Talking To Yourself: Relationships Community

Talking To Yourself: Healthy Relationships Community

Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves

In old movies, if you wanted to show that someone was really “crazy” you’d show them talking to themselves. Even if they were only doing it mentally, in their own heads, 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. It’s really a hallmark of being human and proof that we are a higher species.


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?


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.


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,


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 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.



Since parents have so much influence in our lives, much self-talk (both positive and negative) 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 they 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 makes you feel better.


Try the new self-talk for a short time (anything from a few hours to a couple days or so). See how it feels, and learn how much of the new, kinder statement you actually believe.


Make a NEW DECISION about what you will say to yourself about this in the future.

Make it self-caring, self-protective, 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.


Good therapy also 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.

Negative Self-Hypnosis

Negative Self-Hypnosis
Notice your Negative Self-Hypnosis

(From The Pegasus NLP Newsletter – 4 April 2000)

I don’t know what he did wrong but he’d certainly annoyed his mother. ‘Don’t you ever, ever, do that again. You stupid, stupid little boy. Do you hear me? I won’t stand for it. Never, ever again!’ Each phrase was emphasised with a smack on the bottom. The three year old was in tears. The woman was beside herself with anger.

No doubt she was well-intentioned and wanted to teach him an important life-lesson. I am sure that her intention wasn’t to set him up for a life-time of low self confidence and self esteem.

The constantly repeated messages we receive as children help form our self esteem and self confidence. These messages have added power if received when we are in a highly emotional state. So the little boy’s scared and tearful state made him very susceptible to the repetition of ‘stupid, stupid’ message. Such messages have all the impact of powerful hypnosis.

Happily most of our un-useful childhood impressions or beliefs are weakened by later experiences and by the passing of time – unless we unwittingly continue the process of negatively hypnotising ourselves…

Listen to your self-talk – the on-going silent chatter in your head. Is this building you up or undermining you?

Whenever you make a mistake do you say ‘you stupid, stupid boy/girl’. When someone criticises you do you silently agree with them as if it’s yet more proof of your low self worth? Are you carrying on the negative hypnosis of overworked and impatient teachers or loving but scared and incompetent parents?

Our self talk messages have a very powerful hypnotising affect on us. Just like hypnosis they are so repetitious that we rarely challenge them.

They are relentless – so we stop consciously ‘hearing’ them. And they are either so monotonous that we are lulled into a passively accepting them or are very emotionally charged and impactful.

Many people recognise this and try to stop this negative self-hypnosis. But most of them go about it the wrong way – by trying to not talk to themselves.

So let’s get one thing clear – you will never stop your self talk. Accept that and you are half-way to ending the self-undermining. What’s more your self talk is a valuable part of your thinking. It is what you say to yourself that needs attention.

The solution is powerful but is deceptively simple. Spend a few minutes every day noticing the undermining messages you give yourself. Just pay attention to this negative self hypnosis and think to yourself ‘There I go – repeating the old, redundant stuff again.’

That’s all. Keep it simple and you’re more likely to do it. Incidentally, this is a lot more effective than trying to stop the negative self talk because the more you try to NOT think of something the more fixated on it you become.

Do it for a few minutes every day and start benefiting from positive self observation. And, each time you notice that you are undermining your self esteem and self confidence, remind yourself of how you are a different person now than you were way back then.

Self-Talk & Self-Health. ERIC Digest.

Self-Talk & Self-Health. ERIC Digest.

Self-Talk & Self-Health. ERIC Digest.

This digest examines the ways in which self-talk, or inner-speech, can help change people’s health states. Communication and medical professionals have researched the psychophysiological components of self-talk, to conclude that what people say to themselves does affect their ability to combat and ward off illnesses. Individuals can tap into the power of their own self-talk by recognizing it for what it is, reducing harmful negativity, and increasing the number of positive internal messages.
To determine “where” and “how” self-talk fits into the scheme of intrapersonal communication, and communication as a whole, some definitions must be derived. The reality of emotional choice–that people have definite control over their emotional state–is known in various circles as self-talk, intrapersonal communication (IAPC), imaging, and visualization (Weaver and Cottrell, 1987). Self-talk is part of IAPC, but the part cannot be equal to the whole.

