you’d show them talking to themselves.
Even if they were only doing it mentally,
it was supposed to be a sure sign of mental illness.What’s really bizarre about this is that the act of talking to ourselves
is actually a sign that we are self-aware
and that we seek insight into our own actions.Talking to ourselves mentally is actually a hallmark of being human
and proof that we are a higher species.
WE ALL DO IT
We all have mental conversations with ourselves.
Self-talk is so constant that meditation groups, relaxation tapes, and self-help books
focus on just trying to get us to be able to
stop all the self-talk for a few seconds of deep relaxation.
But, in a sense, we can measure our degree of psychological pain
by checking out our self-talk.
It’s not whether we do it,
it’s what we say to ourselves that matters.
It would be wonderful if we only said
well-thought-out, self-protective, self-loving things to ourselves.
It would be wonderful, but it’s just not true for most of us most of the time.
A lot of self-talk is critical.
It’s as if our private mental world is occupied by a watchdog
who is always anxious to point out our flaws.
To a degree, this is self-protective.
It “resets our automatic pilot”
when it is veering too far off course.
But one of the quickest and best ways
to improve our lives is through
changing negative self-talk.
How do we go about it?
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR SELF-TALK
1) Become aware of it.
2) Label its source.
3) Change it.
4) Notice how different you feel.
5) Decide whether to change it further.
6) Don’t think you are finished.
BECOMING AWARE OF YOUR SELF-TALK
Journaling seems to be the most popular technique
for becoming aware of your self-talk at the moment.
But whether you use a real journal
or just try to notice what you say to yourself without a journal,
look for the disagreements within yourself.
Sometimes these disagreements will be almost auditory.
One side will say something
and the other side will say “That’s not true,” etc.
But any self-talk that makes you feel bad contains a “disagreement.”
The disagreement is between the self-talk
and the healthy part of us that doesn’t want to feel bad!
All self-talk that makes you feel bad
originally came from someone else!
Learn to identify who said this about you in your past.
And mentally label the negative self-talk
with the name of the person you got it from.
An Important Hint:
Since parents have so much influence in our lives,
much self-talk comes from them.
It will help you a lot to use your parent’s first name
– Herman or Brenda or whatever –
instead of using “Dad” or “Mom” when you label these internal messages.
This will remind you that your parents were only people
who were capable of making mistakes,
not “gods” who could never be wrong.
Simply change the thing you say to yourself
into something that you’d like to believe that would make you feel better.
NOTICING HOW DIFFERENT YOU FEEL
Try the new self-talk for a short time
(anything from a few hours to a couple of days or so).
See how it feels, and learn the DEGREE to which
these new, kinder statements are actually true.
Make a new decision
about what you will say to yourself about this in the future.
Make what you say to yourself
and something you honestly believe to be true.
You will be growing and changing all of your life.
Updating your self-talk will always be necessary.
Even when you finally finish making new decisions
about the really negative stuff
there will still be the need to update self-talk
based on the changes that life brings your way.
BECOME YOUR OWN THERAPIST
Good therapy aims at well-thought-out, self-loving, and self-protective new decisions.
When you follow the steps in this topic
you are essentially becoming your own therapist.
Do as much as you can on your own,
but give your therapist a call
if you run into painful things
you can’t change on your own.