TALK- The Mental Illness Dangers of Self Talk
‘Talk’ as a verb is Middle English and can be compared to the Old English word ‘talu’ meaning tale. It is known to be from the 14th century, and is defined as follows:
“to express or exchange ideas by means of spoken words”
“to convey information or communicate in any way”
I want you to think about the words you use every day. I want you think to about the different places and settings you enter every day. Do the words you use change depending on where you are? I would imagine that perhaps you use more formal speech in the workplace verses at a cafe with your best friend gossiping. But maybe you use the same tone and speech at work too — I guess that depends on your job. (Shoulder shrug)
Okay, let’s think about another situation of speech change. Do the words you use change depending on who you are with? Do you talk to the appliance salesman in the same way you talk to a close family member who knows all your deep dark secrets? I would imagine probably not, as your speech is going to be more standardized as you talk price and functionality of a dish washer and not about the sacredness of grandma’s tuna casserole recipe. Those two conversations are going to sound different and look different.
We haven’t talked about public speaking yet — now, that is a whole other level of speech if you ask me. You are making sure you are standing tall and proud, probably making sure you are pronouncing each word as clearly as you can. Your job in this moment is to get people to remember you by your words, so they better shine in this situation. You are putting your best “mouth and voice” forward.
How you talk changes depending on the situation you are in and who you are with. It literally is all about communication and how you, yourself, can be best understood in a particular moment. You have a different voice for every occasion. You are not a 2-D person who speaks the same with everyone. Now, there is something to be said about how to be genuine and about being your authentic self wherever you go — but that is a different conversation with a whole other meaning. You must change the way you speak in order to communicate better and also to allow emotions and meanings to travel to the recipient through your words.
Boy, would the world be boring and lifeless grey if we were all speaking like robots in a monotone drab for days. I’m going crazy just thinking about it! Words would lose their meaning because half of our communication is the feeling and emotion we put into those words!
Now, it will seem odd if you turn to your public speech setting when trying to console a best friend who is crying their eyes out because they are going through something awful or having a mental episode, such as a depression episode or anxiety attack. How do you speak in that situation? Probably in gentler tones, using words of comfort and love. I know that I speak in more hushed tones, almost like a whisper.
Now… I want you to ask yourself this — “How do you talk to yourself on the daily?” Do you talk to yourself at all? What ‘tone’ do you use when you do talk to yourself? What words do you use when addressing ‘you’? Mental illness, from my experience, especially with depression and anxiety, is this… negative self-talk. It is the most common, most tempting, and easiest way of communicating with yourself. Yes, I say communicating with yourself, because I feel like whenever I have bouts with depression, I never say “I am… something, blah, blah, blah…” I always address myself from outside in, calling myself “you” and all that stuff. It is an outside perspective. Maybe this is just me, but when the negative self-talk is in my head, it’s always in the form of two people and not just ‘I or me’. However, if I voice any ounce of poison to outside listening ears, it turns in the ‘I form’, as I am obviously talking to someone else. It wouldn’t be fitting if I said “you” because then it would be directed to them and not as an outside me, looking deeper into my brain.
Point is, think about how you might talk to yourself at your lowest. I know that I am personally guilty of not rushing forward and not offering words of love and comfort in those very depressed moments, or words of peace and tranquility in my more anxious moments. I tend to talk harshly to myself, fueling the fire of self-pity as it were. The words I use are viler and more vicious. I know all my weaknesses and triggers, so the insults are sent flying and the self-inflicted mental harm is huge. If this isn’t the epitome of mental illness, I don’t know what is.
Question is, would you speak to ANYONE in this way? Would you speak to YOURSELF in the same manner as you speak to a dear loved one? If the answer is no… Why? Are you not deserving of love and compassion? Are you not deserving of positivity and health? The answer to both questions is YES, YOU ARE!
NO ONE DESERVES TO BE ADDRESSED IN THIS MANNER!!! By yourself included! It doesn’t promote the goodness and the wonderful that is used! Now negative self-talk is a habit that is very tough to break and dropping it cold turkey is basically impossible, but to practice good mental health habits, to encourage mental healing, you have to watch how you talk to yourself.
Question all the negative thoughts by asking, “Is this something I would say out loud to any living thing with the intent to harm?” If not, (and the answer should ALWAYS be no), then you should never say it to yourself on the inside! It has no place there and will only keep you in the dark of self-loathing, self-pity, and awfulness of mental illness.
Practice talking to yourself as if you were talking to your closest confidant. Practice talking to yourself if you were a cute animal or a baby. Practice talking to yourself in a comforting way as you would to comfort another human. I’ve often wondered why the way I talk to myself has to be different from how to talk to my family or friends and the answer is that it doesn’t!
I know that when I started to pay attention to how I talked to myself, I felt lighter. I felt less guilty and beat up because I wasn’t letting myself expose my most vulnerable parts to my teeth baring depression, just waiting to tear me limb from limb. It will take effort to catch your negative self-talk because sometimes I don’t think we realize that we might be doing it as much as we are. However, with some practice… You will be talking to yourself like a newborn babe in no time and in turn, feel better mentally. And on the days, you are feeling fancy, throw yourself a compliment! I promise it works and you’ll be feeling “mentally” better in no time.