In Conversation with the Self

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.”

~ Horace

Inner monologue is the verbal dialogue that runs (often amok) in one’s mind, and is in many ways reflective of one’s sense of self. Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions of the human psyche is the idea that you are your thoughts; I think the inner monologue is better characterized as some semi-autonomous entity which, whilst being able to wander independently in the absence of guidance, can be controlled, or at least reined, with adequate awareness and proper practice.

The capacity for internal dialogue is likely unique to the human species, facilitating critical thinking, self-reflection and emotion. Moreover, it is tied to the development of language, is integral to the discovery of new knowledge and is essential to decision-making processes. However the inner monologue can, if not properly managed, have a mind of its own. One must learn to master and direct one’s internal dialogue, which can be accomplished through techniques such as meditation and deliberate thought insertion. Thought-watching is an important component of meditation and is a useful tool for mastering the internal dialogue and heightening awareness of the self. When one is aware of particular thought patterns or ruminations, one can choose to watch them and allow them to pass by instead of fixating on the thought and elaborating further upon it; whilst one cannot dictate the contents of every thought, one can learn to pick and choose the thoughts which one wishes to spend his limited mental bandwidth on. The utility of directing one’s internal dialogue is apparent in the strategies used to treat mental health conditions. Often patients are told to employ positive self-talk, which acknowledges the emotions and psychological conditions of the moment but with an aim to view them in a more positive light. Conversely, negative self-talk is often a contributor to psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and bulimia, where individuals are no longer able to control their internal dialogue and fixate on particular thoughts or beliefs. External phenomena may exacerbate such thought patterns, and the individual can get stuck in a dangerous psychological loop.

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.”

~ Laird Hamilton

Studying your own inner monologue is an eternal process, however with time you will learn much about yourself and your conscious and sub-conscious tendencies. The ability to choose which thoughts you engage with facilitates careful decision-making in difficult situations and will save you many, many hours of unnecessary negative self-talk.

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

~ Seneca


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