GLOSS Issue 20 FEB 2015 - Page 81

That story that keeps replaying Your story, that story that keeps replaying, the interaction of your expectations and what happens, the narrative, the disappointments and the way you process it... It’s all invented. Ambien, the popular sleep aid, doesn’t actually help people sleep much more (in one study, it boosted sleep by 18 minutes a night). No, the reason it works is that it’s an amnesiac. Ambien makes you forget that you didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Because a huge side affect of sleeplessness is the invented story we tell ourselves about how tired we are. Ambien doesn’t help us sleep, it just destroys the negative story about not sleeping. It’s all invented. It’s still real, the pain is real, the frustration is real, but the story that’s causing it all is something we made up, and something we can change. The pain is real, and so is a path to changing it. Free will and the play-by-play in your head Back to freedom and what it means. Everyone I’ve ever asked has had the same experience with the voice in their head. They tell me that the little man (or woman) who’s up there, constantly chattering, makes the important decisions. “I feel like having some ice cream,” he says, and so we have some ice cream. It’s this voiceover that considers options, debates outcomes, and ultimately decides. Or at least it feels that way. But Dan Dennett and other philosophers and researchers have demonstrated that this isn’t true. Here’s how to think about it: Dave Hodge (substitute your favorite sportscaster) is doing the play-by-play for a baseball game. Now, take a video recording of the game and move Dave’s play-by-play forward by about six seconds. Instead of Dave describing what happens after the play (the way it usually works), in our sped-up version, Dave says something and then it happens. “Suzuki is on the mound, winds up for the pitch, it’s a strike...” we hear Hodge say. And then, we watch Suzuki wind and throw a pitch. This, of course, is silly. We all know that the announcer doesn’t tell the player what to do; we know that the player does something and then the announcer describes it. Guess what? That’s how the voice works. It does playby-play. That voice in your head is describing what you’re about to do after a different part of your brain has already initiated that action And that’s how we drive ourselves nuts, and why we hide and why it’s hard to be free. Because the chattering voice in our head is busy pretending it has agency, when in fact, all it’s doing is going along for the ride. Take a second to digest that, because it will change everything. Your body decides, the voice inside your brain narrates. Of course, there’s a cycle. The voice in your head then pushes back on the rest of your body, often causing stress, or second-guessing, or hesitation. It’s only when we learn not to banish the voice but to dance with it that we’re able to do our best work.