Thursday, April 26, 2012

The voices in our heads

What are the voices inside your head telling you? 

That’s probably not a question that you are asked very often nor even one that most of us ask ourselves. Admitting that there are voices inside our heads makes it sound like we’re admitting to being crazy…yet the voices are there for all of us.

In reality, the voices that we hear are nothing more than our own thoughts “speaking” to us. They may take on the qualities of voices that we’ve heard before from other people, television or movies but when you get to the core of it, they all originate from within and so in essence they are us. These voices can support and guide us or they can distract us or lead us into trouble. It is all in the choice we make as to which voice to listen to.


We’ve all had those moments when we were talking to ourselves, at first in our heads and then suddenly we realized that we were speaking out loud in response. It seems that those verbal responses are where we feel that we’re crossing the “crazy line”. As long as they stay inside, we feel as if we are maintaining control of our sanity. But have you ever stopped to really analyze all of this internal chatter and consider the impact that it’s having on you?

These voices can take on a great many forms and tasks. They can be as simple as a reminder like “don’t forget to stop at the store” or a narrator that is chronicling our activities so that we can share our experiences with others. They can be the supportive and encouraging voices that tell us that we can take action in a moment of crisis or fear. Unfortunately they can also be the voices that tell us that we are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, thin enough, strong enough…and on and on.

Different cultures or schools of thought give these voices different names. Religion refers to them as the voice of God and the voice of the Devil. In Yogic philosophy they are referred to as Ego and Essence. The Deer Tribe refers to them as ‘the pretender voice’ and the ‘authentic self’. No matter what label we choose to put on them, ultimately it comes down to the fact that they are all a part of our own individual consciousness because they originate from within.


The tricky part about the voices is that it’s hard to tell which ones we should listen to and which ones we should ignore. If we take the stand that “they are all me so I should listen to them all” then we aren’t really gaining much ground because often these voices are in conflict. “You should do that” and “this is a bad plan” are two conflicting themes which arise frequently for most of us and cause an extra layer of confusion. One the other hand, ignoring all of them means that we miss some valuable guidance from within that can help us navigate life more effectively.

There is a story about an old Cherokee man and his grandson that illustrates this. The old man tells his grandson “There is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other one is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.” The grandson thinks on this and asks “Which wolf wins?” The grandfather replies “The one you feed.”

The one we feed is indeed the one that hangs around and grows. Each time we listen to that part of ourselves that draws us towards negative behaviors or the belief that we are not good enough, that is feeding that voice. We feed it with our attention. As I’ve said many times in this blog, whatever we put our awareness on, it will grow because energy follows awareness. It’s like watering plants. The ones that get water and sun (energy) grow and the ones that do not get them will wither and die. The same holds true for the inner voices.


Unfortunately the voices often arise from well meaning sources. As children we are taught to judge ourselves in an attempt to encourage us to be better people. We are shown role-models in the form of spiritual teachers, family elders, “saviors” and world leaders then instructed to measure ourselves against them as a way to be more like them. The bar for our behavior gets set so high that we can never reach it because we are young and don’t possess the skill set that the role-models do. We measure, fall short and begin berating ourselves for the failure. It’s how we are taught to better ourselves through comparison, competition and consequences for failing.

Comparison to others will never get us what we truly seek which is truthful information about ourselves. A comparison will only tell us how different we are from the person that we are comparing ourselves to. Unfortunately, difference is read as failure because that means that we did not achieve our goal which was “to be like that”. For example, if I compare myself to a famous athlete, I might feel like a sports failure. In the next minute I might compare myself to someone who has never played a sport and then I could feel like a superstar. I haven’t changed in that minute and my skills haven’t improved. One comparison leaves me feeling bad about myself and the other good but in truth neither is accurate because it has everything to do with who I am comparing to and nothing to do with me. The result in both cases is that “I’m different” and that will always be true so the comparison hasn’t really yielded the truth I sought. Unfortunately I’m left with the judgmental voice comparing me to everyone looking for confirmation of the belief that “I’m not good enough” and so the cycle perpetuates itself.


