How To Challenge Negative Self-Talk With Narrative Therapy

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Last updated on September 11, 2023 by Randy Withers

Self-talk is the mental chatter that helps you solve your problems, make big decisions, and make sense of the world around you. When positive, this inner voice can help motivate you to achieve your goals or face challenges in life.

However, self-talk can also be negative and convince you that you are not good enough. This article will help you understand how you can challenge negative self-talk through an approach called narrative therapy.

Rewriting Internal Narratives: Challenging Negative Self-Talk Through Narrative Therapy

What is negative self-talk?

Negative self-talk is a pessimistic and self-critical way of talking to yourself. This is when your inner voice focuses on the bad things in your life. It can lower your self-esteem, limit your confidence, and increase your stress.

Examples of negative self-talk

Negative self-talk can take several forms. It may be the result of thinking errors, also known as cognitive distortions. These unrealistic and irrational thoughts lead you to see things in a negative way than they really are. Cognitive distortions can convince you to believe that your negative thoughts are true even if they are not.

Below are some examples of cognitive distortions that may be causing your negative self-talk:


Personalization It is a cognitive distortion in which you take things personally, even if they are not related to you. This thought pattern can lead you to believe that you are the cause of negative events or circumstances, even if you have no evidence to support your belief. You may often blame yourself for negative situations that are not under your control.

For example, a mother might blame herself for her daughter’s illness. She is convinced that she has not properly cared for her daughter, which leads him to conclude that she is a bad mother, even though there is no evidence to support this. Note that this involves negative self-talk, along with feelings of guilt and shame.


Catastrophizing It’s a thinking error when you automatically assume the worst-case scenario when an unpleasant event occurs. Furthermore, it is also worrying about a disastrous outcome due to a choice you make. Thinking this way can lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

For example, an office worker makes a small mistake at work. They might think, “I made a big mistake. They will surely fire me and then I will be a laughingstock among my colleagues.” By exaggerating the consequences of a small setback, this type of negative self-talk can cause unnecessary suffering.


Mental filtering It is a faulty thinking pattern in which you filter out the positive aspects of a situation and focus on the negative ones. By dwelling on negative things, you bring out your inner critic and generate self-defeating thoughts like, “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do anything right.” People with mental filters will tend to notice all the wrong things, which can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression.

For example, an honors student who normally gets an A gets a C on the exam. With mental filtering, they tend to ignore all the good grades they received in the past and think that they are bad students. This type of belief leads them to focus on a negative event and ignore their previous achievements.

Disqualifying the positive

Similar to mental filtering, disqualifying the positive It is a pattern of thinking in which you ignore the positive things in life. A person who disqualifies the positive can transform neutral and positive situations into negative ones.

For example, a musician has just finished a performance on stage. After being praised by his peers, he responds by saying, “Anyone can do that!” or “Oh no, I made mistakes while he was acting.” He thinks his classmates are just being nice and trying to make him feel better.

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Why is it important to address negative self-talk?

When these negative ideas become a constant part of your life, they can lower your self-esteem and cause unnecessary anxiety, depression, and stress. These self-defeating thoughts can affect your confidence in your abilities, decrease your motivation, and prevent you from enjoying positive experiences in life.

Additionally, negative self-talk can cause perfectionism, where you believe things are great only when they are perfect. This can lead to a fear of failure, which can stop you from striving to achieve positive things in your life. Aside from that, it can cause feelings of unworthiness when you think “perfect” is the only thing acceptable.

Understanding narrative therapy

A narrative is a story or account of events and experiences. The way you interpret your life can affect your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Some narratives can be helpful, but when you misunderstand or misunderstand them, it can cause mental anguish.

Narrative therapy was developed in the 1980s by therapists Michael White and David Epston. It is a type of therapy that aims to separate the person from their problem through a non-blaming, empowering, collaborative and non-pathologizing approach.

In narrative therapy, you see the events in your life as stories. By separating your problems from your identity, it helps you see that you are the ultimate expert in your life. Since you have authority in your life, you can use your skills to minimize your problems.

There are various techniques used in Narrative Therapy:

  • Putting together the narrative: This involves telling your story and mentioning the difficulties you face. This allows you to understand how you interpret your narrative. By listening to his story, he becomes an observer who can work with the therapist to recognize dominant and problematic themes.
  • Externalizing the problem: Externalization is the process of separating yourself from your problems. This can help you see your difficulties from an objective and non-judgmental perspective. In this way, you will be able to realize that you are capable of changing.
  • Of construction: By deconstructing your narrative into smaller pieces, you can clarify the problem and make the process less overwhelming.
  • Unique results: Narrative therapy can help you realize that you can change the narrative of your life. With the help of a therapist, you may be able to see alternative solutions and narratives that you may not have thought of.

Challenging negative self-talk through narrative therapy

Negative self-talk is a self-critical way of talking to yourself. It leads you to identify with your problems and causes you to produce counterproductive thoughts like “I’m useless” or “I can’t do anything right.”

Narrative therapy is helpful for anyone who is struggling with negative thoughts, emotions, and experiences. It can help you challenge problematic stories that keep you from living your best life. By externalizing the problem, you gain a more accurate perspective of the situation.

This type of therapy can help you challenge your inaccurate and unhealthy ways of thinking and open your mind to alternative stories that are more realistic and positive. Plus, it can help you stop the practice of seeing yourself as the problem.

Negative self-talk can aggravate mental health conditions such as depression. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, narrative therapy can help depressed people focus on positive experiences and develop a more affirming story about their life. This can be helpful because focusing on positive emotions is important in treating depression.

Additionally, the International Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences published investigation which suggested that avoiding cognitive errors with the help of narrative therapy can help reduce depression in children. Through storytelling, children can learn to see events from alternative, more positive angles.

Final thoughts

Negative self-talk can occur when you view problems and difficult situations in a more negative light than they are. It can lead you to construct unrealistic and inaccurate stories about yourself and your life.

You can begin to challenge negative self-talk through narrative therapy. With the help of a therapist, you will be able to separate your problems from your identity. This allows you to see alternative stories and allows you to make positive changes in your life.

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