3 Methods to Silence the Story in the Head September 29, 2014

Do you ever get caught up in your own story? Yeah, me too. Everyone is familiar with “the story in the head”. The constant chatter in our minds that can look for and find problems, worries, anxieties, judgments, etc… Sometimes the story is dead on and sometimes it is dead wrong. The story can be endless and can hijack our moods. One minute we can be in a great mood, carefree and happy, and then someone annoys or frustrates us, and we begin to brood and grimace for hours, even days. The story can skew all kinds of information toward our point of view in order to validate the chatter… But what if we had a narrator that could make a choice and be more selective of what stories it tells? If one stops for a second and thinks about that, they can realize that they (the narrator) actually can be more selective. In fact, I would bet most can identify an experience of being more selective before and having chosen a more helpful story to tell themselves. Often times, it’s not so much what we are dealing with that creates a burden as much as what we are telling ourselves about what we are dealing with. I’m not saying that we don’t or won’t experience valid frustrations or annoyances but that they don’t have to have as much air time in our minds and cause our moods to dramatically shift. There are 3 methods to go about reducing the power and personalization “the story in the head” brings over us.

The first method is to redirect our thoughts toward learning from what we are feeling. For instance, when someone annoys or frustrates us, we can use that moment to reflect on the feeling. For example, taking the feeling of being frustrated or annoyed a bit deeper to label the emotion. Frustration or annoyance at a deeper level could be related to a negative belief and expectation about ourselves or others, or it could be related to a wound from our past. This can be observed by witnessing patterns of similar occurrences where we have felt this way. This happens in attempts for us to reconcile the emotions, such as hurt or violations of one’s rights. Reconciliation can be achieved through insight, cognitive and emotional processing, and often the action of communication in some form. For some that might mean speaking directly to someone who has wronged them and for others it could simply be sharing with someone safe or writing it down. If this same negative feeling occurrence persists with the same intensity, cognitive restructuring with a professional might be an appropriate fix.

The second method is to consider the source. Is this person who is frustrating or annoying us being malicious; are they having a bad day and attempting to share their misery; are they just doing their job; or are they simply attempting to get their needs met in a misguided way. We give away a lot of power in our reactions to others and then continue to pay the price via “the story in the head”. Yet we could entertain other thoughts. When considering the source, we can often gain understanding, allowing for us to recognize that it’s not always about us, thus no need to personalize it. That is unless the person who is frustrating or annoying us is someone we are close to, in which case jump back to the first method or gain professional support.

The third method is to recognize and externalize our egos. Noting when we feel annoyed or frustrated by someone else and saying to ourselves, “oh that’s just my ego”. The ego is the voice in the head that monitors for slights against its character, it is responsible for the chatter attempting to validate its self. For example, after the person annoys or frustrates us, the ego jumps in and says, “Can you believe what she just said? I mean, come on. I shouldn’t have to deal with this. How ridiculous.” Once the ego gets started, it begins to seek outside validation from others for continued fuel and perpetuation. And so “the story in the head” goes… By recognizing and externalizing the ego, we may not feel as bruised by the personalization of whatever comes at us, thus not seek frustration validation.

All three of these methods can be used for various stories we tell ourselves. Silence the story in the head in order to learn and empower the self in the moment, once and again until it becomes a habit.

Aaron Foster

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