How to Silence the Obsessive Mental Chatter

Goodpal By Goodpal, 26th May 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Obsessive mental chatter can be highly debilitating. It severely degrades the quality of attention and promotes stress and anxiety. It can be effectively countered by learning the art of mindfulness that automatically calms the mind, besides making people more objective.

Out-of-Control Spinning Mind is a Curse

It is the nature of the mind to think. It just can’t stop thinking – thoughts are its food. Just as some people are always chewing gum, the mind is always chewing thoughts. It just can’t stay still. This self mental talk is variously called mental chatter, inner talk, or inner monologue. Every thought costs some energy and we think thousands of thoughts daily. That is a tremendous expenditure of mental energy! Even when we are resting, mind remains busy. It loyally starts its day the moment we wake up and carries on non-stop until we really fall asleep at night. No rest to this poor fellow!

No doubt, thinking is a useful activity required for solving problems, analyzing, comparing, studying, planning, etc, but beyond that it is useless. But unfortunately, often the mind gets obsessed with certain thoughts and repeats them over and over again, like in a circle. When it is repeating some positive thought we are fine, but more frequently it sticks to negative thoughts or negative mental images that only intensifies our fear, stress, worry, anger or frustration.

This happens when we face some unpleasant situation and the mind goes in overdrive. The deeper the hurt, the greater is the speed of thinking and it can go on non-stop for hours. It becomes like a racing car with no brakes. Those who have been a victim of this incessant mental chatter know how debilitating it can be. It degrades the attention and saps energy. Quite frequently the spinning mind interferes with sleep and does not allow us to “rest in peace”.

The question we should ask is: What fuels the obsessive circular thinking that leaves us so helpless despite all the intelligence we have?

Thoughts Get Energy from Emotions

Certain thoughts find our inner feelings, attitude and beliefs really compatible so they are at home in our mind. If they are negative, they can really make us miserable!!

In reality, thoughts are just thoughts; they are neutral in themselves. It is our reaction that makes them more or less important for us and determines how much influence a thought will have on us. As long as we remain neutral, thoughts come and go like strangers on a busy street.

Only those thoughts stay with us, which receive our attention and if there is a strong emotional reaction they really get sticky. This is an important point that can help us deal with the thoughts more appropriately. Interestingly, it does not matter whether the emotional reaction is positive or negative. We can connect to thoughts through both liking and disliking. The stronger these likes or dislikes are the stronger the emotional reaction is going to be. Those thoughts that fail to interest us just pass away. Therefore, we need training to reduce the strength of our likes and dislikes.

How to Control Habitual Emotional Reactions

Our usual habit is to react to thoughts and feelings. As long as things go along expected lines there is generally no problem. But in today’s fast changing society we are all struggling to keep pace with the ever changing parameters – that is not easy. It puts constant pressures on us and we become more reactive.

It will be really nice if we train ourselves to not react automatically to our thoughts and feelings that are triggered by outside events. The habit of reacting spontaneously to everything that happens inside or around us, denies us the inner peace and composure. This affects our actions and decisions. The mind is a great tool only when it is in a state of balance, else it can be the worst enemy.

A calm and composed mind has few thoughts and we have inner peace. The moment mind goes spinning the inner peace is shattered to pieces. Such a mind can never take good decisions or respond maturely to anything. Therefore, we need a tool that can help us slow down the racing mind. This tool is the practice of mindfulness that is now proving effective in modern psychiatry also.

How Mindfulness works

The whole idea of mindfulness is to become “objective” as opposed to the usual habit of reacting “subjectively” to everything. This subjectivity is so deeply ingrained on our minds that it becomes a second nature. Successful people are successful because they have learned to take objective decisions, even if they are hard or unpleasant in the short run. Subjectivity, on the other hand, keeps you confined to the narrow sphere of “how good I am feeling” and your actions are colored by immediate emotions. This often makes you regret later. So, you need to learn how to create a distance between you and your emotions and thinking. It will be somewhat easy if you believe that you are not your thoughts or feelings. You are, and can be, above them.

