If you have been conscious for the last year, chances are you are experiencing more negative chatter in your head than ever. And if you are like most Americans, that negative chatter often spins out of control. It is that constant negative self-talk that experimental psychologist and neuroscientist Ethan Kross addresses in his new book, “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” (Crown, 272 pp., ★★★½ out of four.)
Kross, who studies the science of introspection at the Emotion and Self Control Laboratory, a lab he founded and directs at the University of Michigan, began work on “Chatter” several years ago, but its publication could not have come at a better time.
We all have an inner voice. It is one of the things that makes us human. Through good and bad, our inner voice has allowed us to not just survive as a species, but thrive. That we have an inner voice is not a problem. Neither is the fact that we have negative thoughts. It’s the seemingly uncontrollable negative chatter our inner voice can sometimes produce that’s the problem.
What exactly is chatter? According to Kross, “chatter” is the constant verbal stream of negative thoughts and emotions we direct toward ourselves, conversations we have with ourselves that we dwell on and ruminate over.
Our inner voice may be a biological need, but the excessive negative chatter it often produces can be harmful to our mental, emotional and physical health. And it is not just us it impacts negatively: More often than not, we sabotage others, including friends, and family, by reinforcing their own chatter.
More:That feeling you can’t name? It’s called emotional exhaustion.
Kross’ writing reads less like a scientific tome and more like a casual conversation. It’s easily digestible, as Kross forgoes the verbiage of academia and explains simply and concisely to the reader why we have an inner voice and what happens when that voice is hijacked by chatter. Most importantly, he gives us tools we can use to manage it. We don’t want to eradicate our inner voice; we just want to have a better relationship with it.
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