A Complete Guide to the Science of Self-Talk

How to stop rumination, compulsive thinking, unrealistic rule-following, and negative self-talk

Brian Pennie
May 8, 2019 · 16 min read
A Theory of Language, Self-Talk, and Emotion
The symbolic nature of language
The arbitrary nature of language
The generative nature of language
Language as a vehicle for emotion
Change Your Self-Talk, Change Your Life
1. Reframe your self-talk
2. Challenge your self-talk
3. The power of metaphor
4. Practice self-observation
Conclusion

A Theory of Language, Self-Talk, and Emotion

The symbolic nature of language

Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. He produced two major pieces of work, both of which had an enormous impact on the sciences, and still do to this day.

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Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

The arbitrary nature of language

Language, for the most part, is arbitrary and socially defined. What does this mean? For any word, someone at some point in history made it up and gave it a specific meaning. Did you ever wonder why the word “window” refers to the thing you look out of and not to a dog instead?

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Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on Unsplash

The generative nature of language

When children are about two years old, psychologists and linguists often talk about a language burst. This occurs when children begin using new words and sentences that were never directly learned seemingly out of nowhere. A common manifestation of this phenomenon is children’s use of bad grammar. For example, it’s not unusual for toddlers to use words and phrases like “mouses,” “I runned,” and “I gived,” which they would not have learned from adults (well, I hope not, anyway).

Language as a vehicle for emotion

From this cheating example, you can see how language is a vehicle for many of our emotional experiences. RFT provides a novel way of explaining how this process works, an explanation that is fully supported by scientific data.

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Source: The picture on the left is two years before I hit rock bottom. The picture on the right was taken in 2017, four years after I reclaimed my life.

Change Your Self-Talk, Change Your Life

Hi Brian, don’t be worrying about Skype. It’s easy. It’s just like our conversations in the office. We’ll have a great chat about language and emotion and it will be fun. Skype is so simple when you think of it. It’s exactly the same as our previous meetings. It will be just like we are sitting in my office. We’ll be still face-to-face. It’s so easy. It will be great fun, exactly like our previous chats.

After reading the email, I thought to myself: “That sounds so simple. What the hell was I afraid of? I can’t wait to Skype Yvonne.”

My self-talk had shifted, and so had my willingness to act.

This is a difficult intervention to implement on your own, and I had a wizard to help me. However, below are four techniques that can help you change your self-talk and, as a result, change how you feel and act.

1. Reframe your self-talk

2. Challenge your self-talk

Source: Having conquered public speaking, this is a 90-second clip of my first big corporate talk, during which I called out Russell Brand.

3. The power of metaphor

Drop the rope.

Yes, the monster’s still there, but you’re no longer in a struggle with him. It’s the same for anxiety. When you stop struggling, you rob it of its power.

4. Practice self-observation

Conclusion

Self-talk is powerful. It has a huge impact on how you act and feel.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most…

Brian Pennie

Written by

Change is possible. I write to show that. Author | Recovered addict | Speaker | PhD candidate. www.brianpennie.com

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Brian Pennie

Written by

Change is possible. I write to show that. Author | Recovered addict | Speaker | PhD candidate. www.brianpennie.com

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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