Reprogramming your brain (the easy way)

TLDR

Self-limiting narratives are controlling you. You can break free of them by reprogramming your brain to stop believing them by reciting positive affirmations that contradict those stories.

I do this by posting these affirmations on my phone’s lock screen. Now, every time I pick up my phone, I see an affirmation that counters a self-limiting narrative.


The voices

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the voices in your head.

You’ll never be good enough.

– The Shame Voice

Not schizophrenic demons persuading you to commit atrocities, but more subtle and insidious.  The voices whisper evidence of your insecurities and anxieties. They are incessant – constantly interpreting your life experiences through their distorted lens.

Hijacked

For most of my life, I didn’t realize that these voices were speaking at all. The whispers were so quiet that they incepted me with self-limiting stories that I believed without question. I couldn’t even think to question them. They registered as my objective reality – my gospel truth.

I found my life hijacked by the voices. I believed their stories without question. And they guided my actions.

Hurry up! There’s not enough time.

– The Anxiety Voice

The Anxiety Voice convinced me to frantically hustle. In some of my most precious moments with loved ones, the Anxiety Voice dangled a ticking clock in the back of my mind. Anxiety welled up in me, and my awareness of the present slipped away.

Be vigilant! This person wants to hurt you.

– The Paranoia Voice

The Paranoia Voice taught me to interpret other peoples’ actions in the worst light. When in doubt, I assumed malice. This in turn made me interact more defensive and guarded. 

What are the stories?

Please take a moment here to reflect on what these stories are for you. When you feel the grip of fear or anxiety, look inward towards it.

What’s beneath it? Dig deeper to the very root of it. Meditation can be incredibly helpful here. [1]

Through this exploration, you’ll uncover the deep-seated stories that give rise to your fear and anxiety. You’ll begin to realize when the voices are whispering to you.

Take back control

Now that you realize you’ve been hijacked, and have identified the precise stories at the root of your anxieties, it’s time to mount a counter-attack. This is a fight to take back control of your brain. 

Step 1. Write down each self-limiting story that you need to overcome. Start with the most pernicious.

Step 2. Next to each story, write down a phrase that counters that story. This can literally just be the logical negation of the story.

You should write these in the first person, because you will be reciting them as affirmations to yourself. And if you say them in the first person, you will have an easier time believing them.

Step 3. Choose the story that you feel the strongest need to overcome, and take the corresponding affirmation.

Step 4. Open up a new document in the app that you use to take notes on your phone. I used Apple Notes.

Scroll down to the middle of the screen on this new document, and write your affirmation.

Step 5. Take a screenshot and annotate it, erasing everything but the affirmation. 

Step 6. Save this screenshot as the background on your phone’s lock screen.

Now, whenever you pick up your phone and look at your lock screen, you’ll see this affirmation. It’s the same strategy that the Voices used to such great effect. Only now you’re mounting a counter-attack to those Voices’ stories.

Mazel tov! You’re on your way to being more in control of your life.

Appendix

[1] Mindfulness meditation was very helpful for me to this end. The habit of meditation built the muscle of attention that helped be more aware of the thoughts I was having. I went from a wide-eyed toddler in a theater — drawn into believing that the film is real — to an incredulous film critic maintaining an arms length from the story the Voices were feeding me.