Practical Tools for How To Harness the Voice Inside Our Head with Dr. Ethan Kross [Episode #673]
This week’s topic is: Practical Tools for How To Harness the Voice Inside Our Head with Dr. Ethan Kross
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Dr. Ethan Kross, who is a bestselling author in the University of Michigan’s top ranked Psychology Department and its Ross School of Business and is one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. Listen in as Ethan shares practices to implement when the chatter arises, distant self-talk and how it helps when the chatter clouds our thinking, and balancing expressing, with moving on towards a solution.
How to manage our mind when our emotions take over…
Practices to implement when the chatter arises…
What is distant self-talk and how does it help with the chatter…
Tools for when broader identity issues emerge…
Balancing expressing with moving on towards a solution…
Processing versus projecting…
Moving away from the one size fits all approach…
About Dr. Ethan Kross
Ethan Kross is one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. An award-winning professor in the University of Michigan’s top ranked Psychology Department and its Ross School of Business, he is the director of the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory. Ethan has participated in policy discussion at the White House and his research has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Science.
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Kimberly: 00:01 Hi love and welcome back to our Monday interview podcast. I am so excited to share this conversation. I had with Dr. Ethan Kross, who is a bestselling author. He is teaching at the university of Michigan, the psychology department and the Ross school of business. And he’s one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. So his new book is out, which is called chatter, and it’s all about practical tools from a Western scientific perspective for controlling the chatter in our mind. But the reason I loved our conversation so much as well is Dr. Kross is familiar with VA texts. So we sort of chatted about my new book and the perspective of the Vedas and the yogic perspective and how it is so complimentary with the Western research and the science that’s coming out. So I think you’ll really enjoy this conversation and there’s some really great practical tools that you will take away from it.
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Kimberly: 01:03 So I’m so excited to share, but before we get into it, a quick shout out to our fan of the week and his or her name is Jaminson 2499, and says my commuting companion, I listen release podcast. When commuting to work, I arrive with a feeling of peace and acceptance, and I am ready to start the day in a positive way. Thank you, Kimberly all. Well, Jaminson 2499. Thank you so much for your review. Thank you for being part of our community. It truly means the world. I love to hear from you guys. So I know I’m just not sitting here talking to myself, and it’s just an amazing way to support the show. So thank you. Thank you. My love sending you a huge virtual hug wherever you happen to be in the world. And I am so grateful for you and my loves for your chance to also be shouted out as our fan of the week.
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Kimberly: 02:59 So subscription is very important. And also please share the show with anyone you think would benefit. It’s just why we’re here quite literally, quite simply to be in alignment, to be in the collective, to love each other, to share. So if you, you know, of anyone that would benefit from our show, please share the show with them and spread the love. And finally, I will mention that our new book, baby, You Are More More Than You Think You Are – Practical Enlightenment For Everyday Life. Life has been birthed over the last few weeks. So please pick up your copy today. Wherever books are sold this truly from my heart, I believe my most important contribution in this lifetime because it condenses the teachings and the practices that have helped my life the most. So again, back to passing it along, sharing my goal and intention with this book is to help you live your best life, your most peace, full, inspiring, beautiful life. So it is very practical and takes you through a journey of removing blocks, into embodying who you really are in part two. And then part three is teaching you how to create your best stuff in the world to bring forth your greatest creations, love inspiration. So I’m excited for you to read it again. It’s called you are more than you think you are. All right. Well, all of that being said, I’m very excited to get into our interview today with Dr. Ethan Kross.
Interview with Dr. Ethan Kross
Kimberly: 00:48 Ethan, thank you so much for being here with me today. Where, where are we speaking from? It’s nice to see you on zoom as I never know who I like where you are in the world.
Ethan: 00:57 Yeah, totally. Um, I’m, I’m calling from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and, um, where it’s, it’s officially spring, but you wouldn’t know it from looking outside. It is still, still quite cold. How about yourself?
Kimberly: 01:10 Well, I am in Southern California now. I originally from the east coast and once I got to a certain point, I said, I just don’t, I don’t want winter anymore. I
Ethan: 01:21 Hear what part of the east coast are you from?
Kimberly: 01:24 I grew up in Connecticut.
Ethan: 01:25 Okay. I’m from New York. So it’s fam that’s familiar.
Kimberly: 01:28 Yeah. Yeah. And then I lived in New York. I have a lot of family, like in Westchester, in the Bronx area.
Ethan: 01:33 Okay, cool. Cool. I’m from Brooklyn and, and Manhattan, so,
Kimberly: 01:37 Okay. Okay. Well, thank you so much for coming on Ethan. I just, you know, you’re, you’re both book is really interesting to me. Um, and it’s coming to me at a time when I just published a book on Vick philosophy, which is about meditation and connecting in, and then, you know, going through all the, the research and just the incredible, interesting stories in your book, chatter, the voice in our head, why it matters and how to harness it. I thought, huh? Wonder how Ethan got into this. First of all, how you got into this subject matter as being such a focus of your work?
