Summary of the book “Chatter”
by Ethan Kross.
We look for our inner coach, but we sometimes find our inner critic. Our thoughts tend to go from routine to terrible abruptly.
We spend a third to a half of our life not living in the moment.
When we face a threat, like a lion, adrenaline enters our bloodstream. Then cortisol, the stress hormone. These cause the body to redirect resources towards facing the immediate threat, away from maintenance. Continuous stress has a long-term cost on the body, such as cardiovascular diseases and early death. In the modern world, threats are typically not lions but job loss, financial loss, relationship or family problems, etc, but the body reacts the same way. Some of us have been in situations where we’ve been threatened repeatedly. As a founder, my product did not take off. I’ve lost most of my savings. Employees I invested a lot in didn’t reciprocate. An employee take advantage of me. And some companies I tried to work with tried to take advantage of me. An investor or two I approached refused to fund my startup. When we’ve been threatened repeatedly like this, we become trained to see situations as threats, even when they’re not. When we go for a walk and see a cat, we imagine a lion. This imagined threat causes the same physical problems as real threats — cardiovascular diseases, early death, etc. So, when you have a stress response to an imagined threat, remind yourself you’re not under threat.
Sometimes introspecting makes things worse, not better. It causes the negative emotion to have a life of its own. To fix this, seek not to re-live the experience, but to evaluate it objectively, as if you’re a third person. This eases the emotion and brings more understanding. This is called distancing.
When you’re in an argument, whether with a romantic partner or at work, seek to distance. That way, you get to solve the problem instead of getting carried away in the argument. Talking to yourself in the third person, like “Why are you getting worked up about this, Kartick?” can help distance. Or using a pronoun like “he” for yourself, as in, “He now needs to decide whether…” Or give yourself a name of a fictional character, and ask “How would Picard handle this?”
You also distance temporally: ask yourself how you’ll feel about this a decade from now.
Staying at home all the time, and social distancing, increases the chatter in your mind.
Spend 20 min writing about your worst experiences: it makes you feel better, be healthier, and visit the doctor less.
When a traumatic event like 9/11 or a shooting at a college happens, people who shared their emotions with others, be it online or offline, felt worse and had worse physical health. People who shared their emotions a lot ended up worse than people who shared a little. When we share our pain, there are two aspects: an emotional aspect (we want people to commiserate with us) and a logical one (we want specific steps to overcome the pain). The former makes you feel worse, and the latter, better. But people, both support seekers and support givers, focus on the former. Don’t.
An affectionate touch from a loved one reduces chatter.
Exposure to greenery reduces chatter, increases health, and slows aging. Even photos, videos or sounds of greenery work.
Placebos have been proven to work, showing that the mind matters, even reducing the intensity of physical problems