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Radio Station Metaphor

Thinking about the thoughts generated by the human mind – the ‘thought factory’ – as a radio station can be an effective strategy.

Consider a radio station. It constantly produces sounds in a language-based format, and those sounds are themselves symbols of content. That content can be informative or entertaining, or have little relevance to you, or can be ‘drivel’. Imagine listening to that radio station while driving in your car, and that for some reason you can’t change the station or turn off the radio. 

As a result, you are likely to hear the radio, although you might not listen to it. You will hear informative or entertaining content that you recognise has value to you, and you listen and perhaps learn something, or respond with agreement or disagreement, or sing along. 

If the content has little relevance, you are likely to find your attention wanders away from and back to the radio, probably over and over again.

If it’s drivel, you’ll do your best to ignore it. 

But consider if that radio station is tuned to a talkback station, led by a powerful and influential host. Listen long enough or often enough and the host’s opinions may begin to influence your own – or at least lead you to question your own opinions and judgements.

This is ‘Mind Radio’.

Mind Radio may have some stations that are being potentially useful – that ‘play’ some valuable content – but also some stations that may be damaging to your self-assessment. There may be others that you know exist, but prefer to avoid as much as possible.

There are between five and nine ‘stations’ that we find clients commonly and involuntarily engage with. We can help them categorise these stations as the first step in overcoming their influence:

  • ‘I’m not good enough’ FM 

  • ‘I’m a fraud’ FM 

  • ‘Life’s not fair’ FM (in the same stable as ‘I can’t get a break’ FM) 

  • ‘I can’t cope’ FM 

  • ‘I regret’ FM

  • ‘XYZ FM’ – the mystery station. What is it that your client is listening to?

It may take some work to reach the point of identifying which of these themes fits – for example, Superwoman Jenny from Lesson 1 may not immediately recognise that she’s been listening to ‘I can’t cope’ FM. 

But once the theme is clear and identifiable, it is easier to help determine a path to work through.

In addition, we should examine the impact of these thoughts. The impact can be escapist or risky behaviour – avoiding others, drinking or gambling, for example. What actions have been taken to try and turn off the radio station or dull its noise? 

Defusion says the radio station won’t turn off just because we can't hear it at a particular moment – perhaps because we’ve chosen to drink or clean obsessively or spend hours playing computer games. It will keep playing, because it’s likely the station is playing tracks related to important values. The sound will not disappear with the push of a button; in fact, attempts to decrease the volume or eradicate the station can create a new station such as ‘There’s something wrong with me’ FM.

Defusion says to become aware of the radio station, recognise the station it is stuck on, and understand the futility of trying to turn it off. Then, allow it to play while focusing on those things that are in our control and important to us.


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