If you’ve ever found yourself buttonholed by someone who can’t stop speaking, whose pressured speech races on and on and won’t broach any interruption, you know that nothing at all can interfere with that person’s agenda, whether that’s convincing you that Martians abducted him, vaccinations ought to be made illegal, or that youth today are self-indulgent and worthless.
It won’t help to exclaim, “Stop, enough!” It won’t help to present some counter-argument. It won’t help to roll your eyes or make some “please stop!” gesture with your upraised palm. Your interlocutor is on a mission that has nothing to do with you, a mission to spill out the words that his mind is driving along with a whip.
Were you to exclaim “Stop!” he might actually stop for a split second, give you look of amazed incredulity, as if to say, “What, you don’t think that Martians are everywhere?”, and return immediately to his theme. Shake your head if you like; that won’t phase him. To free yourself of his manic monologue, you must leave. There is absolutely nothing else to do. You must say, “Oh, I see Mary across the room and I haven’t chatted with Mary in the longest time! It was SO nice chatting with you” and bolt. Or skip any politeness, turn your back, and just flee.
Your own mind can be like that. It can get on some bandwagon, usually under the pressure of some unacknowledged threat, for instance that life is meaningless and you don’t want to know about that meaning shortfall, and jibber on about some theme that suddenly seems beyond belief important. Maybe it’s how the walls are not quite the right shade of white and really must be repainted this instant (“Navajo white, they should be Navajo white!”), how it’s imperative that you set off for South America on that vision quest that you’ve delayed thirty years or how you really must tell your boss off in no uncertain terms this very morning. There your mind goes!
Such monologues are so very hard to interrupt, There appears to be no you available at such tense times to say, “Bob, it’s not about the walls” or “Calm down, this is not the year to run off to South America” or “Hold on, better to ask for a raise than to spit in his face.” It is as if you have ensconced an orator on a platform right in the center of the room that is your mind and are now obliged to let that speaker orate, no matter what. And if someone dares stand up and shout, “That’s just insane!”, his retort is ready: “Get that traitor out of here!”
What can you do when your mind is going on like that? Leave the monologue. That’s the thing to do! You installed windows in your mind so that fresh air might flow in. Now you must install a door by which you can leave. You need an exit; your mind must not be a “no exit” kind of place. Say to yourself, to the you trapped listening to yourself go on and on, “I’m leaving now.” Get up, turn your back on that mania, get a firm grip on the doorknob, get your exit door opened, and stride into some sunny, blissful silence.
Once outside, as you walk in silence through a quiet garden in the direction of a café and biscotti, you might dare to ask yourself, “What was that all about?” You were that manic speaker; your mind produced that feverish monologue; so no doubt there is something to learn about why you felt compelled to go on that way. In the blissful silence of that garden walk, dare to quietly ask that poignant question: “What was that all about?”
These pressurized monologues arise all the time. Maybe you call them your obsessional thinking or your manic times or maybe you don’t have a name for them, maybe they are just a part of you that you suppose you can’t do much about. But there is something you can do, if you would like some freedom from pressure-driven monologues. You can create an exit, maybe with a nice bit of red neon above the door that reads “Exit,” and leave every now and then.
Certainly there are other ways to handle our manic energy, our obsessional thinking, and the crises that bring them on. But isn’t just leaving a refreshingly simple one? You quietly get up—no need to remonstrate the speaker, no need to announce your intentions—and leave. Then, there you are, in the silence of a lovely garden, on your way to a treat.
This was lesson #09 of the Your Best Mind Ever series written by Dr. Eric Maisel.