Having concluded that self-talk and IAPC are separate but related, what is IAPC? Shedletsky (1989) places it into the traditional model of communication, but all elements of “sender,” “receiver,” and “transmitter” are carried out within individual people. Pearson and Nelson (1985) expand that definition as follows: Intrapersonal communication is not restricted to “talking to ourselves”; it also includes such activities as internal problem solving, resolution of internal conflict, planning for the future, emotional catharsis, evaluation of ourselves and others.

Fletcher (1989) adds the physiological dimension to IAPC. Fletcher defines, “Intrapersonal communication…is the process interior to the individual by which reality evolves and is maintained.” It is a process which involves other parts of the body including the nervous system, organs, muscles, hormones, and neurotransmitters. IAPC, as well as the internal thoughts and language associated with it, serve as another “control” system in the body, on much the same level as the body’s other systems. This is the beginning of the mind-body, or psychophysiological, connection.

Medical professionals are beginning to take note of mind-body interrelationships in their treatment of patients. The basis of this is the recognition of the functions of inner speech. These functions are to:

* coordinate other connective sensory and motor functions within the brain

* to integrate and link the individual to the social order

* to regulate human behavior through spoken language

* to provide for human mentation as reflected in mental processes and activities (Korba, 1989).

Self-talk is a health behavior that has potentially far-reaching effects. Although it will most likely be used by those who have a high internal locus of control and place a high value on health, it can also help relatively healthy people in health “maintenance” programs. Self-talk is categorized as being positive or negative. As its label implies, positive self-talk has good implications for people’s mental and physical well-being. However, the negative is not all bad. The key to using self-talk is to strive for an appropriate balance (which is a tenet of holistic medicine itself) between the two.

The use of positive self-talk has been linked to the reduction of stress. Less stress, in turn, can effect other positive health changes. Self-talk, like thoughts, is not neutral because it triggers behavior in either a positive or negative direction. Both thoughts and self-talk are based on beliefs–which “can exist with or without evidence that they are accurate” (Grainger, 1989)–which are formed early in life. Beliefs shape our self-talk, which in turn affects our self-esteem.

However, negative thinking as the “thinking of choice,” may not be so bad, because it heightens people’s sensitivity to the situation they are facing. They are likely to think more clearly. Grainger says, “Negative thinking, then, is the most productive, the most useful, and the healthiest thinking to adopt “when risk is high.”

Instead of categorizing negative self-talk as “negative,” it might be better to call it “logical and accurate” self-talk. Braiker (1989) emphasizes the “responsible” use of self-talk. She warns against confusing positive inner dialogue with positive thinking, happy affirmations, or self-delusions. Logical, accurate self-talk recognizes personal short-comings, but also modifies them to help people define a plan of correction.
A positive mental attitude as a basis for self-talk does not require self-delusion. The development of optimistic thought patterns requires essentially three things: recognizing self-talk for what it is, dealing with negative messages, and harnessing the positive for the greater good of individual persons. By using inner speech, people can influence their health states, but the benefits potentially reach beyond that. To make self-talk positive, people must change what goes into their subconscious. All this hinges on recognition of inner messages.

Levine (1991) expands on the idea of noticing thought patterns. Regardless of the thought type (positive or negative), she suggests people reflect upon the antecedents to and the feelings about the particular thought. When people determine which thoughts improve their sense of well-being, they can make those thoughts occur more frequently.

Again, this does not imply that people who practice positive self-talk will be a group of “happy campers.” Negative inner speech can and does play a constructive role in helping people create better realities for themselves. As was previously stated, negative thoughts can trigger warning signals in high-risk situations. The object is to deal with the underlying message, and then move to correct the situation. Negative self-talk, like its label implies, has a downside as well.

