Nothing that you think ever comes from you. No thought is yours. If you are thinking, it does not reflect who you are.
These statements are difficult to wrap our heads around. Our culture has trained us to believe that the inner voice–the one that chatters non-stop–is a part of our personality. Even psychology talks about the necessity of engaging the inner voices, and self-help books abound that instruct us on managing the inner dialogue.
All that chatter in your head comes from external sources. None of it comes from you. Think of it like open internet tabs on a computer. You have hundreds of them open each day– voices from your family, your culture, the books you have read, the television you have watched, your teachers, your schools, your government, your doctors–the list goes on. None of those tabs is the computer. They are connections to voices in other times and places.
What if you could close the tabs, or at least stop responding to them as if they were important and truthful?
You can. The approach is simple. The first step is realizing that what you just read is true. Your thoughts are never you.
Separating ourselves from our thoughts can be difficult. Here is a trick that I used. It came to me in a dream. I kept dreaming about someone who had been abusive to me and that I had not seen in years. In my dreams, I was always allowing him back into my life and my heart to hurt me. Finally, one day I woke up and realized who he was. He was the self-destructive part of my personality. I realized that, if I gave his face to the self-destructive voice in my head, I would immediately not want to listen to that voice. My freedom had begun. Whenever the inner voice urged me to do something that would hurt me, I assigned his face to those words, and then I did not want to do what the voice said. It was not a struggle to stop listening to the voice, it was quite easy to see that the voice in my head meant me harm, and by associating it with an abusive person, it took no will power at all to say, “No, thank you,” to its demands.
Try this for yourself. However, instead of a person in your life, choose a speaker that you definitely will not want to listen to. For example, do you have an evil movie or television character that you truly despise? Perhaps the wicked witch of the west, Freddy Krueger, or some other character that makes your skin crawl will work for this. Just pick a face that you know you would never listen to and associate that face with the inner voice that criticizes you, that judges others, and that urges you to be unkind to yourself and others.
It takes a little effort at first. Whatever comes into your head that causes you to feel bad, judge others, want to do an action that isn’t good for you, stop a moment and picture this unpleasant face saying those words. Give it a week, and notice how this
- Helps you to stop associating yourself with the inner voice and
- Make you less likely to want to do as it says.
Now is a good time to practice this, as we have more ability to turn inward and really hear what that voice is saying. Let me know what your experience is when you try it!
Taking the Next Steps to Freedom from The Inner Critical Voice