Imagine that, wherever you went, you had another person with you. Whether you were visiting your family, hanging out with your friends, going to work, eating dinner, or trying to sleep, they were there.
Not only that, but they were constantly talking. You’d be speaking to your mother and trying to pay attention to what she was saying, but this person would just be there, talking literally nonstop and saying things like, “She’s wrong about that,” “Oh my god, I just thought of the perfect thing to say to that,” and “I’m really hungry, I need lunch.”
Same thing when you try to go to sleep. That person is still right there, talking constantly. You tell them to shut up, but they don’t. They just keep going and going. And not only will they not let you rest, but they’ll take every possible side and all possible viewpoints of a story.
I can’t believe she did that to me.
You let her do that.
So? She shouldn’t have treated me like that.
You shouldn’t have allowed her to do that.
She was going through a lot though and you tried to be understanding.
You should’ve cut her off ages ago.
You just need to take responsibility.
She can be kind, though, and warm, and supportive
She doesn’t love you. She never did.
What’s this YouTube video? It looks good.
I’m gonna check my phone now
Should I go for a run tomorrow?
And all those times she just ignored me?
I need you to imagine that a person who is with you constantly has just said all of those things in a matter of seconds. If this were a real life situation, if you had a person with you constantly and all they did was talk complete nonsense, you wouldn’t tolerate it for long. You’d want to get as far away from this person as possible, and you’d never want to see them again, no matter what.
That person isn’t real, thank goodness. But this experience is real, isn’t it? Because it’s what your mind does to you all the time.
Think about it (the irony, I know): Does your mind ever shut up? Does that voice in your head ever stop talking? No. It just goes on and on and on about anything and everything without interruption, as it has done for pretty much your whole life.
Now, let me ask you this: Would you ever take advice from this person? This person who constantly talks no matter what and takes all sides of any conversation regardless of what the actual reality is? This person who is quite clearly unstable?
Of course not. You’d have to be mad to take advice from someone like this. They’d ruin your life easily and quickly. And yet we let the voice in our head tell us what to do every single day of our lives. For some of you, it might have been responsible for literally every decision you’ve ever made. And you wonder why you notice you’re feeling anxious and depressed?
You might think I phrased that last sentence strangely.
And you wonder why you notice you’re feeling anxious and depressed.
Usually, people say things like “I’m anxious” or “I’m depressed.” Well, that makes no sense. It’s wrong. It’s not even debatable. Can you see why?
It’s the same with this voice in your head. You hear it and listen to it and take advice from it and pay attention to it, so it can’t be you. By definition, it has to be something else.
Same with feelings. You’re the one noticing the feelings, so by definition you must be separate from the feelings.
Don’t overthink this. It’s not complicated. It’s very simple.
You are separate from the voice in your head and any feelings you experience. It just doesn’t feel like that because you’ve never been told that, and you’ve just accepted that you have to be governed by these thoughts no matter what. Plus, they’re extremely easy to get sucked into. How many times have you gone down a train of thought for who knows how long and then sort of snapped back into consciousness? How many times have you done that when there’s literally another person right in front of you trying to have a conversation with you? Yeah. Many times.
So, not only is this voice in your head talking constantly about all kinds of pointless and destructive things, it’s also something that’s very easy to get sucked into because we haven’t questioned this at any point in our entire lives and we’re essentially addicted to listening to it.
This is why you might be noticing that you’re sometimes feeling anxious or depressed.
The good news is that you don’t have to keep doing this. You don’t have to keep living like this. You can do something else.
What you can do, first and foremost, is to just observe the voice. That’s it. Nothing more. In fact, try it now. Make it say, “Hello.” Easy, right? There. That’s the voice.
Once you start observing it—instead of getting sucked into it—you’ll start to notice the absurdity of how much it talks and the irrelevance of what it says.
At some point, you’ll realize it’s just a defence mechanism. It’s trying to protect you the best way it knows how. There’s so little—if any—of the outside world we can control, and so the voice tries to at least control our internal world so we can feel some semblance of security. Unfortunately, that rarely works, and it just leaves us feeling anxious and depressed rather than happy and fulfilled.
Your quest, if you’re up for it, is simply to begin noticing the voice. Notice how much it talks and notice how much of what it says simply doesn’t matter and will have no tangible impact on your life whatsoever. And perhaps most importantly, notice that you can ignore it if you wish. You don’t have to listen to it and get all involved and get yourself upset. You can hear it, observe it, and let it pass.
At first, you’ll find this difficult. You’re going against many years of habit. But the good news is that you’ve got time to practice. The rest of your life, in fact.