The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Thursday, June 25, 2015

That's Like What?

The linguistic backdrop

In my book “Navigating The Ship of You” is a chapter called The Iceberg of Language
(here in article form .)
In it I talk about Language in the metaphorical sense of an iceberg, with some language above the water’s surface and a much larger amount below the surface.

Now the conscious language, the seen or aware language above the surface, is verbal – it is the language we are not born with, but rather we learn in the course of our lives.  The other non-verbal languages are below the surface, out of conscious awareness. These are the various languages of our senses.
Also below the surface is a rather misty, grey area of inner language that I describe as the language of our Inner Self.

These below the surface languages are ones we are born with, albeit in a rather raw form.
As we grow we learn and gain a knowledge of verbal language, and we enhance and cultivate our ‘below the surface’ languages.

Yet here’s the thing – we use our knowledge of verbal language as our preferred vehicle of making, retaining and communicating meaning.

Of course certain things mean so much more to us in a non-verbal sense – the tender touch of a loved one, the sound of a beautiful melody, the smell of a rose, the sight of a beautiful sunset, the taste of a lemon – yet when we come to describe them, we use the vehicle of words.

When a baby cries, smiles or laughs it knows no words. It is communicating what is felt, experienced, at the level of the language of the Inner Self by the means of the most immediate physical response that comes to hand. As the baby becomes the infant, the toddler, it also starts to utilise the sounds, and eventually the words, it has learned that mean something.
In the broadest sense, the growing child discovers a “code” that makes communicating what it experiences, and what it feels, SIMPLER. And that interpretive code we know is verbal language.

One of the things we get very good at, even from an early age, is pattern recognition. It seems to be another of those inner capabilities we are born with, and that we then fashion and nurture from a very raw sense into something much more sophisticated. I would contend that it is part of our language of the Inner Self – the whole and wide ranging ability to perceive something as being LIKE something else.
And out of that wide ranging ability – once we have learned enough verbal language - comes our propensity for using metaphor in our pattern recognition and its communication, both with ourselves and others.

That’s Like What

Recently I was interviewed by my good friend Judy Rees for her Collaboration Dynamics series of podcasts. Whilst this was a pleasure and a privilege in and of itself – it is always great to have lengthy chats with friends and colleagues – of course there was a purpose to it all. And that was to explore, in terms of collaborative functionality, how I deal with the teams I coach with regards to their competitive performance.

Now, with Judy being “at the helm” so to speak, the particular lingua franca of the conversation involved her using Clean Language questions to elicit my metaphorical representations; to facilitate in a directed way, a journey through my metaphorical landscape.

Or – to put it another way – she used the linguistic lever of Clean Language to find out what was going on for me in my language of the Inner Self. And the most straightforward way to communicate with that below-the-surface Inner language is metaphor. Metaphor – our verbally learned means of representing one thing in terms of another, used below the level of conscious awareness by a part of us that has been dealing with pattern recognition since before our birth.

Now we use metaphor thousands of times all day and every day. We use it in our outer conversations AND we use it in our conversations with ourselves. In a way, the ratio of our outer usage to our inner usage, is also like the iceberg – with the inner usage being below the surface and therefore much more outside our awareness.

Now when we are present with any communication we are trying – all the while – to make meaning of it. This can be listening to someone talking in our own mother tongue, someone speaking in a foreign language, a painting we are looking at, certain sounds or music, the taste or smell of something, the time of day, where we are spatially, how we are being, etc etc. It is all data we are endeavouring to make meaning of. As we know, part of the meaning-making process is the question “Is it LIKE anything else I already know?”

And the very clever linguistic lever that makes Clean Language so powerful is the way that that particular question is structured.
When I hear, “What’s that like?” I give myself a different interpretation than if I hear it put as, “That’s like what?”
The juxtaposition of those three words, the position of the apostrophe, and the presence or the lack of any tonal nuance, all go to make something completely different.

