Plain English with Derek Thompson - Why the Voice Inside Your Head Can Sound Like a Jerk

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I’m Matt Bellamy founding partner of Puck news and I’m covering the inside conversation about money and power in Hollywood, with my new show, the town I’m going to take you inside Hollywood with exclusive inside on what people in Show, Business are actually talking about multiple times a week.


I’ll talk to some of the smartest people I know journalists insiders, all of whom can break down the hottest topics and entertainment.

Tell you what’s really going on.

Listen now, Today’s episode is about our inner monologue.


If I asked you, who’s the person that you talk to most in the world, you might say your best friend, your spouse, parent sister colleague, but for most of us, the answer is us.

We are the person we talked to most and that’s because most people are blessed and cursed with the ability to think in words, we replay past conversations.


We imagined future dialogues, we pump ourselves up.

We repeat shopping list to commit them to Memory on our way.

To see the S shampoo conditioner.

So toothbrush shampoo, conditioner, soap toothbrush, but that voice in our head isn’t always very nice to us.


It isn’t always very useful.

Sometimes it’s just a jerk sometimes.

When we wake up in the morning, these silent monologue inside our heads is a little bit like the title character in the Netflix comedy BoJack.

Horseman And breakfast.

I don’t deserve breakfast.


Shut up.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself.

What does that do?

Get breakfast.

You stupid fat ass.

These are cookies.

This is not breakfast.

You are eating cookies.

Stop it.

There is a word for this sort of looping self-talk where you hit can’t get the anxious thought out of your head and it just Burrows in there.


Like an earworm of negativity playing on, repeat the psychologist.

Ethan cross calls this chatter Today’s guest is Ethan cross.

In today’s episode, we talk about his book chatter the science of our inner monologue.



So many people suffer from - looping self-talk and how to make friends with the voice inside your head.

I’m Derrick Thompson.

This is plain English.


Ethan cross welcome to the podcast.

Derek Thompson.

So great to see you.

Thanks for having me on.

So to start, why don’t you say a bit about what it is that you study at the University of Michigan?

So in a nutshell, I studied the nuts and bolts that explain how people can manage their emotions when they want to manage their emotions.


So when I mean by nuts and bolts is, I try to understand the mechanics that underlie our ability or in many cases, inability to manage our emotions.

Personal lives.

And so, sometimes it takes us to studying the brain.

We focus on people’s behavior, a lot.


And we also do big intervention studies to see whether the the insights we clean from the science that we do can actually be translated to help people manage their emotions effectively in their daily lives.

So one part of my daily life that is a sometimes annoyance.


And sometimes extraordinary help is the fact that Talk to myself constantly.

I have a very loud inner monologue, my sub vocal self-talk, sometimes sounds very, very vocal.

I had never read about this concept though in any formality.


And so it was so awesome to get your book chatter to help break it down.

Let’s start with a definition.

What is self talk?

What is Chatter?

Well, for before I give you the definition, I just want to normalize your experience for you and to let you know that if you have a very active in her voice, you know, you’re not alone, many people do.


So let’s start with this concept of the inner voice which is where I like to start things.

So when scientists use the term inner voice, what we’re talking about is our ability to silently use words to reflect on different features of our daily experience.


If I were to present You with a number like a phone number and I asked, hey, just repeat this in your head.

So you to 09:05 one, you do that silently.

That’s you using your inner voice.

If you go to the grocery store, you walk down the aisle.

And you think to yourself hey what am I supposed to buy?

And you go down the list, eggs cheese milk, that’s your inner voice or inner voice is part of what we call our verbal working memory system.


Basic system of the human mind that lets us keep verbal information, active, for short periods of time and we rely on that system every day.

Throughout the day to live our lives.

So that’s one thing.

Your inner voice helps you do another thing that helps you do is is simulate and plan.


So before I give a big presentation, I will go over.

What I’m going to say.

Usually word for word in my head when I’m going for a walk around the hotel, right?

I’m rehearsing that’s me using my inner voice.

I don’t just and I don’t just simulate what I’m going to say.


I then imagine what is someone else going to say to me?

And then I respond in my head, I go through that hole.

Interaction using my inner voice.

So we use our inner voice to simulate and plan.

We also use our inner voice to motivate ourselves.

So this morning, I’m exercising doing a really high interest, intensity, interval, training, whatever it’s called Hit class.


Yeah I’m I’m miserable.

I’m in pain and the instructors telling me to do more painful things and I start talking myself used to come on.

You son of a you could you got this and I’m being pretty firm, but I’m motivating myself in.

Fleet report doing this all the time, and then finally, and I wonder if this is where you are, self-talk, really perks up and doing a little knowing you a little bit outside of this podcast.


I suspect it does, but I might be wrong.

So, you tell me for those of you who are listening Derek’s face now is becoming very serious, as he waits for me to offer him, my appraisal the situation through.

