Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 21;   May 24, 2006: Inner Babble

Inner Babble

by

It goes by various names — self-talk, inner dialog, or internal conversation. Because it is so often disorganized and illogical, I like to call it inner babble. But whatever you call it, it's often misleading, distracting, and unhelpful. How can you recognize inner babble?

Inner babble is that stream of speeches, rehearsals, nagging, put-downs, gloating, and other disturbing messages that pass through our brains almost continuously. It isn't the only inner stream of course; others are more organized, more creative, and might even be the source of inspiration now and then.

An anxious dogWe each have our own favored patterns of inner babble, and we favor some over others in certain situations. Here are some examples.

  • I better not do that. People might think less of me.
  • I better do that. If I don't, people might think less of me.
  • I better stop doing this. It's too much fun.
  • I like this, but I don't deserve it.
  • I don't have to do this distasteful task right now. I'll do it later.
  • If I do this, the world should reward me.
  • I don't have to do this, because the world didn't reward me last time.
  • People should behave according to my rules.
  • Some parts of my body work, but they need to be larger (smaller).
  • Some parts of my body work, but they're in the wrong place.
  • I can conceal my physical defects with X.
  • I'm an inferior being. Only X can help me.
  • X is a shortcut to achieving my dreams.
  • I can get X only by giving money to somebody else.

If you're hearing
that success or failure
will follow inevitably,
you probably aren't
thinking logically
Because inner babble can be misleading, tiring, and demoralizing, controlling it helps focus your energy on more constructive pursuits. When you suddenly suspect that your thoughts might be inner babble, check for these identifying characteristics:

Absolute language
Concepts appear in stark terms: "my body is inferior;" "I have to do this;" "I must never do that." Everything is either good or bad.
Very little in life is all good, all bad, or always so.
Promises of certain success or predictions of inevitable doom
If you're hearing that success or failure will follow inevitably, you probably aren't thinking logically.
Life just isn't that predictable.
Unverifiable assertions
You find yourself hearing things that might be true, but can't be checked. Just how exactly will X help you achieve your dreams?
Try asking "How?" Often the answer is unavailable.
Money-based "solutions"
Purchased "solutions" rarely last, even if they're real. And there's a good chance that the likely vendor is the originator of the babble message.
Doing what's really needed is much more difficult than spending money, but it has two distinct advantages — it's usually cheaper, and it works.

When we're trying to change, we sometimes see our current behavior as "wrong" or defective, and we can become discouraged if the change is difficult. Beware — changing inner babble can be especially tricky if you get to babbling about your inner babble. Go to top Top  Next issue: If Only I Had Known: I  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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