Have you ever had an internal dialogue playing on loop in your brain? Your mind seems to be always working even when things are quiet. We don’t only use this dialogue to solve problems, we also spend part of our time having an internal conversation with ourselves.
We have a world happening inside our heads replete with catch phrases and mantras. Most of us don’t even realize that we’re having this conversation. Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, likens this mental chatter to our “inner roommate.”
Your inner roommate is the voice in the back of your head narrating your life for you. This voice might be offering you positive affirmations such as, “I am strong and capable,” or “I can handle change.” This voice could also have catch phrases like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I don’t belong,” or “I can’t.” We have these conversations with ourselves so often that we hardly realize they’re happening.
These thoughts have more power than we recognize. The words that we tell ourselves can manifest incredible possibilities, or they can fill us with negativity. As harmless as it can seem, what we tell ourselves can lead to self-actualization or self-sabotage.
These silent conversations can affect how your brain works
The silent conversations you’ve been having with yourself can have a profound impact on how you view the world. What we say to ourselves can temper our experience.
We process speech that we hear in the temporal and parietal lobes of the brain. The process is complex, but our brains not only determine what sounds are being made but also what those combinations of sounds mean together. When our inner voice starts talking to us, many of the same areas in the brain used for hearing speech are activated.
Our words are more than just idle chatter. The power of ideas transmitted by language is further reinforced by physiological responses that we have to words, whether we speak them aloud or hear them from our inner roommate. Negative words increase cortisol, a stress hormone which can wreak havoc on your body and have an impact on how you handle tough situations.
The more you hear something, the more you’ll believe it
Even though our inner voice is telling us things in our minds, our brain still treats inner speech just like words spoken aloud. Broca’s area, the region in the frontal lobe responsible for processing speech is active in both cases.
Hearing yourself say something in your mind carries the same weight as hearing yourself say something aloud. The more you repeat it, that thought will carry more weight because you’ve accepted it as the truth.
This is why repeatedly telling yourself that you are fine can make you feel better when you are nervous. Your brain hears you saying it, and then you have a physiological and hormonal response to that mantra. Unfortunately, the things we tell ourselves can also elicit stress responses.
Are any of these internal catch phrases sabotaging you?
There are loads of great things that you might be telling yourself, but many of us also face negative internal dialogue loops. If you can catch them, then you can correct them.
It is fine to say “That’s okay.” when you truly agree with something. The problem is that we tell ourselves that things are okay even when they aren’t. Telling yourself that something is okay when it isn’t can perpetuate a state of discomfort.
When someone asks you what you think about something, how often have you said that it was okay just to appease the other person. You may not feel right about the situation, but you choose not to say anything.
Imagine that your coworker has just asked you to cover a shift for them this weekend on short notice because their friend is in town. Even though you already have tickets to see a show with your partner, you agree to do this because you don’t want to make waves at work.
When you tell yourself that this is okay in your mind, your brain stops looking for alternatives. Instead of asserting yourself, you commit to sacrificing a date with your partner. In your mind, you come up with many reasons why it is fine to take on this extra work instead of taking the time to communicate what you need.
Avoid simply agreeing to things if they don’t feel right to you. If you can interrupt the loop of, “That’s okay,” you might be able to come up with a better solution. At the very least you will make it possible to be honest with yourself.