Most people don’t realize it, but as we go about our daily lives we are constantly thinking about and interpreting the situations we find ourselves in. It’s as though we have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we perceive every situation. Psychologists call this inner voice ‘self-talk‘, and it includes our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious assumptions or beliefs.
Much of our self-talk is reasonable — ‘I’d better do some preparation for that exam’, or ‘I’m really looking forward to that match’. However, some of our self-talk is negative, unrealistic or self-defeating — ‘I’m going to fail for sure’, or ‘I didn’t play well! I’m hopeless’.
Self-talk is often skewed towards the negative, and sometimes it’s just plain wrong. If you are experiencing depression, it is particularly likely that you interpret things negatively. That’s why it’s useful to keep an eye on the things you tell yourself, and challenge some of the negative aspects of your thinking.
You can test, challenge and change your self-talk. You can change some of the negative aspects of your thinking by challenging the irrational parts and replacing them with more reasonable thoughts.
With practice, you can learn to notice your own negative self-talk as it happens, and consciously choose to think about the situation in a more realistic and helpful way.
Challenging the Self-Talk
Disputing your self-talk means challenging the negative or unhelpful aspects. Doing this enables you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way.
Learning to dispute negative thoughts might take time and practice, but is worth the effort. Once you start looking at it, you’ll probably be surprised by how much of your thinking is inaccurate, exaggerated, or focused on the negatives of the situation.
Whenever you find yourself feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, use this as your signal to stop and become aware of your thoughts. Use your feelings as your cue to reflect on your thinking.