Miriam now speaks of her healing journey and gives a summary of what she knows about negative self-talk. The forms that I have provided you should be used for at least two weeks. Like any bad habit breaking the habit of negative self-talk requires work. There is a way to break the negative self-talk on the spot too.
One has to remember that negative self-talk is a learned behavior that can happen without you even noticing it. It has an effect on your moods and feelings. It is involved in anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. What you have to do is STOP and recognize that you are involved in negative self-talk and then use positive counter statements to change your mood or the way you are feeling but this takes practice. I paraphrase from a chapter in the book The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne published by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2015 Oakland, California.
STEP 1) Know that negative self-talk appears in telegraphic form and it may only be one word that triggers a whole group of responses. For example Oh No! You might say this as you feel a panic attack coming on. But this Oh No! is accompanied by a whole bunch of physiological symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweaty palms and shaking. Negative self-talk is often irrational but sounds like the truth. And you are so used to thinking it that you think it truth. Then you avoid the situation but in avoiding the situation you are reinforcing your fears of it and it’s a vicious loop. The more you avoid it the more strengthened it becomes. Negative self-talk can start or worsen a panic attack. But if you STOP and think of positive counter statements then you can lessen the panic attack or the depression or the low self esteem. Negative self-talk is a habit that can be broken with practice and time.
STEP 2) Know the four subpersonalities that add to your negative self-talk. Please see this post on the four subpersonalities. They are the Worrier, the Critic, the Victim and the Perfectionist. Know which personality you tend to be, sometimes might be all four, and write positive counter statements to the negative self-talk that you are prone to. Read your positive statements every day for a week or record them and listen to them while driving or as you fall asleep.
STEP 3) Make a list of your phobias and other fears, rank them from the most to the least bothersome. Use a worry worksheet talked about in this blog post. The worry worksheet asks you to list the worry and then to list a positive counter statement. However you should write down how you would cope if your fears came true as well.
STEP 4) Use the Cognitive Distortion Worksheets, described here, to pinpoint examples of over generalizing, filtering, emotional reasoning and “should statements” that occur when you are feeling anxious, depressed or have low self-esteem. Challenge the distorted self-statements and then use positive counter statements to fight against them.
STEP 5) Know the following steps for identifying and countering negative self-talk: a) Notice, b) Stop, c) relax and slow down, d) write down negative self-talk, e) identify the subpersonality or cognitive distortion, f) counter each negative statement with a rational and positive counter statement. Spend two weeks filling out all of these forms. Then spend the next two weeks filling out the Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts. Have about fifty copies of this form available. It is work but it will pay off!
STEP 6) Use the “short version” of disrupting negative self talk when needed but make sure to fill out the forms as well. This “short version” is described next.
“Short Version” for disrupting negative self-talk:
A) Notice that you are engaging in negative self-talk. The best time to do this is when you are feeling depressed, anxious, self-critical or upset.
B) Stop. Ask yourself all of the following questions: i) What am I telling myself that is making me feel this way?, ii) Do I really want to do this to me, and iii) Do I really want to be and stay upset?
C) Relax and do something else. For example something physical like house work, exercise or dancing. Other things you could do are listening to music, reading, talking to someone, hobbies, games, use relaxation technique recordings etc. Or you could shout out “STOP!” or “GO AWAY!”. Even more dramatic you could hold your palms together above your head and then bring them down in front of your body as you say “WHOOOSH” or “STOP!” and repeat it until you feel better.
It is important that you NOT substitute the “Short Version” for the forms. The forms are still important and are the mental exercise that will release you from you bad habit of negative self-talk.
Wow! And I thought that I was doing well for the last week. I have to go back and use all the other forms that I’ve talk about for two weeks and then start to use the Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts for two weeks after that. What the heck, I’ll use all of them at the same time!!!
In my last post I told you that my counselor suggested that I draw a shield of courage because it took courage to do all that I was doing. I share it with you now:
The sword represents my willingness to fight. The heart represents my love that I feel for my family and that I’d do anything to protect them but it also represents their love for me that gives me courage. The crown and the star are the logo of the local police. If I need help I am sure that they would help me and this gives me courage.
Have a good weekend! It is a long weekend in Canada. Saturday is Canada Day! We celebrate our 150th birthday! Enjoy!