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Fast Company

How To Mute Your Negative Inner Dialogue

Stop being your own worst critic. Here's how you can clear your mind chatter and live in the now.

You’ve heard that voice in your head. You’ve lived with it for so long, you probably don’t even notice it anymore. What you do know is that this voice drives you crazy because it just won’t stop. It’s incessant, and has an opinion about everything.

If you’re someone who is always "in your head," you have difficulty being present even when you’re surrounded by people because you’re drowned in your own thoughts.

Constantly being in your head also stops you from living a full life. Instead you are just an observer of your life. You are just watching it while the voice inside you narrates the world. You’re basically re-creating the outside world inside of yourself and then you live it in your mind.

A Defense Mechanism

Why do you have to do this? You already see everything that is happening on the outside, so why do you have to repeat it in your head?

In his book The Untethered Soul, author Michael Singer says people do this to protect themselves from the world. If they narrate it in their mind, then they feel like they have more control of what’s happening, but this is untrue. Either way, you have no way of protecting yourself from anything that will happen.

He writes:

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 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 . . . 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.

But what can you do to stop this voice that is a part of you? According to Singer, this voice isn’t you and the faster you learn how to separate those thoughts from who you are, the quicker you will be able to experience the world in a stark, unfiltered way.

Turn Off The Voice For Good

To manipulate these thoughts, first take a step back from that voice and view it objectively. It’s important that you understand that nothing your inner voice says is really you. If you take sides and think one voice is more representative of you than the other, then you’ve already failed at being objective.

The best way to separate yourself is to imagine the voice as a separate human who just won’t shut up.

"Make believe that your roommate, the psyche, has a body of its own," Singer says. "You do this by taking the entire personality that you hear talking to you just inside and imagine it as a person talking to you on the outside. Just imagine that another person is now saying everything that your inner voice would say. Now spend a day with that person."

You will eventually find that you need to get as far away from this person as possible because they’re neurotic and they scare you. The more you realize that these thoughts won’t help you get anywhere faster and that they’re not really you, the quicker you will become a much happier, peaceful person. The faster you will be able to experience the world as a person living in it—not as a person trapped in their own mind.

[Image: Flickr user Derrick Tyson]