How To Mute Your Negative Inner Dialogue

Stop being your own worst critic. Here's how you can clear your mind chatter and live in the now.

You’ve heard that voice in your head. You’ve lived with it for so long, you probably don’t even notice it anymore. What you do know is that this voice drives you crazy because it just won’t stop. It’s incessant, and has an opinion about everything.

If you’re someone who is always “in your head,” you have difficulty being present even when you’re surrounded by people because you’re drowned in your own thoughts.

Constantly being in your head also stops you from living a full life. Instead you are just an observer of your life. You are just watching it while the voice inside you narrates the world. You’re basically re-creating the outside world inside of yourself and then you live it in your mind.

A Defense Mechanism

Why do you have to do this? You already see everything that is happening on the outside, so why do you have to repeat it in your head?

In his book The Untethered Soul, author Michael Singer says people do this to protect themselves from the world. If they narrate it in their mind, then they feel like they have more control of what’s happening, but this is untrue. Either way, you have no way of protecting yourself from anything that will happen.

He writes:

In fact, your thoughts have far less impact on this world than you would like to think. If you’re willing to be objective and watch all your thoughts, you will see that the vast majority of them have no relevance. They have no effect on anything or anybody, except you. They are simply making you feel better about what is going on now, what has gone on in the past, or what might go on in the future. If you spend your time hoping that it doesn’t rain tomorrow, you are wasting your time. Your thoughts don’t change the rain . . . eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.

But what can you do to stop this voice that is a part of you? According to Singer, this voice isn’t you and the faster you learn how to separate those thoughts from who you are, the quicker you will be able to experience the world in a stark, unfiltered way.

Turn Off The Voice For Good

To manipulate these thoughts, first take a step back from that voice and view it objectively. It’s important that you understand that nothing your inner voice says is really you. If you take sides and think one voice is more representative of you than the other, then you’ve already failed at being objective.

The best way to separate yourself is to imagine the voice as a separate human who just won’t shut up.

“Make believe that your roommate, the psyche, has a body of its own," Singer says. "You do this by taking the entire personality that you hear talking to you just inside and imagine it as a person talking to you on the outside. Just imagine that another person is now saying everything that your inner voice would say. Now spend a day with that person.”

You will eventually find that you need to get as far away from this person as possible because they’re neurotic and they scare you. The more you realize that these thoughts won’t help you get anywhere faster and that they’re not really you, the quicker you will become a much happier, peaceful person. The faster you will be able to experience the world as a person living in it--not as a person trapped in their own mind.

[Image: Flickr user Derrick Tyson]

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10 Comments

  • Riley Diane Waters

    I live in my head, it drives me crazy. I want to scream shut up! I'm so glad you wrote this. I'm going to start it now. I'll be FREE!

  • sai_bhupalam

    This article talks about a nagging problem we all have to some extent - some more than others. Two books that will help you deal with this come to mind although there are dozens out there. "The Power of Now" and "Your Erroneous Zones" by Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Wayne Dyer respectively.

    Meditation has so many aspects and forms. One thing to do is to observe your thoughts - the moment you do that they will slow down - well, they should. Also, look at the root of a specific thought - what led to this thought in the first place - this might take some time but it works.

    Indulge in a creative activity - if you do not have one - pursue or learn something like painting, making music or a sport. This is a complex topic and so much can be said about it from so many different perspectives. Finally - get a coach or a mentor who can help you in dealing with your inner critic/judge/self esteem issues. Worst case scenario - you might need a therapist.

  • Thank you, Vivian, for a smart reading! In fact ours 'inner talking' is extremely useful for health. You can do whatever you want - because that is you. Meditation is awesome, but I recommend for everyone to learn methods of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) for a hard life issues - simply as a tool for the brain: when you can not meditate nor think or sleep. Turn your negative into your closest friend.

  • Regard your inner dialogue without judgement and realise it isn't the whole of you - yes.

    But... imagine it as a separate person and "need to get as far away from this person as possible because they’re neurotic and they scare you" seems like seriously bad advice.

    The best-case scenario if this works as outlined is that you lose a part of yourself, along with all the choices resources tied up in it - which who knows, you might need one day, as any behaviour, even that classified as 'bad', is going to be useful in some contexts.

    In the worst case, it sounds like a good preparation for multiple personality disorder.

  • Jose Blanco

    Thank you Vivian! It is useful to learn to separate...dissociate...from those voices. And your tip is another way, and it is helpful. Thanks!

  • I completely disagree. I think it is important to be able to learn from one's mistake. Maybe the inner voice should be saying "How could you have done it differently" instead of "You screwed up again." Or "How can I learn from this experience to do better the next time I face a similar situation?"

  • Jon D. Andre

    The best way to change your relationship with "the voice in your head" is through meditation. This allows you to see it for what it is: temporary "mind-made" activity - it all comes and goes, and you don't have to get swept away by it. If you are looking for a good meditation resource, Google "meditationSHIFT" - they have a great self-study course.

  • Gary Sweeten

    The trouble with this advice is simple. It is advice from an expert and such parental finger wagging is easily rejected by bright people who hate having someone "should" on them. I know my self talk is me because it knows my entire history. Disputing a strong inner voice ain't so easy.

  • Wendy Merron

    That inner critic is also trying to protect you from harm and failure.

    Be nice , thank it for showing up, then move on. You can do this easily by saying, "thank you but what I really want is __fill in blank__.

    Just another thing to do for a day to fell more confident.