So we use our inner voice to, to storify our lives like things happen.


Our lives that were trying to make sense of where we are, meaning making machines, why did this happen?

Why did I get this gig?

Why did this person say this to me?

What should I do?

And we use our inner voice to create narratives, that help us make sense of life.

So so those are just a couple of the key functions, your your inner voice allows you to do it all falls into the domain of talking to our cells, but but in lots of different ways for lots of different reasons.


Your book has so many interesting little details about self-talk.

One of them is that according to one study, we internally talk to ourselves at a rate equivalent to speaking, 4,000 words per minute out loud, which put in perspective means that or put perspective the Contemporary American president, State of the Union speeches typically run around 6,000 words and last over an hour.


So it’s extraordinary the degree to, which we can talk to ourselves in a way.

That is really, really concentrated in fast.

I want to focus on the disk Cept of negative self-talk, because that was one of the keep.

That’s one of the key parts of your book before we get into the mechanics of negative self-talk, and why it’s such a common part of The Human Experience.


Why don’t we just make this personal very quickly.

Give me an example of negative, self-talk, or chatter from your own life, happy to.

This is, this is payback for putting you on the spot before, by your own self talk.

So, so negative, self-talk, Or well, actually.


Let me distinguish between negative self-talk and chatter because I think there’s a really, it’s a subtle, but important distinction, negative self-talk, is when there’s just - content that you are, you are saying there’s, oh, I screwed up or I made a mistake.


That would be negative.

Self-talk, the difference between negative self-talk, and when I call chatter is Chatter, it involves getting stuck on a negative thought Loop.

So it’s not just oh I screwed up.

And then I learn from my experience.

Move onit’s.


Oh, I screwed up, shit.

What am I going to do?

I can’t believe I screwed up, why they do and you start looping over and over again.

And so the idea is when problems happen, what we often do is we try to make sense of them, using our inner voices capacity to talk ourselves but we don’t come up with Clear Solutions and we start spinning instead and in ways that are enormously dysfunctional, that’s what chatter is all about getting stuck in those. - thought loops and I think it’s an incredibly common experience.


I’ll give an example of my own as you asked me to do so several years ago, when my youngest daughter was a newborn, we’d have this ritual that we engaged in every day before.

She take her nap, I changed her diaper and then I would kind of like take her, she’s very little and I kind of like, you know, super in the air like she’s an airplane.


Going for spaceship going up and down, back and forth.

And then she were going in for like, oh, you know, it’s going to be a really Rocky landing and and I then push her down rapidly into the crib.

But then stop soft.

Very soft Landing in the crib.

And she absolutely loved this experience.


If you were to have watched it, it’d be like a positive mood induction for anyone, she’s Googling, and giggling, and I’m having fun.

And then we participate in this ritual one.

On time.

And as I take her in for that, that smooth landing at the very end, it’s not just smiles and Giggles instead it’s it’s screams and what is going on here and, and she’s holding her elbow.


Really tightly.

And what ended up happening was she grabbed onto my shirt, as I as I pushed her into, you know, put her down into the crib gently with all the best intentions mind you.

And when He, when she held onto my shirt, her elbow was dislodge, essentially from the socket nurses elbows.


Pretty common experience in newborns and I felt totally helpless.

I felt such terrible, emotional and even some physical pain myself looking at.

Hey, here’s this, this being that I care so much about and I’ve just hurt you unnecessarily.


How did this happen?

What did I do?

I’m start, I start looping.

My first.

It’s about her.

Then it goes up, a level of abstraction.

What is my wife going to say?

Should I call her?

She’s doing this.

Do I interrupt a boy?

Then it goes up another level.

Wait a second.


We have to take her to the doctor and what is the doctor going to say?

They can to think that I abused her and that maybe this was a form of, you know, and so my mind starts spinning as I attempt to work through the situation and how to deal.

Then I’m playing all the worst-case scenarios and catastrophizing, and I’m a wreck as a result.


That’s what chatter is.

That was a pretty severe case for me when it happened.

But you know if you look at the science, what you learn is that we all expect.

Well I don’t want to say, we all most of us experience these chatter blips throughout our lives and they can vary in intensity.


And when they occur, they can be enormously disruptive without trying to be.

Or baalak I think they are one of the big problems we face as a species and I say that based on the science.

So that’s what chatter is.

That was my one example of an experience.


I had we could probably spend the whole time talking about more if you like.

But I think everyone has that example, especially of something that you deeply regret that happen.

Very suddenly, when you make a small mistake, when you can imagine a parallel reality in which that tiny mistake had not been made, how can you not Loop and loop and loop?


And essentially, think through a, but a bunch of if only something slightly different it happened, I wouldn’t be in this terrible position.

I want to bring the topic to sports.

This is a ringer podcast Network.

There’s a sports podcast Network and I feel like this issue.


