you don’t have a group of people on hand, you can still do a form of that exercise, by:

  1. Writing down a critical message.
  2. Challenging that message, in as many ways as you can.

I just looked for an image to support that, through Google, and this is what I found:

challenging-negative-thinking

Thanks to ExpertsMind.com, for that.

Ending messages, for this post:

Negative messages are like any other bad habit.  Practice, practice, practice changes.

And support helps, too.

Thanks to role-players everywhere, critical thinkers, habit-breakers, and to you, especially,  for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Day 317: Challenging Negative Messages

  1. What a great post! I have just been writing and reflecting on selfishness this week so this is very timely! Thank you for the exercises! Love it!

  2. thestoryofrei

    I definitely agree on the practice part. A lot of us have spent most of our lives building negative self talk habits, decreasing and/or cutting out negative self-talk isn’t going to happen overnight. We have to build new healthy habits.

    That sounds like an amazingly powerful exercise to do as a group!

  3. That sounds like a great exercise for groups and individuals. Thank you for the suggestion, Ann.
    Russ

  4. You are most welcome, Russ.

  5. Pingback: Day 2321: Messages | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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