It has been said that 80 percent of depression is caused by negative messages to ourselves. Often the voice that we hear in our head is one from an authority figure in our past. It is like a recording in our head. When we mess up, we hear that critical voice even though the person who is speaking is long gone.
Most of us do not talk to our best friends the way we talk to ourselves. We wouldn’t be saying such things as, “You are a failure,” and “You never do anything right.”
Not only would we not talk to our friends like that but we would not put the same expectations on them as we do on ourselves by saying things like, “You have to put everyone else’s needs before your own,” or “If you make a mistake, I will cut you down to your knees.”
What makes it difficult to be our own friend is what the famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung, said about himself: “What if I discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?”
We need to talk to ourselves
as our best friend would.
Unfortunately, when we do not love ourselves, we act in ways that make it difficult to accept ourselves. “We cover our insecurities by broadcasting our successes, criticizing whoever is present, becoming overextended and unable to say ‘No,’ criticizing ourselves to get sympathy, taking no risks that might fail…”1
Zig Ziglar spoke to this idea when he talked for over two hours and then asked us if we were more tired than when we came in. Our answer was “No.” He went on to say that when we hear positive messages, we are energized.
Recently, we heard about a new study in the journal of Scientific Reports that claimed that talking to ourselves in the third person can help reduce stress. Talking to ourselves in the third person is like a friend talking to us and helping us gain a little psychological distance from our problems. It helps us to see our problems from the outside and in so doing it helps us discover how to deal with them.
We need to talk to ourselves as our best friend would. A best friend would treat us with respect and kindness. If we failed at something, they would try to encourage us and help us to look for a healthy interpretation. They would not globalize our mistakes. A best friend would confront, encourage, help us process in order to empower us, help us sort out the realistic from the unrealistic expectations, and keep us from labeling ourselves. They would encourage us to love ourselves unconditionally.
1 Linn and Linn, Healing Life’s Hurts (New York: Paulist Press, 1997) 68
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700