During a recent discussion with a colleague,who runs group therapy sessions, told me about a patient who reported to him that his ability to perform sexual functions had abruptly (and "magically") changed immediately after he had accidentally spoken a certain phrase aloud ("it's the right thing to do"). Desirous of helping other patients, he suggested to several of them that they utter specific positive proclamations aloud (about their work, their intentions, their self worth, etc.) to themselves before attempting troublesome activities. Without exception, they reported performing at a measurably higher level after having talked aloud. My colleague termed this phenomenom "verbal influencing of the unconscious". The self-talk method was well defined in Shad Helmstetter's "What to Say When You Talk To Yourself", but the concept that my colleague uncovered of uttering suggestions to oneself intrigued me.
I decided to embark on a mini research project with my own clients and found out that listening to people talk about themselves gives a good indication of how their parents talked to them, and judged them, when they were children. Parental judgement is the source of most ideas about the self and, unless a major force interrupts the flow, it is the way people unconsciously think and talk about themselves for the rest of their lives. I also determined that one of the major forces which can interrupt this flow is the simple realization that we are not necessarily the way we say we are and the particular way we speak about ourselves has more to do with the way our parents verbally described our childhood behavior than it does with our real adult capacity or any need to behave that way now. The realization of this truth, enables us to change the way we think about ourselves and to conform to the way we are or should like to be.
Self-Talk is a wonderful method of making this change. It is a practical, easily controlled method that can be practiced by anyone at almost any time. It is an extraordinarily powerful tool for personal change. The important factor about any kind of self-talk is that the words should be uttered aloud; that is loud enough to be audible to one's own ears. In this way the idea you are telling yourself is reinforced by the movements of lips and tongue and by the auditory impressions conveyed through the ear. Say it simply, without effort, like a child murmuring a nursery rhyme.
As a therapist, I believe it's important that I give my clients tools to use so they can get on with their lives. Too often my clients come to me with such poor "negative" self-talk and without skills to change it. In these situations I ask myself, why bother with therapy. Just teach these individuals a skill called Self-Talk and they can be their own therapist. Interestingly, it is Emile Coue who created the formula "Tous les jour, a tous points de vue, je vais de mieux en mieux". In English, "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better".