What Are You “Saying” To Yourself?

29 Dec

Back in graduate school, I loved exploring the different therapy “modalities” out there – psychodynamic, emotionally-focused, Bowenian… I could go on-and-on. But, one more recent way of treating clients and patients really stuck in my mind. And, it’s a theory to which I still subscribe today.

The fancy name is “narrative” therapy, but I just like to call it “self-talk.” Basically, it’s the idea that we can ease our distress by changing what we say to ourselves and modifying our personal story.

Take Glenn and Glenda, for example. Both work at jobs they don’t like, don’t have many friends, and live alone.

Glenn wakes up every day and says to himself, “Ugh, I have to go to a job I hate today. No one likes me there. And, I’m tired and alone all the time.”

Then, take Glenda. She wakes up and says to herself, “I don’t love my job, but it pays well, and I’m learning something new every day. Even though I don’t have many friends, I’m going to work on making more. I may live by myself, but I’m sure I’ll meet someone soon with whom I can share my life.”

Two people. Two totally different ways of “self-talking.” Now, as you can imagine, Glenda’s far more likely to see improvement in her life and report low distress. While, Glenn is likely to report high distress and less improvement.

When those obnoxious posters say ATTITUDE IS EVERTHING, what they mean is your self-talk means everything. And, by changing your self-talk, you can change your behavior.

When it comes to conflict resolution, the idea is similar – if you start a discussion already convincing yourself that you can’t work it out, you probably won’t. But, if you go into a discussion open to hearing new ideas and hopeful there’s a solution, then you’re more likely to find one.

Narrative therapy is really a twist on the idea of using positive self-talk to change behavior and outcomes, and statistics show it really works. So, why not give it a whirl (and, don’t let your self-talk…talk you out of it).


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