Ethan shares how he became interested in the work around Chatter and the voice in our head
Ethan: 02:14 Well,
Kimberly: 02:15 We all have a lot of chatter, but this is an interesting thing to focus on.
Ethan: 02:18 Yeah, well, um, but actually it actually, it is not unconnected to, to Vick pH, um, in the sense that growing up, my dad was this really colorful character. He was in many ways, this stereotypical new Yorker, big bushy mustache, potty mouth on the road, watched the Yankees smoked like a, you know, voraciously. But when he wasn’t doing all those things, he, um, he loved reading Eastern philosophy. Um,
Kimberly: 02:46 Okay.
Ethan: 02:47 Uh, the yoga sutras bagla Gita and when, when he wasn’t meditating in a Lotus position while smoking a cigarette, he was talking to me about, um, the kinds of things that he was reading about and learning about. And one of the earliest lessons he gave me was to, he taught me, was to, um, really the power of introspection if feeling upset, you know, focus inward, try to work through the problem. And, um, and that was a tool that really worked all for me throughout childhood adolescence. And then I got to college and I took my first psych class. And I learned on the one hand that lots of people benefited from this ability to turn their attention inward and introspect and create narratives to make sense of their world. But those very same people, some of the time really struggled with this tool that this tool that we possessed to turn inward and problem solve, right. Use language to make sense of our experiences. Sometimes it got people into lots of trouble leading to things like worry and, and rumination, and catastrophization all the, all the good stuff. Right. And, um, and so
Kimberly: 03:55 That’s crazy. Yeah,
Ethan: 03:56 That’s right. And, uh, and that, that, that was puzzle to me. Like why do we have this tool? But we can’t always master it. And so I went to graduate school to figure out how to use science and neuroscience to weigh in on those questions.
Kimberly: 04:10 Wow. I love that you had a background that involved FAIC philosophy. I didn’t actually know that. So that, that adds a whole other context. Um, in, in the new book that I just wrote, um, I keep wanting to call you Dr. Cross, but the third chapter where I summarized the bug of Aita, which as you know, is this analogy, this great battle. And I love the detail when you read the Gita, there’s like char of tears and formations. Yes. Really, as you know, it’s analogy for the battle we wage every day in the mind.
Ethan: 04:39 Absolutely.
Kimberly: 04:40 So from the VC standpoint, um, in Paramahansa Yonda, who is my main teacher, Mike GU, um, who, you know, has this amazing commentary in all the texts brings these messages forward, it’s this, you know, but going beyond the ego and what the, the mind chatter is said to be the ego into the true self, which is our, you know, we could say, so spirit individualized, we could say the unique gravitational field in quantum physics, but it’s this authentic, true self. Can you explain, um, from your philosophy, you know, going through your book, there’s some really interesting, um, uh, terms like distance, self talk and things like that, but just from a macro perspective, can you comment how your work sort of in the context of that idea of like Vigo mind chatter, true self, what is the language you would use, or how would you look at it from your perspective? Um,
How to manage our mind when our emotions take over
Ethan: 05:34 So, you know, the, the connections to, to VA philosophy and, and Eastern philosophy more generally are, are, are pretty tight, right? In the sense that, um, I think many of the, like in those Eastern philosophical traditions, many of the practices that have emerged have really been designed to help us deal with what I think is a core affliction that we’ve struggled with really since the Dawn of our species, which is having our emotions take over and not being able to manage our mind. Yes. You know, there, there’s this interesting. I, I love this little finding. Um, uh, there are these clay tablets that were discovered, I believe in, in, in ancient Persia, um, not too long ago go, and they’re the first recorded documents that human beings have written at least, you know, I think this is a case fact check me, but this is my memory of it.
Ethan: 06:27 Yeah. 4,000 years ago, pretty long, long time ago. And, and people have translated these clay tablets. And one of the things people are talking about in those clay tablets are problems of the mind struggling with emotions. They talk about the experience of rejection and the pain and the heart that that causes. And so, you know, these are timeless questions and, and so those philosophical traditions from these have given us practices to help us manage. And some of those practices have really stood the test of time like that at yoga and others. What’s really exciting to me about what’s been happening in science is, um, we’ve been doing research to look at some of the active ingredients that underlie these different practices to see how can we really hone in on different elements of them that make those practices effective and then give those practices to people or the tools in a more concentrated form.
Ethan: 07:28 So that’s all very abstract. Let me make it, let me make it concrete. Um, one of the ways we think that meditation helps people is by allowing them to adopt a more detached perspective yes. To push the ego aside and think about their circumstances more objectively about all of our self insecurities getting in the way. Yes. And we talk, we call that the ability to distance to get some distance from the self. And it turns out meditation can be a great way to get distance. There are also many other tools that we possess to do that these are not meant to be replacements for meditation. Um, but they are they’re alternatives. They are, they are things you they’re compliments.
Kimberly: 08:12 Yeah. I was gonna say complimentary because we sit in meditation in the morning or evening, or even midday as I do mini, but it in between life is happening. Right.
Ethan: 08:22 You can’t always stop and, and, and, and, you know, take 20 to 40 minutes to do that. Exactly.
