“Language is the dress of thought.” — Samuel Johnson
If I were asked to define in my own words what “reality” meant to me several years ago, there’s no doubt I would’ve struggled to deliver a convincing response. Much of what I considered to be within the confines of reality was being colored and shaped by a running narration taking place inside my head. So much so, that what was actually happening in relation to my views of what was happening became the center of a Venn diagram. Reality, to me, was rhetoric.
The word “rhetoric” by definition is as follows: language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content. This sounds an awful lot like the majority of my life. Not only was my internal dialogue both persuading and impressing a particular view upon me (i.e. the audience), but I was doing the same exact thing with others that I interacted with throughout my life. Obviously, many factors play a role in this occurring. One could even argue “reality” doesn’t even exist.
However, I wasn’t able to step into the light of being and distinguish for myself until I got to the source.
The Power of Language
One of the most versatile means of creation in life is language. It can bring someone to the brink of tears as quickly as it shifts a person to the deepest level of anger. As much as we don’t like to admit, words always have and always will have serious power over us. What makes the real difference, however, is the way in which we acknowledge that power.
If you think about it, essentially everything arises in language. Something is always being said in the internal or something is always being said in the external; a description happening either out loud or in one’s head about what’s happening. Communication was formed as a way in which to interact with one another and given this understanding, many give in to the option of exploiting it. We attempt to sculpt what it is we want others to understand instead of simply sharing all that really is and ultimately will ever be: truth.
Much of this was always blurred for me. Like many insecure people, the language that was attached to my life was centered around getting the approval that I wanted. My results, however, didn’t come from what language I used but which language I listened to. I found myself so often focusing on my internal dialogue to develop understanding for a situation instead of dialing into another being’s eyes and listening, truly listening to what it was they were communicating. The rhetoric was so severe that it discolored my identity and consequently, everyone around me. This problem went on for years until I finally came to the realization that I didn’t know who I was but I had no clue who my loved ones really were, either. I had never listened. I had only listened to what the inner voice told me about that person and what they wanted from me.
“Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.” — Rita Mae Brown
It was incessant. Constant internal yapping in the form of “I know”, “They don’t mean that”, or even “What’s in it for me?” had a stranglehold on me. What’s worst about this voice is its impatience. It portrayed an attention span of slim to none and peppered me with incessant commentary until I committed to adopting one of the comments as my own.
What’s key here is the “adoption” component. These were not original thoughts. In fact, these weren’t even my thoughts. These were free-flowing creations of the human mind, that of which EVERYONE has. This voice wasn’t mine. It wasn’t me talking and therefore, I didn’t have to believe or even pay attention to it. This was a thousand-some-odd year-old brain once again, springing into action to react to a perceived threat. The threat of me really listening to someone, enough to the point in which I actually started to care for or love them.
Wow. What a concept.
My mind (or the mind, which I prefer describe it as) was just doing its job. And this constant racket of discussion happening in my head was simply another attempt at keeping me from being unwavering, open and vulnerable. The possibility of being so trusting that I would deliberately give another person the power to emotionally destroy me scared the crap out of my brain to the highest degree.
The Freedom of Choice
In neuro-linguistic programming, teachings indicate that thoughts create a vicious circle of behavioral patterns in human beings. Beginning with a thought, a thought will remain a thought until we give it power. As focus is applied, the thought develops into a feeling. The feeling then produces an action, which results in an outcome. It circles back around in the form of the outcomes generating another thought.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein
We tend to forget that we have a say in the matter. We choose what thoughts or language we ultimately are going to hone in on and give life to. The internal dialogue of thoughts will always be there. There’s no doing away with it. But like an excited dog or an annoying little brother, it will calm as attention is directed elsewhere. For me, the more I chose an alternative (and by default, ignored it), the less it became my faculty.
Moreover, the more I saw things for what they were, the more wisdom I acquired. The better I could distinguish a thought as a thought or a feeling as a feeling, the more powerful I could ultimately become. I discovered that my “rhetorical reality” had absolutely nothing to do with reality. The rhetoric affected reality, sure — but only because I allowed it to. The already active form of speech was molding and influencing everything around me. Much to my chagrin, I had no idea how much my family loved me and they had no idea how much I loved them.
This goes back to why it’s so difficult for us as human beings to really be present with another person. The constant discussion taking place in our own heads appears to be the complete opposite of white noise, where it’s impossible to quiet. Some people just cannot shut it off long enough to really experiencing living. This is why we humans are thrill-seekers by nature. We have to do crazy things like jump out of airplanes or repel off a cliff because it interrupts the pattern long enough to just live life.
The Wonder of Being
My best attempt at silencing this chatter came via yet another state arising in language, but much simpler. It ended up as my favorite word in the English language for the very way in which beauty naturally arises from it.
When I let the inner dialogue be, instead of deciphering its accuracy or pressuring myself into a conclusion, I would was able to be.
Enough to just be there. To let whatever happen, happen. To let the now, be the now.
Being is the state from which joy is form. Where freedom is created. Where purity is born.
When words aren’t enough, one can only be.
A level of stillness we should be holding in the highest regard, often takes a backseat to other daily obligations that we also create.
Very few people ever quiet that inner voice enough to really be with another person. This seems silly to consider from the frame of reference that most of us walk around with (many of you reading may already be hearing from your internal voice stating, “I know” or “I disagree”). However, without taking an honest and uncomfortable look, we may never find out.
And I have to say, after discovering a deep understanding of what it means to simply be, either with oneself or another human being, I don’t wish that upon my worst of enemies.
“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.” — Henry Ward Beecher
Originally published at medium.com