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News > The Wyvern Review > How to Defuse your Negative Self Talk

How to Defuse your Negative Self Talk

Have you ever stopped and noticed your self-talk? Your inner voice that runs throughout the day that says things you don't say out loud. It helps you to process experiences, ask questions, make decisions and influences how you feel.

Imagine you have to do a practical assessment in front of your peers and your inner voice keeps telling you, 'you're not as smart as everyone else,' 'you will probably make a mistake.' Chances are you will end up believing and buying into your inner voice and consequently make a mistake. Your inner voice will probably proceed to bully you after the assessment telling you, 'you probably won't pass the course,' 'you're doing the wrong degree,' 'you're not cut out for this career path.'

Should we believe our self-talk?

But just because your inner voice tells you something, does it mean it's true? Absolutely not. Your thoughts are just thoughts.They are not facts. According to psychologist Michael Stein, 'if you take everything your mind says seriously, give it too much respect and put too much trust in your thoughts, that is a recipe for an anxiety disorder.' The healthier way to approach your inner voice is not to take it so seriously. Don't believe everything it tells you.

Why is our self-talk so negative?

Our thoughts tend to sway towards the negative side because that's what kept us physically safe back in cave man days, but today we don't need to be on constant high alert in order to survive.

How to defuse negative self-talk

1.    Recognise what you are saying to yourself

The next time you feel stressed, angry, scared or sad, stop what you are doing and take a few deep breaths and notice what your thoughts are saying to you. The more you practise recognising your thoughts the better you can get at catching them before they get out of control.

2.    Challenge your thoughts

Be a detective and ask yourself: Is this thought true? Is it a fact? Get curious and ask yourself, 'is there another way of looking at this situation or another explanation?'

3.    Ask 'is this thought helpful?'

According to Dr Russ Harris rather than spending energy on working out if your thoughts are true or false, it's more beneficial to ask whether your thoughts are helpful and are they helping you to create the life you want to lead? The next time you notice your negative thoughts, ask yourself 'what could be a more helpful thought?'

4.    Distance the thought

If you are having the thought that 'I'm never going to make friends,' or 'I'm going to fail this assignment' or 'I'm ugly,' one technique that comes from Acceptance Commitment Therapy is to say to yourself…

I'm noticing that I'm having the thought…

This technique allows you step back and observe the thought rather than take it literally. It gives you distance because it makes you aware of the process of thinking.

5.    Name your 'negative self-talk' with something comical

Naming your 'inner critic' with something comical, like 'Cruella' can help take away her power. The next time you hear 'Cruella' tell you 'You're a terrible public speaker,' 'No wonder she dumped you,' 'You'll never lose weight,' simply, say 'There's Cruella again,' or 'Here comes Cruella again' then just let it be. You don't have to challenge her or push her away or give her much attention. Let her come and go and channel your energy into doing something you value.

Final thoughts

These exercises are not about getting rid of your negative self-talk but rather to see it for what it is – just thoughts and to let go of struggling with them. Sometimes they will go away and sometimes they won't. The main goal of these exercises are to release you from the dictatorship of your mind so you can focus your attention on more important things.  

What are some strategies that you have used to defuse your negative self talk? 

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