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How can I tone down my negative self-talk?

Question:

I got involved with someone in an intense way and now, long story short, since his phone got stolen and he is using a shitty one, we have days with no contact at all. I’m becoming more and more anxious over not hearing from him all the time.

What I’m trying to figure out actually is how to keep calm without having my brain start telling me I’m trash or that he has more interesting things to do. How do I find some independence if I’m anxious all the time, looking at my phone constantly and needy of true affection? 


Light On Anxiety Answer:

Ah, I hear you. I’ve been there. It seems like you’re most struggling with how you speak to yourself. It makes sense that you’re seeking true affection—who isn’t? It’s the way that you’re going about it that has you stuck in this vicious cycle. But there’s so much you can do to break out of it:

1. Identify your core values. This is basically a quick reality check on whether you’re living in ways that align with who you want to be as a person. My guess is that you’re wanting to be more independent and self-sufficient, but the negative self-talk is getting in your way. 

2) Talk back to your negative self-talk: Yesterday my co-worker, Dr. Kendall, put it this way:

There are two levels to how we often interact with things that happen: 

Level 1: Ouch, I just got a scrape on my knee. That hurt. *Moves on*

Level 2: Ouch, I got a scrape, I’m such a clumsy person, how stupid of me to fall, I’m always falling, I’ll never get things right. 

If this is the way not hearing from your boyfriend usually goes, I would invite you to begin catching the Level 2 thoughts and take a moment to ask where they came from. The answer may be I feel lonely right now, and when I feel lonely, I say things like this to myself. If that’s the case, then do something about the lonely feeling—like calling a friend, looking at old pictures of fun times, or doing something selfless for someone, like sending a ‘thinking of you’ email or card. 

3) When you’ve just engaged in Level 2 thinking, picture someone who respects and appreciates you. Would they agree with what you just said? What might they say instead? 

4) Schedule, schedule, schedule. It can be difficult to think of distractions in the same moment that you’re feeling low—all your brain is fixated on is your boyfriend and what he’s doing and the next time he’ll talk to you. I get it. That’s why you’ll need to plan your week in advance. For instance: Pizza and movie night Monday, group fitness class Tuesday, digging in to that new book you’ve wanted to read on Wednesday, Skype date with mom on Thursday, drinks with friends on Friday, etc. You get the picture. If you have things planned that you’re excited for, things that fuel you in some way, what your boyfriend is doing feels way less urgent and important. 

5) You’ve heard this one before, but…find a therapist! It is a misconception that only people who are intensely struggling go to therapy. It can be a space where you hear how you talk to yourself out loud, which may motivate you even more to change. 

I hope this helps!


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