Your Inner Bitch: Negative Self Talk

The Inner Bitch, everyone has one and she can be pretty brutal too! What I’m referring to is the voice inside your head that says things like “You aren’t good enough for them”, “You are an idiot”, “You are worthless”, or “You can’t handle that, you are too weak”.

These thoughts can have a serious blow to your confidence, your values, your self-worth, your motivation, and even your attitude towards others and about life itself. Your Inner Bitch can make you feel hurt, sad, angry, depressed, shameful, anxious, frustrated, and worse, apathetic. Your Inner Bitch can be so constant and so relentless that we may not even realize she has even arrived! We can also have problems differentiating her from our true selves. Negative self-talk most often develops in childhood through the messages about ourselves that we get from our parents, friends, society, and other important relationships and can be reinforced throughout our lives. These negative beliefs about ourselves become part of our core belief and form the lens through which we see the world. If we have a core belief that says “I am worthless and no one likes me”, if a friend doesn’t call you on your birthday you might feel sad, lonely, and upset, which will trigger your “I am worthless and no one likes me” belief and you might withdraw and not contact anyone. It becomes a tough cycle to break, but it’s not impossible…

Why is Negative Self Talk So Bad?

Well, for starters, not only does it make you feel bad, but it can affect your family, your job, your friendships, your relationships, school performance, and prevent you from experiencing new and amazing opportunities. It can even affect your health. Depression and anxiety both tend to have large amounts of negative self-talk being absorbed daily.

Sometimes a little reflective critique is beneficial, it can stir up motivation and help incite personal progress. But there is a huge difference between “I’m really out of shape and I want to lose weight” and “I am a fat, disgusting slob! No one wants to be with me and I’ll never be able to change so it’s all pointless.” The counter statement for this negative talk is not “I’m not fat” because our internal lie detector will go off and we won’t believe it. Changing that statement to a neutral standpoint can be more helpful, “I want to lose weight, I can sign up for a gym or buy healthier foods.” This way, you now have a statement without judgement and the beginning of a plan.

So what are some of the types of Negative Self Talk? Here are just a few:

Black and White Thinking– It’s one way or it’s another, there is no grey area. Using words like “always”, “never”, or “every”. When in fact, there is almost always an exception to the rule.

Filtering– Focusing on only the negative and ignoring all the positive.

Mind Reading/Fortune Telling– Inferring a possible negative thought a person might have from their behavior or nonverbals; predicting negative outcomes of events before they even happen.  “I’m not going to the party because it will be lame and everyone will think I’m weird and not talk to me anyway.”

Catastrophizing- This is very common with anxiety. Assuming the worst possible outcome. For example, “If I leave this job to pursue my dream, what if I’m no good at it and I fail and then my wife leaves me because we have no money?!”

Okay, Now What Can I Do About It?

  • Reality Test- Let’s say that during a staff meeting you ask a question or make a statement that you feel was a “dumb question” or that you “sounded stupid”. Did everyone recoil in horror or were most people on their phones not even paying attention? Say you went on a first date with a really attractive person and you text them later and they don’t respond. Instead of driving yourself crazy with “Oh God they totally hate me, they thought I was boring and never want to see me again”, what if we explore other options like maybe they are working, maybe they were busy with something else, maybe their phone is on silent or vibrate and didn’t hear it, or maybe they are sleeping or their battery died and it actually has NOTHING to do with you as a person. Point is, we can’t assume to know what other people are thinking unless they come out and actually say it. We aren’t mind readers.
  • Would You Say That to a 5-Year-Old? To Your Best Friend?- When you get stuck in a negative thought loop, pause and take a minute. Would you say these things to a 5-year-old? Would you say this to your best friend? Would you call a 5-year-old a lazy, good for nothing, loser?
    •  If your friend said they can’t accomplish a goal because it’s hard, would you respond with “yeah, you are right, you suck, you can’t do anything right”? Basic Rule: If you wouldn’t say it to a friend or to a 5-year-old, don’t say it to yourself.
  • Give Your Thoughts a Name- If you put your negative self-talk into categories or describe them as stories that you tell yourself, it helps you separate the shame and the triggered negative core beliefs from the actual event. If you find yourself making patterns, you can learn who and what your triggers are and learn to manage them.
  • Talk to Someone- If you get stuck in an anxiety-ridden or depressive downward spiral, have the courage to call someone (therapist, friend, someone you trust) and say it out loud. If you pull your friend aside and say “Ok, I’m stuck in a shame spiral—here’s what happened.” This will invariably help cut the shame around it. These conversations usually end with tons of laughter, a new perspective, and maybe make you feel a little better about the experience.
  • Embrace Your Imperfections-Try not to hold yourself to impossible standards and judge yourself for your shortcomings. Part of success is not being perfect, but messing up, picking yourself up and moving on. No one is perfect. Give yourself the same empathy and grace that you would show a friend and show that Inner Bitch who’s really in charge! There are so many negative messages in the world that say you CAN’T do something, why add to that? Why not BE the one voice that says you can?

