Positive self-talk is awesome. But not in the way you may think. When I tell people that positive self-talk is bullshit, I mean that it does not belong in your arsenal in the heat of the moment when experiencing that high anxiety spike or a panic attack. Positive self-talk, mantras and affirmations are great as a setup tool BEFORE things get rough for you. Use them when calm.  Use them when getting yourself ready to do hard things. But ritualizing positive self-talk as a safety behavior when in the grips of panic is a bad idea and isn’t terribly effective anyway.


  • [01:15]…There are two precursor episodes to today’s episode: Episode 53 and Episode 150
  • [02:30]…Why self-talk can be a futile gesture
  • [04:00]…When it’s appropriate to use self-talk
  • [04:45]…The basic premise of recovery
  • [06:15]…Why Episode 53: Why Positive Self-Talk is Bullshit gained so much attention
  • [08:10]…The most useful time to use self-talk
  • [10:00]…How to use self-talk as a way to inform new actions and new behavior
  • [12:20]…Actual recovery tools vs. coping skills
  • [12:55]…How to effectively communicate with the fear center in your brain
  • [14:35]…How your safety rituals might also be a complete contradiction
  • [17:00]…The best message you can send to your fear center
  • [19:20]…What happens when self-talk aligns with behavioral signals

Key Takeaways:

  • My previous episode on Why Positive Self-Talk is Bullshit really ruffled a lot of feathers, so I wanted to touch more on the subject today. There is a time to use positive self-talk and a time not to. If you’re using positive self-talk as an escape device, you might be setting yourself up for failure. 
  • When you are at the peak of an anxiety attack, trying to talk yourself or mantra yourself out of the panic can feel completely pointless.  It becomes a bit of a desperate and ineffective escape ritual which is definitely not what we want.
  • Using positive self-talk BEFORE panic arrives can be useful IF you understand when to stop talking and start doing (or not doing, as the case may be).
  • A good time to talk to ourselves is when we are calm and rational. This state allows us to learn about our anxiety and understand the educational content around how to recover properly. This is where we set ourselves up to do what we know we need to do in response to panic and anxiety. This is where we can inform our actions and cement the concepts that we have to put into action when anxiety rears its head.
  • We must be careful to not allow positive self-talk to become an avoidance, escape, or safety ritual. This changes a useful tool into a maladaptive response that can accidentally cement the disorder in place.

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Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.