Healing Negative Self-talk

In a previous TK blog we explored the concept of fat talk: who engaged in it, the whys behind it and the negative implications surrounding this type of interaction.

Although fat talk is external, to a large degree, it begins as internal dialogue. This dialogue is a compilation of lifetime experiences. It’s a mental chorus composed of voices from family members, verbal input from past or current relationships or even random comments made by strangers.

At Timberline Knolls, this inner self dialogue is shared in group therapy to explore how much time a person spends with her negative self-talk through body shaming of others and towards the self.  Through role playing, she hears her own judgmental words consistently and on cue play over and over again.

woman alone

This exercise helps her create space between the thoughts, to slow them down and give her time to notice how much attention she gives to them.  Healing from the negative dialogue is to notice when the thoughts show up and respond to them with a choice towards compassion and grace.

This technique of exploring inner self-dialogue helps a resident to consider the self as a “whole” self instead of a multitude of parts. This step is profoundly important.

The human body is an incredible, complex tool. It serves us day in and day out without demanding much in return. It basically always has our “best interest at heart” and honors what we choose to do with it.  Our body is its own dialogue, offering clear, routine cues regarding what is required to keep itself functioning in top form, such as hunger, satiety and fatigue. The relationship between the person and the body requires trust.

The steady flow of thoughts can become a filter between the mind and body.  What we see in residents is they live almost exclusively in their minds. Even if a resident’s body cues that it needs food, due to years of hearing negative cultural messages and embracing damaging self-dialogue, she will override it by the thought, “If I eat, I will get fat.”

Through exploration, a resident sees those harsh words do not align with her values. For example, an adolescent wants to be a caring person and then she expresses hateful words towards herself. Similarly, an adult says she is not judgmental, and then utters condemning words about her body. Such actions are incredibly contrary to whom both of these individuals perceive themselves to be.

Over time and through overuse of negative self-talk, the adolescent and adult condition themselves to believe these shameful statements to be real truth.

Through a variety of therapeutic strategies, we strive to move residents from negative self-thought patterns towards positive body experiences and trust.  We work to help them notice and spend less time with negative internal dialogue as well as harmful thoughts and judgments spoken to others. This requires intentionality and heightened mindfulness. Words that shame or criticize the self or others need to be sidelined before they hit the airways.

Only when the negative internal and external dialogue decreases, can residents start to notice the present voices of healing, compassion, and change.