Talking to oneself is pretty standard. The reason you speak to yourself varies, but sometimes self-talk serves specific purposes. For example, you talk to yourself to cope with stressful situations, reassure, self-regulate, self-soothe, reinforce rational thoughts, and gain insights into your behaviors.
What is self-talk?
For clarity, self-talk is the conscious engagement in dialogue with oneself. For example, self-talk may include single words, complete sentences, or phrases used to motivate.
Does the content of the self-talk matter?
Yes, the content of self-talk is either positive or negative, making it impactful on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. As you might imagine, positive self-talk is an optimistic inner voice that supports your confidence, self-esteem, and ability to rebound from setbacks. In addition, positive self-talk strengthens your core beliefs. Your core beliefs are assumptions about yourself, others, and the world around you.
Positive self-talk is an excellent mental skill, especially if you tend to filter out the positives of your experiences and ruminate about the perceived negatives. Psychologist Albert Ellis noted the use of absolutist language is irrational. We should aspire to be rational as things sometimes go wrong. Thus, positive self-talk is more useful when grounded in rational thought that supports reasonable responses or reactions. Positive thoughts are one way to reinforce seeing things as "they are" and realizing "not yet" is the same as the glass is half full.
Alternatively, there are times when self-talk is negative. Be mindful should your self-talk become negative; there are cognitive strategies to help manage your negative self-talk. For example, your negative self-talk reinforces attitudes that are not conducive to finding solutions to address the experience that triggered the negativity.
Therefore, recognizing your automatic negative thoughts about the situation is a practical first step. This way, you can thoroughly appraise the negative thinking and its impact on your feelings and behaviors. Then you can practice reframing negative thoughts using language that supports taking solution-oriented actions. Learning and practicing to reframe your negative thoughts are crucial since self-talk is usually a precursor to behavior.
The frequency of your negative self-talk can lead to mental and emotional distress. Therefore, it is vital to your functioning to learn to monitor and assess how you think about your experiences and recognize how negative thoughts affect the quality of your relationships.
What is the function of self-talk?
Self-talk has many functions. Let us examine self-talk as a stress management tool. Psychologist Donald Meichenbaum developed Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) to teach people how to manage stressful situations. SIT has three phases. Each phase addresses the person's self-talk.
In phase 1, there is a careful examination of the concerns you find stressful. This way, you can uncover your beliefs and attitudes about the stressful situation. Importantly, this allows you to recognize the patterns of your self-talk from the perspective of whether they are helpful or unhelpful. With awareness of your self-talk when confronted with stressors, you are ready for phase 2.
Phase 2 focuses on your coping skills and rehearsal of a new pattern of self-talk. For example, in phase 1, you realize you tend to use self-statements like:
"This is a waste of my time."
"Why do I even bother?"
"I'm tired of this @#$%."
"I've had enough."
Instead of continuing the above self-statements, you create and rehearse new self-statements, such as:
"This is frustrating; I'll take a break and return when I can focus."
"I can handle this situation with a little more patience."
"I've dealt with difficult situations before and found a solution."
"I can improve my stress tolerance."
Phase 3 emphasizes applying your new self-statements to managing stressors in your environment. The new self-statement requires consistent practice to become second nature. It is not catastrophic should you return to using your old self-statements; forgive yourself and resume practicing your new self-statements. You can always add new helpful self-statements to your catalog.
You possess the capacity for growth. You can nurture your capacity for change through your self-statements. The way you speak to yourself affects your mood, emotion, behavior, and feeling. So, have better conversations with yourself.
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