Kimberly: 08:27 It’s like moment to moment, you know, the chatter is there. We wanna get present, we wanna get into our bodies. So what are some of the practices that you recommend, Ethan? This is exciting.
Ethan: 08:39 Yeah. Well, well, I mean, you mentioned one to start distant self talk, which is yes. Probably the first thing I personally do. Um, when I feel some chatter, beginning to brew, I should preface what I’m gonna say by the fact that I think different tools work for different people. And I think it is a beautiful thing that we evolved this remarkable toolbox. Like I talk about 26 different tools in my book and, you know, my wife uses tools that I don’t use and vice versa and that’s okay. And I think it speaks to our individuality, right? We all have a unique, you know, fingerprint. And I think the, a savings true about our psychological fingerprint. We all operate this in this world a little bit differently, but distance, self talk is something that works for me. So what does distance self-talk involve? It is super, super simple. Um, it involves trying to coach yourself through a problem, trying to work through it, using your own name or the second person pronoun you. So, um, what we find happens when people do this, and I should add, we’re talking about doing this silently, not out loud while walking down a busy city street, you don’t wanna talk to yourself using your own name.
Practices to implement when the chatter arises
Kimberly: 09:47 You’re saying actually like audibly, like not just silently.
Ethan: 09:50 No, no, don’t do it audibly. Okay. Yes. Do it silently. Okay.
Kimberly: 09:54 Okay.
Ethan: 09:54 Okay. Yes. If you, if you feel compelled to do it out loud, make sure you’re alone at home with no one watching. Um, but doing it silently can be really helpful to demonstrate why. Let me first just pose a, a scenario to you. Um, have you ever experienced a situation where a friend or a loved one is filled with chatter? They don’t know what to do. Your emotions are taking over, they present the problem to you, and it’s relatively easy for you to coach them through the situation.
Kimberly: 10:25 Yes.
Ethan: 10:25 Okay.
Kimberly: 10:26 All the time with my husband and he, for me as well.
Ethan: 10:29 Yeah. Well, I I’ve posed that to literally thousands and thousands of people that, that scenario and consistently all the hands go up. Right? Yeah. I think this is a truism of the human condition when it’s not happening to us. We can be a lot more objective when our ego isn’t involved. We can think more rationally about the situation in ways that allow us to work through it. And what distant self talk does, is it plays on that idea. If you think about when we use names and, and pronouns, like you, we use those parts of each when we think about and refer to other people. Yes. So the links in our mind between using a name and thinking about someone else is super, super strong. So what happens when you think about your own situation with your own, with your name, it turns on the brain machinery for thinking about someone else. Mm. So it gets you to think about your own problems. Like you were thinking about someone else’s problems, lights up different circuits in the brain. Interesting. And that in turn, yeah.
Ethan shares what distant self-talk is and what it does
Kimberly: 11:31 You’re not over identifying with the emotion. Exactly.
Ethan: 11:33 It’s like, let’s, let’s cut to the chase. Ethan, what are you worried about? This is, this is blip in the grand scheme of things. So get your act together and stop, you know, endlessly spinning. I mean, that might be one thing I, you know, I’m Yeah. So it’s, it’s a simple shift.
Kimberly: 11:51 So how, like I’ve heard different numbers, you know, some neuroscientist say it’s about 90 seconds for the biochemistry and your brain to shift amygdala, prefrontal cortex, to calm down with distant self talk. Is there a certain prescription for amount of time or is it just waiting for your body to regulate getting into that self conversation? Yeah,
Ethan: 12:09 I think it, you know, so we do know that, um, we’ve done some research to look at how quickly these, um, the benefits of distant self-talk, um, manifest using brain measures. And in one study we see a reduction in emotional reactivity in the brain beginning within one second. So one Mississippi, wow. Seeing a change, a, a switch, right. That is gonna vary though, depending on the person and the kind of situation they’re dealing with. Right. So, uh, and I think we, we always wanna honor that complexity of our emotional lives, right? Like different situations call for us potentially using different tools or using them to different degrees. So I would say use the tool as much as you need to, to actually feel better. Um, for some people that may be really quick for other people, it may take paid longer for still other people.
Ethan: 13:06 You may wanna layer in another tool or two tools on top of it. Yes. Like, like another distancing tool I’ll, I’ll use it usually in conjunction with distance self-talk is something we call temporal distancing or mental time travel. So I’ll not only try to put in perspective and work through this problem by coaching myself with my name. I’ll also think, Ethan, how are you gonna feel about this a week from now? So when we experience at her, we’re often, so narrowly focused on the awfulness of the situation or the perceived awfulness that we lose sight of the fact that most of our emotional experiences subside with time, like even, even the really big ones, the deaths in the family that the, you know, emotions peak, and then they, they, they decline. And knowing that, just being aware of that, which we often are not aware of in the moment can be really helpful because what it does for us is it, it gives us hope, hope that we will actually feel better.