Think about when you go to get a copy of a key. The key-cutter takes the original and matches it with a template key, and then cuts the template key on the lathe to match the original. A simple process – yes – and yet sometimes the new copy key will not fit the lock in the same way. Sometimes, if the cutter has not been diligent enough, the new key will not operate the lock at all.
And, in a similar way, “That’s like what?” seems to match the lock to the language of the Inner Self in a much better way than “What’s that like?” could ever do.


Now the content and direction of my conversation with Judy Rees was quite a fascinating journey of discovery for me, even though I have a familiarity with Clean Language, how it functions and how powerful it is.

My familiarity, needless to say, has been with using it on occasions with clients, or people I’m coaching. Sometimes, the revelations that have emerged for clients have been extremely useful and for one – a young student about to take his Common Entrance exams – quite life-changing.

I’ll allow you to come to your own conclusions from the podcast, rather than reveal my own retrospective discoveries. You can access the podcasts via the links below.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Strays and Shifts

Stray Thinking

Stray thinking wanders around amidst all our lives. These itinerant thoughts are never ours - they just knock on our perceptive doors and if we don't answer they move on. As we peek out we might notice them going up a neighbour's garden path, or watch as they cross the road to ring the bell at Number 23.
Yet - if we do answer their call we then take them in; we take possession of the stray. And in that possession it is no longer A Stray - it is now Our Stray.

Emotionally attached

Of course once the Stray is Our Stray, then we begin to lavish care and attention, and perhaps – eventually – devotion and love! We find a dedicated space in our hearts to grow Our Stray and to perhaps nurture it into becoming a belief – or, should I say in the particular scheme of things, one of Our Beliefs.

Of course I’m only talking in metaphor here; I’m drawing parallels between thoughts and uncared for and homeless creatures am I not? Yet there is a similarity in the way we draw both into our lives, into our consciousness.

Yet, here’s the thing -
The stray animals we might take in an act of human, nay more animal, kindness fall into certain categories. We tend more towards taking in strays that fall into the taxonomy of domestic pets. The more wild we perceive the animal, the less likely we are to take them into OUR lives. If we encounter an injured creature from the wild or a bird with a broken wing, say, then we are probably going to take them in to a professional, or an agency, for them to help the creature back to wellness. The best outcome, we know, is going to be the return of the creature to the wild. Our part in this rescue has merely been one of facilitator or middleman. We invest little or no inward-drawing emotional attachment to the stray.

Some Extra Polation

If we are in conversation with a friend and they say, “I was thinking of doing xxx,” then there’s a good chance we’ll make some inner judgement of their thinking – based upon our own view of and relationship with xxxx. The thinking here, we know, is not ours at all. It is theirs – and at this stage there we have invested no emotional matter in this.
Until, that is, the very moment we pay attention to our judgement. Our Judge may pronounce and we might say, “Yes, what a good idea,” or perhaps grow xxxx by saying, “Have you thought of doing xxxx THIS way,” or maybe say, “I’m not so sure – is doing xxxx a good idea?”

All at once the Stray that our friend brought to the conversation is becoming Our Stray. We are now thinking about xxxx and investing some of our emotional matter by taking the Stray IN. The closer our caring and emotional ties are with our friend, the more we will invest. If we think xxxx is a great idea then we’ll respond with interest and enthusiasm – if we think it is a bad idea then we’ll respond with a degree of trepidation and try to warn our friend off doing xxxx.

Whatever we think, of course, will have a bearing upon our judgement and response. The extent of our emotional investment in the response is relative to the closeness of our friend and how we view xxxx.
These are the parameters of our relationship with The Stray.

So what about when I say to a friend, “I was thinking of doing xxxx.”

Considering Doppler

In physics, the Doppler shift is a shift in the wavelength of light or sound that depends on the relative motion of the source and the observer. It is related to the Doppler effect - when we notice that the sound coming from a car horn or engine changes pitch when it passes us by. We, the observer, in this case are stationary, and the moving car approaches us and then goes away from us. The wavelength of the sound from the car changes relative to us but not to itself – or to any person who is in the car.

Now, to return to my conversation with a friend – how does this now appear, through the metaphorical filter of the Doppler shift?

