55 | Making Sense Of The Distractions, Disturbances, and Noise

The noise we encounter can significantly impact how we perceive the world and what we believe about it. This can be multiplied tenfold for sensitive types who naturally absorb and respond to subtle environmental shifts and sensory disturbances.

So, how do we learn to acknowledge and address the noise that can otherwise derail and distract us?

I explore that question in this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, which follows from last week’s exploration of personal sound and the idea of “coming to our senses.”

The Difference Between Noise and Buzz

Buzz is not a technical term, but it helps us differentiate different types of external stimulation. In the episode, I discuss how noise disturbs the senses, diminishing our capacity to enjoy while buzz enriches the experience, adding to the atmosphere and energy.

Distinguishing between noise and buzz helps us gauge whether an environment supports our objectives and desires in any given moment.

We might recognise how the same stimulation can be met differently by people. For example, some find silence distracting and seek sensory input to create a buzz to concentrate, while others lose focus if anything is happening around them. This highlights the subjective nature of these perceptions, which requires understanding and negotiation, especially in shared spaces like open-plan offices and living environments.

Sources of Noise

Noise reaches us through our senses, our thinking, and bodily sensations. We can perceive and feel disturbances in many ways and from various sources, some more overt than others.

Sensory Noise

Sensory noise is stimulation that directly enters our senses: noisy sounds, tastes, smells, touch, sights etc. Input becomes noisy when our ability to process sensory data or receive information through other senses is impaired.

Cognitive Noise

We might not notice how noisy our thoughts are when we are habituated to an overthinking mind. Thoughts might include the voice of the inner critic and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, one another, and the state of the world.

Digital Noise

I wasn’t sure where to put mobile technology but it certainly belongs on this list. In fact, we might find it under every item. But rather than being a direct noise source, it tends to act as an amplifier for many other noise sources.

The phone brings sensory noise through the sights and sounds of relentless news feeds and reels. It can also amplify cognitive noise, triggering internal judgements based on comparisons as we glimpse images, videos, and updates flying past our eyes, not to mention exposure to the relentless flood of real-time information that we wouldn’t get in such abundant volume without technology.

Cultural Noise

Current events, news stories, and social trends flow into our conscious awareness from outside. They take up capacity for thinking and feeling and become noise when we don’t have a creative outlet to process and release them.

Cultural noise also flows through the values and beliefs we absorb from society and judge ourselves by.

Somatic/Physical Noise

We might feel noisiness in our physical beings. It can be experienced as pain, tension, tightness, aches, throbs, tenderness, etc. On the one hand it is where we might hold unprocessed thoughts, emotions, and experiences. But on the other hand, it can also become a source of noise itself.

Emotional Noise

Unacknowledged and unprocessed emotional responses to environments, situations, encounters, and experiences can build up inside us as noise. The louder they get, the more they influence our perception of reality.

What We Hear is How We See

I use the role of music in film and TV to highlight this. There are some fantastic examples of how music can completely change what you believe you are seeing in front of you.

Check out these examples:

How Can Two People Interpret The Same Thing So Differently?

The soundtrack playing within impacts our ability to truly listen to one another. If we are primed to laugh, get angry, or be cynical, we will notice information that supports that outcome. We can work with this to create better and more desirable outcomes and avoid exposing ourselves to stimulation that contributes to the opposite.

Overwhelmed By Sameness

Noise diminishes our capacity to think clearly and make the best decisions. It squeezes our energy and leaves us feeling distracted and drained.

The algorithmic world of social media presents us with a unique challenge..the overwhelming noise of repetition and sameness. We are presented with a personalised picture of a world that appears to be saturated by a small number of ideas.

We might lose hope when confronted by the crowd of other people occupying the same space we are trying to find our way in.

What Do We Do With All This Noise?

“Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like…then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping. What the public criticises in you, cultivate. It is you.”

– Jean Cocteau

Shame is noisy. It fills our thoughts, senses, and emotional responses to the world. It tells us we are not good enough, we don’t belong, and how we are is unacceptable. But what if the noise of shame can tell us something about who we are and what we might cultivate to connect with our creative sound, voice, and spirit? What if the very thing we think we need to turn down in ourselves is the part of us that brings meaning to who we are?

Sometimes The Obstacle (Noise) is The Way

This is similar to how the Stoics would describe the obstacles we face as the pathway for growth. In other words, what we perceive as barriers to reaching our goals can help us develop in various ways. For instance, if we consider noise an obstacle, we can view it as a formative part of our journey towards self-expression and finding our way ahead.

We can turn our pain into creative offerings that help us reconcile and process it. This can also lead to connecting with others experiencing similar situations and supporting those who may encounter similar challenges in the future.

Environment and Routine

At times, excessive noise can become a disturbance that needs directly addressing. We might reduce it by modifying our environment, altering routines, and shifting habits.

Boundaries (Work With The Nervous System and Start With The Positive Desire)

Consider what makes you feel safe and connected and gives you a sense of energised and motivated hopefulness. Prioritise these things in your environment and routine to minimise distractions. The noise derailing our day often comes from not having solid boundaries.

Boundaries that prioritise what we want more help us eliminate distractions without focusing on them.

We might ask questions such as, what is important to me NOW? What do I want to believe about people? What do I want to notice more?

Set an Intention in The Noise

How might you experiment with the noise this week? What do you want to prime yourself to notice? What do you want to believe about other people’s intentions? Where would you like to experience more glimmers of hope and connection?

The Fireside

We move through these three elements of creative spirit in my one-to-one Fireside program, which I created to help people reconnect with their natural creative spirit. Learn more here

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