The, the mental gymnastics that athletes go through, is this perennial topic that I’m really interested in.

And in particular, I’ve always been fascinated by the phenomenon of professional baseball players, getting the lips which basically means to people who don’t follow baseball that after a certain period of their life, some baseball players, literally cannot throw the ball properly anymore.


That second baseman, chuck knoblauch had this situation and famously.

Rick ankiel a star Prospect for the st.

Louis Cardinals.

Also faced the EPS, it just very briefly tell us Rick, ankiel story.

And what this tells us about the effects of chatter, I’m happy to share that story with you, but I have a question.


First, was the Chuck knobloch reference a dig As you know, I’m a Yankees fan dude I’m a Yankees fan.

Okay, I suffered through it.

I said my goodness negative self-talk just having to watch Chuck knobloch have to throw the ball into the stands over and over your emotional pain.


The first baseman and for those of you who don’t know, Chuck knobloch, or maybe you’re not like super Baseball fans.

Chuck knoblauch was an All-Star second baseman who actually couldn’t throw the ball 5 feet accurately.

It was really remarkable.

So, let me tell you about another remarkable case of The Yips and then I, Link it back to chatter and that’s a great way of actually talking about.


Why this can be such so disruptive, so Rick ankiel was was what was it was generally considered to be a Phenom when he came into Major League Baseball.

He was touted as having the potential to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time.


Play for the st.

Louis Cardinals.

And throughout his first season in the league, he performed like a Phenom.

He helped get his team to the Payoffs.

And then during his his Believers, his first appearance in the playoffs, something really strange happened.


He winds up and he throws a wild pitch in the dirt back to the stream.

Over the second base goes, Greg Maddux of wild pitches, especially now most pitchers.

Throw a wild pitch every now and again, but, but not in Kiel.


He was like Greg Maddux in his Precision, right?

Like he had thrown the ball.

Tens of thousands of times.

Maybe hundreds of thousands of times he could get it into the mid with his eyes closed but he throws his wild pitch and so he when that happens he stops and he goes huh I just threw a wild pitch and gets the ball.


Shrugs it off whines up Thursday it again and he throws another wild pitch, and another, and another, and another.

And what I’m talking You can actually go watch this on YouTube.


It is painful to watch us.

I mean, you see the ball sailing into the into the back backdrop.

I mean it is, it is he’s missing the plate by a wide margin wild pitch and then Chipper Jones up, wild pitch, got a rocket up with Runners at second and third, and a save of a would be wild pitch and then on a walk to Galarraga wild pitch.


And now, another wild pitch will go into the wildest Hall of Fame.

I think in Kiel eventually gets pulled out of the game.

He comes back again for was more wild pitches the next season, they give him another go.


He’s got a drink alcohol before the game to calm his nerves.

He’s so nervous.

All of a sudden he still can’t find the plate.

He eventually leaves Major League Baseball and and never actually pitches again professionally.


He does reinvent himself.

As an outfielder later on is career, but pitching for him, someone who was on track to be the best ever.

At what he does was undone, why did this happen?

Because of his self talk.

So he’s on the mound and what he starts to do, as he starts focusing on all of the individual pieces of his wind up now.


Let me back up it a second.

So when you’re when you’re pitching or performing any complicated, Sports behavior, you are doing something very complex without thinking, because we’ve developed these these habits, we link together.


Lots of different movements into one seamless whole.

So if you’re pitching you you grip the ball a certain way.

You step back, you lift your leg, you you move your move your shoulders and so forth.

Like it’s a super complicated wind up and what you teach kids to do in little league is to perform that action without thinking in the same way that You don’t really think when you walk down the street anywhere, right?


You don’t really think about.

Hey, how far should I lift my leg up when I’m running on the treadmill?

You just do it.

What chatter does?

And which is what I would argue and kill experience on the mountain that day, is it zooms Us in on the thing?


We’re worried about.

So, if I’m worried about my pitch, I tunnel vision.

That’s all I could think about is Am I holding the ball tight enough?

Am I getting enough momentum?

As I moved back and forth.

And what we’ve learned from laboratory research, has once you start zooming in on all of the individual components of a complex Behavior, the whole thing.


Unravels, there’s something so interesting about this and suddenly strange, which is the chatter is both near-universal and somewhat self-destructive.

Like if you imagined Many people’s inner voice to be an outer person that person would be an asshole that the individual would not want to hang out with the person who has set up residence inside of their brains.


And it makes me wonder if chatter is often so - and often so destructive to our performance or our Focus.

Why do we have it?


Neurological purpose does it serve?

Yeah, it’s a great question and, you know, the insight into into the asshole inside us is, I think a powerful one and turns out some of the tools that can help people manage chatter involve, simply recognizing that feature of our experience.


So so why does this happen?

I think of the inner voice as an unwieldy tool.

It is a tool of the mind that when we wield it with Precision.

It can be really, really helpful.

