4 Ways to Harness Your Inner Voice

I’ve been reading a terrific book by Ethan Kross called Chatter. It delves into harnessing one’s inner voice.  What struck me initially is that there was a study on whether folks believed they had a voice in their head.  My inner voice was thinking, “Well no, duh, of course we all have an inner voice in our heads.  And then I thought…wow…are there really people out there without a running narrative on what they want to do next, what they would have done differently and reliving embarrassing moments, over and over and over again?”  Turns out there are certain medical conditions that cause a quieting of the inner voice; but then I think, that would be awful.  So apparently, I want the inner chatter in my head, I just want to be able to use it to enhance my life instead of driving me down an anxiety rabbit hole.

As Kross writes, “However it manifests itself, when the inner voice runs amok and chatter takes the mental microphone, our mind not only torments but paralyzes us. It can also lead us to do things that sabotage us.” I love the image of my self-critic running around with a microphone and how much I want to either turn down the volume, or hopefully, throw the microphone out. 

4 ways to harness your inner voice:

  1. Journal.  I have personally found this to be very beneficial.  When my ex-husband turned my world upside down, I wrote reams of vitriol words to exorcise him out of my head.  There is no need to edit or summarize or be grammatically correct.  I just dumped everything out on paper. I wrote to myself for myself as well as to forgive myself for my misguided trust. I find that writing on paper is best for me and as reported by Aytekin Tank for Fast Company, “Virginia Berninger, a professor emerita of education at the University of Washington, says the same: “When we write a letter of the alphabet, we form it component stroke, by component stroke, and that process of production involves pathways in the brain that go near or through parts that manage emotion.” Writing either in a journal or on sheets of paper really helped me turn down the inner voice.
  2. Fly on the wall. Recall past bad experiences through the vantage point of a fly rather than from your own eyes.  Adyuk and Kross studied the fly-on-the-wall effect in the laboratory. As written in APS, “In one series of experiments, for example, they asked volunteers to recall an intensely unpleasant experience—one that made them either very sad or very angry. Then they gave different volunteers different instructions. Some were told to visualize the experience through their own eyes, to immerse themselves in the sadness or anger and try to understand the feelings. Others were instructed to take the perspective of a fly on the wall—and with that perspective understand the feelings of that “distant self.” Those who experienced it from their own perspective, ended up reliving the bad experience.  Those who took on the fly perspective were able to be more subjective and analytical and were able to sustain this weeks later and, in many cases, had lower blood pressure.
  3. Second or third person.  When I coach clients, I’ve suggested using the second (you) or third (Suzy) person perspective when coping with challenges.  As Kross posits, “Use distanced self-talk. One way to create distance when you’re experiencing chatter involves language. When you’re trying to work through a difficult experience, use your name and the second-person “you” to refer to yourself.” I’ve noticed myself using this since reading the book. I’ve been in the middle of moving and I can start to get overwhelmed by the work I still need to do but I find myself saying, “You’ve got this, Cathy.  Step by step.” I find myself to be much more motivated and positive when my inner dialogue is focused on myself as a friend or third person.
  4. 10 years. When I first got sober, I used a program called the 30-day sobriety challenge and one of the most impactful tools was a meditation wherein I visualized myself in 10 years if I kept drinking alcohol. I rarely think about my future self and the impact of what I’m doing currently on what lay down the road. When I coach clients and they have a difficult decision or conversation pending I use a tool called 10:10:10. This is a concept developed by Suzy Welch for decision making. “Here’s how it works. Every time I find myself in a situation where there appears to be no solution that will make everyone happy, I ask myself three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years?” So, when inner dialogue starts nit picking or ruminating about how much I disagree with a recent corporate decision or deciding on a big purchase or moving to a larger city;  I ask my inner voice to think about what Cathy ten years in the future will think.

Kross refers to distancing throughout the book.  All of these methods require, in a metaphoric sense, to step out of your brain, your own self, by either by dumping it on paper outside of yourself, taking on a different, outside perspective as a fly, or third person, or by time traveling into the future. In all four ways the microphone is turned down and a different view is presented. How do you harness your inner voice?

4 Steps to Amor Fati

This is a repost from two years ago. Enjoy!

