One of the cardinal rules to Inner Game development is to never underestimate the power of your own thoughts. The hectic, stressful and complicated lives we often lead can fool us into thinking that our emotions can be permanently contained within a few cubic inches of our cranium. In our culture, most of us boys were trained from early childhood to hide and suppress feelings of discontent under threat of ridicule if you happened to show any vulnerability in your character.
For a lot of guys out there, this cycle of hiding, containing and suppressing these discontented feelings continues into adulthood. Generally it is not acceptable for us guys to show some of our true feelings, so they remain bottled up inside our head. These negative feelings start to fester, and infect increasingly greater portions of our conscious thoughts. When all the bad stuff floating around in our noggins is too much to bare, we start to act out in one way or another. In attempt to escape the beast living inside our head we turn to drugs, alcohol, food, living in fantasy or completely spiral out of control in a fit of depression or rage.
Is there a way to stop this cycle of building up bad emotions only to end up exploding like Mount St. Helens? Absolutely.
Give your feelings the respect they deserve
The first thing an emotionally troubled guy has to do is start giving their feelings more respect. We can’t just feel an emotion, shrug, and haphazardly throw it in a box never to be seen again, even though we can fool ourselves into believing that will make the feeling go away. Our emotions have a way of creeping back, and start to affect the way we think about ourselves; they re-manifest to become our inner voice, also known as our conscious thoughts.
Believe it or not, we always end up attracting the reality we are thinking in our heads. It is a subtle, but entirely real phenomenon. If your mind is incessantly dwelling on negative thoughts, you will continually find yourself around negative people and negative situations. The opposite is also true. If you are feeling great, you will start to attract the positive things into your life.
Start to realize the true power of your emotions. They are the driving force behind the reality you live every single moment, so you should give them the respect they deserve.
Take time to reflect
How do you give emotions respect? You reflect! A cool mnemonic device if I do say so myself.
Instead of trying to throw your bad feelings into a box, you need to get to the true source of why you feel uncomfortable. Before you pop your favorite anti-depressant (which I like to call a depressive suppressant, because I firmly believe they DO NOT actually solve your problems) think about the source of those bad feelings. Are you upset with your relationships? A job? A lack of ability in some area?
Take time to pinpoint what is making you hurt inside, and reflect on constructive ways you can cure the emotional pain. Yes, that’s a tall order. If you are accustomed to a cycle of bottling up bad feelings and drowning them in mind-altering drugs or other hedonistic pursuits you have a long road to travel. You must accept you need to improve your character, and believe that the long road to improving your Inner Game is one worth traveling. We all have our own very specific inner-battles. There are no easy answers.
If you are looking to improve your Inner Game because your love life is on the rocks, you need to learn how to truly love yourself. How can anyone else love you if you don’t love yourself first? Start genuinely accepting yourself for who you are, what makes you special and love yourself for it.
If you hate yourself and are constantly criticizing who you are and telling yourself things like: “I hate myself.” “Why am I so fucking stupid all the time?” and “I never do anything right.” You will attract people, relationships and other situations into your life that will re-enforce those beliefs.
For most of my life I was guilty of talking to myself this way, and was quite depressed. To start loving myself, and to start attracting happiness and abundance into my life I began doing a simple exercise that sounds crazy, but it works.
Every morning, find yourself a mirror and look at yourself directly in the eyes and smile. Say “I love you.” to yourself in the mirror. Repeat as many times as necessary until you start feeling love and positive energy flowing through your mind and body. This is Oxytocin for all you science types out there who don’t want to hear any ‘metaphysical bullshit.’ Its a real chemical that naturally resides in everyone’s heads, and its also an anti-depressant that actually works.
Ask positive questions of yourself
This is another trick I did to change my own inner voice. It is a way of re-framing the negative, destructive questions I was asking myself like: “Why are no girls ever interested in me?” “Why am I so lazy?”
Note that destructive questions like these put your logical, egotistical brain on a quest to find the answers. Your brain is now on a feedback loop to spit out negative answers which confirm the negative opinions you have of yourself.
Instead, take whatever negative questions you are reflexively asking yourself and turn them into positive questions. So, I started flipping any of my negative questions and opinions of myself upside down. I began asking myself: “Why are girls so magnetically attracted to me?” and “Why do I have such a ridiculous abundance of energy to accomplish anything I want to?”
Create questions in the form of: ‘Why am I so great at _____(positive action)?’ ‘How come I am so awesome at _____(positive ability)?’ You get the idea. Replace the negative feedback loops of questions and answers in your head with its positive polar opposite.
Try it now.
Take out the head trash
Recognize ungrounded bad thoughts for what they are. Trash.
So many guys out there suffer from believing negative things that are completely untrue about themselves. When you have a self-deprecating opinion of yourself, step back and ask yourself if it is actually true. Is that just your opinion or an actual fact? Again, take time to reflect.
Sure, we all have our actual shortcomings; nobody is perfect. However, when you take a step back you will realize far more of your perceived problems have to do with a bad self-esteem rather than actual concrete problems. This way you can effectively sort out the actual things you need to work on, versus the ridiculous negative things you imagine about yourself.
Once you start recognizing bad opinions of yourself that have no grounding in reality, laugh at them. This is your head trash. Laugh at how ridiculous it was for you to believe that these horrid things were actually true. Laughter makes you feel good, and takes away the power this negative opinion had on you. Humor is a very effective way to throw out your head trash.
During your reflective moments list all of the positive things you have going in your life, and be thankful for each one of them. Every time you think of something you are thankful for say ‘thank you’ out loud. If you are a spiritual person say ‘Thank you’ to your god or gods. Even if you are a complete atheist say ‘thank you’ out loud anyways because saying it will naturally inspire feelings of positive gratitude.
On those rough days, when it seems impossible to say ‘thank you’ for anything in particular, say it anyways. At the very least, be thankful that you are alive, be thankful that you are going to live this day to improve yourself and be thankful that you are thankful, because so many people are not.
When we are thinking about things we are thankful for, we are thinking about positive things and displacing our negative emotions.
Each day we have is a gift. Be thankful for it.