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Do you have over-active internal voice?

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BipolarCoder

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Jun 8, 2020
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California
I'm curious, who here has an overactive internal voice as part of their problem, particularly in down cycles?

By over-active internal voice.. I mean an internal dialog of our voice which just never stops talking. Always yammering and commenting on every thing, feeling, thought.

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I had an incessantly overactive internal voice until my late 30s, and I didn't even realize it, or realize this was different than what other people experience. Once I realized this was an issue, I put effort into reading about meditation and learning to fix it, and while it took some time... I eventually came to see that voice inside our heads is not the same thing as "us", and I was able to learn to quiet it when I want to. At least for 30-90 seconds, which is quite a long time of mental peace.

It doesn't fix bipolar swings, as it doesn't change feeling like I'm made of limitless energy or a sack-of-mud.. but I do find it very helpful to be able to have a switch to turn off the incessant chattering, because then the feelings can't drive thoughts.

The books that I feel were most helpful were...

"Waking the Tiger - Healing Trauma" by Peter Levina

"Deep Meditation - Pathway to Personal Freedom" by Yogani (on mantra meditation)

"The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness" by John Yates, PhD (on controlling the mind)

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I'm curious what other peoples experiences are with overactive internal voice (or not), and shutting it down (or not).
 
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Dice

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Jan 20, 2019
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88
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UK
Yes! Mine, (which is most definitely mine and not a hallucination or anything) seems to run through scenarios for me. For example, if something has happened, say an argument or altercation with someone, my brain will replay what happened and 'imagine' a second scenario and how that would go down to the point where it virtually writes a script for what is said and done. I also find myself with this internal continual stream of thought when I'm doing other tasks, like when I'm in the garden or out walking. I'll catch myself and be like "I saw this thing, and then I thought that thing, and then what seems like a hundred thoughts later I'm now thinking about this, and it all links together". But it does feel like a restless mind that needs peace rather than anything approaching a good thing.
The Bruce Springstein line "a freight train running through the middle of my head" comes to mind.
 
B

BipolarCoder

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Jun 8, 2020
Messages
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Location
California
@Dice - I understand why you say "most definetly mine", and I feel the same way. Have you tried to willfully get it to stop talking? Can you? How would you rate yourself on the scale below?

From talking to people anecdotally, I'd break down experiences into something like:

1) can control topic, and can stop stop internal dialog with attention
2) can control topic, but can't stop internal dialog with attention, but it stops with a "full attention activity" (like extremely involved sports, or learning)
3) can control topic, but dialog never stops
4) can't control topic or or stop internal dialog in any way

a) excessive (>80% of the day) internal dialog
b) moderate (10-30% of the day) internal dialog
c) seldom internal dialog (only when something is very pressing)
d) never or near never internal dialog (difficult to think internally at all)

I was very much in the (2a) category for a long time. Through meditation and effort, I shifted to (1a) and five years later I think I'm getting closer to (1b) -- except when I get really stressed and then i'm back to (1a) and I forget to take the effort to stop it sometimes. Ironically, one important remedy is focusing on calm breathing, because I find a big part of my cycle of overactive thinking involves subconciously holding my breath, and breathing very shallowly.

My wife is more in a (1c) category, and a close friend is actually (1d, or just d).

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My internal voice does the same thing you mentioned, often "living in the past", running through alternate "what if" scenerios for decisions that I've made in the past that maybe didn't turn out as optimal as I would have wished... Many people do this to some degree, so I think the main question is whether it becomes an intrustive pattern that is difficult to stop. I've certainly experienced that quite a few times in my life (aka anxiety and pessimistic rumination).

Though I spend more time with my internal voice "planning the future", whether it be planning a future conversation, considering the most likely "dangers" to watch for and how to plan around them, or trying to consider the outcomes of different choice-options, so I can try to choose an optimal one... This future planning can often be very helpful, but it can also be a real pain in the ass when I'm obsessing over a fake notion of future perfection... And of course, if it gets in the way of enjoying "now", then it's a real problem. And it's even more of a problem when it gets in the way of performance.. such as obsessing so much about future planning for an activity, and then in the activity focusing more on expectations of how well it met my plan, rather than experiencing it and taking it as it comes.

To me, a hallucination would be if we actually thought we were hearing "real sound" from the outside world, and I've never experience anything that would be termed a hallucination... To me the issue of "mine or not mine" is pretty abstract. If it's in my head, it's created by my brain, and then it's "mine" by some definition. It certainly doesn't get created by anyone else's brain.
 
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Dice

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Jan 20, 2019
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88
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UK
If I had to score it I'd say 3 or 4 (b) and that I usually only notice it when I catch myself doing it, it probably occurs a lot more but I don't usually notice. I don't feel it comes from a place of anxiety or fear either, sometimes it is most definitely a kind of 'revenge rage', at other times it's simply a never ending chain of thoughts all spanning from one thought-triggering sight or sound or recollection. The problem with these things is that none of us know what normal is and what other people experience inside their own minds and how much of internal dialogue is within reasonable bounds and how much is intrusive. Who knows!
 
Zana

Zana

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Apr 15, 2020
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54
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England
Always interesting to see quantification of our thoughts and feelings! I'd add a fifth category to the first list: 5) can't control topic or stop internal dialogue without a 'full attention activity'. I'd put myself in the 5a category as playing high intensity sports or working full throttle are about the only things I can do to stop my mind chatting and going wherever it wants. If I had a penny for every sleepless night!

It would be very interesting if a survey was conducted to a wide population to see just how active people's minds are and what correlations with contributing factors are found. As you mentioned it can be a bit odd to realize that most people don't seem to have that overactive self dialogue.

It can be a blessing or a curse...such is the nature of this disorder!
 
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