Being the Witness to Our Own Chatter

“There is nothing more important for true growth than realizing you are not the voice [in your head]—you are the one who hears it.” For a moment, ask yourself a small question, “Why do you want ‘true growth’”? Think about this for a second or two. When I think about it, some quick answers I have are: to be better; to be smarter; to be enriched; to be … to be something other than me.

How do the answers you come up with make you feel? For me, as I sit here plinking away on my computer I pause and think, ‘kinda shitty.’ But why? Why is it shitty for me to wish for ‘true’ growth? I imagine it has less to do with the objective, (to have true growth) and more to do with the path we choose (the ‘how’ of getting there).

I like the notion that you or I are not the chattering voice in our heads, but rather, we are the witness to the loudmouths. The reason I feel comfortable with this idea is that it’s a path to knowing ourselves in a way that is not judgmental of who we are, but critical of the voice that inhabits our mind.

As I read the first few pages of, “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer,  I quickly became introspective. The voice in my head was trying to make sense of what I was reading, seeing if I could apply it to my life, and then to ask if it was worthy of believing or accepting. What’s interesting about this process is Singer names it by saying, “…what you’ll see if you study [the voice in your head] carefully, is that the narration makes you feel more comfortable with the world around you … it makes you feel as though things are more in your control”.

Ah yes, the old, ‘you’re trying to control that which is outside of your control’ phrase. Damn it!! I can’t seem to slip, hide, or dodge this in my life. Why are we, and I say ‘we’ because I sure as hell know it’s not just me, such control junkies? If I had to guess, I would say we as human beings have an intrinsic awareness of our potential as well as our finiteness. That is, people are trying to live well while simultaneously avoiding threats. If we can entertain this for a minute, I would then go farther to bet that most people are more than half asleep at the metaphorical wheel of life.

What does that mean? If the wheel of life can represent our life’s opportunity for fullness, greatness, energy, and vitality because we are preoccupied with control, in part, we are asleep to what is and are awake to what isn’t (chatter). In many ways, the mind that serves and lives to hear its own voice is more or less confused by the seemingly dull voice of life. Here, where we are asleep. The voice in our heads not only never shuts-up, but many of us have given it too much authority. That is, many of us believe, trust, and bet on what it communicates to us.

But, if Singer is right, that we are not the voice in our minds but rather, we are the witness to it, who is speaking? While I have yet to discover the ‘answer,’ I would wager to say that the voice we give so much authority to is made up of our past experiences, but it’s perspective stems from avoiding threats, whether genuine or imagined.

To avoid a genuine threat, like being mauled by a bear in a forest, is completely biologically sound. However, if we allow the voice in our heads to concoct a seemingly real scenario of a bear attacking us, and we allow it to inform our decisions, we are not being guided by ourselves but from the strong, vigilant, and omnipresent voice of fear.

Is it possible that the chatter in our minds, the voice that has so much authority in our lives, is actually fear? Because fear is a concept rather than an object, can we imagine fear being like a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, that fear is one character with two versions of itself? At one moment fear could be making small talk with us, reminding us of stuff, taking a look around, and then in the next moment, when there is a perceived threat, it gets super loud and out of control. This chaos makes us act a certain way because we assume that whatever the voice is saying must be true.

If we imagine fear this way, it almost seems as if the voice of fear within us does have a purpose, but one way too overactive. Maybe in prehistoric times, this voice would have served people better, but today, it seems we would all do well with a little less chatter and a good few steps towards true growth. But how do we do this?

I think a good first step is to realize that there is a voice speaking within the mind, that it has and does influence us, and that we are not the voice but rather, we are a witness to it. This observation can be good news because, in ways, it’s a place of birth and a process of self-actualization that’s critical for our best selves to thrive.

All Quotes from Michael A. Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. California: USA. 2007, p. 10-11.

If you’re having insights, have questions, and or like what’s been said here, please comment and share. I’m more than happy to engage here.