Self-Talk vs. Soul-Talk: Is It All Just Psychobabble?

No matter what befalls you, you still have choices about how you respond. As you choose your response, you create your experience.
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Is learning to create the life you want instead of the one you settle for just another bunch of psychobabble leading nowhere? For some reason, encouraging people to claim authority over their own life experience seems to set off the critics. Toss in references to Soul or Spirit and the tempest explodes.

Is It Psychobabble or Psychology?

The distinctions between what I have been calling Self-Talk and Soul-Talk coupled with some basic principles of self-determination are frequently dismissed by some as "psychobabble." Most people who invoke the term are concerned about what they consider to be the bastardization of psychology. First used in the 1970s as a way to disparage the surging popularity of large group self-improvement programs, "psychobabble" has found its way into the popular lexicon.

Many of those who bandy it about fail to realize that psychology itself has been bastardized over the years, coming to mean "the science of mind and behavior." However, the word psychology is itself little understood, including by many of those who claim to be practitioners. The word psychology literally stems from the Greek word psyche, a term meaning soul. Hence, psychology actually means "study of the soul." Critics often tend to dismiss spirit or soul centered principles using their minds, failing to address the issues or choices at hand through the eyes of their soul.

Let's review a few principles that are frequently dismissed as psychobabble.

You Create Your Own Experience of Life

In my experience, most people are more adept at settling than they are at creating. Perhaps it would be better stated that most people don't even know they are the ones creating their experience of life when they choose their response each time the road forks. As I'm fond of saying: if you don't know where you are going, any road will do. This notion is simple, but not simplistic; it is simple, but far from easy. Vamping off Robert Frost and Scott Peck, you can easily breeze by the profound implications of choice by taking the road (fork) more traveled, the path of blame and complain, rather than the road of create and choose.

Take Charge of Your Life -- the Other Road Less Traveled

Surely you recognize that all manner of circumstances can befall you over which you have precious little control. However, the one area where you are distinctly and unequivocally in charge is how you choose to respond to what happens. The road more traveled is one of blame and complain, focusing on what happened, finding people to blame for your circumstances. The worst part of the blame and complain game is that you are usually right -- something did happen and it may have been neither fair nor within your control. However, no matter what befalls you, you still have choices about how you respond. As you choose your response, you create your experience; the more you create the experience you seek, the more powerful you may become in creating the life you want rather than the one you settle for.

You Are Your Own Worst Critic

Learning to choose wisely, regardless of the circumstance, takes considerable awareness and practice. Toss in the negative Self-Talk that most of us are all too familiar with, and you can wind up in a pretty messy downward spiral. And quickly.

For most of us, our negative Self-Talk seems to come from a natural, in-born critic, one who forever finds fault in ourselves and in others. In fact, the more fault you can find with yourself, the more fault you are likely to find in others. Let me at least claim this one as my own, for indeed it is true -- the harder I am on myself, the harder I am on others.

Learn to Listen to the Quiet Voice of Your Soul-Talk

However, whenever I find myself in critic mode, there is also a quieter, gentler voice encouraging me to be more accepting, more loving, and more creative in how I respond. This is the voice I call my Soul-Talk and it is forever pointing the way forward, focused on how to improve upon the current condition, regardless of circumstance. In my experience, listening to your Soul-Talk is that road less traveled. Putting aside the critic who would have you remain mired in the mess, and listening to the more positive and uplifting message from your soul takes considerable practice and discipline.

Are You Listening to Your Mind or Your Soul?

In the perfect world of apparent contradictions, the critics usually leap to their mind-oriented claim that the soul does not exist. And, for them, at least for the moment, it does not. So, if you're that critic, there's no need to dismiss anything here just as there no need to accept anything. Rather, why not become your own scientist? For example, how about asking yourself what is that you want out of life? And then inquire even more deeply, asking why you want whatever that might be? From there, consider: Have you ever wound up with what you thought you wanted only to wind up asking yourself, "Was that it?"

As I'm fond of saying: If you don't know where you are going, any road will do. Please do consider the difference between what you focus on in life vs. why you want it in the first place. The more clearly you can frame the distinctions, the more clearly you will be able to choose when that road forks. At each fork in the road, you will been to listen intently to those inner voices.

The more you keep listening to the Self-Talk focusing on the what-you-want and why you can't get there, the more you will keep cycling through the old familiar blame and complain game. The more you can allow time and space for that deeper voice, your Soul-Talk, the more you may discover that you have the ability to create the life you want regardless of apparent circumstances.

I'd love to hear from you. What's your take on psychology as the study of the soul? What would a soul-centered life mean to you? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)

If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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