By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
Have you ever wondered, “How can I become less reactive and impulsive?” or “How can I turn down the noisy voice(s) in my head and experience more peace of mind?”
Michael A. Singer’s book “The Untethered Soul” answers questions like these.
In the book, Singer walks us through our relationship with our thoughts and emotions and helps us become more of an observer of the noisy voices that I call our “monkey mind” — the part of your mind that’s continually analyzing and debating, “You should do this; no, you should do that,” destroying any chance for peace.
Singer looks at the attention that we unconsciously give to our monkey mind, so that we can question it, instead of being run by it.
An untethered soul, as he defines it, allows us to be more playful; we can experience life as an adventurous experiment, not a predictable set of circumstances that we have to somehow slog through.
This wonderful book simplifies a very complex subject. Singer walks us through steps on how to free ourselves from habitual thoughts and emotions that limit our consciousness. I have just learned so much from this book that I’ve recommended it to clients, who have also found it helpful.
While a lot of what Singer talks about sounds really good, how do we actually do it? Here are some practical steps you can take to help calm your monkey mind and feel more peaceful and free (allow me to paraphrase Singer):
Your monkey mind will never be content. It always has a problem with something. When was the last time you really had nothing bothering you? I thought so. And before that problem, there was another problem. And after this one’s gone, there will be another one.
You’ll never be free of problems until you are free from the monkey mind that generates (and obsesses on) problems. The next time a problem is bugging you, don’t ask yourself, “What should I do about this?” That just feeds the monkey mind. Instead, ask, “What part of me is being disturbed by this?”
If you ask, “What should I do about this?” you’re just encouraging your monkey mind to believe that there is a problem that you must deal with.
For example, if you’re feeling jealous because you think that your partner is flirting with someone at a party, instead of trying to figure out what to “do” about it, you could ask yourself: “What part of me is jealous?” This encourages you to look inside and see that there’s a part of you that’s having a problem with jealousy.
Once you clearly see the disturbed part, ask, “Who is it that sees this? Who notices this inner disturbance”?
According to Singer, “Asking this [question] is the solution to your every problem. The very fact that you can see the disturbance means that you are not it. The process of seeing something requires a subject-object relationship. The subject is called ‘the witness’ because it is the one who sees what’s happening. The object is what you are seeing, in this case, the inner disturbance. This act of maintaining objective awareness of the inner problem is always better than losing yourself in the outer situation.”
By not identifying with your problem or feeling that you must do something about it, you get a bit of distance. You are pulling back from your monkey mind and watching it with some emotional neutrality and aren’t letting it run the show. As a result, you aren’t getting lost or confused by situations like you used to. You no longer allow the monkey mind to define your life as a series of “problems” that need to be “solved.”
This may sound a bit heady, but it is very practical.
If it intrigues you, I strongly recommend that you check out “The Untethered Soul”. In it, Singer walks you through a progression of steps to “untether” your soul from a constant need for problem solving, which never ends.
The monkey mind can be tamed and this book can help.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.