I think most people have heard voices in their head. I don’t mean movie-style voices directing us to be serial killers. I mean thoughts that contradict us, that challenge whether we can succeed, that tell us we aren’t good enough. Those voices and thoughts that pop up in us in a moment of doubt.
For some people those thoughts and voices come from some unknown place. For others they know the source. It is a parent or other family member. It is a teacher or a boss. It may be a partner.
What is interesting is how differently those voices affect each of us. Some people can hear those voices, give them thought and dismiss them. They may have moments of doubt about themselves or their abilities, but they can overcome them. They can acknowledge the risk that we may not succeed and choose to move forward despite that. They recognize that the voices are only have opinions…not absolute truths.
Yet for others those voices can’t so easily be dismissed. They hear those voices in their head. And they believe them. The voices sound just as loud as if a person was standing right there saying those words of doubt and criticism. The person doubts themself to the point where they often don’t act. They don’t even try to accomplish things, to grow or to have hopes because the voices have them convinced that they will just fail anyway.
How did those voices get to be so strong for those people? Often it is because those words of doubt were repeated to them over and over in real life. They heard the same message again and again, to the point that it crowded out all other voices. Sometimes it was malicious. A person that wanted to drag down another in order to create a false sense of superiority. Other times it was well intentioned…a misguided attempt to try to make a person stronger. Regardless, the voices were heard criticizing, putting down, discouraging. They were often backed up with examples that supposedly proved those points. And they were presented as fact.
To make things worse. These voices often started when these people were children. They weren’t able to make rational arguments against the voices, to say “hey, there is lots of evidence that says this isn’t true.” And, those voices came from people that supposedly loved them, that they could trust unconditionally. Those words of defeat were stamped at an emotional level on trusting, loving children, unable to distinguish destructive perspectives from fact.
It would be great if when those people became adults, with full capacity to use logic and reason, that they could suddenly shift and say, hey, that’s not right. But it doesn’t work that way. When we learn things at an emotional level they become embedded in there. It doesn’t mean they can’t change but it isn’t as easy as just saying, “I’m not going to think that way now.” The voices don’t go away and can’t be dismissed that easily.
But there is a process for change. Change starts with recognizing the voices – where they came from, what they are saying. Then it is creating the understanding that the voices aren’t truth…they are perspectives. And then starts the process of finding facts that don’t support those perspectives…that support healthy, positive aspects. Because those facts are there. I’ve seen it over and over. People that are so focused on the voices that they completely overlook the evidence in their life that says the voices are wrong.
And then it takes time. The voices have had years to make their case. It isn’t easy to combat the years of “proof” and emotional embedding. It takes time with repeated demonstrations that there are facts that contradict the voices. It means taking the risk of not believing them. Because if the voices have worked to prove one thing it is that taking risks and not believing the voices will result in very bad things. Taking the leap to consciously ignore them is scary and difficult.
That’s where support comes in. We often surround ourselves with people that share our view…of the world, of ourselves. And too often people that hear these destructive voices have surrounded themselves with friends and acquaintances that act like the voices are true. Being around people that have high expectations feels scary and like a recipe for disaster. They will find out that the voices are right and you’ll disappoint them so it is easier to be around people that assume you will fail. But that is another risk that needs to be faced. Change needs to hear other voices. Supportive ones that present another perspective. Ones that are supportive and encouraging. Ones that don’t think one mistake proves the voices right.
The voices in our head don’t own the truth. They have their own perspectives. And those perspectives may very well be wrong. The way to find out is to allow in other voices. To give those voices weight and value. It can be scary. It may take time. But change can happen. Those voices are not entitled to run your life…don’t let them.