“Shoot, I can’t remember her name. What is her name? Darn, here she comes. What is it… Sally… Sue? She just told me yesterday. What’s the matter with me? This is going to be embarrassing.”
In case you haven’t noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it? How much of what it says turns out to be true? How much of what it says is even important? And if right now you are hearing, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have any voice inside my head!”—that’s the voice we’re talking about.
If you’re smart, you’ll take the time to step back, examine this voice, and get to know it better. The problem is, you’re too close to be objective. You have to step way back and watch it converse. While you’re driving, you hear internal conversations like,
“Wasn’t I supposed to call Fred? I should have. Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot! He’s going to be so mad. He may never talk to me again. Maybe I should stop and call him right now. No. I don’t want to stop the car right now…”
Notice that the voice takes both sides of the conversation. It doesn’t care which side it takes, just as long as it gets to keep on talking. When you’re tired and trying to sleep, it’s the voice inside your head that says,
“What am I doing? I can’t go to sleep yet. I forgot to call Fred. I remembered in the car but I didn’t call. If I don’t call now…oh wait, it’s too late. I shouldn’t call him now. I don’t even know why I thought about it. I need to fall asleep. Oh shoot, now I can’t fall asleep. I’m not tired anymore. But I have a big day tomorrow, and I have to get up early.”
No wonder you can’t sleep! Why do you even tolerate that voice talking to you all the time? Even if what it’s saying is soothing and nice, it’s still disturbing everything you’re doing.
If you spend some time observing this mental voice, the first thing you will notice is that it never shuts up. When left to its own, it just talks. Imagine if you were to see someone walking around constantly talking to himself. You’d think he was strange. You’d wonder, “If he’s the one who’s talking and he’s the one who’s listening, he obviously knows what’s going to be said before he says it. So what’s the point?” The same is true for the voice inside your head. Why is it talking? It’s you who’s talking, and it’s you who’s listening. And when the voice argues with itself, who is it arguing with? Who could possibly win? It gets very confusing. Just listen:
“I think I should get married. No! You know you’re not ready. You’ll be sorry. But I love him. Oh come on, you felt that way about Tom. What if you had married him?”
If you watch carefully, you’ll see that it’s just trying to find a comfortable place to rest. It will change sides in a moment if that seems to help. And it doesn’t even quiet down when it finds out that it’s wrong. It simply adjusts its viewpoint and keeps on going. If you pay attention, these mental patterns will become obvious to you. It’s actually a shocking realization when you first notice that your mind is constantly talking. You might even try to yell at it in a feeble attempt to shut it up. But then you realize that’s the voice yelling at the voice:
“Shut up! I want to go to sleep. Why do you have to talk all the time?”
Obviously, you can’t shut it up that way. The best way to free yourself from this incessant chatter is to step back and view it objectively. Just view the voice as a vocalizing mechanism that is capable of making it appear like someone is in there talking to you. Don’t think about it; just notice it. No matter what the voice is saying, it’s all the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s saying nice things or mean things, worldly things or spiritual things. It doesn’t matter because it’s still just a voice talking inside your head. In fact, the only way to get your distance from this voice is to stop differentiating what it’s saying. Stop feeling that one thing it says is you and the other thing it says is not you. If you’re hearing it talk, it’s obviously not you. You are the one who hears the voice. You are the one who notices that it’s talking.
You do hear it when it talks, don’t you? Make it say “hello” right now. Say it over and over a few times. Now shout it inside! Can you hear yourself saying “hello” inside? Of course you can. There is a voice talking, and there is you who notices the voice talking. The problem is that it’s easy to notice the voice saying “hello,” but it’s difficult to see that no matter what the voice says, it is still just a voice talking and you listening. There is absolutely nothing that voice can say that is more you than anything else it says. Suppose you were looking at three objects—a flowerpot, a photograph, and a book—and were then asked, “Which of these objects is you?” You’d say, “None of them! I’m the one who’s looking at what you’re putting in front of me. It doesn’t matter what you put in front of me, it’s always going to be me looking at it.” You see, it’s an act of a subject perceiving various objects. This is also true of hearing the voice inside. It doesn’t make any difference what it’s saying, you are the one who is aware of it. As long as you think that one thing it’s saying is you, but the other thing it’s saying is not you, you’ve lost your objectivity. You may want to think of yourself as the part that says the nice things, but that’s still the voice talking. You may like what it says, but it’s not you.
There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it. If you don’t understand this, you will try to figure out which of the many things the voice says is really you. People go through so many changes in the name of “trying to find myself.” They want to discover which of these voices, which of these aspects of their personality, is who they really are. The answer is simple: none of them.
If you watch it objectively, you will come to see that much of what the voice says is meaningless. Most of the talking is just a waste of time and energy. The truth is that most of life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside your control, regardless of what your mind says about it. It’s like sitting down at night and deciding whether you want the sun to come up in the morning. The bottom line is, the sun will come up and the sun will go down. Billions of things are going on in this world. You can think about it all you want, but life is still going to keep on happening.
In fact, your thoughts have far less impact on this world than you would like to think. If you’re willing to be objective and watch all your thoughts, you will see that the vast majority of them have no relevance. They have no effect on anything or anybody, except you. They are simply making you feel better or worse about what is going on now, what has gone on in the past, or what might go on in the future. If you spend your time hoping that it doesn’t rain tomorrow, you are wasting your time. Your thoughts don’t change the rain. You will someday come to see that there is no use for that incessant internal chatter, and there is no reason to constantly attempt to figure everything out. Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems. ……
What is life like when having your period puts your health at risk and means you are shunned by society? Rose George reports from Nepal and Bangladesh on menstrual Taboos on
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What would it be like to be free from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to find this kind of inner peace and freedom? The Untethered Soul offers a simple, profoundly intuitive answer to these questions. Whether this is your first exploration of inner space or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.
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the voice inside your head