Monday 3 June 2024

Stop listening to yourself, always. Instead try talking to yourself.

The mind often fabricates details to fill in the context and complete the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, making memory inherently imperfect. In Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert illustrates this fallacy by recounting how people frequently misremember the past, believing in reconstructed memories that never actually occurred.

Be aware that not everything you think is true.

Therefore, if you listen to everything your mind tells you, you are likely to be misled. Both intentionally and unintentionally. Intentionally because the mind is pre-disposed to be risk averse and therefore only emphasizes those facts that are likely to keep us all safe and unexposed to dangers. Unintentionally, because the mind has to retrieve faulty memory and also create parts of it to present a full picture. An in doing so, it often ends up showing us things which we are familiar with.

But why is listening to all of one’s thoughts problematic? It is because, it is here that fixed mindset and the forces of ‘Resistance’ live and thrive. By ‘Resistance’ here I am referring to the force Steven Pressfield describes in War of Art as the internal barrier that prevents individuals from pursuing their creative and meaningful work.

Instead, if you can talk to yourself like you would a friend in need, it will help you overcome problems by challenging assumptions in a supportive and trusted manner. Have a conversation with yourself. 

Consider the following questions as prompts during an inward dialogue:

First to establish evidence or the lack of it:

  • “Hey, is what you are thinking actually true?”
  • “Can you be absolutely certain it is true?”
  • “What evidence do you have for that?”
  • “What if this was not true?”

Next, address preconceptions and explore uncertainties:

  • “What are you going to think next about this?”
  • “What assumptions are you making?”

Finally, affirm your agency to handle the situation:

  • “What needs to happen if the thought is true?”
  • “If true, how have other people you know dealt with this?”
  • “If true, what have you tried in the past that might work to help resolve it for the better?”
  • “What does not change if this is true?”

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