The Internal Dialogue: Mastering the Unseen Forces That Shape Our Destiny

Though a positive, successful, and engaging person, Pam avoided prolonged looks into her mirror. When she was brushing her hair or applying make-up, she stayed focused on the activity – but would intentionally not make eye contact with herself. Except sometimes. On those occasions a tirade of negative judgments erupted in her thoughts.

If she didn’t avoid the negative assessment machine in her mind by distraction or busyness, the stream of thoughts that flooded into Pam’s awareness would chide her, “Your nose is too crooked. Your skin is a mess. You’re getting wrinkles under your eyes. You’re too fat. Nobody would give you a second look. You need surgery to look better.” In these moments, Pam would cringe and feel the familiar black pit in her stomach suck the positive energy right out of her. And she would begin to doubt herself and her ability to create a rewarding life.

The strange part of this internal conversation going on in her mind was that Pam knew there was no truth to the accusations. Pam has a dancer’s body and is a highly accomplished dancer. In addition, she teaches dance to serious students. She also is a sought-after model due to her beauty and flawless complexion. Over the course of time, she has attempted to debate the negative voice and has tried thought stopping, positive affirmations, and positive thinking. And for awhile these techniques worked – then, like a thief in the middle of the night, the character assassinations would creep back into her thoughts and cast seeds of doubt in her mind.

Pam’s current stategy, common for many people, for dealing with this discomfort was to avoid the discomfort of this internal dialogue by busying herself with work, activities, or friends – anything to distract herself from listening to the critical Judge living within her.

The Internal Dialogue: You and Your Thoughts are Different From One Another

What Pam is experiencing in the example above is her internal dialogue masquerading as thoughts in her mind. This particular conversation is between a harsh critical voice and her self doubt. And like Pam, all of us have some variation of this internal struggle, whether we like to acknowledge it or not. The key is whether we identify with it as who we are.

If you have ever been conflicted about something and were of two minds about it, you have experienced the internal dialogue first hand. Most of us simply pay it no mind and believe that “it is only our thoughts running through our mind”. However, not being aware of it or not understanding it does not stop the force it exerts over your life. It drives our lives. It is like driving on a freeway while looking through binoculars. You are at the mercy of chance to see and understand the world you are attempting to negotiate.

The Internal Dialogue Goes Underground

Most of us are aware of this internal dialogue, but we push it away (much like Pam in the example above). We never mention it to others because of what they might think. This is our loss. Gaining a window into this internal dialogue is essential if we want to discover a deeper purpose, meaning, and joy for our lives. As we learn to observe the voices that lie beneath our thoughts, the transformation of body, mind, and Spirit becomes possible. Learning about these voices within the self is crucial for creating lasting transformation.

There is a lot at stake in this inner struggle going on within the internal dialogue. Staying mindless keeps Pam (and us) aimlessly drifting in the currents of life. Things happen repetitively that we do not understand. What is revealed in Pam’s internal dialogue is that the self is composed of a number of voices – some good, some bad. Let us explore this further.

Like Pam, many of us don’t even realize that an internal dialogue is happening in our mind. This is what I call “mindlessness”. To be blind to the internal dialogue of the mind is to be swept along on the unseen currents of life. Those who are swept along are blind to it – and to its power. Others hear an almost inaudible whisper that is moving too fast to comprehend. Still others hear the internal dialogue and it makes them uncomfortable and they do not understand it. So they avoid listening to it, and this limits their lives.

The Internal Dialogue Creates the Box of Our Comfort Zone

Instead they will distract themselves so that they are not aware of it. They busy themselves with work, conquest, exercise, drugs, sex, the latest toy, or whatever is necessary to distance themselves from the discomfort of getting out of their comfort zone. Others come to live in fear of the negative assessment machine in their mind and shrink their lives into a comfort zone so that they will not be noticed. The comfort zone locks them into familiar, habitual ways and they get stuck in old repeating patterns. This is called a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Very few people learn how to observe the internal dialogue, question it, and explore the design of its nature. It is through the exploration of these voices within the mind that we set ourselves free of their control over our lives and tap into the potential that lies buried within us. There are some negative aspects of the self that have to be observed and confronted, and there are some powerful parts of the self that we need to awaken. It is in awakening these empowering parts of the self that we change the historical script of our life and find new life.

