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Dealing With Negative Internal Dialogue Using Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP

May 7, 2008
One of the principles of Neuro Linguistic Programming is that our experiences of the world, everything that makes us what we are, is represented in a sensory way, i.e. through the things we see, hear, feel, smell and taste, and the internal pictures, sounds, and feelings that we create.

Whether or not we accept this model as a complete description of reality, it is a useful starting point for examining and beginning to control our individual reality.

Internal Dialogue

One of the most important of the sensory channels is the internal dialogue that we run in our minds (i.e. the voices in our heads). This channel is a sub-category of the auditory channel (i.e. we "hear" the voices) but has such an important place in NLP that we give it it's own category, which we call "Auditory Digital" or Ad.

One of the things that makes humans unique among animals is the complexity of our spoken language. Our language allows us to conceive of, consider, and express extremely complex ideas. We do this inside our own heads, as well as to the outside world.


When working as an NLP coach with clients, the client may express the belief that he cannot do something, or that he is a failure, or any one of a thousand other complaints or issues.

It is often easy to be aware that the client is repeating words that are already playing in his head. We can notice this using any number of Neurolinguistic Programming calibration techniques such as eye accessing, listening to predicates and other language patterns, and we can check simply by asking the client if this is the case.

It is easy to imagine how difficult it is to feel confident when there is a voice in your head repeating: "You're a failure! You're a failure!"

So what can we do about negative internal dialogue? Fortunately there are lots of Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques we can do, that are fairly easy and fun. We describe a few of these below.


You may wish to ask yourself whose voice it is in your head? Maybe it's the voice of a parent or a teacher? Ultimately, it is fairly obvious that the voice is yours!

And as it's your voice, you are ultimately responsible for it, and in control of it. If you don't like what it's saying, tell it to be quiet.

If it won't shut up, change the tonality of the voice. Give a Mickey Mouse type voice and you may find it difficult to take the voice seriously.

Or move the voice. Some people find it refreshing to move the negative voice down onto the floor by their left foot. Let it lie there doing its usual whining, and when you want it to shut up for a while just put your foot on top of it, and squash it.

These are example of sub-modality shifts in neuro linguistic programming.


Better yet, what would you like the voice to say? How would it sound if it were a coach or a cheerleader? What tonality would it have? Where would it be?

If you need practice to fully install the new coach voice, simply become aware when the negative voice says something. Listen to what it has to say, then ask your coaching voice to say three things that show the negative voice to be lying. For example the inner dialogue might go as follows:

* Negative voice: You're a failure!
* Coach voice: There are lots of people in the world who love and care about you! That's a success!
* Coach voice: You have a good job and are respected at work! That's a success!
* Coach voice: You have dreams to aspire to! That's a success!

If you carry out these exercises regularly, you will soon find yourself happier achieving more, with a quiet mind or a supportive inner dialogue.
About the Author
Shawn Carson is Director of International Center for Positive Change and Hypnosis in New York offering NLP training and hypnosis training in New York. Shawn is a certified personal and business coach, and certified hypnotist.
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