We’d all benefit from being more reasonable sometimes. But when our emotions are in full flow, how can we gain the objectivity we need to help us do so? Oddly enough, there’s research to suggest that talking to yourself in the third person might be the answer.
The practice, known as illeism, offers some much needed emotional distance, which can help us to look at things more objectively. Here’s David Robson writing for Aeon Magazine:
Simple rumination – the process of churning your concerns around in your head – isn’t the answer. It’s likely to cause you to become stuck in the rut of your own thoughts and immersed in the emotions that might be leading you astray. Certainly, research has shown that people who are prone to rumination also often suffer from impaired decision making under pressure, and are at a substantially increased risk of depression.
Instead, the scientific research suggests that you should adopt an ancient rhetorical method favoured by the likes of Julius Caesar and known as ‘illeism’ – or speaking about yourself in the third person (the term was coined in 1809 by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the Latin illemeaning ‘he, that’). If I was considering an argument that I’d had with a friend, for instance, I might start by silently thinking to myself: ‘David felt frustrated that…’ The idea is that this small change in perspective can clear your emotional fog, allowing you to see past your biases.