I heard a fascinating podcast during my driving this week about our inner voice – how we speak to ourselves to remember, to coach ourselves, to rehearse, to prepare and plan, and to help us make sense of our experiences and the world. Part of our working memory system, it is part of being human and even deaf people have an inner signing voice. I think my inner voice was curious and so quietened down and we listened.
The podcast described how when our inner voice becomes ‘chatter’ and it is not mental illness but it is
when the messages we are hearing – worries, concerns, anxieties, fears – seem continuous and we seem to forget or we don’t realise that what we are still hearing is our inner voice – is ourselves. The situation, concern, or worry gets louder and more dominant and that’s all we are hearing while forgetting that it is our inner voice. And when we are consumed with this chatter then it can hamper how we think and act, how we relate with others, and even – so the podcast said – impact our physical health with increasing stress. If the chatter in our heads dominate then, I imagine, we don’t feel in control – because the cause of the chatter is becoming ‘too much’. Remembering that the inner voice is part of us and so not ‘bad’ per se, my inner voice started talking that prayer and hearing another voice such as ‘God’s Word’ might be a good help, I started smiling when the podcast started discussing ‘what to do about chatter’ and mentioned shifting your perspective. The podcast talked about talking to yourself in the second person or even third person as if you were advising or supporting someone with some objectivity (as we seem better at supporting others and offering good advice than we are with ourselves). I learnt that this is called ‘distanced self-speak’. Another strategy was to time travel and think about how you will feel about whatever is causing the chatter tomorrow or in a week or a month’s time. Anything to broaden your perspective can help lessen the chatter.
My smile moved to a chuckle and a verbal fist pump ‘yes’ when ritual was mentioned as a good way to control chatter and to keep it at bay. Rituals can provide a sense of control and even a community and while many might have thought of mindfulness these days, I was already back nearly 2,000 years and how the disciples of Jesus coped with the trials and tribulations of life – and all the chatter within – through the regularity of reading God’s Word, returning to Baptism, being reminded and oriented by God’s first message ‘I love you’, and having a perspective of the moment and a wider context – God has been with me up to now, Jesus has secured my salvation, therefore whatever is going on at the moment is something I can face because I am not alone. Christians don’t have perfect lives. We have problems, worries, fears, anxieties, shames – yes, lots of chatter – and we have Jesus with us and we can learn, no matter our age, to walk that bit closer to him today – and then tomorrow. It is all about us being quiet and listening as we read God’s Word and get another perspective on whatever is so consuming. And when we do speak – as in prayer – or to a loved one or a fellow Christian – it is possible to already have a wider perspective that helps us live each day better than the day before. GS