Do you engage in negative self-talk? Do you say things to yourself that you’d never say to a friend? In today’s show, Gabe and Lisa discuss their own problems with negative self-talk and share their strategies to reduce it. Click on the player below to listen now!
Computer Generated Transcript for “Toxic Inner Dialogue” Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a psych central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts.
Gabe: Hey, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the Not Crazy podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard, and with me, as always, is the incomparable Lisa.
Lisa: Hey, everyone, today’s quote is by Robert Kiyosaki, and he says, it’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.
Gabe: My negative self talk is like 100% in my own head. Nobody else can hear it. My brain is saying to me, Gabe, you’re awful. Gabe, you suck, Gabe, nobody listens to your podcast. Gabe, everybody hates you. But it’s not audible. Is that what your negative self talk is like, Lisa?
Lisa: No, not even a little. I keep up this constant running dialog with myself, and I do it out loud. I don’t know if it’s because I lived alone for a long time or because I worked from home, but I just do it continuously out loud. And it wasn’t really until I went to like an office environment that I thought, oh, my God, I’m so annoying because I’m having this constant back and forth dialog with myself, like in line at the grocery store.
Gabe: I have this constant dialog with myself, I’m always narrating my life, I have racing thoughts sometimes because of bipolar disorder and for me personally, it’s always very negative, but it’s not audible. If I strapped a recording device to me, the recorder would pick up nothing. But you’re saying that if we strapped a recorder to you at the end of the day somewhere, Lisa Kiner would be walking around saying, I suck, this is bullshit, why am I here? And it would pick it up on the recorder?
Lisa: Yes. It’s not always about myself, like, I’m just keeping up this running dialog about everything around me. But I get so used to doing it and then I’ll do it out in public and people think I’m talking to them. Like I’m at the grocery store trying to pick out, OK, which soup do I want? Well, I don’t know. Well, this one is the no salt. Yeah. I don’t really like the no salt kind though. And I go back and forth like that out loud and frequently strangers because they think I’m talking to them, which is so narcissistic, incidentally. Just because you’re the only person around doesn’t mean I’m talking to you. All right. Talking to myself. You’re not involved. So that’s actually a problem I have all the time.
Gabe: Hang on. I know that you’re joking about that, like, how narcissistic is it to believe that? Because there’s only two people in an aisle and I’m speaking out loud. I mean, it’s much more believable that I am having a moment where I’m conversing with myself. But you’re the narcissist for thinking that I’m talking to you and I am not a narcissist for literally engaging in a conversation with myself and only me. Is that what you’re saying, Lisa?
Lisa: Well, it is a joke, but, yeah, pretty much that is what I’m saying, it’s very annoying. It happens to me all the time.
Gabe: The continuous running dialog, it has issues. I don’t know of anybody.
Lisa: I don’t think other people have this continuous dialog in the same way I do. I don’t think you do either.
Gabe: I don’t think that other people have it out loud, but I’m talking about me now, Lisa. Narcissist much?
Lisa: Well, no, I just I feel like I almost have like a narrator, like on Dexter or something where he has the narrator that’s himself in his mind all the time.
Gabe: But that’s the point, it’s in his mind, and that’s how mine is, mine is in my mind. Nobody else can hear it. Everything that happens, everything that I do. Like you said, there’s a narrative like on television shows, but it’s always negative and it doesn’t matter what happens. That’s sort of the part that I want to talk about. For example, let’s say that I get an award like that should be a huge achievement. Right? And I’m standing on the side of the stage and the person who is giving the award does the whole you know, we’re very happy with Gabe. He has earned an award. We’re very proud of him. I am standing off of the stage and I’m like, well, I mean, they had to give it to me. They didn’t want to. There is probably somebody better. I took this award for somebody. Somebody else got passed over. This is political. I bet Lisa tricked them, and that’s why I’m getting the award. And that’s just going through my mind constantly. And then, of course, I hear the applause and that’s nice. And I’m happy. And I walk up to the podium and I deliver my acceptance speech. And even as I’m giving the speech, my mind is saying, this is bullshit. You didn’t earn it. This is bullshit. You didn’t earn it.
Lisa: I do know that about you, and you’re correct, I personally think that your inner self talk is much more negative than the average and it’s a lot more negative than mine.
Gabe: One of the interesting things about our negative self talk, aside from mine being internal and yours apparently being external, is that mine is always about me.
Gabe: I’m talking about myself. The negative self talk that occurs in my brain is always about Gabe and the things that Gabe are doing and the people around me and their reaction to Gabe. Your negative self talk is always about the people around you.
Gabe: You’re observing the world and you are very critical and negative of the behavior of others.
Gabe: I hate to say can you expand on that? But, but why?
Lisa: I knew that, but I didn’t really notice it until you pointed it out to me yesterday. Yeah. Your inner critic self talk is focused on yourself, which makes more sense, whereas mine is almost exclusively focused on other people. I think it’s because I have really good self-esteem
Gabe: I don’t.
Lisa: Or because I’m narcissistic. I get it.
Gabe: On one hand, it would be so easy for me to be like Lisa’s narcissistic, but I know for a fact that you’re not. And it would be easy for me to say, well, it’s because Lisa has really high self-esteem and she thinks she’s the greatest at everything.
Lisa: What can I say?
Gabe: Except, yeah, you don’t think that about yourself. You have this very high opinion of certain abilities and this extraordinarily low opinion of other abilities. And the whole thing sort of averages out to mediocre self-esteem for you.
Lisa: Maybe it’s realism.
Gabe: Maybe, but it’s not. It’s severe and persistent mental illness. But it’s interesting to me because you will observe things and your mind immediately jumps to the negative.
Lisa: That is true. It’s become more of a problem lately, like within the last couple of years, but I’m not really sure. Maybe I’m just finally, like, noticing the effect it’s having because, yeah, you’re right, it is a problem and it is causing me negative consequences.
Gabe: As your friend Lisa, you know, being negative about the people around you is frustrating for many reasons. One, I’m one of the people around you, so I don’t like it when you’re negative about me. But you observe the world through this very negative lens.
Lisa: I do.
Gabe: And I know you hate this story. And I can have this entire conversation without you, but I’m not gonna, I’m going to let you talk. But, I remember we were watching a football game. We’re sitting there watching the football game and.
