Exploring our Internal World
We each have an internal world that nobody else can see or understand. It can be an incredibly powerful and magical place to be and yet very few of us takes the time, to nurture our internal world and to explore it, to cultivate it and to make sense of it. When you go into your internal world – what do you find?
A lot of us place a lot of focus on the external world. Our goals relate to what we want to achieve in our job, possessions we want to obtain, how we want to look and people we want to spend time with. Yet often we don’t stop and think about the fact that our experience of life and our experience of the external world, depends a lot on our internal world.
When I talk about our internal world, I am referring to our thoughts, belief systems and mindset. We are not really taught at school or in our early lives to check in with our thoughts regularly to evaluate the impact that they are having on our lives. Yet the thoughts that we think shape how we feel and in turn the actions that we take in our lives.
For example, often we speak to ourselves critically and harshly thinking that this will motivate us, however this harsh and critical internal world only serves to make us feel bad about ourselves and then to engage in unhelpful behaviours as a result. Let’s say that I am always telling myself “You are fat and unattractive” – rather than motivate me to eat healthily, this just makes me feel down and then I eat to cope with how low I feel. Or let’s say that I always tell myself “You are not smart enough or good enough” – this critical internal narrative makes me feel anxious but then also stops me from applying for my dream job or promotion. So the thoughts that we think really shape our interactions with the world around us.
Our internal world features thoughts that we think about ourselves but also thoughts and beliefs we have about others and the world around us. Sometimes our internal world can become an unpleasant place to be when we:
- re-play negative events from the past over and over again in our mind, just torturing ourselves with what someone said or did (effectively just hurting ourselves over and over again in the process, without changing the other person’s behaviour);
- worry about all of the things in the future that could go wrong, losing a sense of perspective and worrying a lot about things that probably will never happen;
- thinking a lot about how other people perceive us, when we can never really tell what other people think of us (and even if we knew, it is true that there will always be some people that like us and others that don’t); and
- worrying about failing and not being “good enough” and as a result not allowing ourselves to take any chances or risks in life.
The state of our internal world has an impact on every area of our life, including the relationships we find ourselves in, the choices we make for ourselves professionally and even our relationship with food (you can read more about the impact our internal world can have on our relationship with food here).
Starting to explore your internal world and your thoughts can be an exciting process. Even just developing more of an awareness of your thoughts is a powerful first step. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you to start exploring your internal world:
- Do you talk to yourself kindly and compassionately or harshly and critically?
- Do you notice the same thoughts about a topic or a few topics come up for you every day?
- Do you tend to focus a lot on the past or the future in a way that makes you feel down, anxious, stressed or sad? What are you focusing on?
- When you think a thought, do you have any evidence for that thought or is it based on an assumption? e.g. you may have been thinking, “she must hate me because she was so quiet” but she has never said anything to indicate that she doesn’t like you.
- Do you believe in yourself and your abilities or doubt your worth?
- Do you look for the good and positives in yourself and others or for the negatives and the flaws?
- Do you look for the gift in situations and your circumstances or all of the things that could go wrong?
One of the most amazing things about our internal world is that it is something that we can craft, shape and cultivate – so that we can learn more about ourselves and create a happier place to live from. As a psychotherapist, it is such a gift to be able to witness someone’s external life changing as their internal world shifts.
We each have an internal world that nobody else can see or understand. It can be an incredibly powerful and magical place to be and when we take the time, to nurture our internal world and to explore it, to cultivate it and to make sense of it…we begin being kinder to ourselves and speaking to ourselves with compassion..., we begin believing in ourselves and seeing our own potential… we begin making our internal world a nice place to be – a place we can enjoy living our life from.
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