Self talk is a phenomenon that whilst most of us will experience when climbing and it our day to day life, we probably don’t pay it much attention. What I refer to is the internal chatter in our mind like shall I eat that biscuit or shall I not. It often allows us to rationalise our decisions with ourselves. Sometimes that self talk will be positive other times it will be negative, either way it can be rational or irrational.
Yesterday when at my research proposal I saw a presentation on Self-talk, and inparticular ratio’s of positive to negative, and believe it or not there is a ratio of positive to negative thought where you are deemed to be able to function adequately (somewhere in the region of 0.6 positive to negative thoughts); above that you become ‘happy’ below that you become sad and eventually if the ratio gets too low can lead to depression.
To use it when climbing it is better to concentrate on irrational, as talking yourself into a danger position that you can’t physically back up is fool hardy, similarly if the self talk is unnecessarily negative like I can’t hold on anymore, when in fact you can, is going to have a negative effect on your performance. Whilst over confidence can lead to the irrational positive self talk, it is the pessimist in us that leads to the negative.
In order to do something about it, you first need to identify you self talk. There are several ways to do this, but with climbing it requires several of these technique. I often suggest that a climber has a carabiner on them, and everytime they experience a negative thought click the gate on the carabiner. Whether you bouldering or climbing, when you get down off route use a note book to write down your negative thought(s).
After a few session look through for patterns, an example I have come across is someone has a thought that tells them they are letting go of the hold, or they are about to slip off a hold. To counteract this I got them to say ‘I am solid’ if that thought entered there head. This counter acting or as NLP practitioners would say reframing of the thought helps stop the negative effect of the thought on your performance.
Similarly I have used it to trigger the transition between relaxed climbing and attacking the crux of the route, by using the phrase ‘Go for it’ and ‘Relax’. At its most basic Self-talk is really about identify negative thought patterns at consciously stopping them by overtly saying or shout alternative phrases like those mentioned above, and eventually making the a single word that you say internally to yourself.