Here’s the secret goal of just about every therapist I’ve ever met: getting clients to change the voice inside their heads. They call it an inner monologue.
The monologues say things like: my stomach looks like a bag of under-cooked pizza dough. My teeth are yellow. I have more wrinkles than a circus elephant. Why can’t I think of anything interesting to talk about? My writing sucks. I need more friends.
Dayton counselor Meredith Montgomery calls the monologue your mental tape. It starts playing the moment you wake up and doesn’t stop until you fall asleep.
Montgomery has an exercise that helps clients see just how absurd these tapes can be: pretend your inner tape is actually an external person. Now, imagine that person following you around for a day and telling you — in a very loud voice — exactly the same things you say to yourself.
How would you feel by the end of the day?
I think I’d be googling “how to make chloroform” so I could surprise my “friend” with a wet rag and a trip to the dumpster.
Our mental tapes get stuck on negative thoughts. Then, they loop those thoughts over and over again until they feel like utter, incontrovertible truth.
It’s a twisted form of self protection. It’s our monkey minds trapping us in the comfort zone — keeping us huddled in the back of the cave beside the fire.
What a lot of us don’t realize is this: we can re-write the tapes inside our heads. We can confront the negative thoughts, figure out why they’re there, and — over time — address them.
The tape is the most important story we’ll ever tell. And we have the power to re-write it.