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Book Review – “The Art of Talking to Yourself”

If you’re looking for a guide to become better acquainted with yourself and need a hand to hold while exploring your beliefs and perceptions, try Vironika Tugaleva’s book, The Art of Talking To Yourself: Self-Awareness Meets the Inner Conversation (Soulux Press, 2017). The premise of this wise mix of memoir, philosophy and psychology, written in an approachable manner is, paradoxically, to not trust self-help books, but to learn to trust yourself.
Recovered from drug and eating problems, Tugaleva has suffered from depression and suicidality. She clearly learned some valuable life lessons on her journey of healing, many of which are applicable to dysregulated eaters. Rather than describe all that she covers in the book, here are some nuggets of wisdom from a book that is full of them:
She extols the value of self-talk “Your inner conversation is more than the sum total of thoughts that roll around in your head from day to day. It is the relationship you have with yourself and how that relationship connects you to the rest of existence. It is the lens through which you perceive reality. Thus, it defines the world you think you live in—a place that might be radically different from the real world.” (p. 13)
She urges readers to become self-aware by first becoming spectators of their self-talk and “trying to observe yourself as you are and not just how you imagine yourself to be.” (p. 16) However, she warns, “Before we can influence the inner conversation, we must first drift to the sidelines and watch it for a little while.” (p. 24) This may be difficult for dysregulated eaters who want to quickly reform “negative” self talk—before they even recognize when it happens and what they can learn from it.
Tugaleva says that, “Your inner voices are reflections of your past and present, your ideas and feelings, your hopes and fears. Each self-communication is a word spoken by you to you.” (p. 89) She encourages you to ask yourself, “Whose voice is that, anyway?” and seek to understand the purpose of self-talk which is often about trying to avoid vulnerability and keep us emotionally safe. She cautions us that, “Self-protection may lead us to demonize our self-communications instead of decoding them. We may label some voices as ‘wrong’ when their messages are integral to our well-being.” (p. 120)
She points out how we err by seeking simplistic thoughts and messages: “Allowing paradoxes into your self-concept is an uncomfortable process. We tend to see the world in binary terms: yes/no, go/stop, either/or, on/off. Binary thinking impedes understanding and healing.” (p. 130) These are two patterns that dysregulated eaters often engage in, that is, they criticize themselves for their negative self-talk rather than aim to understand the message it is attempting to convey and they have difficulty embracing all their inner voices, the ones at each extreme and all of them in between.
I leave you with one final thought that I hope will move you forward in healing from dysregulated eating, a concept that Vironika frames as having the pain of self-deceit or the pain of honest self-observation. To live our best lives, it’s clear which path we must choose. Learn more about Vironika and her books at http://www.vironika.org.
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