Imagine you’re at a movie theater to see a film. This theater is special, however; instead of just sitting in a seat and watching the movie, the theater completely immerses you in the experience. You are able to smell, taste, and feel everything that’s going on around you. You even hear the protagonist’s thoughts as if they were your own.
According to Michael A. Singer, author of the New York Times bestseller The Untethered Soul, this immersive movie-going experience is our everyday experience. We are composed of two selves: The self “watching” the movie and the self living in it. In his book, Singer explains that separating ourselves from our constant stream of thoughts allows us to take a more objective view of our lives. When we are more objective, we are calmer and less likely to be affected by negative emotions. This, in turn, allows us to harness our limitless inner energy.
You are not the voice of your mind; you are the one who hears it.
The most important lesson Singer teaches in his book is that we are not our thoughts. This might seem like an obvious distinction but in reality, the line between what we think and who we are can often be extremely blurred. This is especially evident in people with depression or anxiety, as they’ve fallen victim to the common traps of distorted thinking.
Singer differentiates our thoughts and consciousness by calling them the self, or the stream-of-consciousness thinking our brains engage in 24/7, and our personal self, the identity we form based on our perception of our thought patterns.
Recognizing this disconnect between our thoughts and our identities gives us power we might not have otherwise had. When we separate ourselves from the thoughts we can’t control, we’re able to evaluate them. Think of it as the difference between getting caught up a river current and sitting on its banks; it’s much easier to objectively observe what’s happening from the outside.
Instead of dumping all our energy into achieving an impossible spiritual equilibrium, we can focus on the things that really matter to us.
This separation of thoughts and self is the basis of finding inner peace across religions. Meditation, chanting, koans, prayer, yoga, and dozens of other spiritual practices draw upon this concept.
The separation of selves also has merit from a psychological perspective. Being able to step back and observe our minds objectively is the first step of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This cognitive defusion is also the entire philosophy behind Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Both practices increase psychological flexibility in patients, making it easier for them to deal with the natural ups and downs of life.
Free yourself from your inner voice.
While the incessant chatter of our inner voice cannot be silenced, it is possible to free yourself from its grip on your emotional wellbeing. Our mind is trapped in a perpetual state of trying to find an equilibrium that can never be achieved; it uses our experiences and beliefs to generate a model of what the world should be like. If the real world doesn’t match our model, it creates psychological distress for us.
However, matching the model is impossible. We have no control over what goes on outside of our minds. No matter what we do or how hard we try, planet Earth and everything on it will do as it pleases, regardless of how we feel about it. This is neither a good nor a bad thing; it simply is what it is.
When we understand the fruitlessness of this struggle and agree to stop humoring it, our mindset shifts. Instead of dumping all our energy into achieving an impossible spiritual equilibrium, we can focus on the things that really matter to us. Our inner world suddenly becomes much more rich and vibrant, and what Singer calls our inner energy begins to increase.
And, not only will it be easier to focus on what we truly care about, it will also be easier to handle everyday obstacles as we go through life. Since our thoughts have no hold on our state of mind, negative experiences simply pass through us like air through an open window.
How to apply the knowledge of The Untethered Soul to your life?
Reading a book is different from applying it to your life. As you go through the pages of The Untethered Soul, you take notes of new insights, great ideas, and new habits you’d like to instill in your own life. But as soon as you put the book aside, you forget most of your new resolutions.
We have reviewed an app, backed by Duke University, that can help you apply this knowledge to your life.
Read the review