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Atra

The way we talk to ourselves

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While listening to a favorite podcast, I heard the following said about the way we talk to ourselves versus the way we talk to others:

We talk to ourselves in a way that if somebody else talked to us like that, we'd get a restraining order.

We're uniquely positioned to be our own best friend and yet we talk to ourselves like our worst enemy and we think it's "discipline".

- Paul Gilmartin of Mentalpod 

It got me thinking about some habitually abusive ways I talk to myself (sometimes out loud but mostly internally):

When I make a stupid mistake or forget something important.

Immediately after a conversation when I think I said something dumb.

After I binge eat.

After any regrettable decision.

And so on. Then I say something really  awful to myself. Until now, I guess I never really reflected on what I'm doing. 

I don't know exactly when I began doing this, how I equated this abusive scolding with self-discipline, or if it's my invention or did I adopt the voice of someone else? I'm trying to work on it but it's hard to catch myself when the thoughts are so automatic.

Do you notice the tone in which you talk to yourself, is it abusive? If so, do you think it's deserved because it's meant as "discipline"?

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@Atra,

I like what you're getting at- it helps me actually recall on the dark time I went through, which was probably the most I've ever been verbally abusive towards myself

I told myself a lot of things- which was a way to make me see how much trouble and many problems I caused. I did this to make me realize how horrible I was and how I needed to change. I meant this as a scold towards myself on how I really didn't help others nor myself.

Looking back at it now, I can see it did more harm than good. It pushed my limits further to wanting to hurt myself (which luckily, I never did, even if I was really close to doing it). My own abusive words towards myself made me hate myself more than the mistake I made- they made me feel worse than better.

Since then, I've been easy on myself and I've been doing a lot better since. But it truly was a troubling time for me, because I knew it was me who was telling myself these things. Things I thought would help me not screw up, but it never worked and became worse as it was a frequent pattern.

Not sure how it was started, but I'm glad I stopped.

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Good topic, Atra! I think we pick up negative self talk by all the demands on our lives as we grow up especially if we have parents who are perfectionistic. I know I did and I've worked hard to change that yet it is possible. When I realized that I was being so harsh on myself by seeing that I wouldn't talk to a young child like that or my best friend, It helped me change. I also used affirmations and saying "I love you" well looking in the mirror. I also worked through a book, Healing the Child Within, which helped a lot too.

BW

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14 hours ago, MaepleSyrup said:

I meant this as a scold towards myself on how I really didn't help others nor myself.

@MaepleSyrup thank you for sharing your story! It's helpful to know the background, what got you started on scolding yourself. Similar to how you put it in the above quote, I meant it as "real talk" to myself - like, wake up and do something. If it woke me up, it came only in the sense that it got me hating myself mostly for all my weakness. More harm than good, as you said. How'd you break the pattern, were you able to just stop one day somehow?

8 hours ago, BeyondWeary said:

When I realized that I was being so harsh on myself by seeing that I wouldn't talk to a young child like that or my best friend, It helped me change. I also used affirmations and saying "I love you" well looking in the mirror. I also worked through a book, Healing the Child Within, which helped a lot too.

Thank you @BeyondWearyI think affirmations can help repair some of the damage I've done, I appreciate the practical advice and the book recommendation. Do you still catch yourself being harsh - either before or after the fact?

When I mentioned in therapy how it's difficult for me to catch and interrupt my harsh inner dialog, it was suggested I try to recognize it afterwards. "Oops, using harsh words again" for example. Given time and practice doing that, I might be able interrupt the scolding thought. 

What do you think?

 

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Defintly - to both. I am my worst critic (well, the dog is probably my worst critic - but as it is usual me speaking for her - it is all the same). I am quite good a beating the heck out of myself for every bad decision, mistake and perceived mistake I make. My interior dialogue usually goes something like this:

Me 1: Why did you say the stupid thing? Now they are all going to think that you are an idiot and a jerk and they will want nothing to do with you ever again.

