The Thursday Thesis - 20/6/2019
I have a voice in my head.
You have a voice in your head, too.
If you think you don’t, whose voice was it that just said “no I haven’t”?
We all have voices in our heads – not the schizophrenic’s auditory hallucination kind of voices – but the voices that haunt us and screw us up.
They’ve been around for so long that we usually accept them as permanent and just another part of us: they’re part of our identity, even though they are usually just repeating echoes of long-ago, distorted, corrupted and twisted by time.
Mine is the schoolteacher who told me that I’d never amount to anything, and the protective parental voices counselling me to not take risks and to find a nice, safe job. They lurk just below the level of my ear, slightly behind my right shoulder – the same place they’ve always been.
What’s yours like?
Maybe – like me – you’re still hearing the words of someone with authority and upon whom you depended for approval or love, all rolled together into the voice of your Inner Critic
And maybe you’ve been listening to them talk crap about you, too - maybe for decades - just like my own inner voices have been talking trash about me and giving me their ten cents’ worth for decades, making me play it safe and doubt myself.
Well, they used to do that...
You see, a little while back, I got lucky. James, one of my mentors, showed me how to turn my own inner critic (a.k.a. my “Inner Bastard”) into my new Best Friend Forever.
As he guided me through the process, he asked “...the voice in your head is always in the same location when it speaks to you, isn’t it?”
“Uh-huh...” I agreed.
He pressed on “...And it always has the same characteristics of tone, volume, cadence – and it usually says the same old words it has been using since...well since forever, doesn’t it?”
I think I nodded.
“It’s giving you the same message – like a tired old telephone answering machine that’s played the same worn-out tape for decades...” He said.
“Now we’re going to change the tape, but the voice will remain exactly the same: the same position, the same intonation, volume and cadence, but now it’s going to speak different words. It’s like we’re going to change the tape in the machine: use the voice – change the tap... use the voice – change the tape... use the voice – change the tape.”
I moved my hands through the actions of removing the imaginary cassette tape from the imaginary machine and inserting a brand-new, shiny imaginary cassette...then pressing “PLAY”...
Now my old schoolteacher was telling me “Neil, you’re an oddball – a creative guy, very bright and full of fun, and I am absolutely certain that no matter what obstacles you face, you’ll find at least three possible solutions that are positive for everyone involved, and usually an opportunity that nobody else has spotted, too.”
Thank you Mr Roberts! Why didn’t you say that forty bloody years ago?
Then my dear old mom and dad chimed in – but what they said to me on the tape is private and sacred.
The effect was immediate, and I was close to tears.
James had me repeat the tape-changing process and tweak what the voices on the tape said until it was exactly right, then to leave the machine turned on and ready to play the tape for me at any time.
This was some pretty weird stuff to take in, but I gotta tell you that it works: it works better than almost any self-talk intervention I’ve ever seen or read-up on.
Some self-talk modifiers suggest that we should draw Mickey Mouse ears on the voices and give them helium to make them squeaky voices; others suggest moving the voices further away or moving the mental volume and tone controls. They also work, but not for everyone and not always quickly or permanently; I suspect that this is inconsistent because we have changed the attributes of the voice and it loses its authoritative qualities – that’s actually the whole point of the exercise.
But here’s the thing: if you retain the attributes of the voice – instead of changing them - it retains its authority, credibility and power.
Now, when the voice speaks to you, it still has all the gravity, power and credibility it has always had, but now it is saying positive things to you.
What would you prefer your Inner Critic to say to you?
Change the tape, and notice the difference...
How cool is that?
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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