Are You a Victim of the Mental Chatter in Your Head?
An Out-of-Control Mind can Drive You Nuts
People commonly believe that spontaneously appearing thoughts in the mind are random and appear out of nowhere. But the truth is, they are rooted in the deep-seated desires, beliefs and values. Every desire, value or belief promotes a certain type of thoughts and thinking pattern. Taken together, the cocktail of thoughts results in an overall thinking pattern – we call it our normal way of thinking. Given how today’s society functions and the state of fragile relationships, we predominantly live with negative thoughts and sense of fear and insecurity.
As long as we have the “luxury” of our own thinking, we say we are fine. But when something happens that challenges the “normal” thinking, we end up in turmoil – whirlpool of out of control mental chatter, more accurately. It is as if a stone is thrown in a pond of still water. The pond regains its normal stillness after the turbulence subsides – it is normal. But with most people, the mental mayhem sometimes gets obsessive and they simply can’t get out of it. Those who have faced such a situation know how it throws them out of balance and vitiates their performance. When people are forced to live with such an insane mind, then falling for addictions of drugs, alcohol or narcotics becomes a rule, not exception.
In fact, mind is too precious a commodity to have it abused in such a silly and irresponsible manner. Unfortunately, its fitness gets the least importance because most of its functions don't get manifested as body chemicals, as demanded by the so-called ‘scientific research.’ As a result, today’s healthcare and the medicine system practically ignore the role of mind and mental activities in various diseases. On the contrary, an Eastern system of medicine such as the India’s Ayurveda or even the science of Yoga looks at health as that of the whole mind-body complex – from the holistic perspective. In fact, chronic health troubles can’t be cured without bringing the mind into picture.
When it comes to cultivation of mind and mental well-being nothing can beat the technique of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. In fact, mindfulness is the ideal tool to discipline, cultivate the mind and develop insight into the inner self. However, before delving into that let’s start with this short tale.
A Tale of Two Monks
Two monks were returning to their monastery. It was a day long walk. They had to cross a river on the way and must reach the monastery before sunset.
When they reached the river, they found a young lady sitting there. She could not muster courage to walk through the turbulent water to reach the other shore and was looking for help. She felt happy when she saw the two monks approaching the river. She requested them to help her cross the river.
The elder monk flatly refused saying that it would be a sin to touch a woman and she must manage on her own. The lady was disappointed and pleaded that she would not be safe unless she reached her village on the other side of the river. And that she couldn't cross the river on her own. But the elder monk remained adamant despite her repeated pleading.
The younger monk felt pity and decided to help her. Ignoring the displeasure of his senior he asked her to wrap her dress nicely around her and sit on his shoulder. He would drop her at the other shore.
The senior monk became angry at this “totally unbecoming” conduct of his younger companion, but decided to say nothing in the presence of the lady.
The lady mounted the shoulder of the junior monk and slowly they all reached the other shore. The monk dropped her. She thanked them both and walked away.
But now the senior monk could not control himself any more. He became furious and started reprimanding his junior. He went on lecturing citing the code of conduct for monks, … how he has never seen any other monk breaking rules in this manner in his whole life, … how touching the woman would lead him to hell, … how he has just tarnished the image of all the monks and the monastery, …on and on and on.
Couple of hours later, they reached their destination. The senior monk was still furious and lecturing.
The younger monk finally broke his silence and said
“Sir, I carried the woman on my shoulder for few minutes and dropped her at the river hours ago, but why are you still carrying her on your head?”
Why Can't We Drop Our Mental Load?
Practically 99% people are like the senior monk. When they return home from work they bring their office with them. And the result? They make everyone around them miserable. I know from personal experience – it is something that we all want to do and know that it is the right thing to do. But just can't leave the mental load in the office and come home light-headed.
Why can't people "switch off" their mind when they come to home? Because they don’t have a disciplined or cultivated mind and live at the mercy of its vagaries. They may be slave-masters at work but themselves remain slave of the mind – ignorant and happy slave though!!
When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.
- Eckhart Tolle
Hello, I am the Chatter-box in Your Head!
Whether we like it or not, we all have a chatter-box in our head? It talks incessantly picking on one thought after another – it continues non-stop whether we are working, reading, watching TV, walking, eating, or doing nothing. Besides causing distraction, it can also paralyze us into inaction or make us crazy when it goes out of control.
The negative mental chatter is generally triggered by some unpleasant event or offending words that hurts us. Finding fertile ground, this mental chatter goes into repetitive mode. It re-enact the painful incidence again and again as if searching for better and more satisfactory "response" that did not happen when the incidence happened originally. This endless spinning of thought keeps the pain alive and thus, keeps us on "fire."
Regardless of what triggers the mental chatter, it degrades the quality of attention in the present moment.
When we hear people talking aloud with themselves we consider it weird. But the soundless talking that goes on inside practically everyone is no less bizarre. As long as we don’t end up verbalizing what is going on inside the head we are able to maintain the face of sanity, at least in the eyes of people around us. But the battle to defuse the "pressure bomb" waiting to explode inside, if happens regularly, is sure to leave us with a variety of imbalances that will force us to look for medical help sooner than later.
Spinning Mind can Drive You Nuts
This is the situation when you are literally an explosive device waiting to be triggered at the slightest provocation. You are no less dangerous than a loaded gun with a trembling finger at the trigger. It is this situation that forces people to look for a safety outlet in shouting, throwing tantrum, smoking, drinking, compulsive eating, taking drugs or narcotics and so on. All these are coping mechanisms that no one considers healthy, but even the wisest soul would find difficult not to fall for. Often people spend hours possessed by negative and destructive mental broadcast.
