It’s no secret nor that unusual that many of us have a voice (or several) chattering constantly inside our heads. Sometimes it’s a play by play announcer, sometimes it’s providing color commentary, other times it can be more like point/counterpoint. The voice slips in and out of these various roles seamlessly. What the voice rarely does, however, is shut up.
We’ve all hit the mute button during Wimbledon, or the Ryders Cup Tournament, or even the Super Bowl in order to silence the inane blabbering and simply witness the sport. Have you ever wondered if there was a way to silence the voice(s) between your ears?
Well, there is. But that’s not the subject of this blog.
This voice appears and then develops as we initially attempt to process much of the raw material (sensations and situations) from the world in front of us into our opinions and feelings. We’re all so young when this is occurring that we believe that the voice(s) IS us. After all, it is with us constantly…relentlessly wondering, speculating, calculating, debating, pouting, crying…processing, processing, processing…buffering, buffering, buffering. This voice, if it isn’t US, is presumed to be our friend.
The torrent of data that life presents us with (and this stream of consciousness that races to keep up) is overwhelming. For all of us. There’s simply no way to make sense of it all, not enough time or energy to follow every thought through or react to every feeling. So from very early on in our life we quickly become more and more selective. The voice(s) begins to pick and choose which thoughts or feelings to focus on. All else is ignored. The voice always draws our attention towards what it’s familiar with, what it thinks it knows. Somehow, this feels safe and secure. Comfortable. And this becomes our pattern for life. This is what is considered ‘normal’.
If a barking dog once really frightened us, it’s probable we’ll always scan for dogs, barking or not. If the neighborhood bully had red hair and freckles, it’s likely we’ll have to resist the impulse to shy away from those with similar features. If a girl named Kate or a boy named Paul broke our hearts in high school, we’re probably going to be reluctant to trust the next person with that name.
The presumption is that the voice(s) in our head is trying to look out for us. It’s hard to even imagine but….that might not be true.
How many times have you heard someone say that they’re their own worst critic? Or that no one is as hard on them as they are on themselves? It’s a fairly common refrain. It would seem that one of the roles the voice(s) favors is the voice that tears us down and holds us back. The voice that detracts and doubts and finds fault with everything…even a legit accomplishment.
That doesn’t seem particularly friendly.
We hardly need protection from an honest effort and a genuinely good experience.
But the voice(s) will still find something to warn us about.
We might want to consider that the voice is not keeping us safe so much as it is holding us back from growth and joy.
So, whose voice is it anyway?