Self-talk is something we all do. In psychology they call it intrapersonal communication – or communication with oneself. It could be the voice of your mother in your head tell you to “take a jacket” or the voice of an old lover telling you that “you’re fat” or simply a recitation of the lyrics to YMCA for an hour at a time. However you do it, we all have it no matter how unconscious it may be.
And self-talk, like most things, can be used for good or for evil. Self-talk can be used to lift yourself up, make you resilient and help you get on with your day or self-talk can work to tear you down, defeat you and make you sleep on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Self-talk is a double-edged swored.
And I would argue that due to the power of this particular sword, self-talk is one of the most important things to manage in the fight against mental illness.
Particularly if you’re depressed, you’re going to be prone to negative self-talk. Instead of seeing the good in things your inner voice will want to point out the bad. Instead of being grateful for what you have, your inner voice will want to point out what you’re missing. Instead of being happy with who you are, your inner voice will point out you are not as “good” as someone else. Your inner voice will be one nasty customer.
And if we don’t stand up to it, that self-talk will go unchallenged and we will start to believe what it has to say. If your nasty, lying, crazy inner voice tells you you’re stupid enough times, you will start to believe it, no matter how wrong and illogical that statement may be.
And perhaps worse, our inner voice knows all the most painful places to poke to draw blood because it knows us as well as we know ourselves. It points out the very things that you are most afraid of and the very things you want to be confronted with the least.
Combatting Negative Self-Talk
But while self-talk can seem automatic and even partially unconscious, we do actually have control over our own inner voice. When a voice inside us says we’re stupid, we can fight back with an inner voice that says, “I know that isn’t true. I am as smart as everyone else.” When the inner voice complains about the rain outside to make you feel down, you can say, “I know it’s raining. It’s good for the flowers.” And so on. No matter how negative your natural inner voice may be, your fighting inner voice is stronger. Your fighting inner voice has your mind behind it. And that is more powerful than some wimpy little disease voice.
Here are some suggestions in fighting against negative self-talk:
- Stop the thought. Just stop it. See it, feel it, and say, “stop.” Say it inside; say it out loud; say it in any way that will make your inner voice listen.
- Remember that nasty inner voices are liars. These voices are planted by illness and self-doubt. You don’t need to believe the lies simply because they have been said.
- Remember that you are stronger than your inner nasty. You are a full-fledged human being with logic and rationale on your side and you can beat some little voice echoing inside your head.
- Think about something else. Think about something that is true. Pick anything. Choose the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. It really doesn’t matter. Just take your focus away from the nasty voice.
- Combat the negative voice with a positive one. You don’t need to be Mary Sunshine, just acknowledge the voice, understand it, and then say something to yourself that confronts the lie.
- Do something else. Don’t let you negative inner voice get you into a tail spin. Find people who are affirming for you and spend time with them.
And I can’t tell you that your negative inner voice will go away – it probably won’t. But if you get used to standing up to it, it’ll win less and less, and that’s a good thing.