If we look upon a person as being separate from their thoughts, we have the following relationship here – A, A’s thoughts, B, B’s thoughts. It is a kind of 4-voice structure.

To a distant observer we still have two persons, A and B, in conversation. A tells B about something he has thought and B gives A his response. Roles may be reversed, yet the observer knows no more and sees no difference between A or B. He knows they are thinking and telling each other their thoughts, though he knows nothing about xxxx.

If I see someone standing alone on a street corner, I am observing a conversation. And that is a conversation between that someone and their thoughts. I cannot hear the conversation, yet I know there is one going on. I am the observer and the dynamic Source is the relationship between that someone and his thoughts. If he moves away from the street corner, he takes his thoughts with him – obviously!

If we take the detail of this relationship and drill into it a little further we still have the Source and the Observer. Only NOW the Observer is the “someone” and the Source is his thoughts.
Or, in another metaphorical sense, I am the Observer and the Source is a Stray.

Doppler Shift

However the shift comes when “I” enters the dynamic of the relationship. And here’s the thing:
“I” owns his own thoughts. They aren’t just any old bits of thinking – they are HIS. He has invested in them and grown them. They might have started out as Strays, but in terms of “mental time” that was a long time ago. Now they have credence in the hierarchy of thought.

This ownership is how we fail to recognise any thought of our own for what it really is and where it came from.

In terms of the Doppler shift, we fail to understand the Source of Thoughts relative to Ourselves the Observer. We believe Ourselves to be the Source of our Thoughts. My thoughts are my own – aren’t they?

And for those thoughts that approach us and we seize upon and take ownership of, there is never the Doppler Effect, the noticeable change of frequency, as they move on and away from us. And the more thoughts we take ownership of, the more Strays we take in, the less of “moving on and leaving” effect we notice.

Eventually, we might come to never notice the effect at all. Have you ever tried to let go of your thoughts? How on Earth would you know you’d let go of them? What would tell you they were no longer around?

Well I’ve thrown in some metaphorical clues here which will be much more recognisable once you let go of the assumption that the Source of your thoughts is You.
The next clue is to see Stray thoughts for what they really are, and do not lavish too much care or invest too much emotion in them.
Another clue is to recognise the Doppler shift of thoughts approaching and thoughts leaving. This will tell you when you’ve let go and that they are no longer around.
Another clue is to question more about your emotional investments and how lavish your caring is. Your body will usually tell you how much of that is going on.

Remember that we are always caught up in the hurly-burly of life, and as such we can never be in a constant state of monitoring. Life is for Living, after all and if we were to realise how much of it we spend taking in Strays then we’d change that straight away! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Currently, the buzzword in sporting circles is resilience. Collectively the England cricket team need more of it, whilst some of the individuals within the team have gained a lot more of it, some have got theirs back, and some can’t seem to find theirs right now. Andy Murray now seems to have got more of it, whilst Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and now Stan Wawrinka appear to have cornered the world market in the commodity. Everywhere we turn, we hear it mentioned.

Because we give it a label, like confidence and charisma, it is immediately more tangible. It is – like a commodity – valuable, tradable, marketable. I bet there are, as I write, people in the great wide coaching world away from sport already billing themselves as Resilience Coaches.

Resilience in performance is described as the ability to remain composed, confident and consistent in the face of errors. A resilient player is one who can let go of errors and return to the present moment.

Back in 2004, courtesy of the Saturday morning SkyTV show SoccerAM, the word  bouncebackability was coined and it became a bit of a cult word with sports fans, pundits and players. It took a rather sterile phrase from sports psychology - mental resilience in sport - breathed life into it, injected it with pzazz, and gave this six-syllable, concatenated  construction a street cred that almost raised it to being inducted into the linguistic hall of fame called The English Dictionary.

These days, many things to do with the mental side of sport are much more widely mentioned and discussed in the media. Gone is the mystery and we regularly encounter commentators, pundits and players extolling the benefits and virtues of athletes being grounded, of having clarity, of being resilient., of being in a Flow State or in The Zone.

