Do you ever have conversations in your head for hours about something that is bothering you? Do you call friends or family to vent? Do you think that a solution and relief will appear if you keep hashing it out? How much time do you spend in agreement reality
It won’t until you get into action. In your head, you’re dead.
Frequently, I hear people talking about what is going on inside their heads as if their thoughts are a reality. I did it just the other day for over an hour. I knew what I was doing, and I stuck with it because I had some free time. “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” gets me every time.
Had I been sitting alone, talking out loud on a crowded New York City street, there would be no difference between me and the schizophrenic, homeless woman Paula, who sits on the church steps a few blocks away from my apartment. The difference between Paula and me is that I have a home, a cell phone and a few people who I can call who will listen to me.
After a little circular time in my head, I phoned a friend under the pretense that I needed her opinion. I didn’t really care about her feedback; I just wanted to run the tape of my internal dialogue. The specifics were that I felt a teacher at one of my children’s schools handled something poorly. My friend listened politely, agreed and then threw a few of her opinions into the fire. My friend’s well-intentioned participation and agreement solidified my story and what started off as a flame, turned into a bonfire. We analyzed the teacher’s personality and motives, rehashing what happened from different angles. Eventually, we pulled the lens up and made the problem more systematic, a sample of the more significant issues arising at the school. Our continued agreement kept stoking the fire, we settled in around it, roasting resentments in righteous tones.
What started out as a passing thought now had an entire structure to it and showed up as “the truth.”
This is an example of agreement reality.
Here is the definition:
“Agreement reality is knowledge acquired due to others telling you it is so.”
I wish venting and agreement worked and I walked away from such calls feeling better. The agreement creates and confirms positions and venting strengthen neural pathways. I left the call angry and disempowered, planted in a clearly defined stance. Whenever I am making myself right and someone else wrong, alarm bells eventually sound. There is no possibility when positions are fixed. Just a drop of doubt can allow workability to enter the space. Curiosity creates bridges between us.
We live in a world of agreement reality, it’s happening all around us all the time. People who disagree with prevailing opinions often stay quiet due to the spiral of silence. The gist of that theory, developed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann is that if you speak up against a well-received, societal agreement, you risk being kicked out of the campfire and eaten by wolves.
Here it is:
On my best days, when issues involving a person or organization arise I have two sound choices; I can go directly to the person or organization with my complaint, or if I am not ready to do that, I can pray or meditate. If I am too possessed by negative emotions to trust myself to engage in a fruitful interaction, prayer or meditation is always a good choice for further guidance.
I also have another tool I regularly utilize which may sound simplistic and is a gem. I write down the person or organization’s name on a strip of paper after I meditate or pray and put them in my “God box.” It’s an action when you are not ready to take action. My God box is a small box that I keep on a table in my bedroom. The idea is that whatever you believe in outside of yourself (God, nature, whatever) will give you guidance when the time is right, regarding the name you place inside of it. It works because it gets the name out of my head once I put the slip of paper in the box.
If my issue is some circular, self-loathing conversation about an area of my life I feel dissatisfied or helpless in, there are even more options available. Figuring out where I can effect change is the first step, and I use the Serenity Prayer as my guide:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to the change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” When I figure out what is in my power to shift, I can create an action plan to do that ASAP. If I am unwilling to take action required for me to feel better, I acknowledge that and pray or meditate for willingness.
Getting up and moving ( Move a Muscle Change a Thought ) is always a good idea when possible. I then drop the issue by creating a distraction. Depending on the situation, I turn on a podcast or pick up a book, or call someone who needs support. Service is the best way I know to turn off the constant stream of self-talk.
Even if you choose not to address the primary issue, there is always an action you can take to get out of your head.
Talking to your friends or your shrink will only be helpful if they are brave enough to offer a different perspective. An agreement will reaffirm your position and keep you in your head. In your head, you’re dead.