Most people who battle PTSD also battle negative self-talk. In fact, according to Dr. Linda Gantt, co-founder of Intensive Trauma Therapy in Morgantown West Virginia, it’s not uncommon for people who hear trauma-related internal voices to be mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia.
If you know someone who’s experienced trauma, here are a few tips for helping them deal with their negative self-talk. Of course, the ultimate responsibility for changing their attitude and behavior lies with them, but you can be a loving, affirming support, as well as an accountability partner.
We’re not talking about shallow bragging, but rather, affirming aspects of character–things, like loving others, a positive work ethic, leadership, servanthood, sacrifice, gratitude, fostering peace, gentleness, patience and other virtues.
Find ways to weave your comments into conversation naturally, and learn to become observant of small things. Expressing appreciation frequently and genuinely is one powerful way to positively influence someone’s life.
Instead of saying, “You always cut yourself down,” say something like “It’s encouraging to hear you say positive things about yourself because I see positive qualities in you like _____________.”
Change you statements to I statements: “I feel less anxious when you take the car when you give me an idea when you’ll be home” instead of “You never come home on time”.
Unconditional acceptance doesn’t mean letting someone get away with unacceptable behavior. It does mean continuing to love them in spite of their failures, flaws, and struggles.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean a boundary-less relationship. In fact, a loving relationship requires healthy boundaries. Unconditional acceptance can be compared to Jesus’ love: We don’t love people more or less based upon their performance. We love them simply because we choose to.
Serving others stretches our focus away from ourselves and into the lives of people who are often struggling with problems and challenges different from and often more painful than our own.
Offer time at a homeless shelter. Provide tutoring in a prison. Serve as mentors for single-parent children. Help in an after-school program. Volunteer in a local hospital. Read to those who are shut-in or in nursing homes. Serve together, and watch as both your lives are changed.
Successful people aren’t afraid to fail. They become successful by trying and failing. Success is about being in the race and giving it your all. Help your friend learn to celebrate true effort and investment, not to rate themselves against others as the only way to “win.”
What about you? What suggestions do you have for helping a friend who’s struggling with negative self-talk?
How does PTSD influence negative self-talk? Learn how in our next blog.