Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back to the Beginning: Catherine Price, O, and Negative Self-Talk

 If the topic is in O it must be big. And if you're a free-lance writer, whose articles are regularly published in O you must be a very cool, excellent, smart, writer. That's what I think after reading some of Catherine Price's articles and going to her web page. http://catherine-price.com/ In contrast, "Aiming Higher" by Catherine Price in the January 2011 O magazine tells all that Catherine, the author, has "many flaws"; flat, lifeless hair being a top preoccupation right now. She confesses that she's not very compassionate to herself. "I have a gift for letting trivial things suck me into a vortex of self-loathing." Whew. Price labels it self-directed anger. I call it heavy-duty negative self-talk; always a harsh put down which can generate feelings of anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, tension, and sadness too.

Price goes on to describe what comes next. "Anything can churn my mind into an emotional whirlpool that gathers strength by pulling in unrelated failings . . . ." Eventually she moves from flat hair to "Why am I so pathetic?" Recognize that kind of thinking?  Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Holen-Hoeksema addresses it as overthinking.

I'm writing about Catherine and her article because she is similar to thousands of women who have the NST habit. She is undoubtedly an intelligent, capable, attractive, successful woman, with what many of us would think are substantial credentials. And she has acquired a thinking habit that's bumming her out. Bah humbug. My guess is that any negative self-talking blog readers would think how silly Price is to dump on herself that way because wow she really is a star.  I would also imagine that many NSTers have friends and family who regularly tell them that they are being way too critical of themselves, who remind them of their strengths and attributes in realistic ways. But it doesn't work. As with Catherine Price, the habit hangs on.

She knows that her thoughts are irrational and silly, and asks herself, "Why can't I stop them?" That question implies more criticism. e.g. "Something's wrong with me that I can't stop thinking irrational and silly thoughts."  For action and potential progress, I suggest instead the question, "How can I stop them?" Price chose cognitive behavior therapy as her how. She says, "In the world of CBT, if you want to change the way you feel, you have to change the way you think."

In honor of Price's openness and her choice to take action I'd like to suggest cognitive restructuring, a CBT approach, as The Technique of the Week. If you want to dive into this stuff you can read Feeling Good by David Burns or A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper. If you want to get started, here's a beginning CBT approach.
• Start to pay close attention to your negative self-talk. Write down one "thought of the day" for a week: at breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. If you're not having a negative thought when you check with your inner voice, just note that down too. If possible, do this exercise without judgment. Write the thoughts down as you would write down the titles of library books on a shelf or the makes of cars driving by.
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