An Introduction to the Voice Inside Your Head
“Je pense, donc je suis.” – René Descartes
For my non-French speaking audience, that phrase in English is “I think, therefore I am.” Is Descartes suggesting that you are your thoughts? You may have also heard of a popular phrase: “Our actions define us.” When we begin to flirt with the idea that what we think, say, or do are who we really are, we risk confusing the puppet-puppeteer relationship, namely, we give up control as the puppeteer, and instead become a puppet to our thoughts.
Michael A. Singer, renowned author of the book The Untethered Soul, explores the concepts of awareness and self deeply and honestly. A professor first recommended the book to me, and the quote on its front cover summarizes the enlightenment one experiences quite well: “Read this book carefully and you will get more than a glimpse of eternity.” I won’t attempt to review the book right now, because that’s not really the point of this story or The Cities Within, but I really do recommend it to anyone curious about self-actualization in this life. To me, the book may just as well be titled “Meeting Yourself for the First Time”. For those who have read the book, the next part will resonate. For those who haven’t, just sit back and try to relax – any visual details in your head will be a crucial aid to the exercise.
The Coffee Shop
You’re lining up at Starbucks (or whatever coffee shop you regularly visit). If you’re not a coffee drinker, feel free to replace the coffee with lunch at lunchtime. Now, let’s go back to Starbucks. You have “the usual” ready to be ordered and entered into the quasi-Ford assembly line of coffee production, except there’s someone in front of you – a young man in a suit and tie.
“Can I get the uh…Hmm…give me a second.” the young man pauses as he gazes at the menu, as if trying to see an animal emerge from one of those abstract paintings.
You glance at your watch. This young man in front of you has been “um”-ing and asking questions about different beverages for exactly 1 minute and 36 seconds. You start to think to yourself:
Are you serious? This is not IKEA where you pick out which bed you want and consult your girlfriend, the sales consultant, and sit on the mattress to try it. It’s a cup of f*cking coffee. Can you please just choose something so that you’re not a bottleneck for the rest of the world? Holy crap. A latte has milk!! That’s what a latte is!!! No you don’t want the Frappuccino at 8:30am in the morning!!
Your heart rate is rising, your blood boiling, breathing quickening. After about 3-4 minutes, the young man finally decides on a Grande Americano, and walks over to the waiting area.
Does that sound familiar to you? Maybe you have much more calm, composure, and kindness usually, and that inner dialogue sounded extremely obnoxious and unfamiliar to you – in which case I applaud you on being a patient human being. Personally, those kinds of thoughts were typical for me throughout most of my life, up until I was 26 years old. One small nuance that I want to shine a light on is that those thoughts were not me. I was simply an observer of that voice in my head that was yapping away miserably. Without being aware of this truth, my mood and days were governed by that voice in my head. When it decided to be serene, I felt calm and at peace. When it decided to be nasty, like in the coffee shop just now, I felt disturbed and frustrated. On a daily basis, I had no control over my thoughts. It was quite the opposite actually as my thoughts had full control over me. The moment you become aware of that voice inside your head, you start to notice what it says. You may even realize how uninspiring or distasteful that voice can be. Singer in his book refers to the voice as your “inner roommate”. Indeed, the voice that lives inside your head can be treated as a completely separate person. You don’t always agree with what your roommate says, and that’s true for the things the voice inside your head says to you too.
I can’t do this topic justice in one story, and nor can I go through all the techniques of how to harness the voice in your head today. That’s why I titled it an “introduction”. However, even merely being aware of that voice is a (big) first step. Ultimately, every single story that gets shared on The Cities Within intends to help you understand yourself better in hopes of bringing you closer to realizing your potential, and being self-aware is a fundamental stepping stone in that journey.