Giving Your Negative Self Talk a Name

This is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) technique that lots of my clients report finding very useful.

Its helpful for identifying and diffusing your negative self talk.

First, identify some of your negative self talk messages.

Thoughts like…

… I’m a failure.
– There is no hope that I can overcome the problems I’m struggling with, I may as well give in to them (e.g. give in to binge eating).
– I can’t cope.
– I’m making a mess of my life.
– I’m not good enough.
– It’s too hard for me to enact my values (for example, values like communicating clearly or being respectful for others)
– My emotions are intolerable.
– The world is against me.
– Bad things are going to happen to me in the future.

Next, Pick a name e.g. Bill

Then, whenever you notice yourself thinking negative self talk thoughts or saying them in conversation, say to yourself, for example:

“oh there goes Bill telling me I’m a failure” [replace with whatever your actual thought is]

“I’m going to ignore Bill and choose a more helpful thought”

“Bill says I’m a failure, but I say…”

This is where you need to think up a more helpful message to give yourself.

It could be something like “Bill says I’m a failure, but I say my problem isn’t that I’m really a failure, its that sometimes I think that I’m a failure.”

A book like Mind Over Mood might be helpful to you in figuring out more helpful self talk messages.

Try to be on the look out for all the negative self talk messages you are giving yourself, including the sneaky ones.

Some of your negative self talk might be implicit thoughts rather than thoughts you consciously experience.

For example, the thought you notice yourself having might be “I have to get an A on this assignment”

but your implicit thought might be “If I don’t get an A on this assignment, its evidence that I’m not good enough”.