Lisa: Oh, God, that story?
Lisa: I didn’t know where you were going,
Lisa: I didn’t know was going to be that one.
Gabe: Yeah, you know, they throw this old guy up on the screen and they’re like, congratulations to old Bob. Bob has attended every single home football game for the last 50 years. And as the rest of us are all like, oh, that’s a sweet story. Lisa’s like, that’s bullshit. How do they know? They didn’t have good computerized records 60 years ago. They don’t know that he’s been to every game. Even if he bought every ticket, they don’t know that he went. What, he didn’t miss one? How were they even keeping track of this? And of course, we’re all looking at Lisa like really? Like you just can’t smile? Just be happy?
Lisa: It’s interesting that you picked this particular story, I did not see that coming. Because all of you thought that was such a big deal and you all went on for a while and bring it up since, oh, my God, why are you so negative? Why was that a big deal? Why was this such a thing? Why was that so important to you? It wasn’t. In the same way that you went, oh, that’s nice, isn’t that a cute scarf or something? I was like, well, that’s bullshit. You don’t know that he’s actually been to every game. I just saw it as a throwaway comment, but you all took it very seriously.
Gabe: Exactly, because we didn’t think that it was just worth any negativity whatsoever. It’s like insulting a kitten. If somebody has a newborn kitten and they give you a kitten and the kitten is purring and you’re petting the kitten and everybody loves the kitten and you’re the one that’s like it’s going to grow up to be a cat and ruin your furniture. People are going to be like, look, can you just enjoy the kitten in the moment?
Lisa: Why are you so invested in a kitten? What do you care if I say something about the kitten? Why does it bother you? My thoughts on the kitten?
Gabe: And therein lies our differences of how our self talk works. See my self talk only bothers me.
Gabe: Your self talk radiates out into the world and negatively impacts others.
Gabe: And it’s interesting that you feel this way, that it’s just this throwaway comment about kittens or old people at football games, because as people who know me well know, I can’t enjoy my own success. I can’t enjoy it. I don’t consider myself successful now. Whenever something good happens to me, I push it way down. And you told me that as my friend, that that’s exhausting,
Gabe: That you’re at this great event where Gabe gets an award or people say nice things to me and afterwards, I’m not happy about it. I won’t celebrate it. Well, how does that impact you? It’s my event. It’s my award. Can’t I react to it however I want? And you said that this took from you. Your exact words were it’s exhausting that you can’t be happy when you are being praised. Well, what do you care? It’s just a kitten or an old guy. Like, why are you so heavily invested in my inability to celebrate my own success? But you are. And the reverse is true. It’s a burden when you’re mad at the old guy at the football game.
Lisa: It isn’t just success, you can’t celebrate anything. Obviously, this is severe and persistent mental illness, but you can never seem to be happy or take pleasure in anything, even when we’re doing something fun. You’re unhappy about vacation, you’re unhappy about everything. It’s almost as if you’re chronically depressed.
Gabe: Who cares, you’re being way too broad, like answer my specific thing about if it’s my accomplishments, my award and my day, why is it exhausting for you? Why do you care if I’m unhappy at my own accomplishment? And don’t say because I’m also unhappy on vacation.
Lisa: Hmm. OK.
Gabe: I’m not trying to be a jerk here. Like you always say a gift given is a gift received. You give the gift. It’s my decision how to use the gift, react to the gift, enjoy the gift, love the gift. Gift giving doesn’t include strings.
Lisa: That’s true, that’s a good analogy.
Gabe: So here I am, I get an award and I’m like, hey, I probably don’t deserve this award, why can’t you be like, Hey, Gabe? All right, well, you should be proud of yourself. Why is it exhausting for you? Why is my negative self talk about something that is mine? Why does that bother you?
Lisa: You know, I you know, I think it might be because you know how you say I always take everything so personally? I think that actually might be what. It might be my own self talk. Because the fact that you’re not pleased or excited I somehow feel like is on me and is my responsibility to somehow correct. Almost as if it’s a criticism of my very presence, because why are you not happy and what am I doing wrong so that you’re not happy? Wow, that’s sick.
Gabe: I just want to make sure I understand this correctly, my accomplishment and my award is about you?
Lisa: Is about me, yeah. Wow. Do you think that’s true?
Gabe: I honestly have no idea because the reverse is also true, right? Like you said, it’s an innocuous comment. I don’t think that old guy did that. I do not like this puff piece that’s on the national broadcast of the college football game. Why are all of us so invested that Lisa doesn’t like the puff piece?
Gabe: Like what? You’re required to like the puff piece? We’re doing the same thing to you.
Gabe: Why are we like this? Why does our negative self talk
Gabe: Interfere with each other in such a way?
Lisa: I don’t know, you know, I. Wow, I’ve actually never thought about that until. Wow. This is a strangely profound realization I’m having on a podcast. Wow.
Gabe: Not just on any podcast.
Lisa: Well, yes, on the Not Crazy podcast, which you can find at PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy.
Gabe: You know, they’re listening to it right now, you don’t have to tell them where to find it
Lisa: We don’t know where they found it.
Gabe: They’ve already found it.
Lisa: They could be listening to it at a friend’s house, they’re not sure. Anyway. Wow. Like, like I realize it’s podcast time and I’m not allowed to pause, but. Oh, my God. Do you think this is true? Like, do you think this is really why?
Gabe: I have no idea why, and
Gabe: I do believe that it is different for everybody.
Lisa: That is messed up.
Gabe: But I think that we’ve established that negative self talk has ramifications outside of ourselves. It influences our actions, which influences other people. And we just all want to be happy for each other. And I am ruining your happiness by not being happy at my own award. So now the question becomes what to do about it? We have suggestions. Now, listen, this is definitely a situation where you need to take our advice because we are not using it. But we’ve been given some excellent advice.
Lisa: Therefore, it’s up for grabs.
Gabe: Yeah, it’s up for grabs. Just, it’s like a Craigslist curb alert. Hey, we’re not using this advice. We’ve sat it out by the podcast curb for free. Take it. No strings attached.
Lisa: That day with the old guy on the TV, that always bothered because what did you people care? Why were you messing with me? It’s never occurred to me that that is analogous to the way that I am annoyed by you and your reaction to certain things.
Lisa: That’s never occurred to me. Huh.
