That Infernal Internal Dialogue.

{Written in 2011}

Earlier on this year I was overcome by a very strong sense of how much apparent suffering there is in the world, and I mean that more in the sense of angst, fear and frustrated desire than in the sense of genuine suffering. For most people in the west life is relatively speaking, comfortable. Even if times are financially difficult the vast majority do not have to exist under the conditions in refugee camps such as Dafur; so many are unhappy and actually quite grumpy about their lot. The world then has to it a sense of malaise or disease, in which most are not at ease with themselves nor their life conditions. I was filled with a sense of deep love for my fellow humanity and the folly which creates and perpetuates this sense of malaise.

As such I was drawn to the word’s of Shantideva’s Bodhisattva vows:

As long as diseases afflict living beings

May I be the doctor, the medicine

And also the nurse

Who restores them to health.

Altruistic and life affirming as these sentiments no doubt are there are some people who do not want to change, nor lift themselves out of the apparent suffering in which they live.  I have pondered long and hard as to what causes most of this apparent suffering and it is fairly plain to see that it is that infernal internal dialogue which is causative of apparent suffering. Through what we say to ourselves we create our own sense of reality and for some that is infernal, or a living hell of sorts. So my premise for today is:

Our internal dialogue is the cause of most of our apparent suffering, as such it is not our friend rather our own self created enemy.

The basis or neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is that reality and behaviours can be changed by altering both what we say to ourselves about stuff and how we act within this self created framework. People live life in a manner which is very much akin to building a house. As we evolve, we lay the foundations in youth, the first bricks in early adulthood and leave a gap perhaps for cavity wall insulation. We then construct the rest of the house as life progresses. The nature of our construct does not change that much as it evolves and apart from a few variations the basic design is set at some point in the past. The extent to which our house differs from the others on the housing estate which is humanity speaks volumes on our individual tendency towards being avant garde or herd like. The house, the castle, is what ever we tell ourselves it is or aspire to.  We build our lives by telling ourselves all sorts of stories about ourselves, our capacities, our desires. These stories are often heavily influenced by our peers, the media and the times. In our talking both internally and with others we create our own “reality” and our shared “reality”.

Internal dialogue is very repetitive and as such it is our internal mantra. These dialogues of course vary, though perhaps not quite to the extent that one might first imagine. Some of the dramatic elements are common and shared, these might be related to house, children, jobs, careers, health, holidays, religion, sex, food, drinking and television based entertainment. These are the building blocks of the common dream, that larger housing estate upon which we build our own little houses. 

Our internal dialogue is often of a very comparative nature, discussing whether we are as good as our peers, better than them and whether our house matches up to our own expectations and the perceived expectations of others. Much of this dialogue creates an imaginary and self limiting reality in which we are forever unhappy because we fail to live up to expectations. In a very real sense we conspire with each other to limit and by and large strive towards the lower common denominator called social acceptance. My guess is that the self esteem, self confidence and self belief of many is way lower than any outer presentation to the world.  Most of all internal dialogue is the most fertile of grounds through which fears are propagated and amplified by the means of collective mind.  Internal dialogue provides for us all a justification as to why it is foolish to try something entirely new and perhaps even slightly unknown. It breeds an infernal fear of ill health, death and dying and a terror of complete social exclusion; and in so doing creates an earthly hell of sorts.  The desire for longevity is misplaced. When my sell by date is up I hope to be taken off the shelves and not to be left there to rot.

Internal dialogue bolsters the sense of shared victimhood and “it is not fair” mentality. When, if one is detached, it is easy to see that for most people in the western world, there is really not that much to be grumpy about. There are relatively few who face starvation and gang rape on a daily basis. That might be something to complain about!!

Much internal dialogue centres around the concept of physical beauty and sexual attractiveness in which access to horizontal jogging is placed a little too high on the great mantelpiece of life. The vast tracts of advertising imagery based upon idealised physical forms, fashion and lifestyle, acts as an accelerant to the fire of internal dialogue, through which the comparative fire of mind says we are not good enough. Very few stop to ponder on the fact that physical beauty can in it self be a real curse. Internal dialogue is mostly about the form side of life and where we may or may not stand in some imaginary pecking order.

The plethora of fears associated with diet, health, exercise and longevity fill the mind with a mass of bric-a-brac such that the thoughts and sounds of internal dialogue are like so many young birds in a nest clamouring for the parental worm. The internal dialogue needs and demands constant feeding, as such it is a harsh master. There is simply no space or room amidst all that noise to stand back and consider about where life is going. The apparent urgency of internal dialogue causes the days, months, years and decades to flash past like an express train. The desires of the internal dialogue appear paramount and are rarely, if ever, sated.

My experience of most internal dialogues is that they are filled with such words as you can’t, you should, you ought to, that is normal, you have failed, that is not what is done here and would daddy be proud of that? For many there is a relative cacophony of entirely negative thought forms which create a climate of some grim application to life.  This is so very familiar that, just like heroin, it is very addictive.  Internal dialogue needs a fresh score every morning and to be shared with all the other pushers within our social circle whom we might choose to call friends. The reality is that pushers are criminals and hence we the junkies and the pushers are all, partners in crime.

I am going to make another premise here:

You are not your internal dialogue

This might seem mildly radical but it is true. If you can examine your internal dialogue from a detached view then, you are not it. In any case much of what you say to yourself is a pack of lies with which you have created your own mythos, your precious self image. The internal dialogue does not like to be challenged and is very defensive. Most conversation is shared internal dialogue and is mutually bolstering.

For the reader of a religious bent I have a simple question which points directly at the folly of internal dialogue; does God care about whether you are pretty, have a large cock, a nice car, a fashionable wardrobe or if you achieve the national average of extended multiple orgasms each week? Is Buddha all that interested? I suspect not. Viewed from this angle the contents of most internal dialogue are “chitta” which is onomatopoeic and exactly like the sound of birds in a nest. If you were about to die, would you really be bothering as to whether Mr Jones’ new Audi looked better than your Volkswagen?

Perhaps as a beginning it might help to look at the interaction between internal dialogue and fear, which is the very basis of the corrupt and manipulative insurance industry. This plays directly on the fear of losing possessions, accidents etc. and is a part of the fabric of the blame culture which abounds today. If you are stupid enough to trip over a paving stone is it really the fault of the council for putting it there? I don’t think so. Deep down everyone knows this, but the litigious “victim” can these days seek recompense. “I didn’t deserve to trip up…”

The fear of litigation is a product of the internal dialogue which supports the blame culture. It is always someone else’s fault!! If you had not been stuck up in your mind, within the circles of your internal dialogue, you might have been sufficiently wide awake to look where you are going.

In what way does the chitta in the mind reinforce all your fears, how does it limit you and above all does it make you at ease and happy? The internal dialogue is one of humanity’s major diseases and my prescription is first of all to become aware of your own internal dialogue and then simply to stop doing it.

If you must have internal dialogue then your mantra might be; “I am a Magical Being of the Universe”. Try this and as the saying goes; “Trust me I am a Doctor!”