by James Rudy Gray
Do you ever talk to yourself? We all do! We do not carry on an audible conversation, but we do talk silently to ourselves. Self-talk can be explained as the words we tell ourselves in our thoughts—words about ourselves, others, circumstances, past events, future happenings, etc. Self-talk reflects our belief systems and too often misbeliefs are born in that internal conversation within our minds and hearts.
Self-talk has a tendency to be illogical, emotional, overly-general, self-pitying, fueled by a vivid imagination, and most often leads to catastrophic-type thinking.
Psychologist David Stoop has devised a way for a person to monitor his self-talk:
1. Describe the conflict, situation going on inside you.
2. Define what is really and actually occurring.
3. Discern what the “other person” is feeling or thinking.
4. Decide what you can do about the situation.
Self-talk generates ideas that are eventually transformed into emotions. Dr. Archibald Hart says, “It is the most irrational and illogical kind of talking we do. We think more clearly when we talk to someone.” Our self-talk is best challenged and evaluated in open conversation with another person.
Unfortunately for most of us, our habits of self-talk are formed through years of practice and reflect our families of origin, birth order, personality, life experiences, and the especially painful events in our lives. Self-talk is typically negative and sometimes self-destructive. The best way to overcome negative self talk is through healthy thinking. Since feelings follow beliefs, it is important that we tell ourselves the truth as we move out of emotional pain.
Dr. Hart reminds us to guard our self-talk by:
• Watch what you say to yourself because that will determine how you feel and behave.
• Watch the derogatory labels you put on yourself because they easily become self-fulfilling prophecies.
• Watch the derogatory labels others put on you. Refuse to accept them. It is good to remember that name-calling is always used as a weapon to punish and that words are only symbols.
We can effectively change negative self-talk with positive, realistic, reassuring sentences. We can change our thoughts but it often means sharing our feelings with a trusted individual. It is especially helpful to pray and apply biblical truths to combat negative self-talk. Second Corinthians 10:5 says, “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
There are some questions we can ask ourselves as part of our mental discipline to create a healthy attitude and lessen destructive self-talk: Is it true? Is it real? Am I overreacting? Will it be different tomorrow? Am I being too sensitive? Am I being sensible? Am I being objective? Where will this idea take me?
It is important to remember that we most effectively initiate change, not by reacting but by acting. We must learn to accurately identify and confess our feelings.
Attitude is basic. Joy is a product of God’s Spirit in our lives. Rejoicing is a command we are given. Rejoicing is expressing the joy that God’s Spirit has given us. First Thessalonians. 5:16 tells us to “rejoice always.” That is not an irrational or impossible achievement. However we must agree with God that it is possible and then trust Him for the strength to do it!
Self-talk is quite often a crippling mental force in our lives. It does not have to be. Through self-discipline and a positive and trusting belief in God’s truth, we can learn to speak to ourselves the words of faith rather than the words of doubt.
If we can learn to always use the truth to evaluate our self-talk, we can eliminate much of the negative and build more of the positive attitude power we need to live full and productive lives.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.