Gabe: It’s almost like when you put yourself in other people’s shoes, Lisa, you learn stuff.
Lisa: I don’t know what to do with this knowledge.
Gabe: I don’t know, but I hope that when this plays over the show that that you put like some soft piano music behind this, maybe you get some, like, audience reaction of, like, people crying and hugging.
Lisa: What is the answer, though? Why were you so invested in how I felt about the old dude? Is that the same reason that I’m so invested in why you’re not happy?
Gabe: I think sincerely, it was just a happy moment.
Gabe: And there’s not a lot of happy moments in the world, especially for us and all of us had agreed for whatever reason that we were going to be happy about this. And your negativity ruined an otherwise positive moment. It’s sort of unfair to demand that you change your opinion in order to make the group happy. But from the group’s perspective, we had decided that this was the point of the concert where we’re all going to sit down and one person was standing to dance to the music, and that was ruining it for the person who had to sit behind her.
Gabe: And that’s kind of how it was. We just decided that we wanted to be happy right now. And you interjected negativity. Maybe you should have realized, hey, the group has decided that they’re going to be happy. So I’m going to keep this to myself. But yeah, you’re right. Why didn’t the group say, oh, Lisa, you look at everything through shit colored glasses. Which you would fire back, well, some of you look at everything through rose colored glasses, but I think that’s really the takeaway. Right? Lisa looks at everything through shit colored glasses. Gabe looks at everything through shit colored glasses. I will always find a way to ruin anything positive that happens to me and I don’t know why. And it’s that constant dialog that’s in my brain and a cycle that I cannot break. And I really feel strongly that, Lisa, we need to help the audience understand maybe how they can break it and stop talking about your revelation
Gabe: That you’re a negative person. We know.
Lisa: Well, but I feel like the negativity is mostly an advantage because you feel like other people are just walking around in their own self deluded bubble, right? So I feel like it’s an advantage. It’s like a special power I have to see the world correctly and clearly, the true nature of reality. But yeah, even saying that makes me sound mentally ill, doesn’t it?
Gabe: Well, let’s consider this this idea, because I’m sure that a lot of people can relate to us. We’re not unique in having negative self talk, but if everything is shit, nothing is. I hate to borrow from Pixar, but if everybody’s super, nobody is. Who is going to take us seriously? On one hand, Lisa, you’re right. It is a superpower. You have such a critical eye. And when it comes to things like editing, podcast, producing podcasts, we need people like you like for real. If you understood football and you had this critical eye, we would put you in charge of game tape because you would find every single solitary mistake and help the players correct it.
Lisa: But see, I think it’s enjoyable, like when we go to a movie, and then as we’re leaving the movie, I’m like, OK, here are the following plot holes. Here are the following problems. I think that’s fun. To dissect it, to analyze it, to think about it, to find the flaws, I find that enjoyable. I know that you do not. So I try not to do it most of the time, but I think it’s fun.
Gabe: But here’s what sucks for you. It’s both right? I love listening to podcasts where they do that.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Gabe: Were they dissect the shows or, you know, there’s famous YouTube channels like How It Should Have Ended or
Lisa: Oh, I love that show.
Gabe: Cinema Sins where they talk about, you know.
Lisa: Cinema Sins is my oh, I love that guy. I want to be friends with him.
Gabe: I love stuff like that. The question is, does that guy show up at every single party and the minute somebody says, oh my God, I love the new superhero movie, he sashays over and says, well, actually?
Lisa: Well, if he does, I want to be his friend and I want to be at that party.
Gabe: Do you?
Lisa: Well, I do, but apparently no one else does.
Gabe: Every single time you have an opinion about anything, this guy just materializes and says, well, actually and then corrects you.
Lisa: But he’s not saying it’s bad, he’s just giving you more information. Just because he’s pointing out the following things doesn’t mean it’s an overall negative. He’s just sharing with you more. He’s adding to your enjoyment or your knowledge store or the information you have. He’s not taking.
Gabe: Are you sure?
Lisa: For me, yes.
Gabe: This is going to be somewhat controversial, but let’s talk about like mansplaining where men explain to women their point of view. But aren’t these men just adding to your knowledge base? Aren’t they just giving you information that you may or may not already have? You could use it or you couldn’t use it? I mean, why is it so problematic then? Aren’t they just giving you the male perspective to a female problem? For the record, I don’t agree with any of this. I think there’s a large slice of misogyny and problems in this general idea that maybe women don’t understand their own experience and most of us men are just being jerks, but.
Lisa: But do you think that’s an analogy? I hate it when people do that because it’s condescending and it’s annoying.
Gabe: Well, isn’t it condescending of you to tell me how to enjoy the movie, the leisure activity? Why are you correcting how I watch a movie?
Lisa: Are those equivalents?
Gabe: Probably not, but potentially
Gabe: You’d have to know the motivation of the person. This is where the world gets very complex.
Lisa: Oh, this is why people react negatively to me, because they don’t know my motivation.
Gabe: They don’t. They think that you are correcting their experience or their opinion.
Lisa: They assume a negative.
Lisa: Little do they realize I’m helping,
Lisa: Yes, you’re welcome.
Gabe: So the woman who assumes the negative is mad at other people for assuming
Lisa: The positive,
Gabe: The negative.
Lisa: Oh, damn. This is becoming a very depressing podcast. Wow, OK. Damn.
Gabe: Maybe this would have been a better quote for you to use. I’m not correcting your quote, Lisa, but we judge ourselves by our intentions and other people by their actions.
Gabe: You know that your intentions are pure, but other people, all they have to go on is your actions and your actions are you’re crapping all over something that they like. They just want to enjoy it, it’s a leisure activity. They don’t want to have an in-depth conversation. They’re just at the grocery store. They just thought a stranger was saying hi. Their intentions were extraordinarily pure. But in your mind, you only had their actions to judge them and their action was they were interrupting you. They didn’t realize they were interrupting you. So you lash out. Now, you don’t lash out and in any huge way. I don’t want people to get the idea that Lisa’s throwing canned goods at strangers. She’s just in her own little bubble and she just thinks that people are rude for bothering her while she’s trying to shop. But they would think that they would be rude for ignoring you if you were, in fact, talking to them. So I think that both of you are correct. You’re both being completely pure, but then you both leave with this negative experience that is rooted in just this complete misunderstanding because of the way that each person views the world.
