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Learn the key ideas of the book by Ethan Kross


Use your inner voice to evolve

We are all familiar with our inner voice: it is the monologue that rattles on "in our minds", accompanying us in practically every waking moment. Evolution has assigned it the task of helping us to process the past, present, and future, in the form of a continuous narrative that acts as our guide through life. However, this inner voice can easily turn into chatter: a redundant eddy of thoughts, capable of completely absorbing our attention, preventing us from tackling tasks, and harming us, and our relationships, in the long run. Fortunately, evolution has also provided us with the necessary tools to silence the chatter, and harness the power of our inner voice, and use it for what it really is: as a precious tool to guide us through life, and that constitutes a fundamental part of our personality.

Read in 27 min.
Listen in 34 min.

A psychological experiment to transcribe the inner voice

In 2011, the English anthropologist Andrew Irving "recorded", so to speak, the inner voices of a hundred New Yorkers he randomly stopped on the street. His goal was to answer the question: what are those people thinking? More than a recording, in reality it was a conscious transcription of the interviewees' inner monologues. Despite the issues of objectivity that his method presented (or lack thereof), the scientist was nevertheless able to observe several very interesting points, starting with the rich variety of the subject matter covered by the interviewees’ inner voices. In fact, there was everything in the monologues: from worrying about the tasks to be performed during the day, to mulling over either recent or distant unpleasant events, and attempts to deal with relationship issues or bad news.

In short, the subjects’ inner voices covered the full spectrum of functions: from contingent utility, to a kind of self-coaching (very clear in the case of an interviewee who kept telling himself that "it's time to move on"), as well as pain management. The voices, however, could instantly transform into veritable eddies: spirals that imprisoned the person in a vicious circle.

Finally, the scientist also recognised the inner voices’ ability to jump smoothly, without missing a beat, from one temporal plane to another: past, present, and future were traversed effortlessly, over and over again. Memories, projections, remorse, fears and desires, constructive proposals, and insuperable obstacles: everything was mixed in a continuous monologue, perfectly centred on the person who was "thinking" it.

Irving put the inner voice present in the minds of human beings, on paper: a world that is perfectly known by each of us ... yet over which we often have no control.


The key ideas of "Chatter"

A psychological experiment to transcribe the inner voice
The inner voice is our brain’s default state
Evolution has given us an inner voice to rework past experiences
In the rare cases where our self-talk is silenced, we feel disconnected
When your inner voice becomes fixated on a single thought, it becomes chatter
Our inner voice can come back to haunt us
The inner voice is not ours alone
Distance allows you to avoid being sucked into a vortex of ruminations
We become wiser when we distance ourselves from our inner ruminations
Three tools to stop the chatter: distanced self-talk, "universal you", and changing the meaning
You must surround yourself with people who do not add fuel to the fire of your mental rumination when they are trying to support you
"Invisible support" creates the right conditions to reduce chatter-triggering factors
Nature is a natural battery, capable of reducing stress and thus chatter
Using placebos, lucky charms, and rituals can help to stem the chatter
Take-home message
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