28 January 2010

My personal struggle to cancel out white noise

One of the [many] good things about having a partner in life is that they see you for who you are and sometimes verbally share their observations with you. Much to my surprise and utter dismay, the way that I act is not always the way that I think I act. What a revelation.

Cristy has mentioned to me on more than one occasion that I have an annoying tendency to verbally disagree with certain nice things that she says about me, particularly regarding my appearance. I know that I am not trying to be disagreeable; I am simply repeating aloud the noise that is in my head. But that noise is so loud and those messages are in such sharp contrast to what she says that instead of thinking for myself and selecting the most appropriate response, I allow the chatter to hijack my own voice.

Hmmm, another revelation. Slightly alarming, this one.

The first unfortunate effect is that my disagreement sends a message to Cristy that I do not value what she says to me, and that is untrue. Nonetheless, that is what I am doing.

The second effect is that the noise in my head acts like white noise, canceling out all the other incoming sounds, such as the good loving messages she verbally sends. Those chattering negative thoughts intercept the message before my brain gets a chance to register and deposit the confirming, loving thought in my consciousness.

So here is the question that I pose to myself: how much of my reality do I cancel out without permitting it to even register in my consciousness because of my negative thoughts?

I look to my own family history for an example. An observation.

My mom has said for many, many years that she cannot remember her own father ever telling her that he loved her. This weighs heavily on her very being. Since I was not around during those days, I simply accept what she says as fact; I am unable to dispute it with my own observations. One day, however, she said that my own father did not ever tell her that he loved her. And this one I was able to strongly refute. I lived in that house and remember very well that he told her aloud, every single day that he loved her. I remember the sweet names that he called her and the loving, affectionate things that he said constantly.

I suspect that my mom had so much negative chatter in her head at the time that she could not hear these wonderful things. I imagine that the same might be true regarding her experience with her father.

Everyone talks about living in the present. Appreciating the here and now. I strive to do it but am clearly setting up an internal roadblock to achieving that sought after objective. In this regard, I am my own worst enemy, indeed, my only enemy. I hold the key to serenity but am hiding it away, beneath layers of old dusty noise. The incessant chatter.

I have a colleague who shared with me a technique he employed once to try to clear out the irritating negative self-talk in his head. The noise reverberated while he was running in solitude. He decided that every time a negative thought emerged, he would laugh out loud. His logic being that the act of laughing would both interrupt the thought process and diminish its significance in his consciousness. He said that during his 3 mile run he was laughing aloud almost the whole way, but felt so much better at the end (aside from the fact that the other runners around him kept glancing nervously over their shoulders…).

In my quest to shed personal defects and replace them with behaviors that will permit me to live in the real present, not an artificial version that I create, I will need to adopt a method to minimize these pesky voices, verbally acknowledge the good incoming messages and respond in kind. Perhaps in time, acting in a new way will quiet the noise and allow me to see, feel and live in the true present.


  1. Diane do you think maybe it has to do with reassurance? Sometimes, I hear it but the "white noise" blocks out certain words and I want to/expect to hear it again for the 2nd or 3rd time. Maybe we feel it isn't real or justified so we block it out?

  2. What an introspective and powerful post. I have two young sons and we play white noise in their room while they sleep to drown out the sounds of the house and the street outside. Your writing has me wondering about the ways in which we all experience white noise in our conversations with our loved ones and with those from whom we might expect criticism. Perhaps the white noise soundtrack in our head plays more loudly than the actual soundtrack of life.

    Thank you for your comment on my guest post at IslandRoar. I enjoyed my visit to your blog.

  3. I can identify with being my own enemy... You describe that white noise in such a neat, thoughtful way! I wish I could do that, and therefore control my inner stuff. I find especially useful the division between the present and its artificial version in our minds. Thank you for sharing with us, you helped me to understand better myself.

  4. Yes, exactly. One of the hardest things to do is achieve that state of "no mind" that Buddhists seek. I don't mean 'no mind' as not thinking, its more about just not allowing the thoughts to run away with you or override what you feel in the Now. I struggle with almost every day, but its worth pursuing.

    Great post. Good food for the mind!

    (and BTW, that freighter of mine is headed for warmer waters :))

  5. Great post. I don't know about you, but my mother had taught me by example to not take compliments gracefully. She would verbally argue with the giver of compliment to be reassured of its genuiness. I think I've used whte noise to clutter my mind because I never learned the grace of receiving compliments. I also had to come to accept that yes, I am worthy. As I've welcomed peace into my life, I've gotten better, but I still have static...it's an ongoing issue that need daily tending.

  6. Such a good post. I'm sure an awful lot of people do this, and I'm pretty sure I do, too. I hadn't thought about the possible effect it might have on the person telling me nice things, but I will now.

    Shame about your Mom. Says quite a lot about her sense of self-worth that despite your father's love, she still wouldn't let herself acknowledge it.

  7. Being aware of yourself is a difficult task. It involves pain, trusting those closest to you who tune you in to what others see and what you can't, and looking at the programming that came to us from parents and experience. I don't think many people can venture there, but those who are that much closer to peace. You're brave in confronting these things & in sharing.

  8. Winter seems to be quite the time for self-reflection, does it not? Hope you are making it okay in that heavy weather :)

  9. Very interesting observation and quite true. This is a condition that affects a lot of Ameircan society, but strangly enough is not that prevelent in other cultures. We are by nature, a rather negative and anxiety ridden group of folks. Something that MANY people never come to realize. One of my favorite films is Michael Moore's "Bowling For Columbine", which dispite its title, isn't really about the Columbine killings, but America's anxiety ridden gun culture and why we are so afraid and always assume the worst in ourselves and in others. Coming to terms with this in our own minds is the first big step in having a much healthier and happier life.

  10. I really like how you compare it to white noise, drowning out what's actually being said. A thoughtful post, one we can all gain something from.