Mind chatter: to be stopped or savored for its insight into the human experience

If you’re stuck listening to sometime angry and critical voices in your head, you may be curious as to what they all mean. As a coach, I’ve been working with Positive Intelligence for six months and I’m learning more about what these voices mean and how to quiet them when they aren’t helping. 

In this New Yorker review of the new book “Chatter” by the experimental psychologist Ethan Kross, New Yorker writer Katy Waldman relates how different thinkers from King Solomon to Freud to Joan Didion have thought about these voices and what they mean.

Most of us want to quiet these voices, or at least slow them down so we can make sense of them. The voice or voices say so many different things that they really don’t help us “think through a problem.” Instead, they sow even more doubt and confusion.

In perhaps predictable New Yorker fashion, Ms. Waldman has a great curiosity about how thinkers and writers have tried to interpret this most human of phenomena. She is less interested in the self-help latter part of the book where the author suggests actual ways to stop the voices. Instead, Ms. Waldman relishes the polyphony of perspectives and would have preferred more anecdotes about their poetic use. She relishes the voices as part of our emotional selves. 

While I too enjoy the almost solipsistic appreciation of the inner mind’s cacophony, as if an entire universe exists between our two ears, I’m too aware of the real damage done by these voices. They stop us from feeling real happiness and force the mind to dwell on fear, shame, regret, and disappointment, disguised as ways to make us feel temporarily better. 

As a Positive Intelligence-trained coach, I’ve learned that these voices still are not meant to be stifled. Instead, we can learn to harness the best part of them. Using techniques similar to meditation and cognitive behavior techniques (CBT), we all can learn to recognize each voice, stop it, and pull from these in-the-head “conversations” wiser and more positive actions.


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