The Voice Inside Your Head Is Your False Identity

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Untethered Soul" by Michael A. Singer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why shouldn’t you trust the voice inside your head? How is overidentification with your internal monologue prevent you from connecting to your true identity?

According to Michael Alan Singer, the author of The Untethered Soul, the voice inside your head—your “inner roommate”—is the main obstacle to realizing your true self. Because this voice speaks to you as the voice of your own mind, you’ve mistakenly come to believe that it is you.

Here’s why you shouldn’t take the voice inside your head too seriously,

Why You Shouldn’t Trust the Voice Inside Your Head

You “hear” your inner voice as the endless flow and flux of your thoughts.

  • The voice chatters randomly: “Did I turn off the coffee maker? I need to call Walter. What’s on TV tonight?”
  • The voice argues with itself. “I should get married. No, I’m not ready. But I love him! But it might ruin our relationship.”
  • When you walk, drive, meet people, eat, work, or just sit, your inner roommate narrates it all: “Look, a poodle! Oh, no, here comes Rita. I don’t want to talk to her. Look, a restaurant. I want a taco.”

According to Michael Alan Singer, the incessant narration of your life by the voice inside your head is a defense mechanism. It invites you to live in your head instead of the full flow of reality itself by giving you a mentally interpreted model of the world to experience. However, this illusion isn’t satisfying, and ultimately it’s pathological. The voice inside you hear in your head is always liable to find something wrong with any situation and decide it doesn’t want to be there. It finds fault, lack, and offense at your wedding, at your job, at home—everywhere and all the time.

If you give it free rein, your inner voice will ruin your life. Therefore, it is important to learn to distance yourself from this voice from time to time. To do so:

Recognize Your Mental Voice: The voice inside your head is so close that it can be hard to notice. However, you can choose to “step back” and pay attention to it. The very act of noticing the voice is the beginning of freedom from it. Don’t try to stop the voice through willpower. Such attempts will only encourage it. By simply noticing it instead of fighting it, you disidentify from it and recognize that you are not it. This breaks its hypnotic spell. 

Learn Its Personality: Having learned to recognize your inner voice, take some time getting to know this inner companion by listening to it—not to believe what it says, but to learn more about its personality so that you’ll be savvier about its tendencies. Be warned that when you first try this, your voice will ask you skeptical questions about why you would do such a thing. It wants to remain hidden by your unconscious identification with it. It’s crafty that way.

Consider personifying your inner monologue. Imagine it talking to you from the outside. Spend a day with that person. What does it say? How does it make you feel? Imagine sitting down to watch your favorite television show with this person. Your inner voice decides it wants a snack but then agonizes over what to eat. It remembers unfulfilled responsibilities and feels guilty. It sees a redhead on the screen and launches into an angry story about its ex-spouse. Its thoughts and emotions are random, out of control. Notice that this unstable person tries to control your life. It continually dispenses neurotic advice about everything from your work to your health to your relationships.

Refuse to Believe the Voice in Your Head: Through inner observation, you learn the important lesson that you don’t have to believe, and that you should not believe, what the voice inside your head tells you. In fact, your true spiritual growth depends on not believing it. Your internal monologue is obsessed with meaningless things. Most of what it says is a waste of time and energy, or worse, positively harmful. If someone chattered out loud the way your inner voice does, you’d think they were crazy. Take a clue from this.

Always Remember that the Voice Isn’t Reality. Life will happen as it will happen, regardless of what your mind says about it. The voice is merely a mental commotion about life, not life itself. Even if the voice says nominally “spiritual” things, these are just more empty chatter. Real spiritual growth lies beyond the voice.

Exercise: Meet Your Inner Voice

This exercise will help become aware of the voice inside your head so that you can escape its control.

Mentally “step back” and pay attention to your internal monologue. What does it talk about? What kind of personality do its words reveal?

Oftentimes, when the voice in your head narrates your experience, it spins everything in a dysfunctional way. What particular hangups does your internal monologue impart to you? (What’s it neurotic about? Your job? Your physical appearance? Your intelligence? Your self-worth?)

Personify your inner voice: Imagine it as someone sitting next to you. What does it look like? How does it act? 

How would it affect your day if this person, with its unhealthy words and behavior, accompanied you everywhere and interpreted your life for you?

The Voice Inside Your Head Is Your False Identity

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  • How to find your true self instead of your false identities
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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