February 5, 2007



The purpose of this article is to encourage the message: PEOPLE CAN AND DO CHANGE. All too often, many of us buy in to the myth, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Maybe it is easier for us to make changes in our lives when we are young and not so set in our ways, but older people can change their own behaviors, too. It is irrational to believe that we have the power to "change" someone else. Ultimately, we only have control over ourselves.

If people can and do change, why are there so many sad stories about people who experience hardships in their lives? Take for example the alcoholic. Why does the data on alcoholism suggest that an alcoholic needs to hit "rock bottom" before realizing the need to abstain from alcohol? Many serious drinkers equate an empty bottle to an empty life. Where's the happiness? Why do some smokers need to experience serious health problems before acknowledging the need to quit smoking? What makes some gamblers lose their home and financial savings before learning the lesson of futility, that there is a time to know when to give up? The answers to these questions are as complex as the human condition. There are no simple answers.

Many people laughed when Nancy Reagan came up with the slogan, "Just say no", to peer pressure to do illicit drugs or alcohol. When some people hear Nike's slogan, "Just do it", they ask, "Who? Me?" After all, "Just say no" and "Just do it" are only words, vibrations in the air. However, words have meaning, and our subconscious mind takes the literal meaning to what we say. The words we say to ourselves do have an impact on what we think, feel and do about something. It is a mental skill that helps us to change any problematic behavior including the irrational and addictive ones described above. Slogans of an affirmative nature, like those of Nancy Reagan and Nike, are easy to remember and helpful to those who want to use them to their advantage. The starting point by which we change any undesireable behavior is our awareness of the words we say to ourselves.

How ironic is the following case scenario? Picture someone who is enjoying a cigarette, while saying to himself, "I am a non-smoker." On the surface, it sounds ludicrous. The smoker is "faking it" as evidenced by saying one thing and doing another. His words are not consistent with his actions. By way of learning through repetition, a strategy employed by marketing experts vis-a-vis television commercials, if the smoker continues to use the phrase, "I am a non-smoker", the smoker is beginning to program his subconscious mind to believe it. Successful smoking cessation is a bit more complicated than that, but the process starts with "self-talk".

Some people call "self-talk" a form of "self-hypnosis". Since we all do it, isn't it time we decide what kind of "self-talk" is acceptable as opposed to accepting any automatic words that come to mind? All behavioral change begins in the mind. It is by how we talk to ourselves that creates our reality. In the smoking example above, if the person's goal is to stop smoking, the person must first convince his subconscious mind to believe it. As the smoker's mind begins to believe it, the person then takes the additional steps needed to accomplish his goal. An Addictions Counselor will say that a client who smokes, drinks or gambles must be "ready" to give up the behavior before successful treatment can occur. The client's "self-talk" is the precursor to treatment. Treatment could include counseling, support groups or even medical intervention.

What personal behavior bothers you about yourself? What kinds of behavioral changes need to occur to improve your level of satisfaction with life? Take a personal inventory. Too many angry outbursts? To yourself, say the words you want to become when you feel angry. Mentally affirm your commitment to behavioral change by saying the words, "I am an assertive person, who respects the rights of myself and others." Repeat the words whenever possible, every day. Then learn what it takes to change. Your subconscious mind will be waiting for you to catch up. "Fake it 'til you make it!"

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor.

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