3 steps to get past your inner dialogue
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
-Victor E. Frankl
In his brilliant book — The Untethered Soul — the best-selling author and meditation guru, Michael Singer draws the analogy of a roommate who will never stop talking.
Wherever you go the roommate goes with you.
Your roommate is judging and making demands of everything around you — people, situations, sights, weather…
Your roommate has expectations about everything and is constantly telling you how the world around you should be, how the people around you should behave and how you should behave.
Whenever something does not meet the roommate’s expectations, you will be filled with negative emotions — unhappiness, anger, jealousy, dissatisfaction, exhaustion and frustration.
For a moment when something meets the roommate’s expectations, you will be allowed a moment of peace until something happens which will take it away.
What would you do if you were with a roommate like this?
You would ask that roommate to shut up and get the hell out- right? If that does not work, you will run away screaming.
However, this is how we live our days.
Your roommate is the inner dialogue constantly happening in your head. This constant talk going on in your head. You can call it thoughts. You can call it our mind. You can call it ego. You can call it monkey mind. You can call it the computer in your head. You can call it your inner dialogue.
The names do not matter — We all have it — This inner dialogue! Its chatter is real and unrelenting!
It will judge every single moment of your life — everything you see, everything you hear, everything you experience.
It will for the 73rd time replay the insulting remark someone said to you 5 years back.
It will start berating you as soon as you hear of an accomplishment of a friend.
On the first sign of something not going your way, it will immediately tell you clearly how this will end up in the worst possible outcome for you.
It will amplify every single one your negatives and fears.
It won’t even let you enjoy a good moment — you are on your vacation with your family enjoying a beautiful sunset. Your inner dialogue will have none of it. The chatter will start immediately. First, it will ask you to take a photo — so you can upload it on social media — it will tell you how all your friends will admire it and think what a greatparent your are — while speaking of friends, it will remind you of what your friend Joe said last week at the party — It will ask you, ‘How could Joe say that to you after all you have done for him during his difficult divorce’. Now you are yelling at Joe in your head standing in front of the most beautiful sunset you will ever see — It’s so pathetic it’s funny like one of those movies which is so bad it is good.
Has something like this happened to you? It has happened to me. It happens to all of us. It happens to the best of us.
We live our life according to the whims and fancies of this inner dialogue. It controls our response to everything that happens around us. This chatter going on in our mind becomes our reality and it becomes how we experience the world. We end up creating a world in your mind and live it.
In his wonderful book The Way to Love, Anthony de Mello — the Indian Jesuit priest, mystic, and spiritual teacher — equates this inner dialogue to a computer and explains why we should not feel responsible for it.
We are not responsible for its programming. It’s not us who decided even such basics as our wants, desires and needs; our values, tastes or attitudes. It was our parents, teachers, society, culture, religion and past experiences. However old we are, whatever we do, wherever we go, we all have this inner dialogue operating and active. Anthony de Mello
If our inner dialogue is the reason for so much of the negative emotions we have, then the question is — Why do we tolerate this problem? Why do we allow this aimless switch from thought to thought, from topic to topic without really solving or achieving anything.
The answer is — We are too close to the problem. We think we are the one who is talking! We think this inner dialogue is us! — It’s not true.
Anthony de Mello goes on to say that there is a way out but it’s not by trying to stop or changing your inner dialogue.
Step 1 : Observation
Sit down in a comfortable chair in a quiet room, close your eyes and imagine you are in a situation or with a person you find unpleasant and would ordinarily avoid.
Observe how the inner dialogue becomes active and start insisting how the situation should change or the person should talk or behave differently.
Do not try to control it. You do not have any control over it anyway.
Just observe the negative emotions filling you.
Step 2 : Realization
If you continue to observe your inner dialogue objectively, you will realize that much of what it says is meaningless. It’s a waste of time and energy. It’s full of lies.
Your inner dialogue is not going to bring any change to the person or situation. They are the outside world. They are just going their way — without any care of whether they meet your inner dialogue’s expectations or not. The sad part is by trying desperately to change the outside world to confirm to your inner dialogue’s expectations, you are constantly at mercy of the outside world — until you realize that
It is not the person or the situation which is filling you with those negative emotions.
It is your inner dialogue which is filling you with the negative emotions.
These negative emotions then drive your response and actions.
The wall that stands between you and an enjoyable and meaningful experience of life is inside you — That’s the realization.
Step 3 : Freedom
Observing your inner dialogue and realizing the oppression you face from it provides you the freedom to break from it.
You have the choice whether to listen to your inner dialogue.
You have the choice not to give it all this power.
You have the choice not to feel all those negative emotions.
You have the choice to act differently from what your inner dialogue tells you.
We need to create a space between our never endng inner dialogue and our actions.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
- Victor E. Frankl
One of the ways to exercise that freedom and attain growth is to stop listening to the inner dialogue’s judgment of every person, event and situation in the external world. You do not have to respond based on what it tells you. Instead let your response come from a place of clarity, courage and calm.
Much Love, Talk soon
Books refered in the article
Originally published at http://nothing-original.com on December 16, 2020.