Temporal distancing and mental time travel
Ethan: 14:10 And when you have that hope, that awareness that your chatter is gonna eventually subside, you will feel better. Um, that, that does something really powerful to the human mind. Um, that really, yes, it’s horrible. Put the temperature down hope is yeah. I mean, you know, people have talked about hope as, as, um, as a state that gets them through the worst atrocities you can imagine. And I think we’re often lacking that when we’re in the midst of chatter, you know, we’re actually in the opposite, say we’re hopeless because we feel like everything is caving in on us. But, but just asking yourself this question, how am I gonna feel about this tomorrow or yes, or a month from now that that reminds us of this instability that characterizes our emotional state and for me, and, and many others as the research would show, uh, it takes the edge off. And sometimes just taking the edge off the chatter can really make the difference. So, so this is my 2:00 AM chatter strategy. Every, every four to six weeks, this actually happened last night. I’ll wake up at 2:00 AM. I can’t predict when it’s gonna happen, but I’ll be like, oh
Kimberly: 15:16 God, what’s mine’s racing.
Ethan: 15:18 Yeah. Mine racing, you know, last night it was about a deadline I have coming up and I was, how am I possibly going to do all this stuff? Um, and I just reminded myself, you know, Ethan, um, you know, you’ve had many deadlines before. You’ve never, never missed one in a fatal way, and you’re gonna feel much better about this in the morning when you have all of your mental faculties, as you always do, went right back to bed, got up this morning. And I, I did some major damage on the, on the thing that I have a deadline for, and I feel much better. So
Kimberly: 15:49 Yes. So let’s, let’s be back this up because I wanna, I wanna apply this to, let’s just use my life, for example, um, Ethan, because this is really interesting, right? So my mom passed away suddenly a few years ago and it was, you know, it was a really big thing. Like you said, the, the grief, the intensity, but it was one event. And I knew that, okay, I, this will, this will feel better. Everybody’s saying, you know, it’ll heal with time. So every time the grief would come, I would feel it. And then I would process it and then I would go through and I would hit again. So that’s something I’ve, I’ve, you know, I’ve been able to work through, you know, it still comes up, but then day to day, you know, I read this, um, the body keeps the score by vessel van, vendor, col I believe his name is who talks it about neglect.
Kimberly: 16:34 Yeah. Being something that you know, is, is much harder to get past than just an isolated event. So in my childhood, I, you know, I love my parents. They’re amazing, but they were working a lot, they were hustling. And so there wasn’t someone around being like, how was your day? How are you? It was a latchkey kid. So then I have these chatter around triggers that sort trigger that, um, no feeling of like, you’re not worthy of being seen and heard you’re, you know, just off to the side. And so that feels more challenging to address that type of chatter, which is sort of built up over not one specific thing, but you know, many years of, um, adapting to that. So in your research, what are, are the tools that address more widespread, you know, like chattery items, do you know what I mean? Versus like, okay, you’re talk, you’re thinking about your mom again, this will get better, but it’s sort of that day to day that underlying the things that make us feel constricted, tight, isolated chatter, extra chattery.
Ethan: 17:31 Yeah. I mean, I, I think what you’re you’re getting at are not the isolated episodes, which, you know, the curve balls that life throws at us on a semi-regular basis that we need to know how to grapple with, but, but the broader identity issues that emerge as a function of many different things, you know, sometimes it’s a, a collection of experiences that accumulate in our childhood. Other times it is a, uh, a major major event on our timeline. Maybe there was some big project that didn’t work out and it shatters you. And how you think about yourself. Um, so you know, different, a lot of the tools that I talk about in chatter and be useful here, essentially, what we’re talking about doing at, at the most basic level is re-authoring the narrative that you, um, that really tells the story about who you are.
Tools for when broader identity issues emerge
Ethan: 18:24 Um, in the book, I talk about one of the, one of the real benefits of our inner voice, um, which, you know, and technically, I, I talk about the inner voice is your ability to silently use language to reflect on your lives. So let’s just do many different things that are very valuable. One of those things is we use our inner voice to make sense of this messy world, create these narratives that shape our understanding of who we are. And so if the narrative that you’re working, walking around with, and I, I don’t mean you specifically, I’m the generic you anyone’s working around. Yes. Is one that, um, you know, uh, makes leads one to believe that they’re not worthy or adequate or a bad parent or a bad human being
Kimberly: 19:08 Not good enough. Yeah.
Ethan: 19:09 Not good enough. The is to a, you wanna identify that that is part of the problem, it’s the narrative. And then you wanna start thinking about how can I change that narrative? And I think one of the beauties of this thing we possess, um, you know, for listeners, I’m pointing to the mind here is we can flexibly change this narrative. We can author it and looking at the bigger picture, I think can be really helpful looking at alternative forms of evidence. You know, we are, all of these narratives are biased, right. You know, what is reality of VEIC philosophy, Maya? You know, I mean, like there, we can get into some heavy,
Kimberly: 19:49 Oh yeah, we can go down that,
Ethan: 19:52 But
Kimberly: 19:52 The union of opposites and seeming duality.
