Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Real Life, Everyday, Negative Thinkers

Just finished informal interviews with women of different ages and stages, all of whom I consider regular, un-neurotic, intelligent women.
Here's a sample:

 12 year old Ella doesn't know what negative self-talk is until it's explained to her — then quickly recognizes the pattern. She says that she gets into NST particularly when she goofs up in sports or when she gets a bad grade on a test or paper at school. It's a rare occurrence for her and she can usually move on fairly quickly from the yuk. Now that she knows what it is, she's aware of how much her mother gets into the negative thinking zone, particularly about appearance.

17 year old Lucy knows immediately what I'm talking about and acknowledges quickly that she engages in NST at a mild to moderate level, as do most of her friends. They do much of their negative self-talk out loud together, sometimes followed with reassurance, other times with laughter, never with affirmation of the self-criticism. Lucy says that her stuff never gets to the rumination level. She finds that distraction, purposefully arranged or randomly occurring, often works to change her thinking. If the NST hangs around for too long, she realizes she needs to "fix it", which basically means to do some problem-solving. Both techniques produce psychological distance enough so she can shed the NST, although not eliminate it. It does come back, perhaps in a different outfit.

Lucy added that she has a friend who has been a heavy duty NSTer for the last couple of years and is now on medications for depression and anxiety. Her friend became almost obsessed with the negative self-talk and wasn't able to develop skills to reduce or eliminate it.

50 year old Gwen identified herself as a Moderate negative self-talker, particularly about appearance and could quote her own stuff very specifically. " I look dumpy." "I should exercise more." "I'm looking old." "I need to lose weight and get more fit." On and on.
The general distractions of life, work, schedule, kids, generally move her beyond the moment's NST — or she moves herself out of the dressing room, away from the mirror, and abandons the shopping trip. Gwen understands, doesn't like the NST tendency, and has been too busy to make a plan for eliminating the nasty habit.

I'm continuing to interview people of different ages and life stages, occupations, and yes, maybe even of a different gender to find out if they have a goal, a plan to get rid of the NST habit, and what techniques they are using.
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