Deny it if you will….we all talk to ourselves. Most of the time it’s not out loud, though purrsonally (sic) I have a tendency to organize myself out loud….to the occasional comment and chagrin of colleagues. But the internal monologue or dialogue is, as far as I can tell, one of the things that makes us human.
But what does this have to do with Depression Warrior? Well, not just talking to myself, but paying attention to what I’m saying, has been one of my favorite settings on my personal, cerebral sonic screwdriver (Yes, Happy 50th anniversary to the show that shares its initials with this blog.). Because what we say to ourselves matters at least as much as what others say to us. Listening to what we are saying to ourselves in our heads is like being able to see straight into our subconscious ….. like really listening to others, the practice of listening to ourselves can be revelationary.
So, the next time you find you may be sinking emotionally, listen to those inner voices.
Mine usually start having arguments with people I have conflict with, and, specifically, unresolved conflict that’s not likely to be resolved any time soon. And, rather than being cathartic, these arguments just hammer home the point that some things cannot be repaired, which is a very depressing thought in itself. Additionally, they can be as mentally exhausting as real arguments, and can bounce about in my head at inconvenient times, like when I’m trying to sleep or focus at work. My antagonist(s) in these arguments invariably call me the most creatively cruel things I can imagine. Ick. Enter exhaustion and decreased productivity, and it’s not a long road until this is one of those side effects of Depression that just perpetuates a deeper state of Depression.
Well, that’s all very bleak, eh? Potentially, yes. But we humans have the ability to change bleakness to joy. Recently I’ve been working to change my inner monologue entirely. I’ve been increasing my use of mantras, but not so much by memorizing loads of Sanskrit as making up my own. As as exercise, let’s look at this:
1) What would you like to hear said about you personally?
2) What are your favorite parts of who you are?
3) What makes you feel great about yourself?
4) What are the best compliments you’ve ever been given?
5) What strengths do you feel make you…. well, you?
When you’re feeling off-kilter, what does your inner voice say?
Useless? Stupid? Ugly? Worthless? Not good enough? Lazy? Fat? Waste of space?
I asked myself this question, too. If there’s nothing unusual about self-doubting, self-abusive, self-defeating thoughts, why should there be anything unusual about their opposites?
Should we really feel okay thinking horrible thoughts about ourselves, but then foolish thinking that we’re loving, intelligent, funny, clever, beautiful people who make great friends, lovers, spouses, parents, children, etc? Why is it culturally acceptable for us to trash talk ourselves, but frowned upon when we give ourselves any credit?
My conclusion, as with most things, was to make an informed decision through experience. I’ve decades of experience with internally thinking what a useless waste of space I am, so I’ve begun changing that dialogue. And I feel very different after I come out of a ten minute loop of complimenting something I did well compared to a ten minute loop of cataloging my weaknesses and faults.
I’m still talking to myself, yes. I’ve just started to realize what a brilliant conversationalist I can be.