Lisa: That happens to me all the time that people think I have a much higher level of emotion or investment in something than I do. Like I’ll say something, they’ll be like, wow, you have strong opinions about this or wow, you’ve really thought about this or oh, I can see you’re really upset. And I think, but I’m not. I’m not really upset. I’m just talking. I don’t have strong opinions about this. Oh, my God, you’re so upset about this. No, I’m not. Just meh.
Gabe: Do you think the reverse is true, though? Do you think that sometimes you believe that people are more heavily invested than they are because you get angry at what people say? Well, maybe it was just a throwaway comment for them, too. Maybe they were just saying it and you can just be like, I don’t agree with that. And they’d be like, OK.
Lisa: I don’t feel like that happens very often. I feel like I don’t really care about what people say most of the time.
Gabe: Really? You just told a story about how you were offended that the person at the grocery store replied to you,
Lisa: That was a joke.
Gabe: Was it? I’m serious, Lisa. Was it? You
Lisa: It’s just annoying.
Gabe: Exactly. Why is it annoying? You’re out in public. The person thought you were talking to them. They were mistaken. No big deal. Why does it have to be anything? Why does it have to be positive or negative?
Lisa: It makes me feel better to talk out loud, I don’t like to have the internal dialog to myself. I prefer to speak aloud, but I don’t notice when I’m doing it anymore. And so I’ve been trying to stop myself. I’ve been trying to notice it more often. And yeah, it’s not going well.
Gabe: I love doing ex-wife therapy live on the podcast,
Gabe: Lisa, we have beat to death what running thoughts are.
Lisa: Ok, sorry. We should go back to your negative self talk.
Gabe: Aww, but I was having so much fun picking on you. This might be the first time in history that something is about you and you’ve been like, you know, we need to make this more about Gabe.
Lisa: Yeah, I just think you’re way too hard on yourself. You always have been.
Gabe: I can’t enjoy things because I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I don’t know if that’s because.
Lisa: Yes, you’re always waiting for the bad thing to come.
Gabe: And the bad thing always comes.
Lisa: Yeah, no kidding.
Gabe: Why do you say no kidding? Like, why do you say it that way?
Lisa: Well, the obvious answer is because, one, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and two, if you look for it, you’ll always find it. Something bad is always coming. The awards show always ends. The day always ends. All humans eventually die. Something bad is always coming. But so what?
Gabe: Here’s the problem that I have with this, I don’t know when I cross the line between saving for a rainy day and hoarding resources.
Gabe: People recommend that you have money for a rainy day in case your car breaks down or in case you have to fix something in your house. And that’s really good. But then on the flip side of that, you can become miserly or greedy.
Gabe: Where you’re just hoarding all of this cash or forcing people to pay for you because you’re just you’re a jerk. And you claim that you’re doing it because you have to keep yourself safe. The Scrooge analogy, right?
Gabe: Scrooge has tons of money, yet he refuses to use any of it to make his life better or other people’s lives better. And he’s just a real jackass. But nobody would recommend that Scrooge give away every single dime because then he couldn’t afford food, shelter, clothing. So where’s that line? I have trouble with that because sometimes people are like, look, Gabe, you know, go out, enjoy yourself. And I’m like, I don’t think that’s a good idea, especially right now, like with COVID. Being a public speaker means I need to be able to speak in public. So obviously, business is way down. Well, does that mean that I shouldn’t enjoy life? Does this mean that I was right? I was, I’m ready for a world pandemic. But is that reasonable? You understand what I’m saying, Lisa?
Lisa: Yeah, but you’re mixing the analogy with the reality. There’s not a finite store of happiness or enjoyment, there is a finite store of money or worldly goods. Are you actually saying that the following good thing is happening to you and the reason you’re not happy is because you might need to save that happiness for later? Like, if you use up all your happiness right now, there won’t be any for the next time when something even better happens? Is that what you’re saying?
Gabe: I think what I’m saying more is happiness elevates you, which means when the negative thing comes, you have farther to fall.
Gabe: So I’m staying grounded. That’s literally a term, I didn’t make it up. I’m staying humble and grounded and not getting ahead of myself so that when the negativity comes, I don’t have that far to fall.
Lisa: So it’s a self protective thing?
Gabe: It’s very self protective, I don’t believe that any of the success that I achieve is real. I don’t believe that I have earned it. I don’t believe that I deserve it. And when people are like, well, Gabe, you’ve done this great thing. And here’s an objective measure of your accomplishment. It’s objective. It’s not my mom telling me or you telling me or my wife telling me like it’s an objective measure. Gabe, this many people downloaded your podcast, that puts you in this percentile. And that is an achievement that you achieved. Congratulations. I’m like, well, but if they all stopped listening,
Gabe: That means my show failed. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. And you’re like, can’t you just be happy that this week? This week, this many people downloaded your show? No, because I have to be ready for next week.
Lisa: Because then you’ll be even more unhappy?
Gabe: Well, yeah, what if the show fails, you know, right now people are listening to the Not Crazy podcast. Thank you very much, by the way. But what about next week when you all decide that I suck and stop listening? I don’t want to get hurt. If I never celebrate my success, I will never be unhappy when I lose it.
Lisa: We’ll be right back after these messages.
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Gabe: And we’re back, discussing negativity in our brains.
Lisa: You project a lot of confidence, you go on stage in front of lots of people, you speak in public, blah, blah, blah. So people don’t realize this about you because it seems to be in such a contrast to the public persona you present, which is all this confidence. So when you say, oh, I don’t believe in myself, I have a, I think people are thinking, well, that’s not really true, he’s just saying that. No, it is 100% for real, true. Like, it’s amazing how little you have in comparison to all this self-confidence that you’re always projecting into the world.
Gabe: In my mind, I don’t see it as self-confidence. Standing on stage isn’t about confidence for me. Doing a podcast and being honest about my life, I don’t think that takes confidence.
Lisa: What is it then?
Gabe: I consider it helping other people. Like, I don’t. I guess in a way I have confidence in my ability to be honest. I have confidence in my ability to say what’s right. I have confidence in my desire to help myself and other people. I believe that people like me, people living with severe and persistent mental illness, I feel that we don’t have a voice.