However, as we travel down the players’ spectrum from elite to grass roots we still encounter a lot of the stigma associated with anything tagged with the words mental or psychology. There is still an old-school type of unease and distrust attached to anything referred to as being in the mind rather than in the body.
And it probably goes to the deep-seated fear in our society of being dubbed as a bit of a head case, slightly weird, unhinged, not quite all there, not entirely in control, dysfunctional, having a problem, of being unable to cope, of being ill in the mind, of being – for all intents and purposes – BROKEN.
Our culture, built as it is upon the perfect ideal, can just about put up with broken bodies – but broken minds? Perish the thought. Yet, statistically, we are told that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

Bouncing Back

So how can we get to be resilient in our sport – or indeed in our lives?
Can we learn bouncebackability?

The simple answer, of course, is yes.

Why do I say of course? Well, everything starts somewhere and we are not born with an innate understanding of making mistakes and getting over them. We first gain an understanding about making errors and mistakes, of getting things wrong, from our familial culture. Later, as we first go to school, we discover more about errors, corrections and how society and the others around us judge the making of mistakes.

This early influence lays a very crucial foundation for our ability to be resilient. And when we are growing up and constantly learning things, this ability is with us every waking moment, and pervades every single thing we do. This underlines my belief that everything, every action, in our lives is a unique performance, and is borne out by this famous quote by Heraclitus of Ephesus:
“No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”

You could say that we are all of us at the mercy of our early influences, so much so that by the time we are seven we have already been put on the road to becoming either a very resilient performer, a confidence player or a perfectionist, or somewhere in between!
However, although this might presuppose that we cannot get off that ROAD once we have been put on it, we are subject to influence and persuasion all the time. And it is the influences we encounter at any time that can steer us elsewhere and to enable us to perform in a different way, and perhaps a more successful or a more fulfilling way.

Gaining a Foothold on Resilience

Once we know there is another ROAD, that we are not doomed or BROKEN, and that there is such a thing called resilience, we can start to discover more about how we can make our performances more consistent and rewarding, and fuse our love of our sport with the joy and ecstasy of doing it to the very best of our abilities, in the moment.

Gloria Solomon and Andrea Becker (2004) came up with an interesting acronym that described a four step process they developed to help athletes deal with performance errors.
A = Acknowledge the error and the frustration it has caused
R = Review the play and determine how and why the error occurred
S = Strategise a plan to make the necessary corrections for the future
E = Execute and prepare for the next play
Amusingly, they described this as “teaching athletes this sequence will give them a tool for managing the emotional response which comes with making mistakes, and help them to get their ARSE in gear!”

Arseing about

I am coaching an 8 year old at the moment who is very keen on his cricket. I noticed early on that if he perceived some part of our practice as being a performance, a contest, then his behaviour changed.
He would hit the ball, make a slight error, fall to the ground whilst saying in a miserable tone of voice how he’d got it wrong, messed it up, and seemed inconsolably upset with himself. He appeared to become a near perfectionist and probably had about 5% resilience.
Without realising it, I ran the ARSE strategy and got him back on his feet and ready to play the next ball. I got him to hit 10 balls at a target in this little contest, and after every error he ran his sequence and I ran the ARSE strategy.
Now the interesting thing here was that not only was he learning how to be more resilient, but he was also learning about MY coaching culture, and my approach to helping people get over errors and to getting better. By the time we’d moved on to practicing another cricket skill, he’d grasped the whole idea of how we get better at something by making mistakes and getting it wrong.

Work in Progress

I’ve worked with enough perfectionists and confidence players over the years to know that it is definitely a player’s thinking that gets them into a place of low resilience, and that it is definitely their thinking that is getting in the way of their performance.
The Secret – or this particular version of it – is to liberate them from the NEED to Listen to their own Thinking. We all have a tendency to hang onto the familiar, and the more familiar we are with Listening to our own Thinking then the more we will hang on to the NEED to do it.

