Action-Adjusting Functions of Self-Talk in Situations with Physical Pain: A Qualitative Analysis in Marathon Running

Jens Kleinert


Introduction: In the present study we examined the functions of self-talk in the regulation of coping with physical pain. The conceptual background of the study is action-oriented, which means that coping behavior is postulated as an intentional process and is divided into three phases (anticipation, realization, interpretation). In each of these phases self-talks have typical regulation functions (e.g., as information processing, problem solving, or the regulation of motivational and emotional states). Methods: We carried out problem-centered interviews with 30 male marathon runners concerning situations in which they had experienced and managed pain to detect functions of self-talk during the pain management process. We used content analyses to find typical categories and functions of self-talk. Results: In regard to content we found two types of self-talk. One type of self-talk focuses on the pain and the pain management (pain-oriented self-talk) whereas the other type emphasizes the hierarchically overlying action, which in our case means the marathon (task-oriented self-talk). Furthermore we found several functions of self-talks in different phases of the pain management process: Analysis of pain and situation, detachment, reappraisal, enhancement of self-efficacy, action instruction, activation of volition, correction of action, regulation of psychophysiological tension. Conclusion: Self-talks represent several typical regulative functions in the pain management process. Especially task-oriented self-talks seem to be important in coping with pain. These self-talks help the person to detach by focusing on the main aims. Furthermore task-oriented self-talks help to detect causes of pain, they help to put pain into perspective and they help to protect task-oriented intentions against pain-oriented frustration.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs030176


self-talk; pain management; action regulation; sport


Copyright (c) 2003 Jens Kleinert

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