A Catholic Monthly Magazine

When Talking with Yourself Makes Sense

Bill Farrelly

by Bill Farrelly

MANY people would admit to talking to themselves but have you ever dialogued with yourself?

A year or so ago I decide to converse with various emotions that were causing me considerable angst. It was a simple procedure involving a pen, a notebook and a quiet space, and the results were rather surprising.

I mention this because of late I am once more wrestling with one of those emotions, a demon – or so it seems to be – that sometimes just won’t let me go.

Resentment, it strikes me, is the twin brother or sister of envy about which I wrote most recently and which, for much of my life, caused me and others great misery.

I think I now have the upper hand with envy, but resentment is another matter.

When the latter ambushed me again recently I decided to revisit those dialogues. I had forgotten that these apparently destructive emotions also have a positive side. If you will indulge me I’d like to share a few extracts, beginning with a part of my opening address to resentment:

I have never thought too much about this but it occurs to me that you, like anger, have had a bad press and that there may be some very positive attributes you never receive credit for. Am I correct?

Resentment: Yes. Without me to prod you, you may find yourself stripped of your dignity. For example, if someone lies to you and you know they are lying but do nothing, say nothing, because you are fearful or lazy or weak, then – assuming you are an inherently decent and moral human being – you will feel, among other emotions, resentment for lacking the courage of your convictions. When that happens I will prompt you to act. How you act, negatively or positively, is a decision that you make.

Me: But what about when I feel resentful for some hurt that has been done to me; for example, when I have been treated very unjustly or cruelly? Don’t I have a right to hang onto my resentment

Resentment: You have a right to feel resentful but it will not serve you well to dwell in self-pity, to become abusive or to seek revenge. My role is to alert you to the fact that you have a situation that needs attending to. It’s up to you to come up with a measured and constructive response.

You may be thinking that I am not being practical, that the reality is quite different. The point I am trying to make is that there is almost always a choice how we respond. Equally important for me, for all of us, is to reflect whether our feelings of resentment are based on something that really has happened or something that we think has happened. Our feelings are always legitimate but they are often based on false beliefs.

But how do we handle a situation where the belief is accurate and therefore our feelings of resentment are justified?

My present resentment is towards someone I love. I have acknowledged my poor behaviour and made known my sincere sorrow. I have striven to rehabiltate myself. How do I cope with the absence of reciprocity?

I don’t know the answer and this continues to be a great challenge for me, but doing this exercise and re-reading those dialogues fortifies me. Importantly, I am reminded that if I had made more intelligent choices I would not so frequently feel resentful.

I have dialogued also with anger, anxiety, romance and sadness to great effect.

Here is an interesting extract from my conversation with Romance, prompted by my seeming inability to move beyond the romantic stage of love:

Romance: You have chosen to chase romantic love because you want the ecstasy that only I can provide. But ecstasy is something fleeting. You may chase and catch it but it is wrong and dangerous to try to hold onto it. You must let it go and then there is every likelihood that it will happily revisit you. But again, you must not become intoxicated by me. You must let me go. That is a lesson you have never learnt.

When you begin to dialogue with yourself you may feel foolish. Stay with it; the responses may surprise and delight you. Hopefully, they will enlighten you as they have me.

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