The Therapeutic Power of Your Inner Language

The Therapeutic Power of Your Inner Language
Laura Rodríguez

Written and verified by the psychologist Laura Rodríguez.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Inner language is a kind of communication that you carry out on a daily basis. It contains your thoughts that you don’t verbalize. After all, you don’t express everything that you think and that crosses your mind to others. That’s because you filter what you communicate, both in form and content.

Let’s think of a simple example. You’re walking down the street and someone stops you and tries to sell you something. You politely say, “Sorry, I’m not interested”. However, inside you’re thinking, “I bet he has to put up with some people answering him in a really rude way”. Or, “Look at the way he’s dressed!”. Or, “I’m not going to stop, I’ll just smile at him and keep on walking”.

In effect, your inner language or designated thinking is no more than a conversation that you have with yourself.  However, that conversation greatly influences the way you relate to the world around you. Furthermore, it speaks volumes about how you treat yourself.

As a matter of fact, the dynamics of this internal dialogue condition how you face conflicts and obstacles. Just stop and think for a moment. How do you address yourself, how do you evaluate yourself, and how do you evaluate others? Are the evaluations negative or positive? In this article, we’ll talk about the therapeutic power of inner language and what factors should be considered.

A woman thinking on the couch.

Inner language

Lev Vygotsky, like Mikhail Bajtin, understood inner language to be an internal instrument. In fact, they both saw it as a subjective relationship and communication with oneself. This language has its foundations in the first stages of life. Indeed, an infant’s language is normally external and without too many filters. Then, gradually, it becomes an internal language.

According to Vygotsky, external language is the kind you use to address others. On the other hand, inner language is addressed to yourself. Therefore, inner language is the experience of speaking internally in silence. Vygotsky defines it as language without sound, a verbal thought.

“Inner speech is not the interior aspect of external speech—it is a function in itself. But while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought.”

-Lev Vygotsky

Does your inner language define you?

Luis Rojas, psychiatrist, and author wrote the book, Somos Lo Que Hablamos (We Are What We Say). He claims that “Thoughts are part of our daily dynamics, of what we say and how we judge ourselves. Sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to these internal monologues, and yet they can be as destructive as they can be positive”.

For this reason, the internal dialogue you maintain influences how you perceive what’s happening around you. It also indirectly affects the way you react.

For example, if you think and tell yourself that everything bad that happens to you is due to the fact that you’re useless and clumsy, you’ll find yourself with more difficulties to overcome. These obstacles arise because you attribute your inner dialogue as stable and internal. Moreover, since it remains within you, it’s difficult for anyone to contradict it.

“I’m convinced that speaking is the most effective human activity to protect healthy self-esteem, manage our lives, enjoy coexistence, and our romantic relationships, and stimulate natural mechanisms that facilitate your physical, mental, and social well-being.”

-Luis Rojas-

The therapeutic power of your inner language

Following on from the previous section, how you talk to yourself determines how you perceive what surrounds you. In this respect, Professor Ethan Kross conducted a series of experiments at the University of Michigan. He concluded that people who spoke to themselves in a positive way were more successful, showed greater security, and perceived themselves as happier.

Therefore, internal dialogue can have both a healing and a harmful effect depending on the type of language you establish. For this reason, therapy tends to work with internal communication, as it influences how the therapy evolves. As a matter of fact, sometimes, producing changes in an internal dialogue generates greater personal well-being. Hence it’s a goal of intervention in therapy.

Inner language has a therapeutic power. For instance, talking to yourself from a positive perspective, trying to break down what happens to you, and trying to understand how you intrinsically function, produces a therapeutic effect.

Inner language is extremely important since it largely conditions your well-being. For this reason, you should examine your ways of way of communicating with yourself and observe its effects. It could well be the first step in preventing you from being, on many occasions, your own worst enemy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Alonso, L. (1994). “Lev Vygotsky: el lenguaje interior”. Memorias del IV Congreso Nacional de Filosofía. Tomo I.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.