I first used the phrase Work in Progress some years back with a lad who was inhibited by perfectionism even in practice, let alone in performance. We would be working on some particular skill and his behaviour would change as a result of his (in his eyes) making a mistake – getting it wrong. In a way he resembled my recent 8 year old in that he struggled with the emotional outpouring initiated by his Inner Judge.
“Look,” I said to him, “this is just practice. And everything you do in practice is just Work in Progress. Your work has progressed from there to here, and next we will be progressing your work from here to the next place. It is how we grow our skills.”
And I watched him listening and nodding, and somewhere inside he made the connection and got his ARSE in gear! 
Almost at once he stopped beating himself up in practice. Before the next match he was due to play, I talked with him about how we can take our Work in Progress into a contest. He made mistakes – and he dealt with them well. From that moment on he became a resilient player, and he understood resilience even though we never talked about it.

Making deliberate mistakes in practice

The rugby team I coach did a double take the first time I asked them to run a simple passing drill – deliberately passing badly. Why on earth would anyone want to practice getting something wrong?

I unpacked for them some of the reasons why this might be a useful strategy in practice, although I also kept some of the reasons up my sleeve as well.
The obvious one is that it is designed to sharpen up the mental and physical reactions and skills of the receiver of the pass – and since this was a drill involving everyone both passing and receiving, then the passer gets a much better sense of the pressure he puts his team mates under when he makes a mistake, when he gets it wrong.

When the players first started running the drill, they all found it difficult to deliberately pass badly. This brought – via a felt sense - an immediate understanding that mistakes are not anyone’s fault, but rather that they just happen and there should be no blame attached. The players all got a much better idea of how good their skills and competences really were.

The comedian Les Dawson had a wonderful way of playing the piano badly out of key. The thing was – in order to play that badly and to make it so funny, he actually had to be able to play the piano really well.  

Another interesting payback from the Deliberate Bad Pass drill comes in terms of players encountering resilience practice.
A = Acknowledge the error and the frustration it has caused
R = Review the play and determine how and why the error occurred
S = Strategise a plan to make the necessary corrections for the future
E = Execute and prepare for the next play

For passers, the entire error/frustration dynamic was changed.
Players knew why the pass errors occurred and now the review of the play, the drill, was about the receivers’ skills.
If the receivers dropped or failed to gather the bad pass then acknowledging the error was easy and there was no frustration.
On the play review it became clear that the receivers dropped the ball when they didn’t watch it for long enough – in spite of how bad the pass was. The corrective plan was to watch the ball for longer.
They went out and ran the drill again several times, caught most of the passes and marvelled at their ability to be able to pass really badly, deliberately.


As a Performance Coach who also works as a technical coach, I consider myself lucky to be in a unique position to be able to embed and interweave one discipline within another. As a result I’m able to raise the resilience of grass roots players without having to tell them that we are going to work on some mental skills. Likewise I’m able to influence an eight year old in terms of resilience, knowing that that growing understanding will help him in other parts of his young life.

I was having a casual chat recently with some sporting folk and someone said, “Everyone talks about resilience now. Is that like bouncebackability?” I nodded. “Wish I had it.” He continued, “Wish I could get some of that. Of course it’s only for professionals and those at the very top of the game.”

“What makes you think that?” I asked, quite curious about his perspective.

“Well it wouldn’t work on me would it? It’s all to do with what’s going on in here,” he said, tapping the top of his head. 

I leaned forward and looked straight at him, “How do you know you haven’t already got some resilience?” 

As a footnote, here is a link to an interesting article in Time Magazine from 2005 called “The Importance of Resilience.” 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Who is Listening?

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Of course we all recognise this thought provoking quote – and one of the thoughts that sprang up for me today was to do with our Internal Dialogue.
Now in this regard I’m not talking about what some refer to as our Conscious – Unconscious Dialogue. I’m really referring to what is perhaps colloquially known as Self Talk.

A dialogue essentially involves two or more ‘voices’ shall we say. It is a conversation, a discussion, an exchange of thoughts and ideas expressed in words. Within the same linguistic stable there is monologue – where, as we understand it, there is only one voice.

