Automatic Inner-Dialogue/Sparring

Automatic Inner Dialogue

In demanding times and busy lives, people often complain of not having enough energy. The benefits from the conventional list of remedies such as exercise, a new diet, spa treatments or shopping are often short lived. Going for a holiday, doing something exciting or discovering a new activity is necessary and revitalising. However, if we do not pay attention to some of our mind-habits that drain and deplete our energy, we stumble right back into feeling tired and fatigued.

One such habit is the automatic inner Dialogue/Sparring
Can you think of a time when you had a difference of opinion with someone? Perhaps both of you strongly believed in your side of the story and defended it fervently. Imagine you experience a disagreement with John. He could be your boss, colleague or spouse. In such an instance one’s mind gets fixated. It endlessly pictures the incident over and over again in the car, at work, at lunch, at home and perhaps all day long like a song that is stuck in one’s head – leaving us exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically.

We further energise these images through a dialogue with John, in our head, as if he was really there. We ask questions, invent arguments and reply on his behalf. We then refute, disprove, disagree, produce counter arguments and maintain the illusory conversation spinning, often unaware of its impact on draining our energy.

“But I know there is no John there. It is a technique through which to solve a problem. It simply is a strategy, a role playing to find a solution,” you may say.

Let’s look deeper, if it simply were a self-managed strategy, a role-play of some sort, why then does it influences us negatively? If we control it, why can’t we then turn it off and fall asleep at will? If only a technique, why does it makes us tense, unsettled, frustrated and sad? If simply a deliberate strategy on our part, why does one manifest reactions associated with real danger such as fight/flight or increase in blood pressure …?

Skewed, Biased Perception Blocks Problem Solving
Not only does this automatic inner sparring not facilitate understanding or resolve misperceptions, it can become a source of agony that dissipates tremendous precious energy and dulls the mind. It, in fact, blocks problem solving. This involuntary dialogue is addictive. The more we indulge in it, the more power it has over us and the more biased and skewed our perception gets. It can become so repetitive and automatic that it takes over our attention without us being aware of it.

Practice – Make it Conscious
So, what could you do the next time you catch yourself? Consider these strategies or share some of your own:

Put the conflict/mishap in the bigger scheme of things (importance of completing the project on time, years of friendship …) and if you think this is something that is not very important, and you are capable of it – let it go.
Separate the person from the action. What was the impact of this action on me?
Consciously remind yourself of the opposite. Build a case that also recalls the good deeds, experiences, values and common grounds.
Practice empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see the situation from his/her point of view. Simply be curious. What insights do you get?
Ask to meet with him/her to discuss the situation, solicit feedback and resolve the differences amicably.