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Your Internal Roommate Part 1    

Your Internal Roommate Part 1

BY MEADOWLARK MONAGHAN

Artwork By Clare Davidovich

As someone who, just last summer, was having an abundance of anxiety that left me with frequent breakdowns for no apparent reason - the COVID-19 crisis has left me with an odd sense of calm. 

I have had no choice but to completely hone in on my priorities and that has allowed every superfluous thing that has brought me anxiousness in the past to dissipate. Clearly, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to cope with something as unknown as this. I’m simply surprised that in an extreme global pandemic, my anxiety chose to simmer down.

If you’re reading this like, “great for you I am FREAKING out!” - that is totally normal too! We’re all navigating these new times together. 

Plus, while my anxiety may be more at bay, my internal self talk has piped up. 

As another week in social isolation comes around, I’m noticing that my inner roommate is quite chatty. You know the one - the one who perceives things around you, notices when you’re hungry, complains that you can't go outside, decides to wear the same sweatpants again today. If you’re sitting here reading this thinking - “I don’t have that” - that’s the one I’m talking about. 

While I’m trapped inside with this little chit chatter of mine, I recalled a book I read a couple years ago and thought I could use a refresher. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, pretty much the only “self help” book I have ever truly resonated with. 

This book starts by asking the question, if you identify the inner voice in your head, are you the one talking or the one listening? Singer explains that you, the real you, is the listener. You are sitting back, deep in the consciousness, aware of this little talker and aware of your surroundings, but you are the one taking them in from an internal backseat. 

Are you still with me? 

Essentially, if we’re not the ones talking, but the one’s listening… then we can take a step back from that internal chatter, understand that it’s just doing it’s thing, and not wrap up our entire experiences and reality with the judgments and reasoning that the little talker is making up for you. 

The reason I like this perspective is because it kind of goes hand in hand with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. CBT tells us that we experience things physically, internally (thinking), behaviorally, and emotionally. Now, if we’re all sitting at home feeling anxious or with a stomach ache, you can’t just tell yourself “stop feeling anxious” or “stomach, I need you to take a chill pill.” It’s vastly difficult to control your own physical symptoms and emotional feelings just with pure will power. However, what is in your control, are your thoughts (cognitive) and your actions (behavior) - hence, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We do have the power to change our internal chatter to things that serve us and we can choose how to act in response to our situation!

Aha! Something in our control! Doesn’t that make you feel better already?

When you realize that some of this is under your control, it already can free up the possibility of changing your reality. That same voice that wants to tell you how cooped up you are in here, can instead choose to think, “how grateful am I to have a place to stay safe inside, I’m going to clean every inch of this apartment today to make this as cozy and happy a space as possible.” 

What is so rad is that Singer takes that CBT lesson even further - he says that internal chatter not only has the realm to change your reality, but, when you accept that you’re not the one talking but the one listening, you can take a step back even further and stop attaching all of your happiness (or anxiousness) to those thoughts. In fact, that internal talker is going to keep trying to justify each and every thing that happens throughout your day no matter if it’s interpreting them as “good” or “bad”. So, when you give yourself the freedom to not put your reality into those thoughts, you begin to shape a different reality for yourself. 

Essentially, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t leave your entire mood or reality of what is “good” or “bad” that happens today up to how your internal talker is interpreting it. 

Instead, begin by taking a step back and observing the talker from a nonjudgmental place. I remember this being explained to me once as observing as an anthropologist - nonjudgmental, not projecting any preconceived notions or biases, but rather observing to understand. Hint: an easy place to watch your internal thoughts fly by is when you take a shower. Listen to your thoughts go on and on and on and notice how incessant it can be. Phew! Thank goodness that’s not you and you can slowly train yourself to tune out your inner roommate.