Giving Voice to the Voices in Your Head

Photo by  Gabriel Matula

Vocalizing internal dialogue to get past negative self-talk.

Our internal dialogue is constant.

It’s impossible to not think. To not think would be to cease to exist. That’s why the point of meditation and other such practices is not to stop thinking altogether, but rather to dis-identify from constant mental chatter.

Our minds are excellent tools for things like, for example, problem solving. But, just like any tool, their purposes aren’t appropriate for all situations.

In Western culture, we over-identify with our brain and the thinking mind. We value doing, emphasize continual and strenuous mental work, and are just now beginning to realize the issues inherent to such stimulation: anxiety, depression, and the myriad of other mental illnesses that are so pervasive in today’s growing population.

There are many techniques that help in healing our over-stimulated minds: meditation, breath-work, yoga…the list goes on.

An exercise that I’ve found to provide some degree of virtually instantaneous relief is actually remarkably simple: giving voice to the voices in your head.

The first step to exposing the little monsters in our head is realizing that they are there in the first place.

“the finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist” -Charles Baudelaire

Everyone, no matter how inspirational, famous, productive, or otherwise, gives in, at one point or another, to negative self talk. There is simply no way to avoid this. We are conditioned, often unconsciously, to think that we are less than, that we don’t fit in, that we can’t, that we don’t have the capacity to achieve something.

It is in these times of particular susceptibility that it can be easy to listen to and believe in this dialogue, and the unpleasant response that accompanies it. We can fall into ruts of victimhood, hoping that wallowing in self-pity will bring someone to the rescue who can save us from our own stuck-ness.

It is also in these times, however, where vocalizing our internal dialogue can snap us out of a funk. It can expose the absurdity and hilarity of the stories that we tell ourselves which are ruining our experience of the moment.

Look no further than yourself for the solution.

In Comes the Sh!tty Committee

I would be remiss if I didn’t credit a dear friend of mine for coming up with this term that I’ve come to love. I wish I’d coined it myself…but I digress.

The sh!tty committee is that assembly of doubters, self loathers, fears, and hesitations that rattle around in everyone’s head.

They’re the whiny little voices that convince you that you can’t do something, that you’re bad, that you aren’t worthy.

They’re the group that tell you that everything you fear about yourself is true. The ones that are uniquely suited to harp on your insecurities and tell you things that you know to be false, but that are often still just so damn convincing!

Convincing, that is, if we take a backseat and allow them to continually chirp on in our heads as we quietly sulk in some far-off corner of the mind.

What I practice, and encourage, is giving a literal voice to this sh!tty committee. Visualize them and speak, out loud, the words that they’re yelling at you.

Herein lies the fun part. This practice can quickly become comical.

My sh!tty committee, for example, tends to sound like an eclectic assortment of Sesame Street characters, goblins, gnomes, and a host of other nasally infants that have nothing better to do than try and derail my awesomeness.

Speaking their words helps me to see and feel, rather than simply intellectualize and listen, what’s going on in my head.

“You aren’t good enough”

“They don’t like you”

“What if you fail”

These statements and affirmations about how awful we are come out of left-field and are non-sensical. They have no place in the day-to-day.

We can be surrounded by loved ones celebrating the beauty of who we truly are and still have those nasally voices yelling “they’re just going to abandon you…they don’t really love you”.

When read or heard, this can sound harsh. And this is the point where vocalization becomes so potent.

If you know the words to be untrue, and speak them as they are, it’s really funny.

The impacts don’t start and end with you, either.

By vocalizing these things, in that often humorous way, we also enable ourselves to build deeper relationships with loved ones.

When I’m outspoken with my friends and family in the moment, and they are exposed to the absurdity of my sh!tty committee, they provide me with laughter and affirmation that what I’m feeling is, indeed, ridiculous.

What’s more is that they all admit to feeling similar things at similarly absurd times, and can laugh at their own iterations of the characters trying to overtake their sovereignty.

Having gotten into the practice of vocalizing around my loved ones, I am still surprised at the moments where these voices emerge. Instances where I experience contentment and happiness are often a call for the voices to exclaim to me why I shouldn’t be feeling these things.

Vocalizing then brings me back into the euphoria.