McGonicle (1988) categorizes “harmful” negativity as being “awfulistic” (everything is catastrophic), “absolutistic” (using “must,” “always,” “never”), or should-have self-talk (“I ‘should have’ done this”). These also are found on what Braiker lists as “cognitive traps.” Other elements include: all-or-nothing thinking; discounting the positive; emotional reasoning; and personalization and blame. Levine suggests examining “seedthoughts,” sometimes mindlessly-used cliches, for negative elements–either emotion or health related. For example, thinking “I’m a nervous wreck,” “I’m eaten up with anger,” “That disease runs in my family,” and “Only the good die young” can undermine any positive thinking people try to achieve. Therefore, individuals must replace these thoughts with something more constructive.

In a society where people (especially females) are taught to downplay their good points, developing positive self-talk might be difficult at first. It necessitates a “reality-check.” Most of the time, people are a lot “better” (performance/ health-wise) than they previously concluded. The development of positive personal speech requires that people take active roles in shaping events in their lives, not to let life just “happen” to them. Keeping a journal, using your name as you talk to yourself, and releasing pent-up feelings are some of the ways Levine recommends becoming aware of and constructively using thoughts.

Relaxation is also conducive to positive thinking. The flipside of that is to reduce stress. Stress cannot be eliminated, but it can be managed. This can be done by sharing feelings with another and confronting any conflict early on, before the situation gets out of hand. Relaxation and less stress clarify and change inner dialogues for the better which can effect like changes in health states.
Self-talk has been shown, in research by medical and communication professionals, to have psychophysiological underpinnings. Thought patterns generated by self-talk affect health-states. What studies have shown has been supported by doctors and patients alike. People can begin to harness the power in their minds by taking an active role in deciding what to think, enhancing the positive messages they send themselves. It also involves being realistic, identifying the causes for any negativity, realizing it is a signal to act. By doing so, people can face challenges–health related or otherwise–with the knowledge they can succeed if they literally “put their minds to it.”

Parenting Tip of the Week

Parenting Tip of the Week

Teaching Children to Use Positive Self-Talk

by Shari Steelsmith

Tip—One of the best methods for teaching children positive self-talk is to model it yourself.

Our kids are often frustrated. The subject of homework instantly comes to my mind when I think of my kids getting frustrated but there are a myriad of other causes: learning a new task, dealing with siblings, etc. Both of my kids, now 11 and 8, are easily frustrated when doing math homework. My son, particularly, grouses when he gets stuck and makes dramatic statements like, This is horrible! I’ll never figure this out!  Or,  hate math! I’m no good at it. Link to book description

I get concerned when I hear him make comments like this because I know that how we talk to ourselves makes a real difference in how quickly or easily we accomplish tasks. Parent educator Elizabeth Crary, author of the Self-Calming Cards, notes that Self-talk strongly colors the mind. It impacts what we feel, see, and do I tell my children that their brains believe what they say, whether it’s true or not. I will usually prompt them to repeat a better statement, such as, This is hard, but I can do it., Although I do intervene in this way, I still wonder if there’s another way I could teach them to use positive self-talk. It turns out, there are more things I can do.

Tools Crary recommends, first, monitoring your own self-talk, both out loud and mentally. If you find yourself making negative comments, she says to think about the following points: 1) You’re loveable, even though you’re not perfect, 2) You’re capable, even though things are not going well at present, 3) You are growing and getting better, and 4) You sometimes do (whatever it is you’re currently struggling with) just fine. For example, I’m getting better at being on time. I had the kids to school on time every day last week.

As for teaching your children positive self-talk, Crary recommends the following tools:


Model using positive self-talk. Do this out-loud for your kids to hear. For example, if someone is rude to you, you could say, I am in charge of my feelings. I will take a deep breath and then decide what to do.

Give affirming messages. You can say to your children things like, It is okay to be angry or You can be upset and still think of what to do.

Model changing negative self-talk. When you say something negative, change it to something more constructive. For example, can’t believe how stupid I am. Oops. I meant to say, Sometimes I make mistakes, but I’m learning from them and I can do better next time.

This material has been adapted from Self-Calming Cards by Elizabeth Crary, M.S.