Disclaimer: Now I am not saying “Hey! Just think happy thoughts and your world will be transformed and filled with magic, star shine, and glittery happiness”. Some people have really horrible experiences and circumstances, grief and loss of a loved one, have dire medical issues, poverty, depression, and discrimination, work 2 or 3 depressing jobs just to be able to put food on the table all the while worrying if your food stamps will come in this month. Positive thinking and radical self-love are not going to be a cure-all for these types of things. But, instead of adding your own self judgement and allowing that Inner Bitch to talk shit about you, if putting a stop to negative self-talk can make you feel even the teeniest bit better and help you get through today, I think that it’s worth it. By far.

 

Affairs and Betrayal: How Can I Ever Trust You Again?

Someone I know recently went through a tumultuous and heartbreaking divorce due to one of the leading factors in splitting up these days, infidelity, and it got me thinking about other couples I have seen in the therapy room.
After this betrayal, many people will struggle with trusting their partner again. According to Esther Perel, renowned couples therapist, “Genuine trust rests on our ability to tolerate what we do not know about the other, as long as we’re driven to uncover every detail, we can’t trust”. Many couples are driven by their own past experiences of abandonment and rejection and this can prevent trust from being rebuilt. Often times after an affair, the betrayed partner will hold on to their investigative mode of going through credit card and cell phone bills, checking their emails and text messages, monitoring their every move and expense to ease their anxieties. These partners establish a reign of control and all-knowing, confusing intimacy with surveillance. Even though the intrusiveness, interrogations, and search for evidence is done out of anxiety, it does little to alleviate their fears. Instead of searching for details and facts about the affair, you might get more out of asking questions about the meaning of the affair.
Meaningful questions will help the couple shift from detective mode to repair mode. Some examples include: Did you think of me when this was going on? Did you think it would help you stay in our relationship or help you to leave? How did your lover illuminate other parts of you? At what point did you realize you wanted to stay? Were you afraid to lose me, our family, our kids?*. This is the shift from facts to meaning. Facts tend to cause pain and keep you in a loop of ruminating over details that keep you up at night, whereas meaning gives you the opportunity to open up and discuss the multitude of feelings that are shaken during the wake of an affair. Things like love, sex, desire, commitment, betrayal, loss, secrecy, honesty, intimacy, eroticism, accountability, trust and forgiveness.

But how do you move on from an affair in your relationship when you have friends and family saying “Oh, he’s a dog, leave his ass!”, “Get rid of her, she’s no good and not worth it”, or “once a cheater always a cheater! You are dumb for staying with him”? Many people will share with their best friends or family that they were cheated on and understandably their friend will see the pain and have the gut reaction to protect them. The problem with that is that is often times the betrayed partner still loves them and actually needs advice that will help her think and not just react. This advice which can include her accountability in the relationship and the examination of her role as a partner, is difficult for most friends to offer when they see a friend in pain. If the betrayed partner chooses to stay with their person, they can feel like they can no longer talk to their friend because they fear that they might be angry for staying in the relationship or “not standing up for themselves”. This can feel very isolating even though the friend’s intention was to be supportive.

How to Be Supportive to a Friend Through an Affair:

  1. Provide a safe space for your friend or family member to cry, process their thoughts and emotions, and a place to stay if they need to.
  2. Let them know that they are important and that you care about them.
  3. Offer a distraction, offer to watch the children occasionally (if there are any involved).
  4. Do not insert yourself into the story of your friend. This is their process and they need to decide what is best for them and their relationship.

Couples may be feeling like they are on a roller coaster, that they have conflicting emotions within themselves and about their partner, and feel like they had the rug ripped out from under them. Pain from an affair takes time to heal. It takes patience and both sides to want to work toward a place where the pain isn’t so much.
After an affair is revealed, both partners are shaken, both of their predictable futures have been altered, neither know where this is going to go and may be experiencing lots of anxiety, fear, regret, anger, and sadness. Yet, a lot of couples in therapy during the aftermath of the affair tend to have really open and honest conversations that they have not had in years, even if they are painful. In therapy, we focus on creating a space for managing the aftermath of the bomb drop, creating meaning of the affair, and then creating a new vision for the relationship. We need to shift the idea of “What you did to me” to “What we went through together”. You just have to start the conversation.

 

*Perel, Esther, 2015. Global Media Production. Investigative Questions for Couples Experiencing Infidelity. Email subscription.