Communication is a fundamental aspect and feature of our lives. It is a central driver for human interaction, socially, culturally and interpersonally. There are many techniques, training and skills to enhance the effectiveness of communication as an area of personal improvement if so desired.
On a basic level, communication is the exchange of information that is understood by another. Therefore effective communication involves a two-way exchange. Living in an interconnected world and web of shared communication, what might be taken for granted as a tool, or static medium, has the potential to expand in multiple directions and applications.
Language, perception and cognitive function play a role in the success, or effectiveness of communication. These internal processes are significant and link to a deeper internal occurrence that we engage in daily, for the most part, without conscious awareness; self talk.
When considering the use and application of communication, there is a tendency to focus between ourselves and the outside world. This article intends to explore how we communicate internally, with ourselves, through self talk.
Self talk has been linked to greater well-being in psychological and social terms, beginning with awareness training and mindfulness practices such as meditation.
Introducing Self Talk
The notion of self talk was identified by Plato as essentially a conversation between the thinking self and the soul. Many psychologists and philosophers have since developed theories and expanded greatly on this idea.
Vygotsky’s theory of child development states that higher cognitive functions such as self talk result from a child’s internalisation of social interactions. It is thought that learning from social interactions as language capacity and cognitive development ensues so does the internal dialogue, or self talk.
This supports the concept of communication being a two-way exchange, however the outward model is inverted to examine the internal world of dialogue. The purpose of this begins with reflecting on our daily thoughts, the voice, or narrator we hear in our minds.
Our brains are powerful information processing tools and what we call our ‘minds’ are in constant contact with us. Through this cognitive function, we experience and form dialogue through our thoughts. This also extends to receiving information about feelings, emotions and bodily actions and reactions.
The internal communication processing occurs simultaneously with the outside world. The experiences and interactions with people, information and situations are being internalised and processed by us constantly. We take this for granted as it happens seamlessly during our waking day and conscious experience.
Self talk can therefore be thought of as how we communicate with ourselves; our minds sort information by making judgements, evaluations, calculations and decisions. Most of which are happening automatically and we go about our day and busy lives.
The role of Self Talk
Beginning to observe the mind and the content of self talk is a starting point to understand the nature of this phenomenon. Through language, thoughts and internalisations from social interactions, belief systems, perceptions and conditioning based on the way we perceive the world develop.
Judgements and evaluations are essential to cognitive processing, bearing in mind the influence from the outside world too. This happens on a familial, societal and cultural level.
The role of self talk is on the one hand a way of processing data and making sense of the world around us. The quality of this information is therefore paramount in the development of healthy and supportive self talk.
Language as a medium is a powerful component of self talk. Using statements such as “I am” is a direct identification with a subject, object, relationship, emotional state or circumstance. These are related to our belief systems, which form our attachments and identity.
For example, “I am happy, sad, angry” is a statement which one relates to directly; a way of expressing how we feel or what we are experiencing. When we identify strongly with our emotions, they can become us, yet we are not our emotions, they are impermanent states of being; they come and go, they change.
The contents of our internal dialogue plays a significant role in our self esteem. By observing our internal dialogue we reveal the messages we are communicating to ourselves, the beliefs we hold, the way we treat ourselves. During times of observation we come to realise that the mind is anything but consistent; it changes on a daily and moment to moment basis.
It would be beneficial therefore to get to know one’s mind and begin to observe our internal dialogue.
The application of Self Talk in mindfulness practices
Self talk relates to the stories we tell ourselves. This affects us on a much deeper level than perhaps first thought. Consider this:
How many of us are walking around saying nice, supporting and encouraging things about ourselves?
This highlights the impact of internal dialogue and the role self-talk plays in our day to day experience that is correlated with our overall well-being and health. Mindfulness practices such as meditation are applications to cultivate a healthier, functional and kinder internal dialogue.
In mindfulness meditation we become a witness to our mind and its contents. By observing our thoughts, judgements and stories we begin to see how they are connected to our sense of self worth, happiness and confidence.
Through focused attention, mindfulness meditation can quieten the mind and allow a greater sense of peace and well-being to be experienced. By pausing to tune in to what is really going on and the messages we are relaying to ourselves throughout the day we become empowered to choose what we want to listen to.
Inner child work is also another way to access our internal dialogue. Meditation is often used in holistic therapy and mindfulness based practices. The inner child believes everything we tell them, which is where the internal dialogue plays a crucial role.
When the same messages are left on repeat, the inner child is subject to that reinforcement. If the messages are ones of love, kindness, support and joy this is wonderful. More often than not however, the inner child has held onto social interactions that happened during the primary years of development in childhood which include words, phrases and beliefs that are formed from a place of wounding or dysfunction.
Self Talk as a tool for well-being
Over the years we continue to repeat what we have learned from our parents and primary caregivers which results in a great deal of content in self talk. Through mindfulness, meditation and inner child work, we can understand the roots of wounds, trauma and dysfunction and set about creating new, healthy content.
Appreciating the impact and influence that internal dialogue has on our mental, emotional and social well-being, there are tools needed to approach and work with self talk to reduce stress, anxiety, low self esteem and any negative thoughts and beliefs we hold within us.
Through the compassionate lens of mindfulness meditation, we understand that there is no blame; these processes have taken place on an automated, unconscious level. However, there are tools to reveal what took place unconsciously and bring them into consciousness with love and kindness, rather than from a place of blame or regret.
Learning to form positive self talk and effective communication with yourself, the inner child and internal dialogue opens the path for boosting self esteem. By consciously choosing language and positive reinforcement of beliefs, thoughts and evaluations your overall sense of well-being is improved.
When self talk is happy, healthy, functional and supportive, it dramatically changes perceptions, beliefs and the way you view the world. Forming habits such as mindfulness meditation and positive affirmations, creates neural pathways in our brain that send positive, encouraging and loving messages in place of negative ones.
The application of these practices therefore reduces negative self talk resulting in improved feelings in mood, boosts in self esteem, reduction in stress and a greater sense of satisfaction in everyday life.
I invite you to spend some time observing and reflecting on your inner dialogue to see what arises. You can read more about well-being practices in articles on reparenting and if you wish to find out more about mindfulness meditation and other techniques mentioned in this article you can contact practitioners here.