On the Powers of Internal Language

1. Description

Internal language has the power to describe your experiences, thus changing your experiences.

  • Are you a bad person? Or did you just make a mistake?
  • Is this a horrible tragedy? Or is this, you know…kind of funny?

When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgement of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.²

Thanks, Marc.

2. Imagination

Internal language has the power to unlock your imagination.

3. Meditation

Internal language has the power to help you enter meditative states.

  • Noting sensations that arise as “Thinking” or “Feeling” to help create space in the mind and to teach one about one’s mental habits.
  • Using the pronoun “You” instead of “I” when addressing one’s self to create some distance from one’s experience and to discourage one’s intellectual mind from jumping in.

4. Motivation

Internal language has the power to motivate you.

  • I renamed my Financial Accounting & Reporting class as Entertainment Financial Accounting.
  • I renamed my Cost Accounting class as How to Be a Piano, but realized it was a stretch, so I settled for Creative Business Cost Accounting.

5. Precision

Internal language has the power to give you a precise reading of your experiences.

  • It’s possible that you will never learn that foreign language, but given that you’re working and improving every day…how probable is it?
  • It’s possible that I will never defeat Roger Federer in a tennis match, but given that — ignore this one; you get the point.

6. Reinvention

Internal language has the power to reinvent how you perceive your life.

Embellecía los hechos, porque era consciente de que la vida es como uno la cuenta, así que para qué iba a anotar lo trivial.⁸

I would translate this into English as: “She embellished the facts, because she knew that life is how you tell it, so why jot down trivialities.”


7. Reframing

Internal language has the power to reframe a feeling, thus changing your experience of it.

When I look at a portrait, I like to play a game where I try to listen to the subject’s internal language. In this portrait, I can hear Van Gogh saying to himself, “I think I forgot my wallet.”⁹


  1. Pedro de Alcantara, “Sensory Awareness and Conception,” in Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 40.
  2. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.47
  3. Bessel van der Kolk, “Lessons from Vietnam Veterans,” in The Body Keeps the Score (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2015), p. 17.
  4. “The Science-Backed Benefits of Mindfulness,” Headspace, https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness.
  5. Pedro de Alcantara, “Directing and Words,” in Indirect Procedures, p. 61.
  6. Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, “Duty,” in The Daily Stoic (New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2016), p. 200.
  7. Walter Riso, “Conferencia: “Me cuido para cuidarte: psicología en tiempos de confinamiento”,” YouTube video, 1:42:13, April 4, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gZ-NCcGr_4.
  8. Isabel Allende, “IX,” in Largo pétalo de mar, 1ra ed. (Barcelona, España: Vintage Español, 2019), p. 244.
  9. Vincent van Gogh, Portrait de l’artiste, 1889, Oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay.



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