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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

3 Steps to Turn Negative Self Talk into Emotional Healing

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 17th 2010

emotional freedomIt’s not something we intentionally think about day to day, but the words that leave our mouth have a dramatic effect on the way we see our lives and ourselves. The words you choose can be used to create a sense of confidence and warmth or they can be used to create feelings of discontent and coldness. To go further, our internal talk or self-talk, is often times harsher than we would allow others to speak to us.

How do we fall into this trap? It’s a natural tendency for our minds to get fall into states of auto-pilot. After practicing something over and over, the mind eventually delegates that thought style or behavior to the subconscious so it can process that task while our conscious mind is freed up to focus on other things.

Somewhere along the road we may have been told, “you’re not good enough,” or “you’re a bad seed,” or “no one is to be trusted.” We get lots of messages growing up, some of them are explicit, meaning you’re actually told those words, while others is more subtle as you just garner through experience. For example, if your parents were always too busy to pay attention to you or perhaps if there was abuse, you learn get the message that you are not worthy of attention. These become especially convincing as we fall into states of depressed mood.

And so the Ferris wheel in our minds just keeps circling and circling with these messages. These messages are then at times passed onto our own kids and generations are affected.

There are ways to work with this negative self-talk. The first is to become aware of it; the next is to understand these thoughts for what they are. The ability to be present to them, without judgment, is a key. Here’s a suggestion from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.

“The beauty of mindfulness is that it can help you learn to treat thoughts, including these kinds of distressing thoughts, as mental events rather than facts.

     When a thought pops into your mind, you can think of it as an event in the mind. You can become aware of it even as it arises and also notice as it eventually passes. In the same way that you can sit by a stream and watch leaves float by or look up at the sky watching the clouds come and go, while practicing mindfulness you’ll learn to become more aware of all the stuff that’s in your mind without attaching to it—just being aware of it as it comes and goes.”

True acceptance comes from understanding where these messages come from and then finding the underlying feeling that is attached to them and paying attention to it with a kind and caring eye. Why is this healing? Because you are paying attention to an emotion, a part of yourself, in the exact opposite way than you received when you were younger: In a healthy way.

This is a lifetime practice and one of reparenting ourselves.

Here are 3 steps to turn negative self talk into a moment of healing?

  1. Make a list of your Top Ten Automatic Negative Thoughts, like a top 10 hit list.

  2. Notice them when they arise and see if there’s any associated emotion that is there too.

  3. Imagine that emotion as a young part of yourself that needs to feel secure and cared for.

This may seem foreign, so after doing this, always see if you can thank yourself for making this effort, no matter the results.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom we can all benefit from.

 

 

 

 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
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    Negative self-talk and alcohol use - Mark L - Nov 3rd 2012

    Good stuff here, especially giving us the tool to deal with negative self-talk by identifying it as a "mental event". People need to know that heavy alcohol use is a cause of an increase in negative self-talk in the days after an event of excessive drinking. It's part of the depressive effects of alcohol use.

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