We have to become aware of the war being waged in our minds. Once we grasp that thinking is simply a biological activity, a powerful question can surface – who, or what, is in control of the perception and thinking apparatus of our mind? The answer will surprise you. Thought is important, but it is the voice (or aspect of the self) that controls the thought that keeps us from becoming who we were born to be and transforming the potential of our lives.

Internal Dialogue:
Conversations in the Mind that Shape Our Perception of the World

To wake up to the internal dialogue opens the door for you to become an active participant in the creation of your life. We are all born into and adapt to a world of established patterns of perception. This is how we come to know our world. These perceptual patterns govern how we understand the world and what we see as possible in our lives. These historical patterns of perception are called conversations or narratives and become our comfort zone.

These conversations become us long before we develop the capacity to become aware of them. Once established, they become the world we live in. We don’t have patterns and internal conversations that govern our perception, they have us! If you want to transform your world, you have to have to learn how to identify the conversation that controls the thinking in your mind. And you have to learn to break free from the hold the narrative has over your life.

Breaking Free of the Narrative of the Comfort Zone Creates New Possibility

Let me give you an example of how this works. I work with an attorney who is employed by a large, high powered, litigating law firm and he is very unsatisfied with his life. In fact, he has become “depressed”, and feels hopeless. Yet if he could look at depression as a conversation, rather than a condition, a new world would show up ripe for transformation.

He feels like a victim (is consumed by a conversation of victimhood where he has always had to sacrifice his needs to win approval). With his wife and kids accustomed to an affluent lifestyle, he speaks to me as if he is trapped by his job. This produces his despair. He sees no escape from his dilemma and beats himself up for even wanting to change his life. He lives all week for the weekends when he can live his dream of having a small scale farm. Yet on Saturday afternoons, he begins to despair that he will have to go to work on Monday.

As he developed the ability to observe the internal dialogue and woke up to the conversation of victimhood going on in his mind, he also began to realize that these did not have to be the thoughts that controlled his life. He was able to label the participants of this internal dialogue as the Prosecuting Attorney (who wanted conviction) and a Victim (that beat himself up for not being good enough).

Simply becoming mindful of these two different conversations in his mind – and no longer identifying with them as who he was – gave him a new freedom. In that freedom he discovered that he could awaken other voices that could contribute to his internal dialogue. He found a Courageous Self and a Confident Self that, with practice, he could invoke to be part of the internal dialogue in his mind. He also discovered a Divine Voice living within him that (to his amazement) he had never connected to even though he was a practicing Christian.

As he developed these aspects of himself (voices within the self), his internal dialogue shifted. He no longer was trapped in a “victim conversation”. Discovering he could call up courageous and confident elements of himself into the thoughts of the internal dialogue created new possibilities for his life. Now, instead of drifting mindlessly in the currents of life, he began to learn how to navigate its currents. In doing so, he became a participant in the creation of his life. And yes, he is moving from being stuck in unseen patterns (comfort zone) to consciously designing the patterns that create his life.

Transforming the Conversations of the Self

This opportunity, this choice, to become a participant in the design of your life is available to all. What is required is the motivation, skill development, and discipline needed to learn how to observe the patterns and internal conversations that drive your life, disrupt them, and begin consciously developing new patterns and conversations.

As a human being, it is the greatest gift we have been given. The criterion is to recognize that the gift was not designed to serve the Ego. Rather it is built to serve a purpose greater than the self. Our job is to accept the gift, nurture the gift, and to bring forth the light that lives within us into the world.