Ethan: 19:55 Yeah. It gets very, it gets very, very messy and matrix like, but the, at the end of the day, we can, we can change this narrative. And I think finding alternative explanations for what you’re telling yourself, which are likely readily apparent, I would, I would think, I mean, you know, you’re, you’re fixating on, well, I’m not worthy. Well, let me broaden the scope, move beyond what I might feel from my parents. And, and that situation to let’s look at my circumstances. I’ve got, I’ve got a great family. My career’s taking off. So you can bring in that kind of alternative evidence. You can, um, also put your experience in perspective by looking at how does your experience compare to folks who may not be doing as well as you are. We often talk about social comparisons yeah. In a negative light. And they certainly can be when you’re scrolling down your Instagram feed and, or not, not yours, but someone else’s, oh my God look how awesome their life is looking, but that can make you feel bad, but really, um, feeling grateful for your life compared to other folks. Like, I, I mean, I am a daily basis. I think about what is happening right now, um, in the Ukraine daily is, is too strong, hourly. Yeah.
Kimberly: 21:13 It’s wild.
Ethan: 21:14 It it’s wild. And I oscillate between feeling, um, you know, uh, uh, angry and, and, and sad and, um, uh, a host of other negative emotions about the situation to all also feeling really grateful that my family is safe right now. It, it puts that in perspective, it makes me value where I live and
Kimberly: 21:35 Yes.
Ethan: 21:36 And, and so those are different tools you could easily bring to bear to help shift that narrative.
Kimberly: 21:42 It really helps me, Ethan, if I’ve meditated first and I’ve, you know, settled my myself, I I’ve connected inside in some way before I go on media, social media, any, you know, any of anything out here that’s really noisy and chaotic because then I feel more reactive, but I know if I’m coming from a, you know, more connected place, it doesn’t throw me off so much.
Ethan: 22:04 Totally. Well, I think, I think that groundedness is something that meditation is, is really, really useful, um, for cultivating and, um, yes. Um, you know, no, no question about it. And I’ve had that experience too. Um, I I’ve been, you know, periodic in my meditation since I first learned many, many years ago.
Kimberly: 22:23 Yes. Well, there’s a few things you’ve said already that really echo a yoga Nanda teaching, which are really interesting. Number one, he said, introspection is one of the greatest tools of progress, cuz we can read all this great philosophy, but if we don’t turn the search like inward and see, oh, how does this apply? It’s not really useful. And number two, he talks about the infallible voice of the inner council and how important intuition is. Right. Because if it’s so noisy up here, we often don’t, we have that chatter all the time. It’s hard to feel calm. So we need the practices.
Balancing expressing with moving on towards a solution
Ethan: 22:53 Yeah. And you know, what’s fascinating to me about all this and, and really one of the real hopes that I have for, for my book is, um, we’ve got all the goods already to, to thrive and live a great life where we are, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re mastering the world in the sense of we’re living the life we wanna live. We’re experiencing. Yeah. We experience negative emotions at times because they’re useful in short bits, but we’re not letting them take over. We’ve got all of the tools, but we don’t get a user guide for how to master this mind that we all put ISEs. So like distance self-talk and, and some of the other tools we’ve talked about, um, some people like spontaneously just stumble on those tools in their life. Yeah. They don’t know how they learn them, but they just kind of do it like people tell, oh yeah. So I do that when I’m stressed out, I, I use my name. I never really thought about why I did that before. You know, there was a, an interview that Jennifer Lawrence, the actress was doing at the times.
Kimberly: 23:54 I read that in the book. Yeah,
Ethan: 23:55 Yeah. Wild. Right. She’s getting really flustered. She
Kimberly: 23:58 Literally blurted it out
Ethan: 23:59 And she’s like, Jennifer, get your act together. Now she switches. So, you know, like maybe, maybe Jennifer’s, you know, handlers taught her how to use distance, self. Like I don’t, I mean, that would be great if they’re reading the journals that we publish this stuff in, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think that there is this intuition we have where sometimes we do things that are good for us, but sometimes our intuitions about how to our minds effectively can lead us astray. Like when they direct us to vent about our emotions, odd nausea and ways that can get us in trouble or do other things like, um, you know, avoid our feelings. And, and so the, the idea is we know the science here, so let’s give it to people to let them be much more deliberate and thought about how they use these tools in their lives.
Kimberly: 24:48 That’s really interesting. There’s a part in the book where you talk about, you know, when we have issues, we want to vent to other people about our emotions and then there’s the cognitive, then there’s the like, okay, here’s actual like practical things. But Ethan, how, you know, when the mind is chatter, like for me, I know I wanna be, I wanna feel like I’m heard and understood. Yeah. Right. But then it’s like, it goes into wallowing. So what is the balance, you know, with chatter where we wanna express, but then we wanna move on and create actual solutions. And I know there’s individuality, but
Ethan: 25:21 Yeah. But, but, well, let me, let me, let me go through the process. Cause I think this is, um, a really important issue, uh, that yeah, that culture sometimes leads us Asray on. So, uh, many people believe that when they’re experiencing chatter, the way to get through it is to find someone to unload, to just talk about what they’re going through. And there’s been a ton of research on this. It’s actually a very old, old ancient idea. Aristotle talked about it. Freud people magazine has run with it ever since, right? Like really? Yeah. I, you know, no offense to people, but um, but it’s it, it’s in, it’s in the culture. This idea don’t keep things inside. You let it out. Turns out it is not that simple. Um, there’s been search on the consequences of venting about our, our ruminations and work
Kimberly: 26:12 Because you’re not processing it. You’re just projecting it.
