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The Importance of Listening to Yourself (And Saying the Right Thing)

How we talk to ourselves may determine our next step.

"I'm never going to be able to beat this thing."
"It seems like it happens again no matter what I do."
"I'm never going to win this battle, no matter how hard I try."
"Oh well... it's to be expected."

These are common thoughts people who struggle with impulsive or compulsive have each time they relapse. They struggle to gain control over themselves and their behavior, fail to maintain that control, and think to themselves, "I'm not surprised it happens again... it always does."

Certainly we can understand why someone might have these thoughts after countless times of trying to gain control over a behavior and failing. But what people don't realize is that the thoughts themselves may actually be contributing to the relapse.

New research out of the University of Toronto supports the idea that what we tell ourselves plays a pivotal role in our ability to control ourselves. The study demonstrated that talking to ourselves and utilizing our "inner voice" helps us to exercise self control and prevents us from making impulsive decisions or taking impulsive action. In other words, when we are able to helpfully talk ourselves through a decision we are less likely to act in an out-of-control way.

This is also true of how we evaluate our behavior afterwards. When we tell ourselves, "I am getting better. I just had a slip-up but it is only a stumble on my road towards being a different person" we give ourselves an entirely different message then "it happened again, I guess I'm doomed to fail." This difference in message doesn't only affect our mood, but it also has an effect on whether or not we will relapse - we carry this belief forward and it becomes part of our self-talk the next time we are attempting to do something differently.

If there is a behavior you are trying to change, be it large or small, listen to what you are saying to yourself as you work on it. You could be the only person/voice standing in your own way.

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