You know that voice in your head? What’s the deal with that?
Where’s it come from? And is it possible to shut it off? Is it the voice of reason or is it sabotaging reluctancy? Perhaps the biggest question is… Whose voice is it really?
“Pain of mind is worse than pain of body.” – Latin Proverb
The voice in our head is running our life. It tells us what outfit to wear and debates between indulging in chunky-monkey ice cream or sticking with the slender salad option. It calls the shots (Patrone or wheatgrass). The moment we wake up, there it goes again – yappity, yappity, yap…
The voice says what we should and shouldn’t do – both right now in this moment and with the rest of our life. It’s obnoxiously over-opinionated – like an anorexic Ethiopianfoodie. Obscure reference, yes, but how can we ground ourselves in confidence while knowing what’s worth swallowing and what’s toxic to ingest?
WAIT… You what? You wanna stop prostituting your soul, leave your job, and turn your passion into your profession? You wanna make a difference in people’s lives with a deep purpose while simultaneously stacking paychecks?
[Here comes the voice...] “But it’s just *TOO* risky, and besides, are you really smart enough? What if people found out about that time in 6th grade? Our family just doesn’t do things like that.”
WHAT… THE HELL… IS GOING… ON?
I work with people like this nearly every day – people who in some way are controlled and constricted by that voice in their head. Sometimes it’s subtle, like a snarky, condescending co-worker. But other times it’s unbearably brutal for peeps. They’re trapped in a state of intellectual-totalitarianism, involuntarily confided to a mental territory that’s terrifying them. Who’s the heartless war lord that’s running this operation?
The coaching work we do together raises awareness. Without consciousness, that voice dictates their destiny.
The voice professes all types of preposterous claims:
- It tells you sex is shameful and not to talk about your desires.
- It tells you good things don’t last, so be prepared for the storm.
- It tells you you’re not smart enough to make a living following your heart.
- It tells you to keep your problems to yourself.
- It tells you not to show emotion cuz that’ll show people you’re weak.
- It tells you not to date people you know cuz it will complicate your life.
- It tells you not to date people you don’t know because they could be creeps.
- It tells you being vulnerable is a *horrible* idea.
- It tells you “real men” don’t do those kinda things.
- It tells you if you’re not ripped, rich, and riding in a Range Rover, you’re defective.
The danger of this voice is:
- We think we are that voice.
- We think that voice is ours.
- That voice runs our life.
Let’s explore these ideas.
1. YOU ARE NOT THAT VOICE.
For the first 24 years of my life, I thought my thoughts were me. In other words, I identified what I thought with who I was. So if I had a thought that was crazy, it meant that I was crazy. Get it? Crazy thoughts equal a crazy person. Crazy person is the person whose writing you’re reading right now.
Then I took my first long-term trip and something strange happened. I was 3 weeks into my tour, relaxing in Rome, when suddenly I had a startling realization… Those thoughts were gone! Which ones? The ones that used to torment me daily. The ones I thought were an integral part of my identity. The thoughts I thought were me.
“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
In many ways, that moment was a core catalyst which planted the seed for Sensophy to sprout. In a sense (ophy), I had internalized what old-school philosophers and new-school scientists agree on: our minds are malleable. In fact, our brains are like a muscle which adapts to the habits we train it with. Thoughts are habits – habits of our mind.
One of the most ground-shattering psychological findings in the last two decades is that we can choose our thoughts. Yes, we can learn optimism and control the content of our consciousness.
2. THAT VOICE IS NOT YOURS.
The voice in your mind didn’t just magically manifest – it came from a combination of factors. One of the most influential determinants is how people spoke to you as a child, both directly and indirectly. Another influence is your environment which laid the foundation of your conscious and unconscious beliefs about what’s both realistic and ethical. For example, if your mom made squeamish faces and implied sex was sinful, it’d wouldn’t surprise me if you’re ashamed of your sexual desires and keep them secretive.
(And you wondered why your love life wasn’t rockin’…)
I once read a quote that went something like this…
“Watch how you talk to your children.
One day they will talk to themselves the same way.”
Any time you doubt yourself and notice you’re thinking self-limiting thoughts, ask yourself “Whose voice is this really?” Is it mom’s or pops’ or big sis’? It could also be another authoritative figure who was instrumental in your life’s development.
A quick note on doubt: Doubt is normal. In fact, everyone feels doubt. It’s a human universal. Our biggest doubt? Yup, it’s that we’re not good enough. And if we’re not good enough, we won’t be loved. Don’t doubt your doubts – we all get ‘em at times.
The voice in our head that we wrestle with isn’t just our immediate family.
For years I wrestled with the voice of masculinity. It told me to posture and position my body in “manly” ways: uncross my legs and keep my feet firmly planted while I protrude my chest making slow eye contact. I’ve wrestled with pop culture telling me that my favorite pair of jean shorts (jorts) we’re unequivocally out of style. Ditch ‘em. I’ve wrestled with societal norms which told me I needed to go to college soI could get a respectable job. The voice of religion and our family’s cultural lineage is a frequent visitor too.
3. STOP LETTING THE VOICE CONTROL YOU.
Here are a few things that can help you to gag that voice and take your life back.
- Awareness. When it comes to conquering your thoughts, consciousness is your biggest asset. Step in and question the voice! “Yo – who dat?” Do this daily – even hourly – if it seems appropriate. Make it a habit to challenge your thoughts when they feel self-limiting, constraining, and like they’re depleting your soul’s secret sauce. Seriously. It’s simple, just ask yourself, “Whose voice is that?”
- Journaling. Imagine your ideal day. If, in a year, your life could look any way you wanted it to, what would it look like? Now ask yourself why it doesn’t already look like that. Write down the answer you give yourself on paper and pay close attention to the answers. Again, whose beliefs are those? Where did they originate from? Are they rational? Are they facts or opinions? Are they objective or subjective?
- Meditation. Perhaps the most powerful force in mastering your mind is meditation. It cultivates your ability to put your mind where you want it, when you want it there. It helps you choose your thoughts, and to step in between life’s situations and your responses to them, allowing you to pick the most beneficial and empowering action. (I’ll be writing a how-to post on this soon.)
- Coaching. If you’re serious about succeeding, work with a coach.
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, no one can help you as much.” -The Dhammapada
So, whose voice is in YOUR head?
And what’s it saying? What are some of the biggest challenges you face with it and how do you deal with them?
Leave a comment below. I’m looking forward to dispelling these illusions together
Jacob Sokol is committed to living an extraordinary life. He is a blogger and author of Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose.