Our internal dialogues are often exactly that: dialogues that suit a narrative. Narrative building (the basis of the narrative fallacy) is often quite detrimental to attempts to think clearly. It is therefore beneficial to detect and correct for biases introduced from narrative building. But it can be hard to distinguish a 'clear' thought from one that is a consequence of a narrative.
I offer a heuristic to make the distinction between a thought which is a direct attempt to model reality and a thought which is based solely on its suitability to a narrative:
- Isolate a sentence uttered in your internal (or external) voice. It could also be a pattern of images, voices or feelings. Tastes and smells are harder to do in this technique, but I believe we rarely 'think' with our tastes and smells.
- Imagine it in a movie or a story. Also see how easy it is for you come up with some music to suit this thought pattern. Also examine the suitability of the people in your thoughts as characters in a movie or TV show.
- Evaluate its suitability to the above, narrative-like contexts.
- If it seems very suitable, it is now much more likely that it is part of narrative building. Otherwise, it might be an 'accurate' thought.
1. When buying something: Often times, when I'm standing in a Starbucks line for a coffee and try to imagine why I'm standing there (when I can make my own coffee both at my home and at my office), I am usually returned with a feeling of being part of The People Who Do Things. Or one of being a Hard Worker who needs his Coffee to do his Hard Work with Focus and Determination. It fits too well while introducing a character in a novel. After I started noticing this, I've been realizing that coffee is not as useful in improving my focus as I thought it was earlier.
2. In conversations: This must be very familiar to most people. Anecdotes get highly embellished based on their suitability to a story. Also the way they are usually 'narrated' rather than just 'conveyed'. Realizing this when it happens can be quite useful.