When does mental chatter appear for you? For me, it’s usually a work experience that causes me to notice an uptick in my mental chatter. Chatter is one of those activities that I didn’t understand or appreciate when I was younger. I did, however, feel its effects. It also became something that I unwittingly fed into, getting a kind of satisfaction for having endured the process. Chatter for me became a way to mentally prepare, to go through the details of every scenario, every interaction, in order to feel that I was ready for anything. In hindsight, all it really did was wear me out emotionally & physically.
Why does mental chatter suddenly appear? I believe that It’s the ego’s attempt to gain control and become the focus of your attention. Why does it need to do this?
The ego hates change.
The ego is quite happy with the status-quo and keeping things exactly the way they are. It’s easier to feel in control when things appear to be stable.
The ego hates uncertainty.
If things don’t change, then it’s easier to be certain of your actions & choices. The map is laid out before you and you can continue behaving & operating as you always have in the past.
The ego hates to be challenged.
If changes do occur, we often need to adapt and that process can raise the question “why do I have to change?”. Often, we marry our identity with our choices, beliefs & values and this change makes us question who we are.
The ego loves comparisons.
My ego would thrive on comparisons with other people. Insidious questions like “am I as smart as them?” or “why did they get recognition and I didn’t?” would be favourite starting points. It seems that the ego needs that comparison with others in order to feel unique & special.
The ego doesn’t truly understand worth.
As much as the ego loves comparing itself to others, it can’t easily see all the things we bring of value to the table. It can easily discount our achievements, accolades and abilities. Doing so puts us on the path of always striving to be more. Healthy growth is great, but constant seeking isn’t.
The ego thrives from a place of lack.
Part of this striving comes from a place where the ego thrives – a place of lack. The ego contributes to our feeling that we don’t have enough, aren’t happy enough, smart enough, wealthy enough etc. We are bombarded with these messages everyday in marketing and our ego loves to listen to them.
So how do you cope with this? First, understand these points and know the tactics that your ego will use. Understanding the rules by which your ego operates will make it a lot easier to catch it in the act, before you spend a lot of time spinning on the mental chatter wheel.
Next, show yourself some compassion and understanding. You’ve probably seen similar recommendations to treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. It is absolutely true – showing yourself the same love, respect & support goes a long way to having a healthier relationship with yourself and your ego. Remember that we will always have our ego as part of us and we can’t escape it. We can, however, better understand its triggers so that we don’t hobble ourselves when the chatter starts.
Another technique I use is reviewing my objective feedback catalogue. We all get feedback from other people all the time. However, we tend to be very selective & subjective when it comes to remembering the feedback from others that helps us to shine & grow. I recall the feedback from others that came as the result of good effort, teamwork, creativity, curiosity & empathy. For me, these are things that I value and that help align me everyday. I also remember the feedback from others that helps me to grow. Not all the feedback we receive will be a shining compliment and that’s ok! It’s this feedback, depending on the source, how it was delivered and how we perceive it, that is the fodder for ways in which we can grow. Initially, we may shy away from this feedback because remember, our ego doesn’t like to be challenged, but you can turn this around into a growth opportunity instead to diffuse the influence the ego can have.
My previous article on “My Ego Life-preserver” talks about this idea of how I would cling for dear life to specific behaviours that I felt would “protect” my ego. Now, I try to understand my ego instead and listen to its needs with more understanding & compassion. It can still be a struggle on some days, which is why this was a timely article for me to write. In taking a deeper look at my mental chatter and how it tries to grab my attention, I think I’ve come to a better understanding of why my chatter appears. My task is to continue to be kind & compassionate to myself, to stay curious and to listen for opportunities for growth.
I thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this and I hope it has resonated with you in some way.