Training in mindfulness does exactly that. It trains you to watch your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging them. It is an effort to rise above the petty labels of good or bad and seeing things as they really are. It is training in observing things dispassionately without forming ideas and opinions. In nutshell, the training of mindfulness involves refraining from thinking, ruminating, analyzing or trying to do something; instead, the only efforts you make is to just observe what is going on inside you.

You will soon learn with experience that the moment you begin to watch your thoughts, their speed and emotional intensity begins to taper away. As it happens with any new skill, the more you practice the better (and hence, more peaceful!) you will become.

As you begin to watch ourselves objectively a distance is created between what you perceive and yourself. This distancing gives the space and freedom to shape our response, in the absence of which you react mere robotically or habitually. With practice the conscious response increases and the habitual reaction decreases. Distancing also increases tolerance towards unpleasant thoughts, feelings and situations and you can stay with them much longer without reacting. With more practice even the intensity of unpleasantness decreases giving you further control and strength.

Conclusion

Mindfulness trains you not to identify with your thoughts/feelings. Thus, it takes away their control on you and gives you the much needed freedom and space to act appropriately. Mindful living is the art of living naturally at peace – with yourself as well as with everything around you. It is the art of being happy “right now” as opposed to working hard to be happy at some unknown time in the future. So make a choice: will you continue to allow the speeding mind trample you or enjoy living with a calm and composed mind?

Reading Further

If you liked the page you might also like to read

Are you a Victim of Your Mental Chatter?
Mindfulness – Described in 12 Ways

Tags

Inner Talk, Inner Voice, Mental Chatter, Mental Talk, Mindfulness, Obsessive Mental Chatter, Racing Mind, Racing Thoughts, Stop Mental Chatter, Stop Mental Talk

Meet the author

author avatar Goodpal
I am a keen practitioner of mindfulness meditation for past several years. I firmly believe in "goodness" of people, society and world. I regularly write on personal growth and social topics.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
26th May 2011 (#)

love it, great info.. thank you.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
29th May 2011 (#)

Very cogent, well-written piece. Great information. Should have reecieved a star page. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Retired
29th May 2011 (#)

I have one called "When We Say What We Meme", the third part of my energy intentions series that jibes nicely with this.. next week some time. I'll bring the link over.

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author avatar DR AJMER SINGH MANN
29th Jun 2011 (#)

friend, what you termed as mental obsessive chatter is actually a disorder of the mind called "obsessive compulsive neurosis "you have explained it in a very lucid style.

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author avatar Goodpal
29th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you Dr Ajmer, for your input. I am glad that you liked the article; it gave the perspective and experience of a meditator.

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author avatar Retired
29th Jun 2011 (#)

hmm.. is there anything in life that some Dr.'s cannot call a disorder? I just read an article that says that people who are showing signs of being happy might be depressed and not be aware of it, and that they might need prozac, they have new excuses to prescribe these toxic drugs every single day. now, the #1 cause of death in the US is prescription drugs.

i think having a lot of mental activity is not a "disorder of the mind". i think it is called being human, and maybe needing to learn a little discipline and how to focus.

the last thing the authorities, and the people who control the resource monopolies want is for you to get control of your mind.. if you have a flurry of mental chatter, they have to make you think there is something wrong with you, and get you on drugs to keep you stupid.

thank you for your article on meditation and how we can help get control of our minds so the quacks and hacks can't get us to fall for their bs about how we have a disorder.

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author avatar Goodpal
29th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you Bob. I am full agreement with you. Doctors love labels and labels make money. Period.

Meditation is an art as well as science of self growth through personal efforts. It is basically a process of purification of mind.

Everyone's mind is restless differing only in degree or intensity. It is never the same. So if start labeling all its characteristics, we are sure to run out of labels !! This is not a joke; this is my experience of last two decades of mindfulness practice.

If you are keen about knowing the practical application of meditation, you might like to read this article on Meditation in Prisons:

http://hubpages.com/hub/Meditation-in-Prisons-A-Silent-Escape-to-Freedom

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