The Elegance of Self-Talk

Bob TurknettBy Bob Turknett

TLG Co-founder and Co-chairman

A former friend and colleague of mine, Maxie Maultsby, who, at that time, was Director of Outpatient Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky Medical College, once told me that he thought the word “elegant” might be the most important word in the English language.

I asked him to elaborate, and he said that a sense of elegance is important for many things, whether it be casual or formal elegance – that it communicates a significance of higher importance.

And he followed by saying that he strives every day to make all of his language elegant – which for him meant easy to understand, meaningful, and health-enhancing!

He stressed that our brain is so much more precious (and powerful) than most of us ever realize – that it is capable of storing and retrieving huge amounts of data, information, and thoughts (some of which are health-enhancing and some not). “So, choose carefully,” he cautioned, “from that precious, powerful brain those thoughts you want to keep and those thoughts you want to discard.”

He continued by emphasizing the utmost importance of paying close attention to every word said to others or to oneself. This was in the early 1970s and it was the first time I ever heard anyone use the term “self-talk.”

I asked him how he first thought of this idea of elegance in language, and he said that when in college, he was studying the classics and had remembered a quote that stuck with him. It was from a philosopher 2000 years ago named Epictetus, who said, “It’s not the facts and event that upset us, but the view we take of them!”

Epictetus’ quote, he said, was the epiphany that compelled him to create a theoretical framework about catastrophic thinking/self-talk that is so easy for all of us to do – and then, unfortunately, causes us to have catastrophic-like emotions.

As he continued his career, this epiphany became the catalyst for him to both learn and to teach others “elegant thinking” as a better way to frame and create health-enhancing thoughts and ideas.

Learning these ideas from him has probably been one of the most powerful influences in both my personal and professional life!


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