Consider for a moment, for every conversation there is a secondary conversation going on in the back of your mind. If you were a cartoon, there would be a little bubble over your head highlighting what you are really thinking and feeling, while talking with someone. The background conversation becomes the filter through which you determine how you respond or behave. Robert Leahy defines them as cognitive distortions. Our beliefs, perceptions and values activate a trail of images, which becomes the background noise that produce positive or negative distortions before the sender has an opportunity to defend or clarify his/her position. Unspoken rules, rigid perceptions and unrealistic expectations are just a few areas that trigger negative scripts and destructive self-talk.
Unspoken rules consist of unconscious “perceived levels of understanding or assumptions.” Thoughts that trigger “I should or they should” tend to have unspoken levels of understanding. Example: You are sitting with a good friend. Your conversation turns into a subject of great sensitivity. Your negative script kicks in. “She should know this a touchy subject. Why is she trying to hurt me?” When you enter conversations with an all or nothing perspective, you tend to lose the opportunity to embrace the moment. You miss out on an opportunity to learn the unique character of others without placing rules that hinder the conversation. Unspoken rules block your ability to express what you need from someone. Unspoken rules keep you up at night ruminating and replaying a previous conversation that produces anxiety and fear.
Unrealistic expectations are standards you have applied to yourself or others that are unfair, inconsistent and negative. Emotional filters that compare and label are activated in moments of fear, stress and uncertainty. The unresolved emotional baggage becomes the filter through your negative script will surface.
The background self –talk can vary:
- How in the world does she get away with that?
- He has a lot of nerve giving me demands.
- Why do I feel so stupid?
Unspoken rules can place real challenges on a relationship. Begin the process of clear thinking and speaking. “This is how I feel and this is what I need” is a good way to provide clarity to unspoken rules. This process is important to consider what does it take to have your voice heard. It is about speaking your voice. Dare to show up differently in your relationship. Ask probing questions and check for body language when making assumptions about someone, especially those you love. Yes, this requires vulnerability and courage. But, hey isn’t finding and living in a place of authenticity and love worth it? Your darn right!