That voice that says we aren’t good enough is the pretender voice. It becomes such an integral part of us that we begin to identify with it more than we do with our authentic self. That same voice can also give us a superiority complex by systematically picking apart any and every person that we meet in an effort to make ourselves look better because we don’t have their “flaw”. Any conclusion reached by a comparison to another person can never be the voice of our true self. The pretender voice is the one that keeps the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves going. It keeps us from seeing the truth about ourselves.

So then how do we find the voice that we should listen to? When we’ve spent a lifetime listening to the pretender voice it can be very challenging to stop listening to it because it’s all that we’ve known. We identify so closely with that voice as part of our internal dialogue that we can’t imagine there being “another voice”…but there is. Below are some steps you can take to begin the process of following your authentic voice. Bear in mind that this is a process and not a task list. You will move at whatever pace you can handle but the more you focus the faster you will see results.


The first step in the process of silencing the pretender is simply becoming aware of the pretender voice. The pretender voice is often like a broken record that constantly keeps us down, holds us back and leads us astray. This voice pretends to be our friend by doing things which keep us held back by our fears because of the mistaken belief that “if something scares me that means I should avoid it”, “I’m not good enough to do it”, “I don’t know how”, “I can never learn that” or any other excuse that keeps us from changing. When you begin to see all of the excuses and limiting beliefs for what they are, then you can begin to change your response to them. We can never change what we are unaware of. Become aware of the stream of thoughts that arise when you are faced with a new experience or a desire to change something. Be aware but don’t get attached to the thoughts, just be aware of them the same way you might be aware of a song that replays in your head. “Oh, there’s that pretender voice again talking trash.”


Next begin to become aware of “the silence” because it is where the authentic voice can be heard most clearly. The silence is the space that is first discovered in meditation. It is that space where the thoughts fade into the background and disappear and where time ceases to have meaning. When you get a taste of what it feels like to have that silence, the distracting noise created by the pretender voice will become very unappealing and almost intolerable. The key here is to learn to quiet the chatter so that the authentic voice can be heard more easily. It’s always there and always has been. We’ve all been led astray by the pretender voice because we’ve become attached to it. It truly cuts us off from our power and keeps us from expressing our true self in the world.


Finally we have to open ourselves to the guidance that our authentic voice will provide. This voice will always bring us guidance and answers that are in alignment with our highest good because the authentic voice is the voice of our higher self. My higher self and I are one and the same. That’s true for everyone. There is no separation. It is not an external entity that we’re trying to grow into or gain the favor of through subservience. It is and always has been the part of us that is directly connected to Source. It exists outside of the limits of time and space in the energetic or Spirit realm.

The tricky thing about this voice is that it sounds so familiar because we’ve really heard it all of our lives. Given that, it is easy to miss. It is typically the very first response that we get when we are faced with a choice or decision. It speaks to us through our intuition and our thoughts. It is simple, easy and clear because it doesn’t rely on excuses or explanations like the pretender voice. Truth needs no explanation or justification and the authentic voice is the voice of truth. The challenge is learning to trust it again because the pretender voice has deluded us for so long.


Trust builds over time. One way to begin to trust the authentic voice is to try following what you think of as its guidance on a small scale. Think about some mostly inconsequential thing that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t for whatever reason. Quiet yourself as best you can. Focusing on the breath for a minute while letting the exhale lengthen as the inhale deepens is a simple way to achieve this. Then ask yourself “should I (insert the activity)?” and notice what happens. The asking of the question is a key step because it is a request for guidance and it puts you into a receptive state energetically. We don’t ask questions about what we already know to be true. We ask questions for the purpose of receiving information. Just notice the very first gut reaction (which is this case will probably be “yes” because it’s something you’ve been wanting to do after all) and then notice all the excuses or “reasons” which follow it as to why you should not do it.

