Iris Mini: Adjusting Self-Talk

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love." - Brené Brown 

When coping with cancer-related stress, our minds may have many negative self-talk thoughts as we try to make sense of the cancer experience. 

Negative self-talk generally consists of one or more of the following:

  • Assumptions. Our minds may draw on our past experiences and beliefs that have been carried over to the present — even if those past experiences and beliefs aren't universal or 100% relevant to the current situation. Sometimes this type of negative self-talk is called "core beliefs” or assumptions. 

  • Generalized and black-and-white thinking. Negative self-talk thoughts may sound like definitive conclusions made during a stressful time. It's helpful to be aware that these types of thoughts might not actually account for the full complexity of a situation, as our minds can restrict our thinking during intense moments. Knowing this helps us to work with our minds to expand our thoughts and consider the situation more fully.  

  • Distorted thinking. Negative self-talk thoughts may focus on one outcome and not others or generalize one small detail into something that happens all the time.  Sometimes it helps to ask yourself a few questions to help you to understand if your thoughts could be tweaked to help you feel better.  

Good to Know

It can be helpful to read the Thought Errors list adapted from Aaron Beck, Ph.D. It is a list of common “errors” we make with our mind. Our mind uses these “errors” to help us make a complex situation, or difficult emotion, simpler. However, the nuances get lost in simplicity.

Consider exploring the 7 Strategies for Adapting Your Thinking for some cancer-specific examples.

Exercise: Minimizing Negative Self-Talk

Write down one negative thought or belief you can remember from the last couple of days. Try re-writing the thought using the questions below. 

  • If a friend were saying this, what would I say to them? 

  • Is there another way to see this? Am I seeing all sides of it? 

  • Does it fall into one of the cognitive “errors”?