But we don’t get a user’s manual for how to activate this tool like I I have yet to encounter an adult who had a formal class in elementary school or middle school on how to manage your inner voice, right.


And so we have this capacity that actually works for us.

I would argue the majority of the time, right?

The majority of the time that we’re using words and our life to simulate plan and and make meaning, I think it’s often helping us the times that it doesn’t help us stand out because we know people have the sensitivity to - information - stuff looms, much larger than everything else.


But in some cases, it’s especially when there’s a lot of emotion, what that can do is it can make it difficult for us to activate this tool?

Well, one of the explanations for why that happens.

If you want to dig a layer deeper is when we’re experiencing intense negative, emotion of the sort that characterizes chatter That often consumes, many of the the prefrontal resources we have, so prefrontal cortex evolutionarily, more recent parts of the brain that help us think flexibly and underlie our ability to change the way we think about things like rethink things.


Many of those networks are are depleted by our chatter so it’s as though the resources that we have to manage Your inner voice are themselves being consumed by the bad stuff, which which, you know, makes it really important to understand.


Like, hey, so what are the back doors that allow us to regain control the situation?

And, you know, studying those back doors is what I’ve spent most of my career doing and the good news is that despite how frequent and common chatter, is there are a lot of things people can do.

So I think there’s a lot of Hope out there.


I want to go one level deeper on this concept of the blinding effects of negativity.

Or the fact that negativity for whatever reason dose for do seems to consume our attention more than mild positivity.

So I am what you might call a failed.


Meditator, I have attempted meditation.

Many times in my life, I really want to be a habitual meditator but like as a habit it just does not stick.

That said, one of the takeaways that I’ve gotten from my many failed Misadventures in meditation is that I like to try to watch my mind especially when I’m Feeling something - angry or jealous?


Or frustrated.


I try to concentrate on that feeling of anger, jealousy, Etc.

And ask what is happening here?

Like, how has this, like, emotional color tone taken over my entire attention?

Sometimes even feel the vision.


Like, I can’t even focus on the physical world when I’m, you know, feeling really upset and you had this passage in your book that absolutely lept out at me, it goes quote-, inner voice.

Hogs are neural capacity verbal The nation.

Concentrates our attention narrowly on the source of our emotional distress.


Thus stealing neurons.

That could better serve us and quote.

I don’t know if you want to take this in an evolutionary way or a neurological way, but why does negativity do this?

Do this to us.


Why is it so hard to focus on the physical world when we’re thinking negative thoughts?

Well, the reason why is because the negative stuff is if you take an evolutionary point of view, the negative stuff in our lives is so much more dangerous to our survival and our ability to pass on our genes then.


Everything else because when we’re talking about - we’re talking about, actually living or dying in a, in a, in a threat, right?

Like, so we need to, like, hit the pause button and mobilize the, like, you know, the, the not just the Navy Seals, but, like the Army, the fifth regimen, the air for, like, everything all hands on deck to deal with this stuff.


And so, that’s a pretty crude response that we’ve evolved.

But, but it gets the job done because it sir, only focuses Us in where our Focus needs to be what we have also evolved.

The ability to do though is to hit that timeout button.

You can activate it via meditation or like 30 other things.


Let’s get back to that meditation or other stuff in a little bit.

But there are lots of other things that we’ve evolved like back doors Escape hatches that we that we do possess that we’ve learned about the problem.

Is that We don’t teach people about these backdoors like some, you know, some I talk about like 30 or so Tools.


In my book, we’re science-based, things people can do, my guess, is that some people have anecdotally, kind of learned those experiences just through trial and error in their lives.

Maybe their parents taught them about a few, but then there are a lot of others that just aren’t on the radar.


And so, so like the reason, I wrote this book actually was to take what I think is really useful information.

And put it out there for people so that they can can figure out like what to do.

When the, when the all-consuming vortex of negativity.


We all have our different ways of describing it when it strikes.

So and we’re going to get to the the advice aspect of your book in a second.

I just want to hit one more point on describing self talking chatter.

I like to think that like our ability to be in dialogue with ourselves to think about the past.


Just to think about the future to imagine alternative timelines.

It is a kind of super power.

I mean it may be one of the great intellectual superpowers that our species has over other species that we have this capacity to have other voices within us that we can learn from.


So what can we say?

Positive positively about self talks ability to improve our judgment and even our creativity, our ability to silently use language helps Lots of things.

It can be a source of innovation and creativity.

You’re talking about what I think of as mental time travel like my ability to go back in time in my mind and work through.


Why I screwed this thing up or succeeded, in this regard, that is an essential capacity that allows me to learn and grow.

It’s a tool that allows me to learn from my mistakes to savor the victories in ways that elevate my mood and motivate me moving forward.


Forward it that’s going back in time and using self talk to work through some issues.

I can also go forward in time in my head and try to anticipate problems or fantasize about Pleasant things happening in the future.