Processing versus projecting
Ethan: 26:14 That’s right. When, if you just find someone to unload to that, actually it is good for your relationship with the person you’re talking to because it, it often strengthen, strengthens a friendship and relational bonds. It’s good to know that there’s someone there. Yeah. Who cares about me is willing to listen. But if, as you just said, if all you do is vent, you’re just reliving and re reactivating all those negative feelings. You’re not actually working through them. You’re not reframed. So, so the key to getting good support for your chatters to find people to talk to who help you do two things. First, they take the time to listen and hear you out. It is good. It does feel good to a certain degree to share what you’re going through. But then at a certain point in the conversation, they start helping you reframe what you’re going through.
Ethan: 26:59 They start helping you look at that bigger picture and there are lots of ways they can do this. Maybe they ask how, you know, Hey, Hey, what do you, how do you think you could have dealt with this better? Or here’s how I’ve dealt with these situations? Um, so you’re transitioning from just listening to advising and helping to broaden someone’s perspective. That is the, the signature to getting good chatter support. And, and, and the take home here for anyone who’s listening, which I hope is a lot of you. But, um, the, the take home is that I think knowing about this science has value because on the one hand, it lets you be more deliberate about who you go to for chatter support. So knowing about the science, there are many people in my life who I love. They love me, never talk to them on my chatter because I know all they’re gonna do is get me to just vent and it’s not gonna ultimately happen.
Ethan: 27:50 Yeah. So I thought really carefully about who in my life is a, is a good chatter advisor who, who not only listens, but also helps broaden my perspective. And you know, there aren’t a lot of them, there are like three or four people that I go to for personal issues or six for professional. Yeah. Those are invaluable resources that I possess. So I’m very deliberate about who that board of advisors, that personal board of advisors is. And on the flip side, if someone comes to me for some help with their chatter, I’m not just aimlessly stumbling through like, Hmm, maybe I should listen. Should I ask this question? I’ve got a playbook, a blueprint for how to help them. I listen at some point when I see an opening, I’ll say, Hey, you wanna keep going? Or, or I have a thought, can I ask you, you know, can I offer it to you? And I’ll try to cue them to go broad. Sometimes when I pose that question to them, they’ll be like, no, I’m not done. Just keep listening. You know, at other times they’re like, yes, please tell me what to do. So, so there’s an art to doing it well, but, but there’s a framework for doing it. And so, so that’s, that’s what science has to say about chatter and support.
Kimberly: 28:59 I have to say, Ethan, you know, these tools that we’re talking about, the, the distance self-talk is something I’m definitely gonna incorporate from reading in your book. So thank you very much. And the meditation, the constant reflecting for me, journaling is a really important practice. I’ve noticed that I have to go less and less to the outside, to the chatter support because it’s, you know, this word, um, that Swami show dish uses the GU of PMA Yona. And it’s in the GATA several times is the word absorb. Mm. So it’s like, you, you, you go in and you feel, it’s almost like you digest and you metabolize and you absorb it, you get stronger, your resilience grows. And then yes, sometimes we need support, but it’s not like this overreliance, which I know I had in my life. It was always running out here. Now I, my strength and my own resilience has, has built, which I think everybody has the capacity to do.
Ethan: 29:48 Yeah. Abs I mean, I, I think that’s fantastic. Uh, I agree. Um, you know, for me, the, the, I organize these tools that are out there to three categories or things you could do on your own, which you, you, you are benefiting from. And those are, I think for many of us, the fir well, that’s not true for me. I should say I shouldn’t generalize too far. That’s the first thing I do. I’ll try to handle it. My myself using healthy tools. Yes. If those tools aren’t working for extreme forms of chatter, or, you know, more intense, I should say, then I’ll go to the next level of their people. Yes. Um, and sometimes they add an additional, uh, additional bit of help that can be really useful. Um, there are also environmental tools, ways of interacting with our physical spaces that I, yes, I find fascinating. And that
Kimberly: 30:35 Was a fascinating chapter. I wanted to bring up to environment.
Ethan: 30:38 Yeah. These
Kimberly: 30:39 Teachers
Ethan: 30:41 There, the, there are tools literally all around us. And before learning about some of this work and doing the research, I was totally blind to those tools. It, it actually reminds me of an experience I had, um, several years ago, my wife is from South Africa and we went on a safari, see the animals and a little strange for someone from the city like myself. But, um, but it was fun nonetheless. And one day we went on this nature walk and I’m looking around and I see, you know, threats, potential predators everywhere. I’m standing like uncomfortably close to the safari guide. You know, I think he is a shoulder to shoulder. Everyone in the family is like, what are you doing? But, so I’m looking around and I just see, you know, terrain animals and so forth. He then looks around and starts pointing things out to us.