Definition of amor fati : love of fate : the welcoming of all life’s experiences as good

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche describes Amor Fati: “That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…. but love it.” Appalachian Trail thru-hikers (an epic, several-month-long trek over 2,000 miles) would express this as “Embrace the Suck.” Bryon Katie wrote a whole book on the topic called Loving What Is. I’ve spent decades trying to recreate history and control the path of my future, my kid’s future and my family’s future. I imagine I have a giant eraser to take back a failed marriage and wallow in regret, or project forward that my father will miraculously cheat death as he slowly succumbs to congestive heart failure. I have learned over the last few years that I am powerless to rewrite history and to meaningfully alter the future. Amor Fati.

Here are the 4 steps to Amor Fati:

Quit Complaining

As Will Bowen says, “Complaining is like bad breath – you notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, but not when it comes out of your own.” Bowen is the creator of A Complaint Free World  and challenges folks to go complaint free for 21 days. I remember taking this challenge some 7 years ago and I have to say, it’s pretty tough. I mean there is the weather, the traffic, my son still hasn’t responded to my text, the soup is cold, the package is late, my assistant hasn’t responded…but I digress into complaining. It’s so easy to deny what is. It’s like the negativity bias that saved your ancestors from saber-toothed tigers. It is constantly scanning the environment to track everything that is wrong. Try it for today. Just today. Be focused on what’s right with the world. With your world. I have a roof, a loving dog, a warm house and potable water. Welcome the rain, the red light, the screaming infant. Amor Fati.

Jump Forward

When I was going through my Brain Based Coaching training some eight years ago, I remember a tool we used called 10:10:10. This is a concept developed by Suzy Welch for decision making. “Here’s how it works. Every time I find myself in a situation where there appears to be no solution that will make everyone happy, I ask myself three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years?” So, if staying late to complete a project for your boss means missing your child’s play at school using the 10:10:10 process there may be a happy boss and perhaps a more resilient child. As Ryan Holiday wrote, “The loss of a loved one, a breakup, some public embarrassment… In five years, are you still going to be mortified, or are you still going to be wracked with grief? Probably not. That’s not saying that you won’t feel bad, but you’re not going to feel as terrible as you do now. So, why are you punishing yourself?” I’ve been thinking about selling my house for the last year or so. I remember selling my house some 18 years ago in California. I thought, at the time, I will never live like this again. It was true, not because my current situation is worse, it’s just different and I never would have imagined how terrific things are right now. Maybe the future is so much better than you think. Amor Fati.

Embrace the Challenge

When my ex-husband left me hanging after my home was flooded by Hurricane Matthew, I was devastated. And then? I decided that this was a challenge. I was going to get the home repaired, fix my devastated finances and create a space of tranquility and comfort. I had an endless punch list and day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, I took it on and conquered it all. I would not succumb regardless of my lack of knowledge of plumbing, HVAC or foreclosure. In retrospect, the challenge of overcoming all the obstacles was the best part. I didn’t want to go through it, but now that I have, I am so glad I did. As Holiday wrote, “It’s like in a game, right? Let’s say I throw you into a football game. If you stop and spend all your time arguing over the rules, you’re never going play. Maybe it doesn’t make sense that the overtime rules are this way or that quarterbacks get special protection, or this or that, right? There are all these different rules that make no sense that are arbitrarily how the game has developed since its inception. The Stoics are asking you in some ways to accept the arbitrary rules. Then they’re saying you play the game with everything you’ve got.” Play the game and embrace the challenge. Amor Fati.

Grateful

Amor means love. It’s not just about accepting the suffering or fate; it’s about loving it. I think about this a lot as I sort through the aftermath of my divorce. I am grateful for the process, for each and every decision, good or bad, for the pain and the release, for the deception and the triumph. I would not be where I am now without the journey, without the emotional bruises, without the struggle. I am so grateful to be the woman I have become. Sober, independent, present and courageous. I do a loving kindness meditation every morning. I wish happiness, peace, health and living with ease to everyone in my family, my boyfriend, my sick cousin, my enemies and, lastly, my ex-husband. I imagine embracing each one. I love them all for what they have brought to my life and love the hand I have been dealt. I am most grateful for my ex-husband leaving me to live my life to the fullest. Amor Fati.

It’s all about reframing the journey. Instead of dreading the court date, looking forward to and loving what fate has in store for me. I think a lot about, “Hmm, I wonder what exciting twist will occur?” or “What does the universe have planned for me now?” I’m not sure where I will be in 5 or 10 years but I know the journey will be exciting. Amor Fati.