Lisa: But that doesn’t mean you want to be the voice. Most people aren’t comfortable being said voice.
Gabe: I just, I feel like somebody needs to do it, and there just wasn’t a lot of people doing it. There’s more now. But you remember when I got started a decade ago, there was next to no one.
Gabe: There were some national folks. But in my city, in my town, for for the longest time, I was the only one.
Lisa: Yeah, now they’re everywhere.
Gabe: There are certainly more, not nearly enough. With the rise of the Internet, with the rise of organizations, you know, like This Is My Brave and PsychCentral.com and The Mighty. There’s lots of good organizations that we partner with that are getting the word out more and more and more and more and more.
Lisa: But where do you think this comes from?
Gabe: I don’t know.
Lisa: This lack of faith? I mean, is this like a deep seated childhood thing? I mean, why do you have this and what would it take?
Gabe: Nothing. There’s nothing. There is absolutely nothing that I think will ever work, I think it comes from the fact that one day I was on top of the world, I believed that I was invincible, partially due to my age, partly due to my race, partly due to me being male.
Gabe: And of course, partly due to delusions of grandeur and mania,
Lisa: Yeah, don’t you think it’s almost all mania?
Gabe: Maybe, sure, let’s go with yes.
Gabe: I don’t think that I am the only upper middle class white male to fail one day and then suddenly be scared of his shadow. But the addition of delusions of grandeur and mania certainly did not help. But one day I was on top of the world doing extraordinarily well at a very young age. And then I was at the bottom being kicked around like I was garbage. And that hurt a lot. I woke up in a psychiatric hospital where I couldn’t even walk through a door. Who the hell tells Gabe Howard that he can’t walk through a door? That is traumatizing.
Lisa: But did all of this start then?
Gabe: The dialog used to be Gabe, you’re great, Gabe, you’re great, Gabe, you’re great, and now the dialog is like, pfft, you are garbage buddy. It’s very protective. I think that most people have negative self talk to protect them. I, yeah, I think that’s what changed for me.
Lisa: So you literally think that was the turning point? So, like when you were 16 and you’re in high school, you were sitting around with the positive self talk of I’m great, I’m great, I’m great?
Gabe: Well, that’s really tough because I was fat and couldn’t get laid to save my life, I was also a redhead. I was a failed abortion and a carrot top and every other, you know, soulless ginger
Lisa: Well, but so when you say that this is the point where it flipped for me, you’re saying this was the point where I decided I need to have this self-protective attitude. Is that actually true? So you’re telling me that before then you had all this confidence and you were taking joy in things? If you got a promotion or a raise or whatever, you were finding happiness in it? Because I find that hard to believe.
Gabe: I think that you are right, that it was mania. For a period of time, I believed I was successful, I believed that I was happy.
Lisa: You had bouts of extreme depression and suicidality before diagnosis, before that ultimate manic trip, right? How come the mania is the thing that’s imprinted in your mind? How come this other stuff isn’t?
Gabe: The mania felt good. I miss feeling good, but.
Lisa: But you’re remembering that as being your default state when it was not.
Gabe: No, no, it wasn’t.
Lisa: No one has that default state period, much less when they’re younger. So why are you remembering that as being the default state that you can’t get back to?
Gabe: I don’t think I ever had the stability.
Lisa: Well, yeah, obviously.
Gabe: This is the most stable that I’ve ever been, and I think that I believe that stability means not thinking that you’re bad, but also not thinking that you’re good. I think that thinking that you’re good is giving into mania or delusions of grandeur. I think thinking that your bad is giving in to depression or suicidality. So thinking that you’re just meh just
Lisa: But you don’t think that. You don’t think you’re meh.
Gabe: Yeah, I do.
Lisa: You’re in the active neg. No you don’t. You are on active negativity. You are an active badness.
Gabe: Ehhh, I . . .
Lisa: Ehhh, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Gabe: I disagree, I think that you are.
Lisa: Ok, you’re at the awards ceremony.
Lisa: You’re not sitting there just like meh, and people are like, oh my God, why aren’t you happy? You are sitting there actively unhappy. You are not at a neutral state.
Gabe: Well, because I stole the award from somebody else, I took from somebody, all of these people are put out because of me. I hurt them in some way.
Lisa: So you’re not in a base level of neutral, you’re always at a base level of negative. You’re always below zero, you’re not at zero.
Gabe: But all of that said, there are moments of joy. When I win that award, I’m so excited.
Lisa: Is that true?
Gabe: Yeah, remember when I got the governors,
Lisa: Yeah, that was pretty cool.
Gabe: Yeah, I was so excited winning that thing, you and I, I found out that I won while on vacation and I called you screaming. I was so happy. Like, like I told all my friends, I was like, ahhh. And then I went to this thing and they did a magazine article. I was in the paper just I, I, I, yeah. I was. And now I’m starting to feel guilty.
Lisa: You’re hurting your rep.
Gabe: Like, like why did I deserve that? And I go back and forth, you know. Sometimes, I have it framed, it’s on the wall. Thank you, Lisa, for framing it. But it took me two years to get it framed. And remember, you found it and it was starting to fall down and get ruined.
Gabe: And I was like, well, but I’m going to put it in the closet because I just literally left it sit on my desk and the paper actually got bent a little. And you were like, what is wrong with you? And I was like, well, I just I feel guilty that I get an award for doing what other people do and.
Lisa: But they don’t do it. That’s the point.
Gabe: But other people, other people do it, I’m not the only advocate and I’m certainly not the best advocate. Why do I deserve? This also goes back to just I’m so uncomfortable with the idea that I get to be well. How about that? Maybe it’s not negative self talk, maybe I’m a realist? I am only well, because I have health insurance and money and frankly, because I’m white and from a big city and because I ran into you and because my parents aren’t or they knew what, I don’t even know. You and I both agree that one of the primary reasons that I’m well is because I’m lucky. Well, if I forget that, I’m doing a great disservice. So maybe it’s not negative self talk, maybe it’s realistic self talk. It’s reminding me every day not to forget that the only reason I’m here is because I’m lucky. That’s it.
Lisa: Is that serving you, though? Is that making you happy? Is that furthering your goal of staying well?