Ethan: 31:33 He like, he turns to a Bush. He’s like, you see that Bush? He’s like, you know, that’s, that’s your, your toilet paper. If you need that’s, you know, Charman right. Point somewhere else. He like, that’s an Allo plant. And if you have, you know, a bird or something, and so we’re looking at the same stuff, but he sees things that I did. Yes. I feel the same way now, when it comes to the world around us, in terms of seeing tools to help me manage our chatter. So like, you see behind me over there, that’s a, a green plant. Yeah. Like, right, right, right. We’re in reverse in the mirror here. Um, I’ve got ’em all over my office as a function of this research. Right. What we know from lots of work now is that going for a walk in a, um, green setting can help us with our chatter by restoring our attention.
Ethan: 32:20 So chatter often depletes our attention cuz we’re focusing so intently on the problem. We can’t think of anything else and that’s not good because you need your attention to be able to re-author your stories and work through your problems. And what exposure to nature does is it, it leads to what we call soft fascination. It gently draws our attention away from our chatter onto the interesting things around, oh, that, that that’s interesting. Those flowers and those bushes and that tree, we’re not like carefully scrutinizing those things in nature. I’m not studying the symmetry of the leaves, just taking it in. And that gives us this attentional reprieve. It gives us a break that can be really restorative and you can get this, not just from a walk, but actually watching videos of nature or even looking at pictures. And so that’s one tool that’s out there. Um,
Kimberly: 33:13 Well even hold on one second, what would the difference be in going in nature and moving attention way into nature versus two out watching YouTube.
Moving attention away in nature versus watching YouTube
Ethan: 33:21 Now, um, um, tuning out and watching you. Oh, not nature on YouTube, but just,
Kimberly: 33:27 Uh, yeah. I’m just saying like, if we’re saying we’re moving attention away from the yeah.
Ethan: 33:29 So there has been, there has been, it’s a great question. It has to do with like the level of, of this soft fascination, like attention is, uh, nature’s just grabbing us in a very gentle way. It’s still allowing other thoughts to yeah. Light up and other ideas, but it’s not, it’s not like you’re going from fixating on one thing to something entirely different oftentimes on, on YouTube or the movies you’re that is a distraction. Yeah. Right.
Kimberly: 33:57 Exactly.
Ethan: 33:57 Totally absorbed by, by some else. And a distraction can be good in the short term, but tends to not be good long term because once you stop distracting, all of the bad stuff comes back. Now there is a second pathway through which nature helps us, um, which also helps explain it benefits. It gives us this opportunity to experience the emotion of awe, which is this emotion we experience when we’re in the presence of something vast and indescribable, like where you said you were in Southern California, where, where are you by the, by the ocean or?
Kimberly: 34:33 Yeah. So we live in the mountains and it’s 10 minutes from the ocean. Okay. So yeah, the awe of the view, like we just, we live in the like Vista of almost 360 degrees of mountains.
Ethan: 34:45 So, so, so, so you’ve got it. Right. And so, yeah, so that not only can capture your attention, but it, it puts your experiences in perspective. Research shows that when you experience awe it leads this broadening of our perspective or, or the shrinking, the self that’s the term that
Kimberly: 35:03 Yes.
Ethan: 35:04 Use, like when you’re contemplating something vast and indescribable, like a beautiful mountain view or the vastness of space, or, you know, you can get off from even humanities inventions. Like I I’m filled with all, when I think about like the fact that we could travel to the moon, like how did we figure out how to do that as a species? Yeah. And when you experience that emotion, it makes whatever you’re going through. Just seem a whole lot smaller by comparison. Right. So here I am, I’m worried about this deadline I have approaching for this, you know, whatever that however many people will look at, but I’ve got, you know, this mountain range that’s been here for however many millennia or yes. You know, so that’s another way that, that we can be healed from the outside in, so to speak.
Kimberly: 35:53 So interesting. I’ve also read some research about the fi sequence in nature and like the mathematical, it somehow reset like in your eyes.
Ethan: 36:01 Oh, interesting
Kimberly: 36:02 Rods. And I don’t know, like it’s just, it’s wild. The, the, the incredible intelligence in nature that we’re taking in and we’re not even consciously aware.
Ethan: 36:11 Yeah. I mean, we are, we are weded to, I mean, we don’t exist in a, we are, we exist in a, in a cultural framework that tunes our inner voice. So our culture influences what we say to ourselves, how we talk to ourselves. Um, I’m sure you’ve experienced this moving from east coast where the, the internal dialogue that I had on the east coast, it’s very different from the Midwest. I’ve used the less expletives now when talking to myself than I used to. Um, it’s
Kimberly: 36:42 A little bit slower too. Right. New Yorkers talk fast, welcome.
