Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why You Should Talk to Yourself in the Third Person

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Shayla Love writes in Vice:

According to the Bible, King Solomon, the Israelite king, was an incredibly wise man. People traveled far and wide just to ask for his advice, including two women who claimed to be the mother of the same baby. Solomon devised a clever way to solve the dispute.

Solomon’s wisdom, though, only applied to matters external to himself. His own life “was a shambles of bad decisions and uncontrolled passions,” wrote Wray Herbert in The Association for Psychological Science. “He kept hundreds of pagan wives and concubines, and also loved money and boasted of his riches. He neglected to instruct his only son, who grew up to be an incompetent tyrant. All these sins and misjudgments contributed to the eventual demise of the kingdom.”

This is referred to as Solomon’s Paradox. Whether the tales of Solomon are rooted in historical fact or not, they describe how we are often more wise when it comes to helping others than we are with ourselves. There’s something about the distance between yourself and another that provides the space to assess a situation more objectively, and control your emotions, rather than letting them cloud your thinking.

But there might be a remarkably simple way to access this kind of distance, and approach your own emotions, stress, and problems with a Solomon-esque distance: Talk to yourself in the third person.

Now, this suggestion might garner a certain gut reaction: that talking to yourself in the third person is strange at best, and annoying, narcissistic, or idiotic at worst. “Just think of Elmo in the children’s TV show Sesame Street, or the intensely irritating Jimmy in the sitcom Seinfeld—hardly models of sophisticated thinking,” wrote science journalist David Robson in The British Psychological Society Research Digest.

Yet decades of research now show that talking to yourself this way inside of your head—also called “distanced self-talk” can help foster psychological distance, a phenomenon that leads to better emotional regulation, self control, and even wisdom.

recent study in Clinical Psychological Science is the latest in a robust body of work from University of Michigan professor of psychology Ethan Kross, Bryn Mawr College assistant professor of psychology Ariana Orvell, and others. It cemented the findings that when people use words for themselves that they usually reserve for others—their name, and third- and second-person pronouns—they are better able to deal with negative emotions, even in emotionally intense situations, and even if they have a history of having a hard time managing their emotions.

Distanced self-talk also raises interesting questions about the ways that language influences our emotions, and highlights the importance of psychological distance overall—if you’re feeling overwhelmed, see if getting a little distance from yourself helps.

Humans have the ability for introspection, which helps us solve problems or plan for the future. But when bad things happen or intense negative emotions arise, this introspection can transform into its darker cousin: rumination. That’s when we end up incessantly turning over thoughts or are plunged into negative emotions, worrying ourselves in circles.

“Why does that happen?” Kross said. “And are there ways of making introspection work for us better?”

When we’re struggling with this kind of distress, we tend to zoom in, “almost to the exclusion of everything else. We lose the ability to take the big picture into account,” Kross said. Then, we might have a hard time coping with strong emotions, or finding ways to emotionally regulate. Emotional regulation, simply described, is the broad set of strategies that people use to change or modify what they’re feeling.

In those situations, being able to think about your experience from a more distanced perspective can be helpful. Psychological distance is a construct that’s been around for a long time, said Kevin Ochsner, Professor and Chair at the Department of Psychology at Columbia University.

There are many different strategies studied that create distance: You can picture a person or scene moving away from you, into the distance, like the opening lines in Star Wars. Even the act of physically leaning back has been shown to help more easily perform a difficult task.

“All those things will decrease the emotional punch,” Ochsner said.

Kross stumbled across talking to yourself in the third person about 10 years ago while exploring other distancing methods. By talking to yourself in the third person, or even second person (the pronoun “you”) he found that people bypassed a lot of the effort that’s usually put into trying to change your perspective to a more distanced one.

“The idea was—which continues to be fascinating to me—that we all have these tools that are baked into the structure of language that can serve this perspective shifting distancing function,” Kross said.

The official term for talking in the third person about yourself is illeism. Many people have an internal monologue that crops up, when we’re figuring out what to do, reflecting on the past, or guiding ourselves through day-to-day situations, but we frequently use the pronouns I, me, mine, and my.

In Kross and his colleagues’ work, they set out to see what would happen if they told people to modify that. In one study, they found that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2020 at 8:31 pm

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