Each of us is a unique, beautiful expression of the divine, here on a divine mission that only we can complete. The only problem is we forget! We zoomed through time and space and into the dimension of our cute baby bodies and immediately started hearing…The Voice…damn!
Socialization begins immediately.
A client I am seeing in therapy handed me a book that had a profound impact on me. Sometimes it seems that I am still a therapist because of what I get out of it. May times the client sitting in front of me says something I need to hear too. The book, Geneen Roth’s, “Women, Food and God” is a must read for anyone who battles with their body image but she says things that are deeper than that.
Geneen Roth explains The Voice as internalized authority figures. It is a composite of all the voices you heard as a child about what was and was not okay to do. This includes all of the unresolved wounds from our parents and caregivers and their ideas about what was wrong, no matter how true or absurd that was. Even if our parents’ had the best of intentions for us in their parenting, our superego can still embody a confining and negative perspective.
Because we depended on our caregivers for ALL of our security including food, water, shelter, human connection, we wouldn’t think of questioning their rules nor would we have the understanding that some of them didn’t make sense. We NEEDED to fit in, and the only set of rules we knew as “right” and “wrong” came from our caregivers. These voices became the “inner parent” part of our psyche formed as a collection of the voices/rules from those authority figures in whose care we found ourselves. For most people The Voice has developed into something that does incessant describing, comparing, and judging.
The Voice also told us what to do in order to get rewarded with attention, and love, “I should…clean up my room, eat my vegetables, be quiet, stay in line and get good grades.” Do these things and people will like you, accept you, and love you. Do these things and you will be happy. The Voice echoed all the right rules based on the punishments and rewards stored in memory. This inner parent causes conformity and shuts down the authentic self.
Imagine a conglomeration of your mother and fathers voices; who didn’t feel good about themselves or their world, the priest, a nun who hated kids, a baby sitter and older siblings who thought you were an annoyance and the media, who taught perfectionism, all blending together to become The Voice of authority on what was good and not good for you and about you!!!! That is what made up my inner parent voice.
According to developmental psychologists, The Voice is fully operative in most of us by the time we are four years old, after which it functions as a moral compass, a deterrent to questionable behavior. Do ANYTHING that our caregivers didn’t want us to do because it rocked their boat and triggered THEIR superego voice: “No, don’t do that! That’s bad!” When we were being our authentic, uncensored self that is usually when we heard the negative Voice.
If this is melded before we are four we don’t question it. This happens because as we grow up we forget where The Voice comes from and we think it is the voice of authority. We also forget that we can turn it off. Instead, it continues to yammer in the background and we respond and we spend years trying to find the off button.
I come from a family of compulsive thinking, ruminators! Mix that up with The Voice and you have real trouble. I didn’t have to be taught to ruminate, it was already in my blood and the Berry family had compulsive thinking down to a science. I imagine it went back generations in my father’s side of the family. So when The Voice kicks in my head it is compulsive and ruminating and can take me on some crazy road trips in my mind. The Voice of authority that my parents were speaking from was very negative.
My dad was the master of compulsive ruminators and he spent the last 15 years of his life at the dining room table in some other land in his head. You could talk to him but he wouldn’t hear you. You could walk by the table and he wouldn’t notice, even if you fell down on the floor in front of him. The television could be blaring in the background and he would look at it with a blank stare, thinking. I can only guess what was spinning around in circles inside of his mind, I imagine a tortured world.
When it is in the bloodline it can get activate just walking past another compulsive ruminator without any words being exchanged. I think that is what happened to me because one day I wasn’t a compulsive ruminator the next day I was. It snuck up on me!! Because of this family affliction I have spent a great deal of my life at war with myself inside of my head, spinning off into imaginary battles with The Voice. The Voice is a powerful opponent and I rarely won one of the battles until I figured out how to turn it off and ignore it. When we are at war with ourself we can’t be authentic or present.
Who are the people who make up The Voice for you? I have to laugh at my choice of words “make up” because it is all made up. It isn’t real and yet we behave as if it is!
What does The Voice sound like? I am going to give you a made up version of what it might sound like after we are able to bring our thoughts out of the unconscious chatter in the back ground, slow them down and stay awake long enough to pay attention to what is being said. This is an extreme version so that you can really see what happens.
You are talking with a friend and she says “ I was talking to Susie yesterday and she told me she is mad at your for changing the plans you had with her.
Here is what happens in your head: “I feel bad that I changed my plans, I am not a very good friend. I really should have tried harder to make it work so I could have seen Susie. Now she is telling everyone that I am not reliable. I hate to think that people will think I am not reliable because I pride myself on being reliable. What will people think when they hear this? I know they will all start believing Susie and not me. Susie is prettier than I am, why wouldn’t they believe her? I bet I will lose all my friends and people will never ask me to do things with them because they can’t count on me. I will be all alone and have to do everything alone. I am tired of being alone, and now it is going to get worse because of the rumor going around about me. What kind of friends spread rumors like that about a friend? Why were they talking about me in the first place? I wonder what else they said about me? Maybe I never really was her friend. I am not a very good friend. It was selfish of me to change my plans. I should have stuck with my commitment no matter what. I bet she didn’t like me after all and was just pretending to get on my good side for some reason. hummm I wonder what she was trying to get from me? Maybe my other friend is just making this up because she wasn’t invited to go with us and she is jealous and wants to make me feel bad. I am shocked that she would make up a story like that, she must be mad at me too. I wonder what I did to make her mad? Maybe I said something and don’t even remember. It is going to be uncomfortable to be around either of them again because of this. I might just have to avoid them until this goes away. If I was still a practicing Catholic I would have to go to confession for this one. What would I call it? It’s not lying, I don’t think I lied to anyone? It should be a sin to put yourself down. I wonder why that one didn’t get put in the 10 commandments…
That is insane! First of all most people are too busy with their own Voice to spend that much time thinking about you! I may have made that all up but that is the kind of thing that happens in our heads when The Voice gets going. It is called beating yourself up. The insanity has to stop. We need to do what ever it takes to stop those litanies in our heads that are abusive. Yes, I said abusive. No one would talk to a friend the way we talk to ourselves.
The authentic self can only shine when we love and accept ourselves. It is time to end the war, in what ever form it takes in you and open the door to freedom! We are unique and beautiful expressions of the divine and wouldn’t the world be a difference place if we all believed that?
So I will end this piece with a few favorite quotes:
From a fortune cookie I got a few days ago “ Be happy with the person your are, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
and…my favorite quotes on being you authentic self:
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson