Escape the Monologues: The Stories that Trap Us


On my way to work one day, I saw a stray dog. A greyhound mix, he was trotting along the road, his ribs showing through his thin coat. A large black tumorous growth protruded from his side. I stopped my car and got out. I called to him to come, but he just stood there, his eyes fixed on the road ahead. When he started to run again, I followed him.

He stopped. I called. He ran. This happened a few times before I realized that I could not interrupt his mindset. Never once did hemonologue make eye contact with me or respond with any doggy signal. I couldn’t make any impression on him. I couldn’t convince him I would help him, and he needed help.

As I finally drove away, after a call to the local shelter, I felt the Lord say I have just shown you a picture of mental illness. I will admit I was a bit haunted after that.

The lesson was clear, however. At the time I was ministering to several people and could not break through their monologues. Their minds were like that dog. They paused politely when I spoke, waiting for me to finish so they could continue to rehash their same story over and over again. Their minds were caught in a loop, and I could not insert any type of diversion from their purpose, which was to repeat their story over and over again to anyone who would listen.

The temptation to monologue is common to all, I believe. We have memories that give us no peace and we orbit them monologuesover and over, looking for relief or a solution. And we all know people who monologue, for whom the divorce that happened twenty years ago is a fresh to them today as it was then, or tales of the good old days told and retold to a captive audience.

So why do we do it? Even now I have to ask my daughters if I am repeating myself occasionally. And often monologues are just forgetfulness or a habit. We reunite with a friend and our mind automatically goes to what we had talked about on the previous occasion. But if you find yourself caught in a monologue, you must ask yourself why you keep getting caught in this mind trap.

Here are a few possibilities:


  1. Unresolved trauma. When we suffer significant trauma, we have a number of reactions, depending on our mental makeup. Some bury the trauma alive and hope it stays buried. (Like the undead, it never does) But some of us rehash and rehash the memory, digging ever deeper ruts into that particular neural path. Our monologues cut off pathways to newer and better thinking until your thoughts race around circular tracks, never arriving at a destination.

Solution? A counselor can help you reframe the issue. EMDR can help you sort out the memory and lay those monologues to rest. Either way, you have to make some serious effort to listen rather than rehearse. Your trauma is your oppressor and your monologue is the chains which bind you to it.

  1. A habit of mind. If you have very few subjects to talk about, you may have stalled out in intellectual or emotional growth. Learning new things gives us new and exciting things to bring up in conversation. As women, our default is often to discuss relationships or analyze other’s lives. Another word for this is gossip. But if your conversation lacks variety, time to consider some fresh territory.

Solution: However you learn, whether by hearing, reading, or doing, step into new arenas. Not only does pursuing knowledge give your brain new life and fresh blood supply to more and more areas, it makes you a more interesting person. If you have the same conversations with the same people on a regular basis, it may be time to make some new friends.

  1. Obsession. I have come to believe that obsessive thinking, or thinking that revolves around a particular topic continually, is trauma related. For instance, I had a friend who was obsessed with conspiracy theories. She continually researched them and because it was all she filled her mind with, her monologues were confined to paranoid speculations. Her childhood was filled with insecure attachments and abuse. She focused on conspiracies because though they are frightening, she could focus her anger safely there, rather than on her family who continues to be unsafe.

While married to my abusive ex-husband, I was fixated on the second coming of Jesus. If there is a book on the topic, I have read it. What my mind was really doing was looking for an escape. That obsession had little to do with spirituality and everything to do with current trauma in which I felt trapped. Who wouldn’t want to raptured out of a marriage to a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Solution: If you are obsessed or go from obsession to obsession, consider that your mind may be looking to avoid the underlying issue. I find this is particularly true when we becomemonologues obsessed with another person. Rare is our desperation about that person. Instead, it is about our need to distract ourselves or work out some painful relationship from the past.

Our minds are such powerful and yet such sensitive organs. And just like our bodies, they need care and maintenance. We are often taught to check for suspicious moles or lumps in our breasts, but rarely are we taught the proper upkeep for arguably our most important organ.

So give yourself a mental check-up. If you live in anguish, your mind is not well. Caught in an emotional or mental loop? You may need help breaking free. Anxiety, obsession, negativity; all these are signs of a brain on the fritz. Time for a tune-up. And the trick is that relationship is crucial to keeping a healthy brain. Exercise and diet help, but being in a relationship with a healthy individual will lead you along healthier paths from the get-go. Hopefully, you have someone in your life with the courage to challenge your monologues.

