It sometimes feels that we have an inner critic – a voice constantly telling us that what we’re doing is wrong.
In some cases, this is normal. After all, doing what we feel isn’t always a good idea. It’s good to have second thoughts about certain things, especially when it comes to personal safety.
However, sometimes the inner critic can take over.
It can start catastrophising, and leave you prone to thinking things that actually aren’t true.
Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem.
It will also lead to ‘learned helplessness’, where the constant negativity of your inner monologue leads you to believe that you cannot improve your situation, so you shouldn’t even try.
It is possible to break that cycle though.
Martin Seligman advocates a five-stage ‘ABCDE’ process to develop ‘learned optimism’ instead:
Adversity. This involves acknowledging the situation that triggered the feelings of helplessness.
Beliefs. An unfavourable situation will generate a set of beliefs. This stage of the process involves exploring them – what are you thinking right now?
Consequences. Once you have examined the beliefs generated by the adverse situation, it is then important to analyse what the consequences might be. If your belief leads you to think “I can’t cope with this, it’s just too difficult”, it’s likely that will happen. At this stage it is also important to consider what the worst-case scenario might be; is it really so bad?
Disputation. This involves challenging any negative thoughts by finding evidence to dispute them, and then generating a more positive alternative.
Energisation. This is all about noticing what happens to your energy levels as you dispel and deal with any negative beliefs.
If you practice this process, you can learn how to automatically recognise and dispel harmful self-talk.
To learn more about the process and how to turn negativity into positivity, we advise taking our Developing Resilience eLearning course.