Ethan Cross, in his book “Chatter, says that “…we internally talk to ourselves at a rate equivalent to speaking four thousand words per minute out loud.” That is with considering.
We are talking to ourselves so much it is hard to get a word in edgewise! So what does that mean? How do we get a handle on it? This book is a bookish weapon to use on your mind.
Coach or Critic
Cross discusses what he calls the puzzle. “How can the voice that serves as our best coach also be our worst critic?”He discusses why we talk to ourselves if you are interested in that, but our voice is both a coach and a critic. It can be more of one than the other. That depends on how we manage it.
Our brain’s executive function requires all our brain and the negative inner voice reduces what’s available. So, as Cross says, “Verbal rumination concentrates our attention narrowly on the source of our emotional distress, thus stealing neurons that could better serve us. In effect, we jam our executive functions up by attending to a “dual task” – the task of doing whatever it is we want to do and the task of listening to our pained inner voice. Neurologically, that’s how chatter divides and blurs our attention.
What To Do?
This is where Cross gives us some weapons. The first one he calls “zooming out.” It is simply looking at your distress from a distance. Psychological distance helps. He says it “unclouds our verbal stream. “…you could use your mind to frame your problems from a zoomed-out perspective.” So you just see yourself from afar.
This weapon helps you control your emotional reaction. So you are really seeing the “big picture.” I like the question. “Will this matter when I am on my death bed?” That gives you some perspective. He calls this “temporal distancing.”
What Else to Do
There is much more. He recommends one of the four strategies in my book for handling adversity, journaling. He calls it the “power of the pen,” and it provides great psychological consolation.
Also, shift from using “I” to saying your first name or you or he or she “provides a mechanism for gaining emotional distance.”
Challenge or Threat
Mentioned above, using your first name can help you shift something from a threat to a challenge which is what you want. “Research shows that distanced self-talk leads people to consider stressful situations inmate challenge-oriented terms, allowing them to provide more encouraging, “you can do it” advice to themselves, rather than catastrophizing the situation.”
Be careful of dominoes! Our inner voice is like dominoes. One negative thought leads to another. This is because our emotional memories are linked and “governed by principles of “associationism.”
External order will help with internal chaos. Jordan B. Peterson discusses this a great deal when he talks about the importance of “cleaning your room.” You provide order in your external environment to help you with your internal one. It increases our sense of being in control.
As Cross explains how you create order doesn’t even have to have anything to do with what is causing you emotional pain. The author says, “We’re embedded on our physical spaces, and different features of these spaces activate psychological forces inside us, which affect how we think and feel.”
There is so much more in this book to help you master your inner world. Read it!