Do you experience compulsive thinking? Annoying, isn't it? Especially how the voice yammers on and on and makes you feel worse… a true case of when more isn't better.
Compulsive thinking is a malady many people are afflicted with. It's a stream of negative thoughts that bounces back and forth between an unresolved or un-reconciled past and a negatively anticipated future. It takes focus away from the Bigger Picture, where everything and everyone is interconnected, and makes us feel separate, alone, maybe isolated, and definitely the "victim" of others or life or even the Creative Consciousness. It's a stream of thought allowed to run amok, often with hardly any awareness that we're doing it, because the ego believes it's being logical and looking for a solution or resolution, which never comes through this practice.
What that stream of thought says to us, most often tends to become our ego's identity, what it identifies with; and once that happens, the ego latches on and doesn't want to let go. The effect goes beyond our physical space, though. Through this approach the ego transmits intense feelings the Law of Attraction matches. Each time a match shows up, the negative ego identity is made even more solid in the mind.
Eckhart Tolle wrote: The fact that this new form is a deeply unhappy one doesn't concern the ego too much, as long as it has an identity, good or bad. In fact, this new ego will be more contracted, more rigid and impenetrable than the old one. . . . Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side; life will not be helpful. If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in.
To be in this state of mind and emotion is to be possessed by the ego's thoughts and feelings instead of being the conscious thinker and feeler. What happens is that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors most strongly linked to that negative identity are repeated on an ongoing basis; hence, nothing ever changes and our experience may even get worse. Tolle stated "Some egos that perhaps don't have much else to identify with easily survive on complaining alone." For some people, and that includes some of us, consistent complaining aloud or to ourselves is mostly an unconscious, habitual activity. And we can really rile ourselves up when we do it; peace, IF sincerely desired, is hard to come by.
However, it's not a matter of ego to state a genuine issue exists so it can be addressed; and venting can be a beneficial way to discharge negative energy. But, informing and compulsive complaining are two different matters. Look at the difference between these examples: "Waiter, this burger is rare instead of well-done. Please ask the chef to cook it three more minutes on each side" vs. "Waiter, my burger is raw! What's wrong with everyone? Can't anyone get even something this simple right?! Everything and everyone is against me!" The difference is obvious, isn't it? The second voice comes from an ego so filled with unresolved resentment that the person anticipates more reasons to be upset, gets them, and reacts or, rather, overreacts. The negative ego is then fed and refueled, and the unhappy spiral continues downward in a more intense way.
I thought of two people I know who aren't as affected by the voice in their head (we do, all of us, have such a voice). One is always open to adventure; the other lives a fairly routine life. They couldn't be more different, but what they have in common is they live life on their own terms, as much as possible, and in the moment they're in. They think about what they want to do and do it. No big debate with themselves about their decisions. Their main purpose seems to BE where and when they are, in each moment, not stuck in the past or concerned with the future in an out-of-balance way.
The people I know who are perpetually unhappy and upset have in common a voice in the head that seldom seems to get quiet. Their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual lives are subjects, that is, in servitude to the voice of the ego's negative identity. Whereas the first two get out of thinking and into the awareness of Being as their experience of life, the others seldom get out of their heads, away from the voice, no matter what they're doing. The two feel enlivened by their experiences, whether adventurous or "ordinary," while the others experience an unpleasant life the voice convinces them is the only one there is.
What to do, what to do? We all fall into compulsive negative thinking, either at intervals or long-term, or are around people who experience it. If or when you find yourself in this pattern, notice it. Awareness of it is the way to get started on letting it go. You let it go by looking around at what's going on right at that moment. About 98% of the time, what you're thinking about compulsively isn't happening in your NOW moment. It's more likely you've been triggered because of a long-standing resentment more than by the current event that triggered your reaction or thought stream. You want to look at that, at which identity you're attaching to – ego's, based on the past, or your conscious awareness in the present moment, and which one truly serves you and your life and relationships, both personal and professional.
If you're around someone demonstrating this behavior, it helps to not resist the moment with your own inner voice, but to pay attention to the fact the person is identifying with their negative ego and not necessarily you or what's going on at that moment (the burger example above). Become curious. Observe, listen, realize you can't change them or convince them to change. Observe whether the voice in your head wants to react to them, and why. Then address this, first or only with your self, as the situation may require, at the proper time.
One thing that assists you in both scenarios is to focus fully on the breath. As someone who deals with compulsive thinking at times and compulsive thinkers, I can tell you it really helps to pause and put full attention on breathing in and breathing out. If it's safe to do so, try it right now with three breaths and closed eyes… all your attention on the breaths and only the breaths. Feel what's it's like to momentarily escape the insistent voice of the ego and connect with everything around you through this form of relaxed but aware disconnection.
Allowing yourself to take these breaths, quiets the voice because you can't listen to it AND focus fully on something else at the same time. This is one reason the adage, "Action sets you free," is correct; but the action needs to be productive, positive, like breathing on purpose or doing something you truly enjoy or feel enthusiastic about that captures your full attention.
Trying to stop the voice will only annoy you and send you into self-judgment. Using breath to replace the voice creates stillness. Stillness is the voice in the Mind of All That Is. The best answers or solutions can only come to you when you're receptive, and you are your most receptive when calm. Three breaths (or as many as it takes) can help you get there. It's a good practice to use as often as needed to shift out of unconscious behavior, which the voice of compulsive thinking is, and back into the awareness that you can choose your thoughts or even choose stillness.
Practice makes progress.