Self Talk

Once we have the facility to talk, we develop our facility to Self talk.
Children, from around the age of two, can be observed talking to themselves - particularly when at play. Starting first with the work of psychologists Jean Piaget* and Lev Vygotsky*, there have been extensive observed studies and researches concerning the emergence of self talk or ‘private speech’ in children.
By the time we are 7, say, we have become very well practised in the art of self talk – and by that age this facility has also become much more internalised. It seems that through constant daily usage and practice we have bonded together our thinking with our self talk, so much so that they are barely discernible and appear to be one and the same.

Self Listening

Of course, for there to be a dialogue there has to be two or more voices, and here I would describe our internal dialogue as having an active voice and a passive voice. Thus far I have explored the emergence and use of the active voice – yet, what of the passive voice?
Now – simply in terms of labelling at this point, I would describe the passive voice as being that of the Self Listener.

Once we have the facility to listen, we develop our facility to Self Listen. And part of that development is this - as we internalise our self talk so we also internalise our Self Listening.
By the stage we are merging our thinking with our Self Talk, we are ‘hearing’ our thinking with our Self Listening.
Through our developing cognisance and the vehicle of language, we are able to recognise and understand our thoughts. We now have a fully developed Internal Dialogue – and we have a complete understanding of who we are at any given moment.
And it is quite easy to see how we can fully accept the premise behind Rene Descartes’ famous quote Cogito Ergo SumI think therefore I am.

The Data

On a purely sensual level, every sound we hear in every moment of time makes up a vast array of incoming auditory data. The same applies to all other sensual data as well.
We have AND develop a mental facility to filter that data in such a way that our processing capacity is not overwhelmed. It is a facility that runs at both an unconscious (involuntary) level as well as a conscious one. It is a function that takes place within the reticular activating system (RAS) and is located in the brain stem adjacent to the Thalamus.

Now, one of the amazing functions of the brain is the facility to take internally created images, sounds, feelings and other sensory data – and to treat them as if they were real. The internally sourced data passes through the sensory gateways (or filter) in the same way as externally sourced data. Our imagination, our dreams, visualisations etc are all formed of internally sourced data – yet they are presented to our perceptive apparatus as being as real as the external experience.

So if we examine our Self Listening, we can easily understand how our thoughts, the words from that nagging little voice in our head, can seem as real as if they were on “the outside.”

Now one of the functions of the RAS is that we can play a conscious part in directing the filtering process. We are, therefore, not totally at the mercy of whatever data is coming in – both from outside and, more to the point here, from the inside. We CAN moderate what we pay attention to in terms of our Self Listening.

And part of that moderation comes from how we manage our attention.

The Judge

Within our mental facility we also have The Judge.

The Judge evaluates incoming data in terms of how to respond. At the involuntary or unconscious level, this takes the form of responses to stimuli – we respond to touching something hot, we jump in response to a loud bang, we shield our eyes in response to a blinding light, and we recoil in response to a vile smell or a sharp, acidic taste.

At the conscious level we respond in a whole variety of ways, PLUS we add in markers which we label EMOTIONS. The emotions make each experience more vivid. The emotions get filed away in memory along with the data that makes up the experience, and the emotional markers enable quick and easy recollection of the experience. As we know, whenever we remember something with a vivid emotional marker, the entire experience of data + emotion comes flooding back.

It is The Judge in us that decides not only what we respond to, but also what kind of emotional markers are going to be used. At the conscious level, The Judge makes decisions based upon our beliefs and values and also our sense of self, or what we assume as being our sense of Identity.  

And when it comes to our Self Listening we find The Judge is also there, evaluating what is being said in our Self Talk.
When we are critical of ourselves, or self-demeaning, or verbally beating ourselves up, The Judge then becomes the Self Talker. If we are driven to self-harming, then our behaviour is a response to the Self Talk of The Judge.

Making Changes

Now if we want to make a change in some part of our lives in terms of the way we behave, or the way we respond, or the way we perceive things – then there are a number of ways we can do this. However, each and every one of us has a unique make-up – so the best ways of making changes that would work for me are not necessarily the best ways for you.

So, what might be the best approach?
Well, we know that if we ask our family, friends or indeed even someone in the street, then the reply we’d get would probably start like this:
Well if I were you then I’d do XXXX.

