Do you ever talk to yourself? In case you are worried about feeling snubbed by people who might claim to never have so much as thought about talking to themselves, don’t. A few days ago, I listened to this podcast about the merits of talking to oneself in the third person, with reference to research that has shown that doing so can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety through compassionate awareness.
I remember a time in my teenage years when I sat on the bathroom counter in my parents’ home, gazing curiously at the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I believe I might have shed those tears over some boy, but that’s an insignificant detail. As I sat and stared at my reflection, the writer in my head started to draw a narrative to describe the situation, complete with an illustration of the warm droplets on my face and how delicate my wet eyelashes appeared at that moment. The narrator’s descriptions made my inner turmoil seem commonplace, banal, and I soon turned my attention to something more interesting, allowing time to heal the pain.
The writer / narrator in my head has saved me many times by plucking me out of perpetually swirling anxiety-ridden thoughts and casting me in the role of an observer looking in from the outside. Gosh, I realise how strange all this might sound to some. Yet, it works for me, and it appears that others also have had similar experiences.
The premise of the research to which Jonathan Fields refers in the podcast is that when a situation goes sour and we are tempted to turn to self-deprecating talk of ‘not good enough,’ we can instead describe the scenario from the point of view of an observer. It’s the difference between, “I’m an awful mother. I failed today as a mother when my child threw a tantrum at the shopping centre and I ended up yelling at her in front of crowds of people” and, “(Insert name here) is a mother who had a challenging day today. After a restless night of taking care of her toddler, who keeps waking several times throughout the night, and having not had enough coffee, she lost her patience while shopping with her daughter. It was not a pleasant situation, but it’s over. The mother and toddler both need an afternoon nap to recharge and reconnect.”
The latter approach of talking about ourselves as an observer allows us an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate a situation from a more compassionate place. I will continue to refer to this approach as listening to the voice of the mindful writer or narrator within. Care to try it? Have you tried it?
I’m curious to read about your experience with talking about yourself in the third person. Won’t you please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation?
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Photo by Christichka Photography.