Once you’ve been able to notice the pretender voice trying to keep you from taking action then make the conscious choice to take action anyway. Push yourself if you have to but take action so that you are honoring your inner guidance and not getting distracted by the pretender voice. This is obviously a staged scenario to begin the process but that’s okay. Commit to being open to the guidance of your authentic self and commit to taking action on that guidance. It’s about reestablishing trust within yourself after so many times of listening to and following the guidance of your pretender voice. Take action, even if you think (pretender voice) it might be wrong, just take action.

Continue this process with all of your decisions, even simple ones like “what is the best route for me to take to work today?” or “where should I go for lunch?” This isn’t about only relying on this guidance for big life changing decisions. This process is about learning to request, recognize, trust and act upon the guidance from your higher self. The more you do it the more automatic and instinctive it will become but you have to take action. If you get the guidance and take no action or the opposite action, then you aren’t completing the cycle and nothing will change. You’ll continue to get the guidance, continue to ignore it and continue to wonder how others seem to manifest all that they need and have their lives flow so smoothly. This victim mentality will continue to hold you in a place of inactivity.

In many ways, you might think of the authentic voice and the pretender voice as the little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. Your authentic voice is the voice of the Divine expressing itself as you. The pretender voice is NOT you. It is the accumulated baggage that has been passed on to you from external sources (family, friends, organized religion, political leaders, etc.) and is full of their judgments and fears. They won’t always be in conflict but more often than not they will.


The final component to this process is the review. This is about taking the time to process what happens after you take action on the guidance. It will be very easy to say “I asked if I should do X and I did it and this bad thing happened so I’m not going to do that anymore.” Recognize that the most powerful lessons come from our failures. Sometimes the only way to get lessons is through failure because they teach us a better way to do something. Examine the whole process with an open mind. Did you truly listen to the authentic voice or did you second guess it because the answer was “too hard”? Did you encounter the need for more assistance while taking action and you choose to ignore it? What is the lesson in this for you especially if the outcome was a “failure”? Remember the lessons are positive even if the experience is negative. Searching for what the experience has to teach you is far more valuable than focusing on the cost of the mistake.

The lessons may not always appear as obvious and it may not even be perceptible until the experience has played out fully over a longer period of time. Sometimes you may review an experience and extract what you think is the lesson from the experience. A month or so later you may have an experience unfold that was only possible because of what happened to you in the original incident and now you have new data on the experience and so a new or more complete lesson may emerge. Be open to this type of revision and learning and remember to look at not only all of the events of the experience but also those that were related to it that helped to get the experience set up.

For example I may choose to go hear a certain speaker who might share something with me that can literally change my life by helping me see where I am constantly re-engaging a destructive pattern and preventing myself from changing and growing. That might sting and cause me to feel like a failure but I will eventually grow from it. That information will only have been able to reach me because in the past I opened to the guidance which led me to make the decision to see the speaker. If you just looked at the experience you might say “Oh, I learned that I was a failure. I shouldn’t have gone to hear the speaker.” But if you see it as “I opened to my inner guidance, listened to the speaker and discovered an area for growth in myself” then you have taken in the whole experience.


The key to relearning this process is gentleness. Accept that as a human operating through past experiences based upon our limited senses, we can never know it all. So be gentle with yourself for NOT knowing. Learning to re-orient around the Divine wisdom that has been flowing to us all along and letting go of our past wounded beliefs can be challenging and scary because it’s not what we’ve been taught to do. You will make mistakes and you will second guess yourself but that’s okay. Be gentle with yourself and forgive yourself for the mistake and find the lesson to grow with. The more you learn to find and trust the authentic voice, the more your life will flow effortlessly and you will be able to manifest all that you require. The process takes time so please be loving with yourself while you learn.

What guidance is your authentic voice giving you right now?

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