The Triton


Negative self-talk can keep us emotionally aground


Last month, I offered some tips for moving forward after getting let go at work. Then an interesting thing happened. Just after writing that column, before it was even published, I received a phone call from an old shipmate inquiring about getting some coaching. The timing was unreal and of course fascinating. This guy, I’ll call him John, was fired.

John and I worked together for about six months on a private sailing yacht I captained back in the 1990s. He was my engineer/deckhand. We have seen each other over the years and he knew I was a coach. He needed to talk. Not only was he fired from a good-paying position but his girlfriend dumped him a few days later and he had got two weeks notice to move out of the house he rented. Wow, the trifecta: job, woman, home, gone in a matter of days.

John was in shock, and that’s understandable, but I heard early in our conversation how he was beating himself up over this turn of events. “Boy, I really screwed up this time.” “I can’t believe this; I’ve ruined my life.” “Man, I’m such an idiot.”

A harsh inner critic kept pounding away, sinking him further in the muck. Last month, I suggested being accountable and owning your situation as a healthy way to move forward, but this was not that. This kind of negative talk and energy fogs up the whole situation and makes it impossible to see anything on the horizon.

When we are hurt and disappointed, it’s hard enough to see clearly. Beating ourselves up just brings us down further, it brings us down to wallowing. Here is a place we don’t want to stay, living in wallow town. That is when we are stuck and feeling miserable. We are depressed and can’t see the light shining anywhere.

I told John it would be best if we didn’t enter into a coaching relationship. For one; I don’t attempt to coach people I’ve known as friends. I believe it’s important to come into that relationship with a clean slate, with no history. I also explained that until John worked through this phase of beating himself up, he was not ready for coaching. Working with a coach is about moving forward; John had some heavy emotional anchors that needed to be worked through.

I suggested perhaps working with a therapist or counselor first would be beneficial, and then if he still wanted a life coach, I could recommend some. Like a lot of guys, he balked at working with a mental health professional. We agreed he would try to work this out on his own for a bit but if he couldn’t get any traction he would consider help.

It’s a tough place to be in when our whole surface identity unravels. Confusion erupts, and possibly some depression. There is pain, anger and an ego to deal with, but there are also new possibilities. I know it is tough to hear and see while your head is spinning but it’s true. I have experienced this in my own life and have certainly seen it with others over the years.

New opportunities will present themselves, but we must be open to seeing and receiving them. It’s tough to see them when we are down and beating ourselves up.

Another danger in the negative self-talk is that the more we engage in it, the closer it gets to becoming a habit, a disempowering habit. This can negatively affect us in all sorts of areas of our lives.

Whenever we attract something positive into our lives, it comes from positive. That’s the powerful creative force we can all summon, but it doesn’t come from wallowing in negativity, ever. It comes from thinking of possibilities, thinking clearly. An effective way to move toward that clarity is to start asking what questions instead of why questions. What did I learn here? What is my next step? These questions lead toward wisdom.

These questions — Why me? Why is this happening? — keep us spinning our wheels.

So watch that negative self-talk. It can strand you on a sandbar on despair. Know that the tide will turn to float your boat once again. It feels good to sail on. Enjoy the voyage.

Capt. Rob Gannon is a 30-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach. Contact him through

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