That ability to be flexible and where we focus our attention and and to recruit language to help us work through different scenarios.

I would not want to live life without that tool.

Would really I think get me in trouble actually I tell a story in the book about a neural and not a neurologist.


A neuroscientist who actually provide some really unique evidence of what I just said, how disruptive life might be without inner voice.

She ended up having a stroke that temporarily impaired, her linguistic centers in the brain, made it impossible to for her to talk to other people as well.


As impossible for her to talk to herself so she couldn’t repeat a number in her head using words.

She couldn’t try to use words to sort through her life and make sense of her experiences and she described his experience as tremendously disruptive.


So so we don’t want to get rid of the inner voice.

This is what people ask me all the time.

Hey cross actually, they’re not that they usually say, hey professor Krauss or Ethan, it’d be fine if they saved But the question, they normally posed to me is shut this thing up.


How do I get rid of it?

And the, the what I usually respond with his, we don’t want to get rid of our inner voice.

What we want to do is figure out how do you harness it to free it up to do all the wonderful things, it’s capable of doing without all the bad stuff, without the hips, without the problems that it can have for your relationships and for your physical health, this concept of mental time travel and the mental time machine I don’t want to be dramatic, but I do think it’s like one of the most important ideas in the world.


Like there is so much in meditation and self-help about living in the present, right?

Be here, now be here now and I do think it’s like, kind of bullshit.

Like, as a species, we are not built to be here.


Now, we are built with the mind that is designed to travel, and we are better off as individuals.

And as a species, I think for it, like when you’re in the time machine, the mental Machine.

The key is, I think are you driving or are you being driven like what?


We’re what cost me personally when I am lost in regret and thinking?

Oh, if only I just did that or loss in future anxiety, thinking about some event that I really, really want to happen.

And I’m just not paying attention to my surroundings, or maybe I’m lost in like that.

Sideways time, Corridor of, like being jealous about somebody else or wishing I had with someone else has I am truly lost.


I am truly lost.

When I’m being driven by that time machine out, Out of my present.

But when I can come back from that, when I can come back from regret to the present, when I can come back from anxiety, the present and I can learn from a gret and learn from anxiety.

But those examples of mental, try time travel.


I think a really important to my ability to learn and get better judgment, and become more creative.

And it’s about whether or not I have the capacity to realize that I’m mentally time traveling and then get back in the driver’s seat and come back.


To the present like Marty McFly like get back in and come back home and that seems to me to be such an important element of self talk.

How do we Wrangle it enough that we get the best of it and then come back to our here.

And now when it serves us, does that concept of like driving the time machine sit well with you absolutely, I completely agree.


The way I’ve described it is.

You want to be able to travel flute fluently Through Time into the past or the future.

The problem is that for a lot of us, we get in that time machine in our minds and then it, we go to the past or the future and then it breaks down.


Not on like Marty McFly be gets stuck and that’s not good.

We don’t want to get stuck in the future or past.

So the question is not how to rid yourself of the time machine.

So you’re always in the moment, this would not be a good thing.

There are species that are always in the moment.


They tend to have like multiple legs, creepy-crawlies like cock, Roaches, things like that.

I mean, like truly.

Those are those are animals that are driven by stimulus-response right here in the now.

One of the things that makes us so incredibly unique is human beings.


Our ability to not be in the moment all the time.

We don’t want to shut that capacity down, I don’t think it’s actually possible to shut it down unless you have some kind of neural impairment to be honest.

I think it’s actually an unattainable goal.


So what we want to do is just figure out how do you travel in your mind more effectively using your inner voice?

And that’s what that’s what the science in my book is all about.

I want to say one thing you eat.

Touched on this, this cultural maximum of living in the moment.

Right now, that’s very popular.


And, you know, I think it is important to clarify that in cases where you find yourself getting lost in the past or future refocusing on the moment can be useful.

I think that there is data to support that the problem is, we’ve gone from recognizing the, the the fact that, hey, there are some instances in which focusing on the Moment can be useful to think it took to go from that to hey, we always have to be in the moment and we’re not in the moment that’s us, not achieving our full potential and that is fundamentally wrong.


It does not cohere with how the brain works, how the mind works, and is an important distinction, I think we need to recognize I have this kind of bastardized and definitely non-expert idea that maybe you can just give me some feedback on it because it’s something that I’ve taken out of my reading of yours and other Neuroscience books and books about meditation, which is this idea of three, layers of thought.


So, at the bottom layer of thinking or the bottom layer of attention, you have sort of pure sensory experience.

That is what flow, you know, me high.

She send me highs concept of flow.

Really feels like, so when I’m playing a board game when I’m playing a sport, I’m having an awesome dinner conversation with someone with great Wine and Food.


There’s no rumination.

There’s no anxiety.

I’m fully plunged entirely into the moment.

