Our mind's inner voice.

When not otherwise engaged our brain can slip into nonstop chatter. Do you know what I mean?

Internal musings, inner conversations, wandering this way and that, speculating, dreaming, chatter, chatter, chatter.

And we listen to what we tell ourselves, which can be a problem.

Although our inner voice functions well much of the time, it can lead to negative thoughts, spiraling down, generating emotions that become more of a curse, than a blessing.

So says Ethan Ross, a behavioral scientist, in his book, Chatter, the Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It.

I have used meditation with some success to tame the chattering beast. Meditation techniques work by giving the mind something to focus on that is simple, short, and easy to repeat. It might be a single word, as with transcendental meditation. It might an internal listening technique, as in listening to the slow in and out of your breath at the back of your throat. It may take the form of rhythmic chanting or silent prayer.

There are many variations of meditation used successfully by practitioners around the world and over the centuries. If successful, the meditation can take over from the mental noise and the result can be relaxing, sometimes even inspiring, and at its best, euphoric.

We usually expect to set aside some time each day, perhaps morning and night, to meditate, but the secret is to be able to harness one’s meditation technique at any time of the day or night, or whenever mental noise or stress becomes overwhelming.

If you get into bed with a chattering mind, you can try to put it to sleep with some mediation. I use meditation from time to time, along with a number of other ideas and techniques for preparing for a restful night’s sleep.

The other tool you can use to harness the power of a chattering mind is to give it some positive, reinforcing phrases to focus on, known as affirmations.

What you repeat in your mind can affect your life. So, it pays to take good care of what goes in there, and what stays in there, as it will affect you in your subconscious.

The subconscious is not that clever. It thinks whatever you have going on in your noisy mind is real! Especially if it stays around and repeats itself. Imagine the pain people end up feeling when they cannot get negative thoughts out of their head. The end result might even be as bad as suicide.

The words you express through your thoughts help shape your life. So, pay attention! You can monitor your thoughts and change them. We all, I assume, have the power to change the words in our thoughts, or our visual images? I will often stop myself thinking something and change the narrative. “Be positive. I am going to appear relaxed and powerful while giving the presentation this afternoon.”

Do not forget, this is very important, the subconscious does not understand words in the negative. “Don’t drink and drive”, is unpacked by our subconscious as “Drink and drive.” Frame all your affirmations in the positive, like “Drive sober”, or “Drink water”.

Many people let outside circumstances determine what they think about. To be truly free one must create one’s own world by being careful what we let into our minds. We have some control over what we think about by changing our inner narrative, and we must use that skill often and wisely.

Maybe some people do not have much of an inner voice. I have asked my wife about her inner voice and I am pretty sure most of what goes on in her mind is in images. She is a visual person, an artist, and I am not sure what control she has over what she ‘sees’ and whether she can change it easily.

Back to Ross, in his book, He has some ideas when you get caught in a negative spiral. Ideas you can implement on your own -

  1. Imagine advising a friend. What would you say to a friend in your same predicament? Think about the advice you would give that person, and then “tell it” to yourself.
  2. Think ahead to some time in the future and ask yourself, “How important will this be next week, next month or next year? I probably will have forgotten all about it.” Remind yourself that you will look back on whatever it was that was upsetting you, in the future, and it will seem much less upsetting.
  3. When your body cramps up with panic, with your heartbeat pounding, rapid shallow breaths and sweaty palms, tell yourself that your body is not trying to sabotage you but is trying to help you respond to the challenge. Turn it into a positive statement.
  4. For the kids in a crisis, get them to pretend they are a superhero. Known as the ‘Batman Effect’. It is a distancing strategy particularly useful for children grappling with intense emotions. Ask them to pretend they are a superhero character they admire, and then nudge them to refer to themselves using that character’s name. It helps them distance themselves from their troubling thoughts.

The power of the mind. Harness it for the greater good, and you can be a more productive, kind, and happier person.

Keep asking great questions...