Gabe: Versus forgetting where I came from? I guess I don’t know what humility looks like. I swear that sometimes I’m like, look, I am incredible at this. And people are like, you need to be humble, OK? All right. That’s fair. All right. You’re right. I don’t want to forget where I came from. I will be humble now. I am OK at this. Oh, my God. You can’t even be happy when you get an award. I’m not good at self-regulating. You tell me to be happy when I get an award. Other people tell me to be humble. Other people, well, I don’t do this for the awards. Do you know how many emails I get from people that are like, well, you’re clearly only doing it for the money? Look, this is how I earn my living and businesses do thrive off money and I like to eat and it costs money to build a podcast. We’re talking into microphones that cost $200. We have to publish on websites that cost hundreds of dollars a month. None of this is free.
Gabe: Nothing that we’re doing is free. So I have to make money. Plus I like to eat and go on vacation and I need to earn my keep and pay my mortgage. Well, I’m just doing it because I care about people.
Lisa: Yeah, your heart’s pure.
Gabe: But, well, I care about people, too. Well, no, you don’t, or you’d do it for free. Well, I don’t know what to do.
Lisa: That is a good point, that is fair.
Gabe: Everywhere I look, somebody’s telling me that my behavior is wrong. So I don’t know that I have negative self talk, I just think that my self talk is everybody. I just think I believe what everybody says.
Lisa: But that means you’re searching for external validation.
Gabe: Yes, that’s all I want. I am only doing this so that other people tell me I’m good because I’m incapable of telling myself that I’m good. The end. Hard stop.
Lisa: Wow, I am so much more mentally healthy than you.
Gabe: Which is odd. I mean, we saw it going a different way at the beginning of the show.
Lisa: Yeah, I got to say it because I have a lot of self-confidence, apparently, I’m quite confident in myself and my awesomeness.
Gabe: I mean.
Lisa: Other people’s opinions are not a problem. I do not have a problem with that. When other people tell me stuff, I’m never unsure of myself. They say things and I think, nope, you’re wrong. I don’t second guess myself. And people will say, well, you think you know better than? Yup. Yes, I do. And I don’t doubt that for a moment. Huh. Yay me.
Gabe: All right, Lisa, we’ve established the problem, you know, ruminations, negative self talk. How do we get out of it? One of the things that we talk about a lot on this show is a concept called reframing. And I think this is an excellent opportunity to delve a little deeper. Lisa, for the first time officially, please teach the Not Crazy podcast listeners what reframing is.
Lisa: Reframing, a common therapy trope, is when you frame or express or conceptualize or think about something in a different way. An example of reframing, the one they always give you as the example, is, oh, my car broke down. This is so terrible. This is awful. Or, you can afford a car. You own a car. You’re good. Well, a better example would be my mother had to loan me money to fix my car. Your mother loves you so much that she loaned you money. That’s so great.
Gabe: So obviously, the negatives still exists. The car broke down, but you’re reframing it to focus on the positives, people who helped you. And the fact, of course, that you have a car.
Lisa: You can reframe almost anything.
Gabe: You really, really can.
Lisa: To the point of pointlessness, but for example, I’m not negative and depressing, I’m clear eyed and refreshingly honest.
Gabe: So you can lie with your reframe. That’s important to understand, you don’t want to go too far.
Lisa: So you’re not loud and annoying, you’re confident and exuberant.
Gabe: One of the things that I like about reframing is it’s sort of a fancy way to say a pro and con list. Like, I believe that everything has pros and cons, I don’t care what it is. My wife has pros and cons. I love my wife. Of all the people in the world, I picked her to marry. But is she 100% perfect? No, that’s utter ridiculousness. She has flaws. But obviously, if I focus only on her flaws, well, I’m going to end up with another ex-wife and therefore another podcast. In general, reframing is instead of looking at the negative, it’s looking at the positive. You know, Lisa’s right. You can abuse anything. I reframing.
Lisa: You’re doing it now, you’re doing it right now, Gabe is a little bit overly obsessed with reframing. Whenever I say something negative, you’re like, but how can we reframe that? And just now, people can’t see you, but when you say the words reframing half the time you draw a square in the air with your hands.
Gabe: It’s not a square, it’s a frame.
Lisa: It’s a frame, I know. He actually holds up his hands and draws them in a square shape and is like, no, no, no, you need to reframe as he draws. It’s really annoying, frankly. Like, yeah.
Gabe: Why do you dis, just you know, it’s
Lisa: I don’t dislike it. You just use it a lot.
Gabe: You feel about reframing how I feel about mindfulness, that even though
Gabe: Mindfulness has tons of data that shows it works, lots of people love it. It’s supported by literally study after study after study to show that it’s extraordinarily helpful. For whatever reason, I just hate mindfulness. You feel this way about reframing.
Lisa: No, I don’t.
Gabe: Just Every time I say reframing, you roll your eyes. Listen to the tone of your voice. You weren’t just giving an example. You were literally saying in like a mocking singsong voice.
Lisa: Ok, that’s fair.
Gabe: What is it about reframing that bugs you so much, Lisa?
Lisa: Wow, I am getting annoyed by the completely introspective tone of this podcast. Once again, new revelation I’m having right now. I don’t know what it is that bothers me about it so much. I think you do it too much and you making that hand gesture is really annoying. But why do I think that? Because after all, it is a positive thing and one of the few cognitive-behavioral tools that you are able to utilize effectively. So, yeah. Why do you think I can’t stand it so much?
Gabe: Because you’re mean, I
Lisa: Well. No, no, for real. What do you think?
Gabe: I think in some ways, one of the reasons that you dislike it is because I like it so much. I think it’s sort of a trauma response. It’s kind of like if you’re eating chocolate chip cookies and then you get in a car accident, you can never eat chocolate chip cookies again. Every time you bite into a chocolate chip cookie, you associate that horrible experience. We went through a lot of shit together and we were desperate. And then suddenly somebody recommends this lame New Age technique. And it’s not lame, it’s not New Age. And it’s a tool like anything else. And I think that you just resent the idea that it worked. Or every time I make the quote unquote stupid frame with my fingers, it reminds you of a time in our life that was bad. Focusing on the positive, which is essentially what reframing is, it does help with my negative self talk. My negative self talk says the negative thing. And then I try to remember some of the positives. It’s sort of like Mr. Rogers mom said, you know, how do you watch the news and see all of this horrible things happen on the news? And Mr. Rogers said that his mother said, look for the helpers. When you see all the horrible stuff happening, look for the people running in, look for the people who are helping. The EMT’s, the heroes, the aid workers. Look for the people helping. That’s an example of reframing. Nobody’s saying that the war zone is good. We’re just saying that there are some good things happening. There’s a positive for lack of a better way. But I think you, Lisa, have trouble getting over the fact that, whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re reframing a war zone? No, you need to focus on the war zone. War is bad and horrible and wrong. Don’t you reframe that to there are helping people. Then you’re forgetting the war zone.
