Part 1: Being ‘human’
There is a voice in our heads. It chatters on, sometimes on important matters, more often than not it chases its own tail on trivial topics. It flows on and on, occasionally guiding us to glory, other times driving us insane with the incessant noise it makes.
Funnily enough, we associate the voice in our heads with who we think we are.
Is it because this voice in our head is responsible for spewing the thoughts that linger in our head?
Or is it because this voice is so consistently active in our experience that we assume it to be part of ourselves?
You see a beautiful member of the opposite sex across the room at a social event. They take a sit by the bar, and look around the room after they order a drink. You are taken aback by his/her beauty.
Before you can help yourself, your thoughts wander into the realm of naughty/lovey-dovey stuff.
The person glances around the room once more, and spends half a second with their sights set in your general direction for half a second. His/her lips curl slightly as your quarry turns his/her attention back to the bar.
“Woah! Wait, he/she just looked at me! Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we got together and had something wonderful happen? Wait, do I look presentable enough? Yeah, I’m a cool person doing (insert cool/important aspect of your life here), so I’m definitely worthy enough. If anything, I should be able to win him/her over. Let’s go, its now or never.”
Before you know it, you’re approaching them by the bar, saying “what’s a guy/gal like you doing in a place like this?”
They’re waiting for their significant other and are not interested in a conversation, a reply that immediately shuts down the interaction. Dejected, you walk back towards where you were sitting, and the very same voice that was urging you to make the approach is ironically enough saying the following:
“That was so stupid! Of course he/she was just glancing at the door behind me lol. Why did I ever think that I had a shot with him/her? I should not have done that. I’m a complete idiot lol.”
Part 2: The voice
The scenario above is one that men will find themselves all too familiar with, as well as a good reason why women (usually) don’t make the approach in the dating scene. However, the bigger takeaway here is the fact that the voice in our heads can go from excitement and anticipation to dejection and self-loathing in a split second. The same voice that is responsible for this is also affected by temperament, having a tired/angry/annoyed-as-fuck edge to it on days where you wake up on the wrong side of bed; or an extremely bubbly/playful/grateful tinge to it on days where you do wake up on the right side of bed. It also appears to be aware of your past experiences, from your triumphs (recent and long ago) to your childhood traumas, to all knowledge that you possess, and is somewhat responsible for acting out/ justifying your heuristics/behavioral patterns (good and bad).
This voice also seems predominantly tied to system 1 of the mind (from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow) which is predominantly responsible for associations formed from past experiences, making for good heuristics (really fast cognitive shortcuts) when correctly applied, and conversely creating cognitive biases that can lock people in negativity for long periods; though it does manifest as the system 2 of more rational (and more cognitively demanding) thought from time to time.
Eckhart Tolle calls it the ego/pain-body (depending on circumstances and triggers) in his work, the ego referring to the exclusive identification with experiences and skills while the pain-body refers to the harsh self that retaliates in response to triggers associated with past trauma. Non-duality philosophy refers to this voice as ‘person thoughts’, as mental noise that serves only to perpetuate the idea of being a separate self that is tied to the limitations of the body and its experiences.
More importantly, the voice itself is essentially neutral, as it spends most of its time waffling on random things when it is not being ‘used’ by the ego/pain-body/separate self.
Part 3: Awareness
What is it that is aware of the voice in your head?
If so, are you the voice or are you that which is aware of the voice?
How can I tell?
Can a mental voice be aware of the sensation in your toes?
Guess not. So as we are not the cars on the street, the beautiful member of the opposite sex sitting on the other side of the room, or the information inferred through our senses, so too we are not the voices in our head, no matter how convincing it may seem?
Tell me about the nature of “I” that you refer to in your answers.
I guess “I” am present.
There isn’t much more that can be said about the “I” that is aware of all things. In this regard, all sensations and voices (inside and outside) both arise in the presence of “I”, and disappear in the presence of “I”. It is this presence that all things arise in that all spiritual teachers refer to when they speak of our true nature, which remains unaffected by whatever voices appear in, rabble about, and disappear from.
If so, then what else is to be said about the voice inside our head? Is it you or are you aware of it? The latter being a rhetorical question because one who is identified with the voice itself will not be able to become aware of it. And if you happen to be reading this, chances are you already have some form of self-awareness of the voice and your own beliefs.
Is there anything to be done about the voice? Not necessarily. Just abide as the presence that you already are, and let the voice play itself out. If the voices happen to be shrill, angry, resentful, observe it. If the voices are playful, exciting, enticing, observe it. If it happens to be waffly and random, observe it. Make no attempt to dissuade, discuss, debate, or dispel them, for in due time they will stop. Nobody can be angry forever, no?
Do you stop talking to yourself as a result? Yes. A silent mind is a happy one after all.