Talking to Yourself: Mental Health’s Best Tool

Whoever said talking to yourself was a sign of insanity sold us a bill of goods! In Tim Keller’s book, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, he writes about the role of our inner dialogue in our own personal well being. The quote I liked best from his musings was actually from D.M. Lloyd-Jones, “We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us.  In spiritual depression we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self…Have you realized that so much of the unhappiness in your life is due to the fact you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Many of us have some kind of critical or anxious inner voice that chatters at us incessantly. Listening to that voice without interruption or intervention inevitably leads to feeling low or anxious.

A lot of the therapy that has really helped me and that I do with my clients is around how to talk to oneself with compassion and wisdom and to bring spiritual truth into the inner dialogue.

Examples of “ourselves” talking to us:

  • You’re such a screw up! Why’d you have to do that?
  • What if no one speaks to me at the party and everyone thinks I’m a pariah?

Examples of talking to yourself:

  • You’re OK; it’s OK to feel this.
  • That’s an interesting thought brain, thank you. I’m going to focus on what I’m doing now.
  • Breath prayer: “Lord Jesus, have mercy.”

Sometimes the thinking that feels least conscious and most automatic is the least helpful for us. The first step is learning to recognize the automatic inner dialogue. The next step is to bring in the voice of your conscious and awake self. If you think about it much of the Christian discipleship is a process of learning what to say to yourself when your inner chatter takes over.

I’m curious how you experience talking to yourself in away that helps you. What are the best things you’ve learned to say to yourself to stay in a good place internally? Please share your best practices!

3 Responses

  1. Love this, Janice. Back in 1990 I went on an IV Global Project with Susie Veon, who had a habit of calling everyone “sweetheart” or “sweet pea.” I made a decision that if it felt good when she called me that, perhaps I should call myself those things. So I am more likely to say “Wow, sweet thing, you are really stuck on what that person said, aren’t you?”

  2. I like your approach on that one, Laura (i.e., “if it feels good for me”) …examples that I might like are “Strong woman, you can handle this.” or “Wow, that was smart of you.”

  3. Usually the conversation goes like this: “Wow you are really worked up about this arent’ you? Is this something you are going to act on, or is it best to acknowledge these feelings and thoughts are coming from a place of anxiety and move on to something else (like baseball)?

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