This is the little-recognized benefit of a vibrant spiritual life. Prayer, worship, Bible reading is both spiritually and mentally reviving. To seek the mind of Christ, to fill up on things that are good, noble, beautiful and monologuespure, this is the test of a strong individual. If these sound awful and your mind wants to dwell in some dark corner, reliving old wounds, or if your mind wants to travel back and forth along one familiar path, consider getting help.

The transformation of the mind is a spiritual battle, sacred duty, and a serious quest that only you can choose to undertake, but that none of us can do alone.



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Mindfulness and Discernment: Make the Connection

13 Replies to “Escape the Monologues: The Stories that Trap Us”

  1. Unfortunately I see these patterns all too often in my therapy office. Your line, “Your trauma is your oppressor and your monologue is the chains which bind you to it.” is so true. The hard part is that even though I may have the tools to break the chains, the person has to be willing to let me use the tool. Another amazing resource is Dr. Caroline Leaf “Switch on the Brain”.

  2. Unresolved trauma keeps us in mental loops that we can’t get out of. This is so true. So how do we help people to get out of these loops? I pray over people, and the chains are broken, but somehow the mind goes back because it’s still unresolved. May God helps us to resolve those unresolved issues! And I like how you counsel people to learn fresh things to make your mind go in a different direction.

  3. “Anxiety, obsession, negativity; all these are signs of a brain on the fritz.” I can attest to this, my anxiety stems from my childhood and my fear of abandonment.
    Since learning God’s truths and beginning to internalize them more intentionally, my anxiety has gone down.

  4. Great read, I have know lots of people who tell the same stories, only talk about certain things, it’s nice to have a better understanding. I love that you compare it to our preventive care, we all need more mental preventive care. Reading the Bible and prayer are two good ones. Many Thanks! 8)

  5. What a great analogy to mental illness! It is so hard to understand from the outside because it seems like they should just be able to do certain things, but they can’t and demanding doesn’t help.

  6. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Thank-you for this Alice! It helps me process a few relationships that have been frustrating me lately. Because of the nature of my blog, I have also taken on the role of listening ear and councilor (of sorts – I always recommend qualified help as well) to a number of women in similar situations. It was good to be reminded of the oppression involved to renew my patience and give me direction in my council.
    I wish this were an easier topic to resolve. It’s so difficult (if not impossible) to get another person to see the trap they’re in and refocus! Just like that dog. It’s disappointing!

  7. the ugly words we say to ourselves shape our whole lives. We are so ugly in our language in our heads.

  8. Sorry log in did not work above comment is mine! Love the dog word picture. People are so often stuck in their narrative. It is forest for the trees idea!

  9. I love this post:) I have found myself repeating some things over and over again. It absolutely comes from past traumas .

    Need to watch for those monologues next time


  10. None of us can do it alone that is for sure. Not dwelling on one thing and allowing our minds to focus on things that are of God is definitely helpful in focusing away from self or what is torturing us.

  11. Really good. I appreciate articles that talk about mental illness. I appreciate the stray dog illustration. Really helps paint the picture. Thank you!

  12. Thanks for this post. You really helped me understand some of my past behavior that now seems foolish to me. Very insightful.

  13. Dear Alice

    Thank you for “Escape the Monologues: The Stories that Trap Us”.

    After reading it I kept thinking of your sentence in green: “I couldn’t convince him I would help him, and he needed help.”

    Your parallel to the picture of mental illness works well – that’s the way it is.

    As I read your blog post became a reminder of the power of the words we speak/write and think.

    The suggestion you give in the blog post when you say: “if you find yourself caught in a monologue, you must ask yourself why you keep getting caught in this mind trap.”

    That’s a useful tip together with the idea about reframing.

    You also touch another exciting aspect when you say: “If you have very few subjects to talk about, you may have stalled out in intellectual or emotional growth.”

    This is relevant for many Christians.

    We, myself included, tend to stay with what we know instead of seeking new opinions and listen to people who hold different beliefs.

    Sometimes the ‘fresh territory’ should be taken literally (physically moving to another place).

    My favourite part of your writing here was when you said: “I was fixated on the second coming of Jesus. If there is a book on the topic, I have read it. What my mind was really doing was looking for an escape.”

    The way you’ve included examples from your own life gives this blog post a strength and keeps the audience reading.

    Thank you – you deserve a share on social media, also because you’ve written a longer than average blog post (we need much more of that in the Christian community).

    With respect!

    Edna Davidsen

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