By Jeff Bullas
Conversations. We all have them.
We enjoy the banter and insights. We laugh, we joke and discuss what matters.
We are social creatures.
But there is another side to our conversations that is not often discussed.
Not talked about.
The other conversations
And I am not talking about the ones with other people. They are the quiet private chats we have with ourselves.
The stories that no one else hears.
Sometimes positive but often negative. And many times we don’t even know we are having them.
It is the “Monkey Mind” chatter and it is often relentless.
These are pointless and harmful conversations we have with ourselves.
I’m not good enough. They are out to get me. I can’t do that.
It is noise. We chastise ourself.
These conversations push us into the future and drag us into the past.
We get in our own way.
It is a human dilemma.
This mind chatter can become dis-ease.
It is the evil uncle that shows up uninvited.
If you allowed someone into your house and they told you out loud what you are telling yourself you would ask them to leave.
They aren’t welcome.
But they keep knocking. And they seem to show up at the normal times.
When we stop.
In the quiet moments.
The most disturbing?
In the darkness, in the middle of the night, before dawn.
In the gloom.
When no-one else is around.
How are these created?
It is part of being human.
Conversations can serve us or enslave us.
Some of us are damaged by parents and environments we didn’t choose.
Some of us are born with an extra dose of chemicals in the brain that seem to take over. Tip us into what sometimes feels like the edge of madness.
We experience a traumatic event.
Some of us are feeding our minds with media that don’t serve us. The industrial mass media conglomerates need drama. To sell more newspapers. Get more eyeballs. Make more money. Keep the shareholders happy.
We are wired to compare our insides with the outsides of others. You only have to spend some time on your Facebook or Instagram feed to see what I mean.
Happiness is dulled
And it makes us feel inadequate.
What’s the cost of this chatter?
It is hard to to put a price on this messy mind. And it can spread into our lives and businesses.
Stops us creating.
Diverts our attention from the important to the noise.
Drives us into depression.
Creates anxiety that is an imagined future.
It nurtures the nightmares.
While destroying dreams.
While posing and posturing as reality.
It doesn’t deserve the attention it demands.
Yet we are drawn into the vortex.
Is this a growing epidemic?
Often we are surrounded by the collateral damage of its activity. And we wonder.
Is modern society the cause?
Or has it always been there and just undiagnosed?
Is it due to the rise of the individual over the community?
Have we forgotten how to nurture the family that nourishes us? Many of us live on our own.
Is social media to blame?
Is it the consequence of a consumerized human society that values things, products and stuff over experiences, connection and community?
So….have we reprogrammed humanity to suffer more?
So what are the solutions?
It is complicated.
There are no easy answers.
How do you escape the painful words and doubts of the evil uncle that is whispering in your ear.
That show up at your from door.
We can take prescription drugs. Some are better than others. But they can be addictive and have side effects.
We can exercise.
We can consume positive media.
We can distract ourselves.
There are other well established methodologies that have been around for decades. One of these is Cognitive behaviour therapy. (CBT). According to clinical psychologist Deborah Serani in a Forbes article:
“Cognitive behavioral therapy is the gold standard when it comes to reducing negative thoughts,” says , It works on two levels—the first is with your thoughts, helping you to identify them, how they impact your well-being, and finally how to reframe them. The second level looks to shift your behavior to match your newly minted thoughts.”
More recent research has shown that mediation is also a powerful source of stilling the mind and relieving stress.
According to research published in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation has been found to relieve pain, reduce blood pressure, treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia to name just a few.
But the evidence has been with us for millennia.
Buddha described the mind as being like a tribe of wild jungle primates. Chattering, jumping around and incessantly screeching.
It’s called the monkey mind.
This mind chatter is dragging us into the future and back into the past. It is tiring and serves no purpose.
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present“. Unknown
One of the most powerful concepts found in the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle I discovered over a decade ago:
“The future hasn’t happened and the past doesn’t exist. All you have is now”.
The question I often pose to myself and others? “What is wrong with right now?
Being aware of the chatter and choosing to be present in the now is a life skill worth developing.
We need to do better
We worked out how to land on the moon, invented driverless cars and programmed computers with artificial intelligence but we are still trying to calm, control and program the mind so it works for us rather than against us.
So….we need to be aware of the conversations that invade our quiet moments.
It is time for us to be more observant of the stories we tell ourselves.
And come up with a better version.
And learn to still the chatter.
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