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How We Talk to Ourselves Matters

I’m sure somewhere online you’ve seen a mental health advocate talk about self-talk. About how the things we say to ourselves, about ourselves, we would never say, or even think about, a friend.

This is true. But what does that really look like in practice?

I came across an interesting article that tries to provide some answers to that question, and also provides some of the research behind that idea.

How to Have Better Conversations with Yourself

Ethan and his colleagues have been conducting research on self-distancing conversation and comparing it to self-immersion conversations. In self-immersion conversations, the words “I” and “me” are frequently used. Self-distancing, on the other hand, involves imagining oneself having a quiet conversation with a third party who calls you by your first name.

As you read the rest of the article you’ll see how self-distancing conversations look a lot more like those conversations with friends I referenced earlier. Getting away from all of the “I” and “me” and fairly judging the situation quietly and calmly as if it was happening to someone else can put it into a perspective that we sometimes lose when we are thinking of ourselves, especially those of us who struggle with self-blame. Of course, then that self-blame turns to rumination which feeds into depression, and round and round we go.

There is a better way, and the examples given can help if we are willing to practice them. Especially the idea of reminding ourselves that we’ve already been through tougher, and more stressful situations and come out the other side.

That’s a powerful reminder for survivors. We have been through worse and come out the other side.

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  1. This article dovetails with my notion that many of us never would consider speaking harshly to our friends, yet we address ourselves that way often. Sometimes I think the Golden Rule got it backwards–we need to love ourselves the way we love our neighbor.

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