This neurotic inner talking wastes a lot of energy and time. It is a destructive force that feeds on itself. The longer it sustains the weaker you become. It badly affects your behavior, judgment, and performance. Picking on the graphics vocabulary, you are reduced to the size of a thumbnail icon from your normal size!
Needless to say, the repetitive negative thinking also reinforces the accompanying less-than-appropriate behavior pattern in the subconscious mind. Few people have enough internal strength to be able to withstand the onslaught of the incessant negative mental chatter.
At the core, stress is nothing but inappropriate obsessive mental talk triggered by negative events. If you don't handle it carefully it soon gets out of control and possesses you like a ghost. The best place for this mental Ginny is inside the bottle, not out of it. Once out, it is a trouble for you and everyone around you. It feeds on your fears, insecurities, and vulnerability. It also feeds on your wrong attitudes and faulty belief and value system.
So learn to fortify yourself emotionally if you want stay on the path of sanity, happiness and progress.
When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice — the thinker — but the one who is aware of it.
- Eckhart Tolle
Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom.
- Eckhart Tolle
What can you do about the Mental Talk?
The first thing you have to understand is that thoughts will always cross the mind; you can’t stop them. In fact, thoughts are not the problem, the uncontrolled train of thoughts are. The key to gaining control over the mental activity is to become “consciously aware” (mindful) of the thoughts and feeling arising in the mind. There is a continuous stream of thoughts, feelings, urges on the mental screen but you have no training to look at them. You are merely reacting to them in automation. This is how you normally live; helplessly dictated and governed – like a slave!
Once you realize that as long as you identify with your thoughts, feelings and emotions you are at their mercy. But once you step aside and know yourself as the awareness that merely notices the mind and its contents, you have taken control; you are free.
It is ironical that people are smart enough to create most sophisticated software to run complicated machines but when it comes to taking care of their own mental software that operates them, they have no clue about how it change it. Unfortunately, we all spend the whole life watching and controlling the world outside but remain utterly illiterate about the world within. However, the good news is that it is absolutely possible to fix the mental bugs if we really want to.
Mindfulness is the tool that you need to take charge of your inner world. It offers you the platform of awareness to stand on firmly and operate from there. It helps you cut your identification with your thinking and everything the mind does. It makes you immune to mental activities. This is precisely what you need; it is empowerment. However, it needs training and practice – please don’t look at it as a quick fix or something like an instant pain killer tablet. Besides putting you incharge of your life, it also automatically disciplines and cultivates your mind.
It is interesting that as a matter of life style, all skills related to mind come from the East; the technique of mindfulness is no exception. The Buddha used it as Vipassana meditationfor complete cessation of suffering that leads to liberation of human beings. It is thus a profound technique. Fortunately, in last fifty years Vipassana meditation has spread across the world, giving relief to all who practice it honestly; in fact, people accept it as an art of living.
How do you handle unpleasant thoughts?
Mindfulness is the art and science of objective and non-judgmental observation of the self, the being who we are. It involves observing things as they are – without bias of likes and dislikes, without preference or prejudice and without choosing or rejecting. It also involves efforts to stay in the present moment and watching it pass-by moment by moment. It involves a non-judgmental and neutral watchfulness of feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations as they come and go. It certainly involves efforts to not get carried away by them - that is the only effort required from you!
Mindfulness means registering experiences, but not comparing them, evaluating them, labeling them or categorizing them. It involves bringing the mind back to watchfulness each time it begins to think, imaging or analyze. In nutshell, mindfulness is the training in ‘bare observation’ and ‘mere observation.’
An important part of the overall effort is to realize that you don't own thoughts. That way you don’t get involved with them and with practice you will be able to distance yourself from your own mental activities and slowly transform from a doer to an observer. This is a significant transformation that empowers you and puts in the driving seat of your life. You no longer ‘react’ but you now ‘respond’ because you now ‘detached’ rather than ‘involved’.
The ability to disengage from the happenings in the mind is a powerful tool – it is power and freedom; it is also energy and control.
This sense of detachment allows you the freedom and space to frame your response, to maneuver. It is your attachment to thoughts that fuels the mental chattering. Your refusal to get involved allows you see things from a neutral perspective and you become rather composed. Once you become disinterested, thoughts lose power. It is like switching off the ignition of the running car – it is going to stop soon on its own!
Mindfulness is a fascinating art; you may explore the following page for a good understanding of mindfulness: 12 Ways to Describe Mindfulness for Beginners.
- Healing Wisdom | The Chopra Center
Humans have the power to change their biology through our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. When we show love positive thoughts and emotions course through our body and strengthen our immune system.
- Mindfulness can treat anxiety and depression
Western researchers are discovering now, what the East has known for ages, that mindfulness can relieve anxiety and improve mood. In fact, it is much more useful than that.
- How to Switch Off Mental Chatter
Good tips to stop mental chatter.
When a thought grabs your attention, you have identified with it and have invested a part of your sense of self. This is the mind-made (or man-made) “me” – the ego.
The practice of mindfulness trains you to watch your thoughts as another person – the identification is weakened and ultimately broken. Now you are not the thinker, but someone who is just aware of it, knowing it.
This gives you a sense of freedom, from the bondage of thinking. This provides you space to operate from strength. The more you practice, the wider the space and greater the ease with which you go about your life. Don’t be surprised to discover stillness and peace as well as spontaneous love and compassion in this space! It always existed but you discovered it only after you found the space. Yet another discovery would be that your likes and dislikes or biases and preferences no longer dictate your behavior. You no longer react habitually, but act from choice and rationality.
And, without realizing you are already on the path of self-realization and liberation !!
Simple, isn't it!