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How Negative Self Talk Affects You: Out of Control

These sure are confusing times.

CoVid-19 has made it difficult on us all. The recent shift in CDC guidelines on when to wear masks or no masks — it can feel confusing.

And when life is confusing, things feel out of control.

Much like the negative self-talk of “not good enough,” the message of “out of control” provides sense of being trapped or defeated. And it keeps us from being able to move forward in reaching our goals.

Here are some responses or reactions that people have when they're dealing with that negative self-talk of "out of control."

Negative Self-Talk Reaction #1 — Anxiety:

Anxiety increases in times when we feel like we don't have any control. Our “fight or flight” senses start to kick in, which sets off all sorts of biological reactions.

And the biological reactions cause emotional reactions.

Which causes more anxiety.

And things start to feel even more chaotic.

When life feels like it is out of control, we begin to spiral into further negative thinking.

Possible negative outcomes feel like almost certainties. And that leads to anxiety.

This anxiety can manifest as a form of social anxiety and impacts all our relationships, including our marriages.

Negative Self-Talk Reaction #2 — Anger:

One of the reactions to “fight or flight” is anger. And when we start to feel like we have no choices or control over the circumstances of our life, frustration begins to increase. For many people, the negative self-talk of “out of control” leads to anger.

This type of anger or frustration is an overflow from a sense of "Well, what do I do?!?!"

This person may become blaming of other people or circumstances around them. They give too much credit to others. And they struggle to recognize the influence or control they do have over their life.

Negative Self-Talk Response #3 — Overwhelm:

A person who feels like life is “out of control” can be overwhelmed by all the things that are coming in. It feels like there is so much — too much — going on. And it feels so heavy.

When feeling overwhelmed, making decisions becomes all too difficult.

Negative Self-Talk Reaction #4 — Withdraw/Shutdown:

The person who begins to feel overwhelmed by that sense of “out of control” may learn to emotionally withdraw or they shut down from life. That sense of overwhelm is so much that they feel like there's nothing else they can do. They feel stuck and trapped. And, so, they shut down. They don't know what else to do.

As a marriage counselor, I will often see one or both partners emotionally withdraw or shutdown when the relationship begins to feel unsafe or “out of control.”

Negative Self-Talk Response #5 — Critical/Negative:

Having a critical or negative disposition can be a reaction to feeling “out of control.”

A person may begin speaking poorly about what others are doing. Or have negative things to say when not having control of the outcome or situation.

So…things get negative.

A person may begin to make biting comments and then attempt to cover it up as sarcasm or joking. But what may be happening is a person coping with feeling of things being “out of control.”

Negative Self-Talk Response #6 — Escape/Addiction:

When a person feels that life is too chaotic or “out of control,” they start to look for an escape. They start to look for a space to feel some relief.

That escape can come in the form of video games. Or social media use. Zoning out on YouTube or Tik Tok are very popular ways to escape or avoid that self-talk of “out of control.”

And sometimes that escape comes in the form of alcohol or drugs. Whatever it may be, a person is looking to escape the reality because life just feels out of control.

And what is used to escape can become an addiction.


Automatic coping behaviors to negative self-talk do not help people achieve desired outcomes. For example, a person who tries to escape due to feeling “out of control” rarely achieves the sense of control they desire. They just push it off or avoid it.

Learning the tools to emotionally self-regulate can help you to quiet the negative self-talk. And that can improve your quality of life. At school. At work. And in your marriage.

Counseling can help you reach your goals of mental and emotional wellness. If life is feeling “out of control” consider finding a counselor who will help you regain the control you desire.


Jason Wilkinson helps professionals and couples experiencing negative self-talk through individual and marriage counseling. His practice, Wellspace Counseling, serves the communities of Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Portland, and the entire state of Oregon through in-person and online counseling.


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