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Help Yourself with Better Self-Talk

When the September issue of my healthcare provider's monthly newsletter arrived in my inbox, I nearly deleted it before reading, until a small voice inside me said “open it.” Using Self-Talk to Adjust Your Thoughts, by Joseph (Joey) Rearick, LCSW, was the lead post, and, given that I have been working for years at reframing my own inner narrative since I first became aware of the hideous way I spoke to myself, it really resonated.

Positive Self-Talk

Well, that article sent me down the Google rabbit hole on the topic of self-talk..."Identifying negative self-talk is the first step toward thinking more positively,” says Medical News Today. My point exactly! “Noticing negative self-talk and turning it around before it takes hold can help people think more positively and change their behaviors." The College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CCBT) suggests that positive or negative self-talk becomes a habit that people can change.

The College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CCBT) suggests that positive or negative self-talk becomes a habit that people can change.

Turning around these entrenched habits of mind can be daunting, and it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why I gather as much information as I can on this topic, so I have an arsenal of different techniques to use when I catch myself going down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk. Different methods seem to work at different times.

Forbes Coaches Council offers 13 Ways To Overcome Negative Thought Patterns among them; #3) BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND. We are mean to ourselves. Nearly 90% of self-talk is negative. Instead, take these three steps:

1. Release it. Let it out to help the process, not to dwell. Three minutes, then the pity party is over.

2. Track it. Identify when you have negative thoughts. Awareness will enable reframing.

3. Reframe it. Once you know why you are being mean, consider what your best friend would say to you. Then tell yourself what you need to hear.

Now, back to what got all this started, Using Self-Talk to Adjust Your Thoughts and a new-to-me technique from the author, Joseph (Joey) Rearick: Strategic Self-Talk: The IF THEN Approach, which really seems to be helping with my current bout of negativity. Joey says, “To make the process of constructive self-talk more accessible and memorable, I sometimes suggest an acronym to my patients. In the IF THEN approach … each letter stands for a distinct step in practicing self-talk in response to unpleasant thoughts and feelings”

While I won’t go into detail here, I will give you an overview of the acronym:

I– Interpretation: How am I interpreting the current situation or event? What is my automatic thought or assessment of what is occurring right now?

F – Facts: Take a step back from your initial interpretation and consider the information at your disposal. What do you actually know for certain, as opposed to what you have concluded or assumed? Moreover, what do you definitely not know at this point?

T – Thinking Traps: Have you fallen into an unhelpful, automatic pattern of thinking, such as assuming the worst will occur (sometimes called “catastrophizing”) or imagining someone else’s thoughts about you without concrete evidence (“mind reading”)? Other common thinking traps include all-or-nothing thinking (“If I’m not perfect, I’m a total failure”), personalization (“something went wrong, so it must be my fault”), and overgeneralization (“I always screw up”).

H – How else could I interpret this situation? Are there other ways to think about the current scenario, as opposed to your initial interpretation? Often, there are plenty of alternative explanations for the circumstances, many of which are neutral or even encouraging in nature. Sometimes, it is also helpful to consider how you might interpret the situation if a friend or stranger were in your place, because you may be more objective.

E – Evidence: Consider the current facts at your disposal, relevant data from the past, and your general knowledge. Within this body of evidence, is there anything to support your initial interpretation? What is the evidence against this initial interpretation?

N – New Conclusion: At the end of this self-talk process, draw a new conclusion about the situation that seems justified by the facts and helpful in moving forward. This new thought need not be overwhelmingly positive, but it should feel aligned with reality in a constructive manner. Ideally, this new thought will not prompt the negative feelings and behaviors that your initial interpretation produced.

Definitely worth reading, as are the myriad articles and blogs available on this topic, like this one from Psychology Today simply titled "Self Talk."

I used to think I WAS my thoughts and had no choice in where they took me until I learned otherwise.

Hope this quote from one of my favorite philosophers resonates with you as much as it did for me.

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” -- Lao Tzu


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