ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Be Careful What You Tell Yourself

Jack Bragen
Friday September 08, 2017 - 01:16:00 PM

When you feel bad, feel down and out, or if you are very upset, it matters how you deal with that. You should not tell yourself things such as: "I'm going crazy." You should not tell yourself, "What's wrong with me?"  

It is important that you not mentally beat yourself up with self-derogatory thoughts.  

It is known as "self-talk." It molds how you function, very much affects your mood, and it is the seed of many behavioral choices. What you tell yourself affects you. What you tell yourself when you become upset is amplified tenfold or even fiftyfold.  

Once these "messages" that you have sent to yourself are implanted (by virtue of them being stored in your subconscous) it can take a lot of work to undo them.  

I have ongoing self-trashing within my mind. This is because when I was young, other kids drilled into my head on a daily basis, that I was weak, was a "freak" and was unfit. I have residual anger over this. As an adult in possession of my full faculties, I try to remind myself that they were wrong about me.  

(Many of them might be surprised that I am still alive and functioning.)  

Self-talk, or the internal dialog about oneself, is partly learned through what others have said about us. It affects our prospects for material success. It affects our relationships. It affects our level of self-confidence.  

On top of that, if we have a brain malfunction which is biologically-based, it affects self-talk, and it affects how much we are influenced by it. 

In order to look at and revise self-talk, another internal perspective is needed. You must be able to mentally take a step back or a step sideways, and view the thoughts. You must also be able to evaluate the thoughts. This is an internal sense that anyone can develop with practice.  

One way of starting this is to write down the internal dialog on paper. Whatever you are thinking, regardless of whether or not you believe it is true, write it down. Then come back to that piece of paper the following day, and think about what you've written.  

I do not suggest using a computer to do the above. 

If we can intentionally produce "positive" self-talk, thoughts about ourselves that promote confidence and well-being, it improves quality of life. These thoughts, if you repeat them, could replace "negative" self-talk--that undermines our efforts in life. This deliberate, intentional self-talk should be realistic, and should promote a good, constructive self-image. 

Changing your thoughts to ones that are more fortifying, that produce confidence, and that help you feel better, is the idea. The antithesis of that is to allow the thoughts to run on autopilot, or on automatic. Failure to pick and choose what thoughts you use to describe yourself, leaves you vulnerable to outside influences, to thoughts that are inaccurate, or to thoughts that are haphazard and have no organization.  

Creating good, helpful self-talk is one of a number of strategies for navigating to a better place.  

For me (as an example), it is important for me to remind myself that the people who said I was weak, a freak, and unfit, were not correct about me. 

It is important that the self-talk that you intentionally use as replacement thoughts should be realistic, and should not create additional problems.  

Producing good self-talk to replace the bad is a separate issue from treating delusions, depression, or bipolar symptoms. Changing the self-talk is psychological, and not psychiatric. By that, I mean it won't reverse mental illness. However, it could increase quality of life. 

There is no reason to put oneself down. There is no reason to take sides with one's enemies and against oneself. There is no reason to believe the liars, people who bully others because they are afraid to look weak, to look silly, or to think for themselves.  

Changing self-talk takes a lot of time and a lot of focus, and you should not expect that you can accomplish it instantly. These skills can only be developed over a long period of studying your mind, and learning more about how your mind works or doesn't work.  

This should not become yet another standard that we feel we don't measure up to. The idea is to stop judging ourselves. If we start judging ourselves based on judging ourselves, it is counterproductive.  

It can help, sometimes, to share some of these thoughts with a trusted friend or relative, but you don't have to do this if you aren't ready, or if you would rather not. Your mind is your property. And, for that matter, so your body.