If an inner voice is taken to rule us, it means that there will soon be problems. Soul feelings are akin to physical pain. In many languages of the world, words such as “hurt,” ” injure,” “traumatize” are used when referring to both internal discomfort and bodily discomfort.
Words and thoughts affect the body by triggering intracellular mechanisms similar to the response to physical pain, psychologist Ethan Kross writes in his book “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” where he gives recommendations on how to talk to yourself in order not to hurt yourself.
So, what principles do you need to follow in order to be in harmony with your inner voice?
1. Soothe the inner voice with touches
Gentle touch is a very powerful tool. In a number of experiments, scientists have concluded that a simple touch on the shoulder lasting no more than a second allowed people with low self-esteem to worry less about death and feel a closer connection with other people. Even more surprisingly, a hug, even with an artificial but pleasant-to-touch object, such as a teddy bear, was helpful. The brain probably views touching a teddy bear as interpersonal contact.
What we give and receive in our daily interactions with others enriches us and soothes our inner voice. If you’re feeling anxious, influence your inner voice through tactile contact: touch something nice, soft, and lovable.
2. Don’t share your negativity with others
Emotions are like fuel for a jet engine; they encourage us to talk to someone and tell them what thoughts and feelings are running through our heads. However, researchers have found that discussing negative experiences with others doesn’t help any recovery.
Yes, this is completely contrary to conventional wisdom. Mass culture claims that if you lighten your soul, you feel better. Of course, by sharing with someone, we feel the support of those close to us. But the way we talk and listen has almost no effect on the inner monologue. Often the speaker inside us only gets heated, so if you want to find peace of mind, don’t talk about your problems.
3. Distance yourself
In 1970, Aaron Beck, one of the founders of behavioral psychotherapy and a respected psychiatrist, suggested that impassioned scrutiny of one’s thoughts is the main tool that psychotherapists should use in working with clients. It was this process that Beck called distancing. In later years, however, distancing came to be understood as avoidance – that is, attempts not to think about problems. However, distancing in no way implies avoidance. Theoretically, you can use your consciousness to look at a difficult situation from the outside.
This approach is different from the mindfulness method. It does not involve standing back and watching thoughts flow without dwelling on them. The point is to perceive your thoughts, but from a distance, and this is not avoidance at all.
4. Take a look at yourself from the outside
The ability to look at ourselves from the outside is a powerful visualization mechanism built into the mind. When we recall unpleasant events from the past or paint troubling scenarios for the future, we mentally play out an entire performance in our head. It’s like a video stored in your phone. However, the scenes are not repeated exactly. Our memories and dreams change each time, we see different pictures.
For example, sometimes we replay in our minds what happened as if we were present. And then we observe ourselves from the outside, as if we had changed our vantage point. It’s like watching a fly on the wall. We can use this ability to control our inner voice.
5. Imagine yourself a bystander
If the inner voice has gone into fruitless musings after an unpleasant conversation with another person or group of people, imagine that you are a neutral bystander whose task is to find a solution that would satisfy all parties to the conflict. This will help reduce the intensity of the negative emotions, calm the agitated speaker inside, and have a beneficial effect on our relationships with those involved in the unpleasant conversation, including our other halves.
6. Imagine giving advice to a friend
Another way to distance yourself from the problem is to imagine that you are giving advice to a friend in a similar situation. Think about what advice you would give him, and then follow it.
7. Talk to yourself
It doesn’t matter if you imagine yourself as a “fly on the wall,” mentally travel through time, or see yourself and your predicament on a smaller scale. You can distance yourself in any way you like. Using second- and third-person pronouns, you can normalize your experience with the universal “you”. In this way you will create a valuable resource for battling your inner voice.
Talking to yourself as if you were someone else encourages people to see the circumstances as an opportunity. You will mentally support yourself (“you can do it”) and become less inclined to dramatize the situation.
8. Call yourself by name
This is a continuation of the previous point. The frequent appearance of the pronoun “I” is a sure indicator of unpleasant emotions. For example, one of the experiments took place in six laboratories in two countries, and almost five thousand people participated in it. Scientists found a strong correlation between the pronoun “I” and negative feelings.
According to another study, you can predict the likelihood of depression in the future by analyzing the frequency with which the pronoun “I” is used in Facebook posts. In other words, if you talk to yourself using the pronouns “I”, “me” and “mine” it could be a linguistic sign of lingering self-deprecation.
Use your own name and second and third person pronouns (as discussed above), thus giving the impression that you are talking to another person, while you are talking to yourself.
9. Get yourself an amulet
If you simply believe that a certain object or the performance of some ritual will help you cope with your inner chatter, that is exactly what is likely to happen, thanks to our brain’s expectations. It is not necessary to believe in supernatural powers for a positive result. It is enough to understand that such actions stimulate the healing abilities of the brain.
10. Create a ritual and take part in it
Here by ritual is meant a clear sequence of actions with a certain meaning. For example, giving a sense of order and control, which is often very helpful in the case of inner chatter. Although many of the rituals in which we engage are the product of family or culture (e.g., praying to ourselves or meditating), procedures that you have invented yourself will also bring you peace of mind.
For example, you can tidy up the apartment, move objects from one place to another, step in a certain order (remember, as a child: we step only on the gray tiles, and you can not step on the white), and so on.
11. Take a look at the negative from the other side
We make the mistake of valuing the inner voice only because it inspires us. Even if the inner dialogue causes negative feelings, that in itself is not a bad thing. As painful as it is, the ability to feel fear, excitement, anger, and other negative emotions in small doses is helpful. It mobilizes us to respond appropriately to changes in the world around us.
In other words, in many cases the inner voice is useful not in spite of the pain it causes, but because of it. Negative attitudes cloud the mind, but without the inner speaker it would be difficult for us to learn, change, and improve.
If these tips were helpful to you, we advise you to read this wonderful book in its entirety. Buy book “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” on Amazon.