Are You More “Internal” or “External”?

Note:  The photograph above is of a hologram.

Are you more “internal” or “external”?

I’ve been asking my practice members this question a lot lately.

The idea comes from Dr. Donny Epstein’s observation that people have a tendency to process energy and information in two very distinct ways – internally or externally.


If you process things internally, you tend to bring them “inside” of you and experience them as if they’re actually occurring within you.  In other words, you take what’s going on in the outside world, and internalize it.


If you process things externally, you tend to take them “outside” of you and experience them as separate from you.  In other words, you take what’s going on in your inner world, and externalize it.

The Truth About Internal and External

The truth is, there’s really no such thing as internal and external, well at least not at the deepest level.  There’s no inner or outer, nor inside or outside because at the deepest level it’s all ONE.

The ultimate teaching, the highest level of realization taught by virtually all spiritual sages for millennia is that non-dual reality – Oneness or “Is-ness” – is the true ground state of being in which there is no separation and there are no boundaries.

And if there are no boundaries, then there can be no internal or external, which it turns out is something that has been validated by science.

Take the work of neuroscientist Karl Pribram for example.  Pribram’s research on the brain showed that there really is no world “out there”.  There are only infinite patterns and fields of energy and information that when focused on become the “things” wee see “out there”.

Pribram’s model of the brain, called the Holonomic Brain Theory, explains that we are experiencing the universe “out there”, while simultaneously creating the universe that we’re experiencing “in here”.  Pribram found that your brain stores and accesses information similarly to how holographic images (virtual three-dimensional images created by interference patterns of light) are formed.

What’s extraordinary about holographic images is that they consist of both a reference and a reflected beam.  In other words they contain an original source of light and a reflected source of light, making them appear to be solid objects located in space, when they’re actually just recreations of interference patterns of light that bounced off the original objects.

Pribram’s research found that when we look “out there” into space we’re actually seeing a virtual projection, a hologram, of what we’ve already formed “in here” based on the information picked up by unique sensory systems.

According to Pribram we’re literally creating the illusion of solidity and projecting it out into out into the world.

So if there’s no real solidity, then what’s the true nature of what we’re perceiving?  What is the source of the information that we’re processing through our sensory systems?  And what is our own true nature as the perceiver?

These are the questions that scientists and spiritual seekers have been asking for hundreds, even thousands of years.

So What’s the Point of Asking Whether You’re More Internal or External?

If there’s really no in-here or out-there, then what’s the point of asking the question in the first place?  My answer is, since we’re making it all up anyway, we might as well make up strategies that make life a lot easier!

To live in and function in the world you’ve got to have a sense of self, which is really just a selective and imaginative remembering of past events that you’ve stacked up and anchored in your physiology defining who you are.

Without a sense of self,  there’s no illusory boundary to separate you from the rest of the world (check out Jill Bolte Taylor, who is a neuroscientist, describing her experience of a stroke that dissolved her sense of self.)

Since you’re reading this right now you’ve definitely got a sense of self, therefore you have awareness of boundaries that separate you from others.  This awareness allows you to define what’s interior and what’s exterior to you.

What we’ve been finding while working with people is that people who are more internal typically experience more pain, suffering and struggle when they focus too much on what’s going on externally, while people who are more external tend to experience more pain when they focus too much on what’s going on within them.

How to Apply This Concept

There’s more to it than this (we’ll be incorporating this on a much deeper level into an upcoming workshop at the Well Being Center) but I’ll share the basics of how to apply it here):

If you’re internal you can alleviate a lot of your pain by making sure that you:

  1. Focus more on YOUR own internal sensations and feelings.
  2. Bring the outer world into you rather than going out to meet it.
  3. Make sure you’re observing from within, looking out at the world.

If you’re external you can alleviate a lot of your pain and suffering by making sure that you:

  1. Focus more on OTHERS feelings and responses to help you gauge what’s going on with you.
  2. Go out and meet the world rather than trying to bring it inside of you.
  3. Make sure you’re observing from the outside (birds-eye view), as if you’re looking back at yourself.

When you’re using a strategy that’s consistent with your natural style of processing, you’ll feel a lot more resourceful and empowered.  When you’re suffering you’ll find that you’re almost always using the opposite strategy.

Wondering if you’re more internal or external?  Leave a comment or ask us on your next visit to the Well Being Center!

Dr. John


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About John Amaral

Santa Cruz Chiropractor Dr. John Amaral has helped thousands of people from over 50 countries transform and awaken to more meaningful and purposeful lives. Follow him on twitter at @johnamaral