That’s that sort of first layer of attention, and it tends to feel really good.

Let’s be honest.

The second layer is, let’s is where chatter lives.

It’s getting lost in thought, getting lost in anxiety, or regret, or jealousy, or or looping ideas about.


Oh, if I had only done this, that second layer of thought you.

You really want to stay out of but a lot of meditation and mindfulness research seems to be about building a third tier of attention which is a tear that looks down into level to write your ability to say.


Aha that is Regret.

I identify you as jealousy.

I am identifying you as rumination and you can see all of this all of these negative effects and the ability to see them is its own strategy for eliminating them right you’re like a cop shining a light On the suspect and the suspect runs away sometimes, just identifying the negative thought can help to move it away.


So you have these, this my totally made-up theory of like three layers of attention.

How does that?

How does your understanding of chatter and self-talk and and thought fit or not fit with my sort of three layer Theory?

Y, like the name, the three layer Theory, that’s it is catchy.


I actually think you do a nice job, providing a heuristic for how to think Think about these different mental states that we often find ourselves in.

You know, when you talk about, like, there’s the sensory experience, the harmful chatter and then the, the layer 3, the way I would translate that is the, the middle layer is is, is thinking in a destructive way.


And then going up a level is what we call metacognition.

It’s thinking about thinking and thinking about thinking, if you know how to do it can Really really useful.

Essentially what we’re talking about here is getting some psychological distance from your own experience, which is another thing that, you know, as far as I know, human beings are unique in the degree to, which we are capable of doing this.


I can, I can step outside myself and actually if I, hey, what is Ethan feeling this way?

Why is he doing that?

Let me try to give Ethan some advice.

Now that may sound totally wacky, kooky like the kind of stuff that we make fun of Of on television shows.


But in fact, there’s a lot of research which shows that this ability to go to what you’re calling level 3 number one, can be really helpful.

Number two, there are a variety of ways that you can get to that level there.

Variety of level three tactics if you will.


This is now beginning to sound like an NSA show.

That might be at 9 p.m. on Channel. 5 or three tactics.

Yeah, double three tactics.

Level 3, Tech stranger things theme like coming soon to a season near you.

So, so let’s talk.


Let’s let’s just talk about this.

These level three tactics if you will metacognition or what I call distance and getting some space from from your experience.

Let me break down for you, why.

This is useful and then what are a few different tools that exist to help you do that?


So that if anyone is interested in, maybe trying this stuff at home, they have some concrete things they could do.

We talked Earlier about when you experience chatter you zoom in you the negativity permeates your entire being, right?

What if this what if that?


Why the grad all this bad stuff?

When that happens, what you want to do is kind of look at that bigger picture, take a step back, if you will and see that bigger space like recognize, you know, Derek Maybe even talk, so nicely to eat it on the podcast.


But yeah, me too Loosely, he’s not gonna hold a grudge, you know, like big picture, what is that one conversation?

Going to mean in my entire life?

Like, is that the only, right?

So, when we look at that bigger picture, we often find that there are solutions to our problems and stepping outside of our self, getting some objectivity can help us do that.


You’ve done a nice job setting up the problem of the voice in our head and why it’s often a jerk.

This is a good place to switch to talking about Solutions.

What do the level three tactics look like, how do we climb far enough above our thoughts to see them with Clarity and remove ourselves from that?


Looping negativity, you talked earlier about meditation, that’s one tool that people can use to try to get this objectivity.

One of the things that meditation teaches people to do is be able to recognize that the thoughts floating through their head are not intrinsically.


They are, they’re just these mental events.

So you you you know you start repeating a mantra over and over and focusing on your breath.

And what most people learn really quickly is how amazingly difficult that is your mind wander somewhere else.

Eventually you have the recognition, oh, they’re all these thoughts passing by, but I don’t really need to cling to those thoughts.


So that’s what I would call pretty effortful intervention, its effort flow because it takes 15 or 20 minutes a day once or twice a day to do that.

There are other distancing tools we can use Use, we can think to ourselves, we can do something called distance self-talk so this is a linguistic tool that involves using your name to try to give yourself advice like you would give advice to someone else.


You said, you said before, it’s remarkable that I have an asshole living inside my head quite a bit.

What’s interesting?

Is like when your friends come to you with their problems like how often do you activate that inner asshole when Talking to them.


I would, I would guess, never liked your supporter friend, you’re trying to help them.

So when we use our names to try to work through our problems, already thin, how are you going to manage a situation names and second person pronouns like you?

Those are parts of speech that we usually use when were referring to other people, right?


Someone else.

And so the linking, your head between using a name and thinking, about another person is super tight.

So this is like a psychological Jujitsu move.

So when you start using your own name to think, About your your problems to try to work through them.

It essentially thrust you into this advice-giving mode.


It’s like, all right.

Here’s what I would say to a best friend and that makes it a lot easier to work through our problems objectively.