It is at this moment that we begin the journey to becoming fully human. In the words of Nelson Mandela from his 1984 inaugural speech:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…. Your playing small does not serve the world…. We are born to make manifest the glory of God within us….. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. We are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Rande Howell is a guest blogger for PickTheBrain. He writes about Igniting the Spark of Your Potential and Creating a Lasting Transformation at www.randehowell.com

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Related Posts:

7 Steps To Positive Self Talk

Words That Heal and Empower


  • jjmdarkeagle

    Excellent post! Very helpful and I like the insights. One thing I feel compelled to point out is the mis-attribution of the quote at the bottom: it’s actually Marianne Williamson, from her book A Return to Love. It’s actually quite often attributed to President Mandela; here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Williamson#A_Return_to_Love
    Keep up the good work, and thanks for the new concepts!

    • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

      You are right. Mandela used it in his address so it does speak from him — at least this is what is reported by the wire services. This is the way I understand it. And in this article my intention is to bring forth a notion of the heroic forces that live within us. Marianne Williamson is certainly the speech writer and Mandela embodies the aspect of the internal dialog that gives voice to the light of empowerment that, we as human beings, have the capacity to bring into the world. I have had people speak this quote from knowing it was from both of these people. When voiced by Mandela in client’s minds, it opened the possibility of identifying it within themselves. When attributed to Williamson, so such connection was made. Thanks for adding greater depth.
      Rande

  • Ethan

    Wasn’t the inauguration in 1994 when Apartheid ended?

    • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

      My, there are some smart, detailed folk out there. My mistake.
      Rande

  • http://www.ideaswithakick.com Ideas With A Kick

    Great idea to write about the internal dialogue. I think it’s the most relevant manifestation of our thinking patterns and beliefs. Change that and you truly change your entire life.

    This is why in my life and with my clients, I use a lot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as it focuses a lot on changing the internal dialog and it provides some poweful techniques.

    Eduard

  • Jill

    Awesome post–thank you! I’ll read it again later and share it with some friends. Thanks & Happy Halloween!

  • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

    I used to be a CBT based therapist. Then…. For me, CBT does not go far enough. The Internal Dialog becomes a gateway that helps people to tune into the historical internal dialog going on in the mind. And it is more than debating a critical voice. It is also a place where we find many more “voices” that live within us. It is in being able to awaken (become aware of) these powerful aspects of self and give them “voice” on the stage of the self that transformation of the self moves beyond controlling negative thinking and into the design of your life.

  • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

    Thank you JIll. There are skills and tools that we all need to develop to become the observer of the internal dialog, rather than a mindless participant in the creation of your life. Awakening to it and learning to observe the internal dialog represents the door to transformation of the self.
    Rande

  • http://www.LikeSoup.com Jim Campbell

    Wow!!! What a well thought out and well written article. Thank you for this. It provided a breakthrough for me. I’ve often wondered what was meant by being able to love ourselves. I wasn’t quite able to get my mind around the concept. Rande, your article made me realize that to be willing to look at ourselves in the mirror for long periods of time and often is a terrific way to practice loving ourselves.

    Thanks again,
    LikeSoup

    • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

      Jim
      You are welcome. I am honored that something I’ve done is a catylst for your growth. You actually touch on an area that was not directly attended to in this article — loving yourself. As a person begins to separate his or her identity from their internal dialog, a much richer possibility of our being emerges. Not only can we begin to forgive ourselves for being blindly fooled by all the deception that runs around in our mind, but also that we are children of creation longing for itself. Awakening this aspect of our nature and living in this gift, opens an enormous door for us to design what we bring forth into the world. And it is out of this love, this amazing gift of life, that we bring the light that dwells within us into this world.
      Thank you for sharing your journey — Rande

  • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

    Hello Jill
    I’m interested in your comments. I also reccommend that you and your friends also look at the video that is accessible on the home page of http://www.randehowell.com. It will expand the notion of Internal Dialog to include awakening the Inner Champions dwelling in the Stage of the Self. Then, I’d love to hear your comments.
    Rande

  • http://www.loveblug.com Derek @ LoveBlug

    Thanks for the suggestions. I especially like your description of how we are not the sum total of our thoughts.

