- Thoughts for inspired living

August 21, 2008

Answering Yourself

Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 8:14 am

Have you ever been treated to the person who answers a question in the same fashion every time? “Did you get a haircut?” “Nope, got ’em all cut.” I’m sure that was funny the first time I heard it but now it has all the functionality of scented toilet paper.

Did you notice we seem to answer our own questions in the same way? We make a statement to ourselves or ask a question of ourselves and then we answer. The answer may not be the same words every time, like the worn out joke, but there is a patterned sameness about it.

I wonder if you can remember a time when you wanted to say something to someone but never said it because you went to the land of make believe – your head – to have a conversation. It may have gone something like this: “I would like to ask Sally to dance. She’ll never want to dance with me. She dances with all the boys on the football team and I’m in the poster club.” That’s called hallucinating.

You may have had this version: “Why am I so fat? Because you eat like you have two a**holes. You’ll never get thinner, so why even try?” This is a movie script that you’ve written and acted out so often, that the lines come to you automatically.

You may have a troublesome thought come back to you time after time. And each time, you give it the same response. What if you gave it no response at all?

Suppose your recurring thought is something like, “I’m not as good of a parent as I should be.” Notice that you will fashion some sort of answer to that statement and that answer will be almost identical to the answer you have given every time before. Then it turns into a full blown conversation inside your head with a predictable script. It’s like seeing yet another chase scene in an action movie. It does nothing for you.

What would happen if your comeback to a recurring thought was nothing more than an observation? What if you just observed the thought without retort? You would begin to end the war inside your head.

The next time you have a bothersome, recurring thought come to you (stimulus), choose this response: “I’m noticing I’m having the thought about being a bad parent.” That’s it – No beating yourself up about having the thought, no engaging in debate as to the accuracy of the thought, no denying the thought, no justification of the thought – Just pure observation in a factual manner. The minute you answer yourself, you engage in another battle that is winless and it leaves its carnage in your thoughts and feelings.

You have enough experience to know that your mind will bait you again. You now have a new way to respond – no response at all – just an observation.

The observation is most useful when you’re dispassionate like Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet – “Just the facts, ma’am.” If you say, “Damn it, I’m having the awful thought about being a bad parent again for the umpteenth time.” That’s not an observation but a condemnation. Leave the exasperation out of your observation.

The benefit to observing rather than answering is twofold:

  1. The war stops.
  2. The thought comes back less often.

This will take some training of your mind and the results are very peaceful.

Since I began this blog post with a tired, old joke, it only seems fitting to end with one.

One person tells their psychiatrist, “I must be crazy because I talk to myself.” The doctor says, “You’re only crazy if you answer yourself.”

All the best,


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