So that’s another kind of distancing tool one, last one and I’ll throw it back to you.

That maybe brings us full circle is something that I call mental time travel to specific kind of mental time travel and what it involves doing is when your, when your Down that rabbit hole of negativity.


Think to yourself.

How are you going to feel about this problem tomorrow, if that doesn’t take the edge off, think to yourself.

How am I going to feel about this next week?

Next month, 10 years from now and if 10 years doesn’t work, ask yourself.

How are you going to feel about this?


When you’re dead, that is the ultimate time travel.

And what that does is that those are other ways of broadening our perspective, right?

Life is filled with ups and downs, but Guess what, almost everything that’s - even the really big stuff.


Eventually comes down.

And you traveling in time in your mind.

In this way, we call this temporal distancing.

This makes it clear that what you’re going through is awful as it is, it will eventually fade and that gives us hope that can be really useful when it comes to chatter, tell me about the research that you’ve done or the research that you’ve read Around venting.


Because to a certain extent, I think there’s probably a conventional wisdom When you have a problem, it’s good to just talk about it and to talk about it even in a very unstructured way to bitch about it to vent about it, does venting work.


Yeah, it certainly feels good to vent, and in some ways, right?

Like when when bad things are happening, you know, if there’s one chapter in the book, that I feel really strongly about getting the message of that, chapter out to people in the world, it is the chapter on other people and the role they play in either.


Either helping or hurting us unintentionally when it comes to our chatter as you as you’ve described Eric there is a very strong popular belief that when when bad things happen, what you want to do is not keep it bottled up.

Inside, you want to find someone to just get those emotions out, to just get it out, don’t keep it in vent.


Your feelings is I call this an ancient idea goes all the way back to Aristotle was popularized by Freud and People magazine has run with it ever since.

So, It’s really out there, right?

There’s been a lot of research on this, and here’s what we have learned, then ding venting leads people to feel closer and more connected to the people, they’re talking to.


So it feels good to know that I can call you and share, what’s going through through my head right now in a very vulnerable way.

The fact that you’re willing to take the time to listen to empathize to validate my experience as a human being, that’s really good for strengthening the friendship and relational bonds between us.


Here’s the problem.

If all I do is vent in a conversation with someone else of all I do is just Derek.

You wouldn’t believe what happened at this faculty meeting earlier today.

This person said, this really piss me off and that’s, you know, and then just keep going looping over and over on that.


If all we do is talk about the bad stuff, I leave the conversation feeling really close and connected to you.

I feel great about our friendship but I leave that conversation just as upset.

That if not more upset than when I started.


Because all I’ve done is I’ve keep the, I’ve kept that negative information active in our head.

One way to think about this metaphorically is the mind.

The way, the mind works in terms of emotion, is kind of like the game of dominoes.

You activate one negative thought and that pings, another negative thought, and a related negative thought, and you think about all the different experiences with that person who pissed you off and how much you hate them and you’re miserable when you’re done.


So, that is the hazard to Pure venting which raises the question.

All right.

So should we knock vent?

What should we do instead?

You don’t want to not fit, what you want to do, is find people to talk to who let you do two things.


Number one, you do want to take some time to share, what’s going through your, your mind and your heart, right?

It’s good to share your feelings, but at a certain point in the conversation, the person that you’re talking with, ideally helps broaden your perspective.


Someone else who’s not going through what you’re, you are going through.

Is an ideal position.

To help you work through that experience because they’ve got the objectivity.

They have the psychological distance.

They are already at Derek Thompson’s level 3 of NSA you know, tactic level awareness, right?


Like they’re there they can be that objective guide and so.

So you know, if we were to roleplay how this might work, let’s say I’m the I’m the friend.

You come to me.

Your you’ve got tons of chatter first I’d ask you some questions.

Hey, don’t tell me what happened.

Oh my God.


That sounds.

Yeah, I feel the same way too.

I’d learn about what you’re going through.

And then, at a certain point in the conversation, I might, I might just, hey, can I offer you?

I have a thought.

Can I share it with you?

You might say, no, I want to keep talking for a little bit and and if so I would keep listening, I try again.


But in other instances you might say yeah please.

What do you think, Ethan?

And then I start I start kind of riffing, right?

Like I might share with you how I’ve dealt with a similar situation or a Ask you how do you think you could have dealt with this more effectively or give other prompts to you to help broaden, your perspective, that is the key to getting good.


Chatter support involves talking to people who allow you to do two things, share your emotions and work through them.

You don’t want to find people who just focus on one or the other of those two processes.

It’s interesting because the metaphor that occurs to me right now is that - Chatters a little bit like a Whirlpool almost like like a And you can get stuck in it.


You can you can feel sucked into it and you can’t get out and acts of distancing, anything that puts your mind or attention outside of that Jacuzzi is good.

If you talk to yourself in the third person, Derek you need to shape up.