Me 2: No - that is not true. They are my friends and are more forgiving and understanding than that.

Me 1: But what if you are wrong? What if that was the last straw and they will all leave you and then you will have no friends - which is as it should be because there is something wrong with you. If people knew the real you - they would hate you.

Me 2: Stop - none of that is the truth. It is just fear and the voice of my mother. Stop - you are worthy of love.

Me 1: Go ahead and keep telling yourself that. Maybe someday you will believe it.

Me 2: Maybe you are right...……..

Even as I write this - I realized how ridiculous I sound - but this is pretty close to what actually happens. Unlike Roland the Gunslinger - forgetting the voice of my mother would be a blessing.

Sometimes I think of it as discipline - but usually I worry that it is the truth and that all of the good things I think about myself are just me lying to myself so that I can get through the day.

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2 hours ago, Atra said:

How'd you break the pattern, were you able to just stop one day somehow?

I learned something; if I wanted to help the pain of others, I'd have to start with my own. So that's what I did. I eliminated one of the biggest sources of pain I had at the moment. Sure, it did take a few breaths here and there to keep my mind focused, but the more I pushed myself to breathe and think things through, the less and less I found the courage and belief in scolding myself.

I did almost slip from time to time, and even on my worse days does a minor scold or two show up, but nothing that could ever hurt me as much as it did beforehand comes back. Of course I could still be doing better but I have greatly improved since- which was not too long before I joined

Now I'm dealing with other aspects of my life that are not as coping or easy to handle at times, but just like that pain, I'm sure I'll find a way to work with it. I just have to give it time and think it through...

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Posted (edited)

Great topic.  The abusive talk, for me, is less about discipline and more an ingrained habit from childhood.  SqueezeWax just got me going on this in another thread.  Essentially, it's the result of being raised by a narcissist.

As I've come to understand it, when a child's mind is developing in that kind of environment, that's the way the pathways are then wired for life.

I'll add that I don't feel I've ever been able to silence the inner critic, try as I might.  (That, in itself, may be the inner critic speaking...go figgur).  And that may be just the way I'm wired, as I am with the depression.  The best I've been able to do, no small feat, is to stand up to those who unjustly criticize or try to humiliate me.

Edited by MarkintheDark

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6 hours ago, JessiesMom said:

If people knew the real you - they would hate you.

@JessiesMom thank you for sharing the snip of inner dialogue, it's incredibly familiar. This portion here made my stomach sink a little because it's such a near match to my inner tormentor's dialogue: "if they knew the real you - they would abandon you". What do you think it suggests that yours, mine, other's internal dialogues are similar? I'm imagining Scolding School, a classroom where these little voices read classics of abusive literature.

6 hours ago, MarkintheDark said:

As I've come to understand it, when a child's mind is developing in that kind of environment, that's the way the pathways are then wired for life.

Yes, internalizing of an external voice. @BeyondWeary, @JessiesMom also cite family as birthplace of this internal abusive talk. I think my inner tormentor might also be shaped by familial trauma.

I appreciate you sharing a glimpse into your mind @MarkintheDark and wow, your mother is a piece of work. You're able to push back against people who do you wrong, can you push back at a voice in your head as well?

While my parents were pretty loving people, my father was a short tempered screamer who hit my brother and I, often in anger. Consequently my brother beat on me. I worry that I carry the harsh voices of both my brother and father in me - in addition to the learned behaviors, which got etched into neural pathways.

Still, I have to hope we can silence these voices we adopted or at very least, find the volume dial. Probably they'll never completely disappear. Like a well-used whiteboard, the old writing can still be seen, if only faintly.

 

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2 hours ago, Atra said:

"if they knew the real you - they would abandon you". What do you think it suggests that yours, mine, other's internal dialogues are similar?

a slight variation for me: "if they knew the real you - they'd be horrified."

this was especially bad during my speed addiction, when i was genuinely ******* myself inside and out (so they'd be justified) 

but these days they'd be horrified at how resigned i am to stagnation and mediocrity.

i'm not on social media at all myself, but i think the similarity in all our inner dialogues may explain in part why we are so drawn to social media as a society.

those platforms are the perfect place to hide the "real" you - because you get to craft your own narrative.

everyone is always so happy, and thriving on Facebook.

these days, almost seems like the digital version of you matters more than the real world version.