Gabe: And you have a right to want to focus on the war zone. Do you know how many things get reframed and we forget about the root cause?
Lisa: And then bad things happen.
Gabe: Exactly, so reframing doesn’t mean forget about the bad thing or forget about the root, cause. It just means look at the bigger picture. You said early on, Lisa, that you were a realist. Is it really realistic to only focus on the negative? Is that what you call realism?
Gabe: But it’s not. Realistically, positive things do happen in war zones. But you believe that by only focusing on your narrative that you’re somehow being realistic. You’re not. You only talk about the horrors and you stay ultra focused on that. And I think that from an advocacy perspective and a mental health perspective, that doesn’t move the needle. People stop listening to you because you’re only being negative and people are looking for a positive. But you think the people that are looking for a positive in a war zone are idiots.
Lisa: I think that looking for the positive in the negative allows people, like you said, to forget the negative and it somehow makes the negative OK in their mind. And it’s all about making themselves more comfortable rather than actually solving any given problem.
Gabe: That is one potential outcome, but you’ve thrown out all the water and the baby because of one potential negative outcome. What about all the positive outcomes of reducing negative self talk? What about all the positive outcomes of being more mentally healthy? What about all the positive outcomes of being able to survive in the world and not being so weighted down by all the negativity that we’re never going to be able to resolve? You want all of that to go away to make sure that every single person knows that the bad thing is happening. How is that going to get us to positivity, or, as you want so desperately, to resolve the negative thing?
Lisa: I understand what you’re saying, you have some good points, but I guess I feel like that’s not a problem. There’s already plenty of people wandering about finding the silver lining. We don’t need more of those people. There’s enough of them; there are too many of them. And once again, focusing on the silver lining forgets the cloud. And I feel like I’m not curmudgeonly, I’m helpful. You’re welcome. Someone has to take on the burden, people. And I am here for you. I’m the one pointing out the cloud is still there and there’s not enough people doing that and somebody has to do it. And it’s my designated job.
Gabe: Who’s going to do your job when you become so mentally unhealthy and mentally unstable that you can’t exist in the world anymore?
Lisa: Yeah, that is a problem.
Gabe: I think about that a lot. You know, one of the classic arguments in is mania good? Somebody will always bring up Van Gogh and they’re like, oh, Van Gogh’s mania allowed him to paint such beautiful pictures and create such beautiful works of art. Look, I don’t know if his mania did or not, as I did not know the man personally, but let’s go ahead and say that it did. Of course, he’s now dead. He died by suicide. He cut off his ear, he traumatized a woman. He was miserable for most of his life. But I guess we got art, so it’s OK?
Gabe: If he had got treated, maybe he would have made more art, prettier art, better art, but he would have been around a lot longer to create a lot more art. So I guess the art that we got in that short period of time was good? But after he died, no more art. So I understand what you’re saying about, you know, being a realist and making sure that people remember that it’s not just a silver lining, there’s a cloud. And I do, in fact, think that’s your superpower and we need people like you.
Lisa: Thank you.
Gabe: But you’ve literally said you’re doing this at the expense of your own mental health.
Gabe: You’re allowing the negative self talk to permeate into your personal life and the lives of those around you. And you’re saying that it’s OK because after all, you’re a realist. Isn’t that just more a negative self talk?
Lisa: That is true, it is a problem, it is starting to really hit me with some negative consequences, especially in the last few years. But I just feel like all this call for positivity is just a way for people to be more comfortable and to rationalize away bad things. And notice that all the people who are always going on about positivity have very secure, very comfortable lives. I feel like it’s a way to absolve themselves of responsibility for the rest of the world’s problems because you’re like, oh, no, look, positive things. That means that I don’t need to worry about negative things. I don’t need to donate money. I don’t need to think about who I’m voting for. I don’t need to think about how my actions are affecting our global world.
Gabe: And you get all of this from your negative self talk?
Lisa: I get all of this by telling you what is wrong with The Avengers movie. Yes, it’s true.
Gabe: This is why people don’t want to get rid of their negative self talk because they feel that it is helping them in some way. You have illustrated this perfectly.
Lisa: If you’ll remember, a few years ago, this really, it had really become a problem. And thank you very much, Dr. Todd. I went to therapy and she said the problem you’re having is that you feel like if you weren’t this level of negative, it would be irresponsible. It is irresponsible to not focus on these things. And she said, so let’s look at some things that you could do to make this better, to help things that don’t involve getting yourself so upset.
Gabe: Without it consuming your entire life.
Lisa: Yeah, that. So in the end, I decided that I would send a lot more support to some of the causes that I care about. I don’t want to say that I’m outsourcing my outrage, but it is kind of how I feel about it. It’s like I don’t need to sit at home and get this upset and be angry at the news because I have these other people who are handling that for me, and they’re probably making a lot more progress. Their anger and their action is doing more good than my sitting on my couch and yelling at the television. That has been very helpful.
Gabe: You also added another piece to this in that you started not watching the news.
Lisa: Yeah, I feel bad about it, but it’s really made a big difference.
Gabe: But here’s the thing, though, people hear you stopped watching the news and they’re like aha! She doesn’t know what’s going on in the world.
Lisa: Exactly. How irresponsible.
Gabe: But that’s not true because you still read the news once a day or a couple of times a week from a trusted news source that uses journalistic standards. You stay away from cable news. You stay away from television and radio. You, I forget which news sources you picked, but you read it. It gives you the facts and then that’s it. And then also the charities that you support, they send you information with what they’re doing with your money and your time and your resources. And occasionally they send you advocacy points, you know, letters to send to people. So you feel that they’re keeping watch for you and you’re supporting their ability to do it. So it’s.