Ethan: 36:45 Oh, it’s, it’s much, much slower, much slower. Um, and, um, but then our physical environment also tunes are in our voice. And so, so what I think the challenge for all of us is to figure out how, how to, how to like capitalize on those on, on how the human mind works in that sense. Right. So your culture and your environment is going to influence things. Right. Right. So rather than passively receive those influences based on a flip of a coin, whatever you grew up in, right. You can, you can harness, these are tools that you can actually make work for you, um, or work better for you. If they’re all, if you’re already in a natural setting, let’s say. Um, and, and that again, I think is where the value of knowing about the science is what the science does. Is it shines a spotlight on where these tools are and how they work. And once you know that it lets you become much more deliberate about how to fold them into
Kimberly: 37:48 Yes, exactly. Having tools. Because like you said, if we’re not taught the most of us aren’t, you know, brought up, they don’t teach this in school. So we don’t really know. Um, and that’s what I love about your book. Ethan is how practical it is. And there is a chapter called vegetables. Yes. So before we sign off here today, Ethan and I, again, I can’t say enough how much I love your approach in your writing, which is here’s research, but here’s a real world example because sometimes, you know, some of the, the books with a lot of research can be very difficult to integrate yeah. Into your life. So your book is very readable, very interesting, very approachable. But is there a final tool or, or something you’d like to leave us with today because the ones you’ve already mentioned are very, um, useful distance cell time environments.
Ethan: 38:38 Yes. Um, well let me Le leave one final thought and then one final tool that act that in addition to helping with your chatter, at least for me, has helped with my marriage. So there’s an addition.
Kimberly: 38:50 Oh, that’s a going
Ethan: 38:52 Yes. Right? So that might be a good one. Okay. So a final, final thought is there’s no magic tool. Um, I summarize in that tools chapter at the end 26 different tools, different tools work for different people. And I think we need to move away as a society from thinking about this one size fits all solution, totally to instead think about, Hey, what are the tools that work best for me? And we we’ve got the tools to start that process of self experimentation. So I invite people to start familiarizing themselves with these tools, test them out, share them with others, find the ones that work. One other tool that I’ve stumbled on that I now use a lot, which also helps my marriage is drum roll, please. Um, um, is yes, clean cleaning and organ. I’ve always thought of myself. I’m big on cleanliness, but in terms of organization,
Kimberly: 39:41 Decluttering,
Moving away from the one size fits all approach
Ethan: 39:42 Decluttering, I’ve never been. I remember when I was growing up, my mom said to me, I was in high school. She’s like, Ethan, I’m not gonna clean. I’m not gonna clean up after you anymore. So if you wanna live like this, that’s fine. I’m closing the door. And for, I think six months, I, I literally never put clothing away, just existed on my floor and I was fine with it. So I say this because under normal circumstances, there’s a trail of clothing from the shower to the closet, to the bedroom.
Kimberly: 40:12 Oh yeah. I know that. I, well,
Ethan: 40:14 You know that it’s not something that my wife really en enjoys. Um, but I’ve noticed something and there’s research to back this up. Whenever I have a little chatter brewing, I do this weird out of character thing for myself. I clean up, I organize, mm. I clean up my, my office. I do the clothing in the bedroom when I’m done with that, I go into my daughter’s rooms. I clean up their stuff. I take care of the kitchen. The house is spotless so much so that, um, my wife is a happy and B I think sometimes secretly wishes that I experienced chatter more than I did because she likes it so much. What, how that works is when we’re experiencing chatter, we don’t have control. Our, our mind is racing. It is in control. What we’ve learned is you can compensate for feeling like you don’t have control by, by exerting control around yourself by organizing things. And so, so that’s another easy, easy tool to
Kimberly: 41:11 You. Oh yeah. I totally resonate with that. And I love directing energy in a positive way. Cuz my, my husband, when he gets sort of stressed out, he goes for a motorcycle ride. So I’m like Dr. Cross had a better use for your energy. When you get stressed out, I’m like, don’t go on the motorcycle too much. But you know, you can’t, you know, you can’t say no, it’s been a motorcycle rider for decades. So, um, but that is a really great one. And I can, I, that resonates with me cuz I can think of times where I felt really stressed out and then I sort of cleaned and decluttered and it just felt more harmonious in the space. That’s right. And then it translated internally too. Yeah.
Ethan: 41:50 There’s research to support these benefits.
Kimberly: 41:53 Amazing Ethan. Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with us. I really do love your book so much chatter the voice in our head, why it matters, how to harness it, tell us where we can find out more about you, Ethan and your work and the book.
Ethan: 42:08 Well, well thanks for having me on congrats. Um, on your book, I they’re highly C complimentary in terms of themes. Yes. I can’t wait to check it out. Um, you can learn more about the research in my lab. My book me on my website, www.ethancrosswithak.com and I’m on social media. Um, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Kimberly: 42:31 Amazing. Well, thank you again so much. This has been and fascinating and practical and useful, which is wonderful. So all the best, Ethan. Thank you.
Ethan: 42:39 Thank you.
Kimberly: 04:40 All right, my loves, I hope you enjoyed our interview today. As much as I enjoyed the conversation, please be sure to check out the show notes over at mysolluna.com for more information about Dr. Kross as well as other podcasts, I think you would enjoy meditations recipes, articles. I am on social at, at underscore Kimberly Snyder. And we’ll be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast to then take care, sending you so much, love, so much support, so much gratitude and see you back here soon. Namaste, peace and love.