However when a client comes to see me then this kind of response is never going to get them very far! What I need is to get a picture of the Self Talker, the Self Listener, The Data and The Judge. We’ll have a conversation and I’ll ask some questions to enable me to get a handle on their Thinking and their view of how the World works – remembering of course that it is only THEIR World. I’ll also get a really good view of their expressive language, both verbal and non-verbal, for their language is the vehicle that conveys the workings, meanings and purpose of THEIR World.

In order to make some meaningful changes, my client knows that The Data is not completely controllable. Life and the World will always throw things in our paths from a deep pile carpet to a rocky road. He can change some of his Beliefs and Values and get a different perception of his sense of Identity –this will alter how The Data is filtered, and will also adapt the response criteria for The Judge. He can moderate his Self Talk – which is his Thinking – and change his perception of HIS World that way.

Or – he can be a different kind of Self Listener.

Remember this?
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Forest Fires

If my client listens to himself, pays attention, then the only route left open to him is all the remedies I’ve just mentioned – this is what I would call the “fire-fighting” approach.
He is there – in his own metaphorical forest – and as the trees of Self Talk regularly fall he will hear them, judge them, process them and respond to them. The trees will keep falling, rather like the weather just keeps on coming.

On the other hand, if as a Self Listener he is not in the forest, then the trees will fall in perceptive silence. His thoughts will rise up and fall away, form as clouds and then evaporate. There will be much less ‘noise and clamour’ going on, there’ll be a lot more perceptive clarity. He will, to coin a phrase, start to “see the wood for the trees.
Life and the World will still present data to him, and his attention - and he can still manage his attention to deal with matters pertaining to all THAT data.
In terms of the Internal Dialogue however, his Self Listening has changed. With less or no data coming in from Self Talk, immediately the role of The Judge has changed too.


There’s a simplicity to changing the nature of our Self Listening that is woven into the fabric of how we manage our attention.

When we are attending to something we allocate to it a portion of our total awareness. The more attention we give – the greater proportion is dedicated to that something. Meanwhile, we are paying less attention to other things. This allocation of attentive “bandwidth” is a very simple equation – rather like “Task Manager” in a computer’s operating system software.

Now the moment we become really absorbed in one thing, the amount of bandwidth that is allocated to “other things” becomes very much diminished. When we’re really in The Zone or a Flow State, for instance, then we pay no attention at all to “other things.” Time slows down or seems to be suspended, and our Ego – our sense of Self – is nowhere to be found. As part of that sense of Self, our Self Talk and Self Listening are not in evidence, and neither is The Judge. The external data is still streaming in and being processed, but all the internal clutter has gone.

Self Listening, along with other ego-oriented processes, takes attentive bandwidth. If we are really worried about something then we find it extremely difficult to do anything else. We describe this as “I can’t get my head around it. I had other things on my mind. My head was in another place.” 
Sound familiar? It’s because we’ve allocated so much bandwidth to the worrying and not enough to what we were actually doing.
Yet – what if we’d stopped our Self Listening?
What if we’d not listened to ourselves worrying, not paid attention to ourselves worrying?


Take a look at the people you know who seem very calm, grounded, unflappable, are good at what they do yet always seem to have time for others. Consider how it is they manage to do so much, so well – without getting burnt out, worn out or stressed out.
Maybe they were born with it, maybe they’re on something, or maybe they just stopped listening to their Self Talk?

When people say, “I just learned how to let go,” we might wonder HOW. How do they do that?

Next time you are worried or dogged by an overload of thoughts hold your tongue for about 30 seconds. Or hold out your forefinger and try balancing a pencil on it.
While you were doing that where did all the thoughts go?
Or firmly grip a coin between your thumb and forefinger, stand up and hold it out in front of you as you stack all those errant thoughts onto it. Feel the coin getting heavier – and when you are ready and cannot hold it any more, then just let it go.

Remember - we don’t have to be the “I” who is Listening.

* Jean Piaget – The Language and Thought of the Child (1959)
* Lev Vygotsky – Thought and Language (alt. Thinking and Speaking) (1934)