I’m getting very clear about the voices I hear in my head. No, I’m not schizophrenic. The voices I’m talking about are those of my critical parents and caregivers. That host of voices from the past who apparently are still alive and well in my psyche.
When I tell myself not to get too happy and celebrate too much because everything could fall apart tomorrow, that’s my grandmother’s voice. When my conscience tells me I should be doing something other than what I’m doing, that’s my grandfathers voice. When I feel guilty for having long grey, curly hair and dressing like a hippie, that’s my mother’s voice telling me it’s wrong. Those voices remind me that I shouldn’t feel too good, I should work harder and longer, I should be thinner, and I should definitely have short, dark brown hair, even though I’m seventy.
I believe we all experience guilt, trepidation, and fear in our lives because of those voices that still chide us even though we are adults. Unless we’ve had extensive therapy and have learned the art of individuation, like it or not, our parents and caretakers values and rules are alive and well in our head.
They still attempt to take control and help us in our decision making. They tell us we need to stay in a loveless and sometimes abusive relationship for the sake of the children, we need to carry all the weight of the world because we’re women, we need to always be available to our children, we’re not really smart enough or equipped to tackle that job or career move, we make bad choices in men and finances, and we shouldn’t complain because there are others who are worse off than we are.
How do we get rid of these voices? How do we become one who lives out of authenticity and not from a set of values and beliefs that may not even belong to us? We start by noticing the judgments inherent in our thoughts. We have to see them to identify them.
We commit to making the journey within to the unconscious world of our shadow-Self. This is a long process and there are no quick fixes on the healing path. Because we live in an instant, make it all better quick world, there are not many who are willing to do this work. I do know from experience that as disagreeable as the journey may seem, the rewards make it a worthwhile challenge.
When we are willing to do this clearing work we reap the benefit of drilling down into our core and seeing who we are at our center. We get to see what parts of Self we left back in our childhood, and what we gave up to conform to the rules of our family, society, culture, and religion.
I remember the first time I became aware of the voices in my head. It was in the late 80′s and I was in the process of leaving a twenty-one year marriage. About a year after I was married I knew I’d made a mistake. I had chosen someone who was extremely different from me in upbringing and beliefs. It wasn’t long before we started butting heads and I saw his extreme negativity. He was verbally and emotionally abusive to my children but I stayed because I knew it was what my family expected of me.
When I started in therapy and began to grow in a sense of who I was and what I wanted, I knew I could walk away from the masquerade of being okay with this person. When I told my mother what I was going to do she said, “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re never satisfied, are you? He is a good man and he’s good to you and the children. You’re just being silly.”
If I remember correctly I gave a brief answer and hung up. I was confused and guilty and sat for a long time thinking about my situation. Remembering what I had learned in therapy, I knew I needed to make a decision based on what was going to work for me, not for her or anyone else. I found the courage to decide for myself and what I knew I needed. That was the beginning of my process of individuation and learning what I wanted for myself.
I’m writing this today because this morning I had an aha moment about the voices in my head. Someone said to me over the weekend, “I’m so glad things are looking up for you and Paul.” Instead of responding with, “Me too, it feels good,” I played it down with, “Well in this work situation you’re right.” I tried to make light of how blessed I feel because the voice in my head reminded me that pain follows pleasure. Upon seeing what I was doing, I decided it is safe to celebrate and be ecstatic about how wonderful my life is. Yes, I will have more valleys because that’s part of the journey, but it is safe to celebrate and shout from the mountaintops.
Who is in charge of your decisions? Before you answer too quickly, pay attention to how you make your decisions and who you’re trying to please. Take notice of the critical parent and caretaker voices playing on an endless loop in your unconsciousness. Do you criticize yourself and feel guilty about some of your choices? Whose guilt are you carrying? Yours or someone elses who told you something was wrong because it may have been wrong for them.
You choose whether to keep listening to the voices in your head, or whether to shut them down and choose based on your own needs and beliefs. It’s your life.
The individuation process sung to Domo Arrigato