Ethan Kross, North American, neuroscientist and psychologist, opens the book recently published in Portugal, The voice in your head (Planète edition), with quotes from two compatriots, including one from former US President Barack Obama: “I evaluate my actions according to this inner voice which, at least for me, is audible, active, which tells me when I think I’m on the right track and when I’m not. The other sentence, from Dan Harris, an American journalist, tells us: “my inner voice is a fool”. Two excerpts which, although occupying two poles in the evaluation of the respective inner voices, start from a common fact: the silent conversations we have with ourselves.
We all have that dancing voice, present when we talk to each other. In it, we hope to find our best adviser (as Barack Obama reveals to us), an inner voice that motivates us: “focus; you are capable”. But sometimes we are our biggest critic, we sabotage ourselves with negative thoughts: “I’m going to fail, everyone is going to laugh at me” (Dan Harris’s “silly” voice).
Drawing on the latest investigations of brain function and human behavior, Ethan Kross reveals how silent conversations with ourselves shape and condition our lives and our personal and professional relationships.
Introspection science student at the University of Michigan’s Emotion & Self Control Laboratory, Ethan Kross warns us: “By giving in to ruminating thoughts, we can damage our health, damage our mood, make our relationships social a state of deep exhaustion.
The author, professor at the University of Michigan and at the Ross School of Business, is a messenger of good news: “we have all the tools necessary to make our inner voice our best ally”. The secret is to program it effectively.
Theme of a conversation with the man who does not hide his weaknesses in his latest work published in Portugal.
He studies the science of introspection and founded the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory. Would you like to explain to us what you are doing there?
People often turn their attention inward so they can make sense of their experiences. Sometimes these attempts at introspection help by allowing the individual to learn from their experiences and find solutions to problems in a way that enriches their life. However, at other times, introspection “backfires,” causing the person to worry and “ruminate” on issues. The work in the lab I lead aims to understand why this happens and to identify solutions that allow people to introspect themselves more effectively.
He is a neuroscientist and experimental psychologist. In your region, what was the recent discovery that excited you the most?
There is new work telling us that one of the best ways to improve how we feel is to help others. I like this discovery, considering the huge implications it has for the benefit of society.
Who are you dedicating your new book to?
I dedicate this book to my father, who was the first person to instill in me the interest of understanding the inner voice, and to my wife and daughters who continually support me and provide my inner voice with many experiences to work on. .
On the back of the Portuguese edition of his book, we read: “the most interesting conversations of your life are those you have with yourself”. Isn’t it more interesting to talk to other people?
Ah, it’s certainly interesting to talk to other people. But I would say that how we use language to reflect on our own lives is just as important. How we talk to ourselves influences how we move through the world, including how we communicate with others. Understanding how to master these conversations we have with ourselves is one of the great challenges we face and that is why I chose to write this book.
How we talk to each other influences how we move through the world.
In what situation does the inner voice that speaks to us become an intruder?
When you find yourself trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts. Tries to solve a problem, but gets caught up in it and repeats it over and over again without making progress towards solving it.
Is a ruminating thought always negative?
We generally use the term rumination to refer to getting stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts. Of course, you can repeat a positive thought or experience over and over again. We usually call this process “tasting”.
Can you turn a negative thought into a positive thought?
Absolutely. One of the wonderful characteristics of the human spirit is our ability to transform the way we think. We have the ability to positively reframe negative experiences.
Doesn’t the noisy society we live in keep us away from the inner voice?
I do not think so. I think the inner voice is just as relevant to the times we live in as it ever has been. Society can be loud, but that only adds to the noise in our heads. That doesn’t shut him up, although I would like to.
Imagine how you will feel about a problem you will face in the future, in a week, a month or a year.
Can you give us examples of tools you offer to tame the inner voice?
Yeah. Counsel yourself using your own name, just as you would counsel a close friend (a tool called “self-talk from a distance”); imagine how you will feel about a problem you will be dealing with in the future, a week, a month or a year from now (a tool called “time distancing”); talk to one of your “talkative counselors,” who are people in your life who are good at generating empathy for you and helping you find solutions to your problems. Take a walk in nature and look for inspiring experiences. These are just a few examples of scientific tools that can help people work on their inner conversations.
Would you like to tell us about a time in your life when these tools were useful to you?
I use several of these tools whenever I feel like I’m starting to falter. My first line of defense is to use self-talk while keeping some distance i.e. time and a good conversation with one of my gossip consultants, usually my wife and one of my close friends .
Conversation granted in writing in November 2022.