    My experience is that, although I was a fan of self-improvement for over a decade, I could never think myself into better thinking. I had to act/live my way into better thinking. The key ingredients have been consistent changes in my behavior patterns and…dun dun dunnnnnnnn….time.

    • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

      Derek — You are right. We can not think ourselves into change. If that were the case, diets and changing other embedded habits would be successful. Thinking from a neuro-biological point of view is actually a behavior. It is what neuron “do” in a similar way that muscle cells expand and contract. What is important is what part of you is in control of the “thinking” that goes on in your mind.

      By interrupting the emotional thought process, we begin to see that there is a whole host of characters living within us. It is up to us to awaken and “feed” the parts of us that we bring forth into the world.

      Rande

  • http://www.alternaview.com Sibyl – alternaview

    Wow…this is a good one. What a great post. Your statement that we have a choice and can control this inner dialogue and design our life with motivation, skill development and discipline is poignant. It is so true and breaks what at times can seem to be an extraordinary task into digestible pieces. I would say that controlling the inner dialogue is by no means something that is simple and easy. It is something we do have to work at and continually practice. As you said, we just have to be disciplined and committed. Thanks for the great post.

  • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

    Sybil — Yes. It is a discipline that we gain more and more competence in as we practice. First we have to wake up to what has been controlling the creation of our lives and recognize that it has only been one particular way that the person could be organized. As our mastery grows, the organization of the self evolves. And what that reorganziation of the self brings into the world is closer and closer to knowing the purpose, meaning, and joy that is possible for each of us.
    Rande

  • Mike

    EXACTLY how does one start up this process of identifying the internal dialog and taking control of it? Are there examples, processes etc. I mean i get the idea and theme, however I’d appreciate practical steps that one can take to attain control over the internal dialogue.

    • http://www.randehowell.com Rande Howell

      Mike

      We’ll try a crude example first. Try to be silent for a moment. Listen to the “noise” going on in your mind. Some are able to discern the “voices” within the noise, others think that the noise is only their thoughts, and others simply hear a murmur.

      As you learn to slow the thinking down, you will discover that the thoughts are driven by certain voices within you. This is the internal dialogue.

      Getting a grip on it takes learning how to distinguish the members of the self. In my work, I teach people to awaken the Observer (the part of you that witnesses the thoughts as separate from you) and begin to discern what is beneath thought.

      It’s a learning process and not a magical solution. You develop the Observing Self and begin to understand the conversations that control your perception of the world and begin to enlarge the internal dialogue to include much more powerful aspects of the self. I teach this process to traders so that they do not trade from their fear, self doubt, or grandiosity. Instead they learn to trade from more powerful parts of the self not controlled by their fears. It’s interesting and, in trading, in black and white.

      To move from crude to deeper, go to my website http://www.randehowell.com and explore. There is a ton of info there for your reading.

      Let me know if this helps.

      Rande

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  • Bob

    Thanks for the insight on this neglected subject. I will check out your website momentarily!
    You don’t need to post this, it’s just for the sake of correctness: the last word of paragraph 10-propheCY is the noun, propheSY is the verb. :-)

  • Colin G Smith

    Great article!

    I agree internal dialogue has a very powerful influence on the way we filter reality. We are often unaware of what our self talk is because it operates unconsciously.

    In other words it has become a habit. And far to often it’s a critical voice!

    So becoming aware of our internal dialogue can be a really useful exercise. And it has been discovered that changing the tonality of one’s internal dialogue can be a simple and effective way to soften the impact of ‘critical voices.’

    I cover this method of changing the structure of inner self talk in my Squidoo Lens: your internal dialogue

    All the best, Colin

  • Whatever

    How do you read an article written by someone who uses the word “busying” and “busyness”?

  • poppa smurff

    i’ve causually read many self help mind expanding books etc. over the years. the internal dialogue ie: talking to yourself, running mental movies, pipe dreaming and the such is so common. actually trying to stop it is hard but not impossible. prepare to be blown away.

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