Self-talk is self-help

Talking to oneself is widely believed to be a sign of insanity. This is the reason why very few of us like to be caught in the act. Yet there are times when all of us converse with our own selves.

For instance, seized by sudden pain, we shout ‘ouch’ even when nobody is around. Success makes us exclaim, ‘I did it’ to no one in particular. Even under normal conditions, we occasionally talk aloud. Is such behaviour abnormal? Psychological research has shown that self-talk is not always indicative of mental instability. On the other hand, it can confer many benefits.

It helps learning through reinforcement.  Children often talk their way into learning new skills. As we grow older, we assiduously break this instinctive method. However used judiciously, it can help to speed up learning at any stage in life. Scientists point out that words travelling from mouth to ear sink more easily into the subconscious, the seat of learning. Talking aloud also helps us in visualising goals and achieving them. Sportsmen and actors use them to advantage.

It is not necessary for self-talk to be articulated. It can take the form of writing and especially so when a person wants to shake off tension and anger. A good example of this is an incident in Abraham Lincoln’s life. Stanton, his Secretary of War, was on one occasion very angry because an army general had failed to carry out an order. He told Lincoln that he would write him a letter giving him a piece of his mind. Lincoln persuaded him to do so at once. Stanton then wrote a pungent rebuke. Lincoln read and approved it. ‘Whom can I send it by?’ asked Stanton. ‘Why,’ answered Lincoln, ‘don’t send it at all. Tear it up. You have freed your mind of the subject. You should never send such a letter. I never do.’ Thus a case of bad blood was averted.

Prayer and chants are spoken ways of reflection, which help us reach our higher selves. When we concentrate on what is uttered, we experience something better and bigger than we are.

Thinking is in reality talking to oneself. Putting our thoughts into words can help us to analyse our decisions carefully. Self-talk can indeed be self-help.

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