At any given moment, there is a voice talking to you in your head. Maybe it’s a positive voice. Maybe it’s a negative voice. Maybe it’s a neutral, narrator, commenting on your every move. Do you notice it? It’s processing as you read this, maybe throwing in an opinion or two. What do you find it is saying to you right now?
That voice can be likened to the weather in the Midwest: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change.
To understand why this is so, let’s define a couple things. Your brain is the organ through that functions as the machine for many physical functions, thinking being only one of them. Your mind is how your consciousness moves energy through the brain in order to function in your life.
Your brain stores every experience you have had, ever, and the thoughts, decisions, attitudes, emotions, and opinions surrounding those experiences at the time that you made them. Some of those are well-outdated, yet there they are, in the storehouse of your brain’s memory.
Your mind, in its automatic, semi-conscious state, pulls up those memories, thoughts, decisions, attitudes, emotions, and opinions as it sees fit. In neutral times, those thoughts, etc, might be simply random. Other times, the mind is quite certain that the thought, emotion, opinion, etc, that it is pulling up is quite fitting for the situation at hand, even if it might not be helpful.
For example, think about what you think about while driving. Maybe you’re singing along with a song (lyrics pulled up from your brain’s memory). Maybe you are worrying about what just happened at work or with that family member; in which case, all past experiences, opinions, emotions having to do with that person, or someone very similar from your history, come up and invade your thoughts about the current situation. This adds confusion to the current situation: Are you really upset at the thing that just happened, or is that thing not so bad, but it is reminding you of that other thing that happened, so the negative thoughts and strong emotion are actually coming from some previous experience, being dumped onto the current one? Probably both, but the current situation is getting the brunt of the past, unresolved emotion.
That little example holds about five topics of discussion; but for this article, let’s simply understand that the mind has a mind of its own, and a lot more is going on than you are often aware of. In fact, there are many voices in your head, and often they have competing opinions and perspectives! You’ve probably heard someone say, “The committee in my head is arguing about this.”
What can you do about that mind that can be so unruly?
Notice it, step back from it, wait a few minutes and it will change.
Notice it. You can’t be in charge of that unruly inner voice unless you are aware of what it’s doing in there. Take a few breaks during the day to check in and listen to what it’s saying to you. Is it positive? Critical? Sad? Afraid? Numb?
Step back from it. Listen with compassion and non-judgment; be the observer of it. Cup both hands together and hold them in front of you. Pretend that the thoughts and feelings going through your mind are in your cupped hands. Since they are now outside of your head, watch them like a scientist watches her experiment with curiosity, not knowing what exactly is going to happen. What do you see happening with those thoughts and feelings?
Wait a few minutes and it will change. As you observe the contents of your mind, they will inevitably shift and change. See how long you can hold them before they morph into something else. How long does it take? Five minutes? Twenty? Three? One? This is a great practice in not taking your thoughts too seriously. Just because it is wafting through your mind doesn’t make it true.
This simple process is helpful especially when big emotions are on the surface. As you observe and wait patiently and compassionately through the wave of emotional dialogue and felt sensations, you will feel yourself rise above it into a clearer thinking space. As you practice with this, your conscious self moves into more of a leadership role in the mind/brain process. You can be more in charge of who’s talking to you, who gets the promotion, and which voice gets phased out.
Who’s talking within you?