You need to stop thinking about this and move on and just like focus on the trees.

Take a walk, that’s be getting out of the jacuzzi.

Me, having a conversation with Ethan and you working through.

Here’s ways that you can fix this problem.

Here’s ways in other people.

Fix this problem that’s getting out of the jacuzzi to.

But if I just want to vent, if I just want to bitch about the problem, that’s me inviting you into the jacuzzi, right?


I’m not actually getting out at all.

My attention is actually being sucked into the whirlpool.

I want to talk about one other way, but I think it’s, I think it’s a very powerful.

It feels good to have company in the jacuzzi.


Even It may be you know shriveling up your skin or whatever happened - physical effects often taking that apart, I don’t even like jacuzzis the the metaphor might have occurred to me because I already have a negative association with jacuzzi.


Well it certainly is evocative but but but yeah, everything is great inviting them in.


So you could share in my misery misery loves company, I think that is true, there’s science behind that, but the goal isn’t just to how I I would argue that for most people, we don’t want to just have company in Misery, we want to have company and then get out of misery and that’s where Step 2 comes into play this, you know, there’s a lot of like the Decades of research, go into what I just described to you before in this.


Not my own research, it’s the respect of other folks across the world.

I say decades to convey that like there’s a lot of complexity to how all this works at scientists have figured out.

But what I love about it is that the take home Practical take home points here are really, really clear?


They’re like two things you need to be alert to and if you have these two features of what it looks like to talk to someone productively like share emotions and then also work through them, it makes it much easier to find the right guides and life.


So so I like it for that reason.

You have one more prescription that I thought was so interesting which is that you said that clutching a lucky charm or embracing a Superstition simply Believing that an object or Superstition might help relieve our chatter often has, precisely that effect.


Tell me why you think that works.

So so I find this fascinating.

I think the title of this chapter was mine magic and I think about it as magical not to be clear in.


Well, you know, we don’t know how strong the data is, but really magical and a more just Wow, Human Condition is really a mind-blower.

So here’s what we’ve learned from decades and Decades of research, Placebo effects are real.


If I get you to believe something, especially if I get you to believe something having to do with your psychological functioning, how angry depressed, anxious you are well, you know, whether you have stomach issues, so things like that.

If I can get you to believe that there’s going to be some change, JH that belief can activate a Cascade of processes in the brain that bring those outcomes to fruition.


So every if we want to get really technical here, I’m joking.

But like, if we, you know, take the scalp off, look into the brain, it’s all connected, right?

Sometimes the connections from one network to another take longer to get to, but the the networks that support our ability, our beliefs and how we think about the world, Could they connect a parts of the brain that play a role in our physiological makeup?


Our sense of proprioception, how we interpret the signals that our body gives us.

And so your beliefs can really Channel your experience in powerful ways and and lots of research has shown that if you give people a sugar pill and you tell them hey this is going to make you feel better.


Take it.

Take, trust me.

I know what I’m talking about.

Take two of these every day for the next, you know, 20.

Days and your depression will subside, you’ll be less anxious.

Many Studies have shown that that is exactly what happens.

And so if we go from those laboratory studies on sugar pills to the more real-world manifestation of those studies that’s that’s clutching a lucky charm.


And so you know my daughter if she has a lucky lucky you know keychain that she likes to take with her to school before a test.

I totally embrace it if you think Going to help you do better, you know, clutch away because it’s not going to hurt and it may well have the effect that you think it is final.


Thought I am a secular reform Jew.

I was brought up in the Jewish faith, I have lots of respect for religions but I don’t practice much.

I see an interesting connection between two things.

You’ve just said one that belief itself can reduce - chatter into that distancing can reduce - chatter.


And it makes me think like to a certain extent isn’t belief in God.

The ultimate Act of distancing, like religion tells us that there’s a universal third person that we can look to when times are terrible, God loves me.

There is a higher being with care for me and when we put our faith in a higher being, but we’re kind of doing is placing our locus of attention outside of ourselves.


There might be something inherently satisfying and calming.

I guess about like the removal of oneself from the whirlpool of chatter in Way.


I so we’re actually doing research on this right now looking at the degree to which believing in religion and engaging, in certain religious acts serves a distance and function serves to help broaden your perspective.


The the prediction is that you know Derek you should just come come work in the lab like will get you the PHD like an expedited timeline, right six years seven for you.

Yeah, that’s I think you know, religion is a powerful Boon to our well-being and and we know that from lots of research.


What we don’t yet quite understand are the mechanisms that explain how it helps us.

I think distancing is one explanation for how that works.

So absolutely fascinating even cross, thank you so much.

I really appreciate it.

And fantastic book chatter was really it’s always wonderful to read a book that shines such a clear light on a part of the human experience that you have thought about without Think about, so I really appreciate it.


Thanks man.

Well, thanks for having me on.

Thank you for listening.

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