You may be thinking, “I’m not a person who hears voices in my head.” Well, if you thought that, then that is a good example of one of the voices in your head. We all have an internal dialogue going on in our minds. Our very brain is divided up into two perspectives, one linear and one abstract. Every time we make a decision we go through a little internal “discussion.”
“I hate myself”
Have you ever said this to yourself? Do you know someone who says this frequently? For those who suffer anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, their internal voices are very cruel to each other. Many of us, diagnosed or not, have untamed voices in our heads which create our own constant audience of self-criticism. The first step to overcoming this persecution is to begin by realizing what is going on.
Are Your Voices Statler and Waldorf or Goofy Gophers?
Shame, guilt, and expectations are big influences on our internal discussions. Children who grow up in homes with a perceived pressure to perform in order to receive love, praise, or affection develop very harsh voices. Each decision they have to make comes under an extreme context to “get it right” or “don’t mess up.” Children who grow up with strong emotional support see decisions as less drastic, and tend to focus more on personal choice than “the right choice.”
The mind of an anxious person sounds kinda like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets. Every internal discussion is riddled with self-criticism and discontent. The mind of a confident person sounds like the Goofy Gophers from Looney Tunes, they treat themselves well and enjoy accomplishments. Of course, this is a satirical version of each, but I think they are good mental picture.
Conflict is Necessary, So We Have to Learn to Handle All Conflict with Grace
There is no decision made in the world without different points of view, perspectives, discussion, and debate. Just as a mature person learns to handle conflict without tearing down others, so must we have internal conversation without tearing down ourselves. We always have “two minds” or more about a decision, we will always have to weigh pros and cons, how we treat those on the outside world when we disagree is often a good sign of how we will treat ourselves when we are working through conflicts in our own thoughts.
Silencing the Critics
A blog entry is in no way exhaustive enough to help treat these issues. My hope is merely to help people self-identify and become aware that much of our anxiety and stress comes from how we talk to ourselves. All of us suffer from this to some degree or another. But here are some tips and thoughts to start retraining your voices:
- What kind of external conversations does your family have? Is everything dramatic, with accusations and blame thrown around? If so, realize this is how this has trained you to talk to yourself when you are conflicted.
- Do you allow yourself to make mistakes or change your mind? If failure terrifies you, then you should realize you are treating yourself just as bad as others who have treated you harshly.
- Do you seek praise and validation? Do you get angry when your efforts are not rewarded with positive attention? You may putting a negative interpretation on your interactions with others just because they aren't able to overcome your own self-criticism. This makes it hard to see how much people really do appreciate you.
- When you are discussion something with people who think differently than you, is your goal to "win" or control the situation, or can you collaborate and compromise? Life needs to be participated with, not controlled. If you learn to be a part of circumstance, instead of control them, then you will not find your own decisions so important.
Remember: Christ came to set us free, and the first persecutor we must leave is the one in our own mind. If you learn to treat yourself well when making decisions, then you will treat others better when handling conflict, and vise-versa.