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17 hours ago, Atra said:

Thank you @BeyondWearyI think affirmations can help repair some of the damage I've done, I appreciate the practical advice and the book recommendation. Do you still catch yourself being harsh - either before or after the fact?

When I mentioned in therapy how it's difficult for me to catch and interrupt my harsh inner dialog, it was suggested I try to recognize it afterwards. "Oops, using harsh words again" for example. Given time and practice doing that, I might be able interrupt the scolding thought. 

What do you think?

Yes, I still have moments of being harsh on myself yet I have done a lot of inner child work and I see myself more as someone who is brave and enduring. I see that in you and others here who keep fighting the good fight. I know it is possible to heal that child within us who just needs to know they are loved just the way they are. I think you are on a good path.

BW

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18 hours ago, Stan Islavski said:

I don't speak poorly to myself for "discipline".  I speak poorly to myself because I'm a terrible and worthless person.

That's an example of habitually self-abusive, talking to yourself like you would your enemy. Is that someone else's that you've adopted? Is it as automatic as a cough or sneeze?

On 3/8/2019 at 11:29 AM, BeyondWeary said:

I know it is possible to heal that child within us who just needs to know they are loved just the way they are. I think you are on a good path

Oh God I hope so. Discovering what that child represents in me is gonna take some digging in places that I'm not keen to visit. I appreciate your confidence in me. Thank you. 

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, Atra said:

That's an example of habitually self-abusive, talking to yourself like you would your enemy. Is that someone else's that you've adopted? Is it as automatic as a cough or sneeze?

I don't know where I got it from.  I've been good at beating myself up since I was a kid (I'm 45).  There have been times when it wasn't like that - when I had my depression under much better control (for lack of a better word).  Not always but sometimes. But lately I haven't been in the best of places.  Everything I do, everything people say, just reminds me how crappy a person I am.  Even if it's not intended that way at all.

But my point was, I never beat up on myself to "discipline" myself.  I just do it because it's what I would think of anyone that was as worthless as I am.

Edited by Stan Islavski

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I'm sorry to hear that you beat upon yourself.  I guess it would

be normal to say things to yourself that you might think that

others might say to you.  I hope things can change for you

my friend.

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14 hours ago, Stan Islavski said:

But my point was, I never beat up on myself to "discipline" myself.  I just do it because it's what I would think of anyone that was as worthless as I am.

Good point. It isn't always about discipline, it can be a habit we develop when we're children as Mark suggested. Perhaps a learned behavior from an adult or a narrative developed on our own to explain why we do not measure up to a standard?

And you mentioned it wasnt always this way - less so, when your depression symptoms were more manageable. Perhaps abusive self-talk is a symptom of depression or is it triggered by those symptoms?

On 3/10/2019 at 5:32 PM, George11211 said:

I argue with myself but there's usually never two sides, its three, me myself and I. 

I also think of myself in terms of three mes: past me, present me and future me. Each one voices it's desires and frequently, it's disappointment.

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I know I'd never talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself. I know I won't forgive myself for things that I'd easily forgive others for. I know it's unfair and unhealthy to have such unreasonable expectations of myself, but I do anyway. I don't know why I do. I've known how wrong it is for such a long time but it still happens anyway. If I don't beat myself up I'm too easy on myself, I'm giving myself excuses that I don't deserve. I know it doesn't make sense.

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15 hours ago, Atra said:

Perhaps abusive self-talk is a symptom of depression or is it triggered by those symptoms?

In short, yes.  And I'm not being flip.  For me it's a chicken-or-the-egg thing, alas.  Until you brought it up, I hadn't considered it that way.

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