Lisa: Yes, that I trust these people to be looking out for the things that I care about. I said to the therapist, Oh my God, these things are upsetting me so much. And she said, why are you exposing yourself to them then? And I thought, what? What? What other option is there? What are you talking about? And she said, why don’t you just not do this to yourself so much? And that had not occurred to me as a choice. But things like don’t read the news several times a day, only look at it from certain sources.
Gabe: Turn off the alerts on your phone.
Lisa: I have found that TV news is much more upsetting, something about the visual. Reading it or listening to the radio is much better, stuff like that, and it has helped a lot. It has helped the negativity quite a bit.
Gabe: It’s all about finding a time and a place for the negative things that need your attention because you don’t want to do nothing. I will say I’ve known Lisa for a long time and I can honestly say that she has done more to help the causes that she cares about in the last three years by supporting these charities than she did the previous three years by being miserable 24/7, yelling at anybody that would listen and screaming at the television on her couch. And I.
Lisa: Well, I was already supporting, but I amped my level up a lot
Gabe: Yeah, you started to do more. You were.
Lisa: Yeah, I started to do more in a more productive channel.
Gabe: Lisa, I care about you very much so I apologize for this big heaping helping of negativity that I’m about to throw at you. But Lisa’s ruminations and self-talk and constant desire to focus on this negativity in the world impacted her relationships because it was all that was in her brain. So Lisa starts just watching media that is constantly talking about what was going on in the world, And Lisa is yelling at her TV, she’s getting mad, she’s reading articles, she’s reading blogs, she’s just. So when we would get together, all she would want to talk about is the negative things that were in her head. And even though we’re agreeing with her, we’re like, we agree with you 100%. No, you don’t understand. Yes, Lisa, we completely agree. No, no, no, no. Tell me why you think is
Gabe: Is bad and is good. Tell me why you. And nobody is arguing with her. But because that’s all that’s in her brain. The self talk, the ruminations, she’s become obsessed. We don’t want to be around her. We want to watch TV. We want to have dinner. We can’t have dinner because there’s nothing to talk about with Lisa because she’s not consuming anything else. She’s become so fixated. I want people to understand that not only is the negative self talk hurting you, but it’s hurting the people around you and it’s making them not want to spend time with you. Which, of course, ultimately makes you isolated and alone, giving the negative self talk free reign to work more because you’re not even distracted by people telling you to stop talking about it anymore.
Lisa: Yeah, it had become a real problem, the therapy was very helpful, these suggestions were very helpful. On the one hand, you think, wow, that’s pretty obvious. So there’s something that was really upsetting you that you were deliberately exposing yourself to multiple times a day? Yes. Yes. I had to pay hundreds of dollars to get a PhD to tell me that and tell me to stop doing it. So on the one hand, I thought, really? Really, I just paid for this advice? But apparently I wasn’t getting it anywhere else. Apparently I had to. And so whenever I start to get worked up, whenever I start to think, oh my God, did you see that? Aaaahhh, oh my God! I have to go online and send a little extra donation. I’m like, OK, there. I sent an extra twenty bucks, it’s good, OK. Obviously that is doing more good than all of my upset was doing, to channel that upset in a different way.
Gabe: Obviously, Lisa, as your friend, I am so glad that you got help for it. I’m so glad
Lisa: I’m actually curious, do you think it’s better now?
Gabe: Yeah, it’s a lot, but do I think you’re all the way there? No, no, I don’t. And that’s the thing, we have to define success, right? Do I think you’re perfect? No, no. Do you know who’s perfect? My grandpa. Like nothing bothers him. He’s like, I got my own life. I got my own business. I’m fine. He’s cool. Do I think that you are that guy? No, I don’t think you can be that guy.
Lisa: But I don’t want to be that guy.
Gabe: Yeah, that’s my point, I think you need to give yourself credit for how far you’ve come, and I think.
Lisa: But do you really think that? Because you tell me I’m really negative all the time. I mean, are you for real saying that it has improved?
Gabe: It has improved,
Lisa: Ok, good.
Gabe: But, Lisa, when you are at a zero and the goal is 100 and you improve to a 50, 50 is still a failure. I think that you do have a ways to go. But one of the things that I am happiest about is that we talk about other stuff.
Lisa: Mostly Marvel movies,
Gabe: That’s true. One of the things that I don’t think people realize is when that negative self talk is in your brain and the rumination is in your brain, you become focused only on your thing. So while you’re constantly talking about your thing, that means my needs are never being met. One of the things that was hardest when it was the worst. Again, I hate using you as an example, because I’ve certainly done this to you.
Gabe: I want to be fair. But when you’re so stuck in your own head, you turn everything about you. We all get this way where the negative self talk, the ruminations, everything builds up in our own brains that we become bad friends. We’re not helping the people around us. So, Lisa, to your specific question, are you better now? Yeah, because you talk about my stuff without turning it into your thing. That alone is worth the price of admission. And I think that we all need to understand that getting rid of the ruminations and the self talk and all of this, I think it’s good for our own mental health. But I also think that it’s extraordinarily beneficial to the people around us. So, listen, if you’re not willing to get rid of this stuff for your own good, do it for those you love. They deserve to have a well engaged friend or family member. Please, if you don’t want to be mentally healthier, if you don’t want to be happier. Fine, I can’t stop you. But don’t you want to be a good parent, friend, child, family member, bestie, dance partner, whatever to the people around you? Do it for all of them.
Lisa: And, Gabe, that’s exactly why I did it. I could feel how the people around me were reacting, I could see their eyes rolling, I could see them checking out. I could see when they stopped paying attention to me. Of course, at the time, I thought, well, see, look at these fools. Argh! But yeah, I could see that I was pushing away you, my friends, my family, my husband. And apparently the journey is ongoing, but I’ve had some good results.
Gabe: Lisa, the journey is ongoing, just like our podcast. If you love the show, please leave us a review. Use your words. Tell people why you like us. Share us on social media. Rate, subscribe, review. Just do stuff with our podcast pretty much 24/7. Thank you so much for tuning in.
Lisa: And we’ll be back next Tuesday.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy Podcast from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. Want to see Gabe and me in person? Not Crazy travels well. Have us record an episode live at your next event. E-mail email@example.com for details.
This article originally appeared on Psych Central as Podcast: Negative Self-Talk and Pessimism.