The nastiest voice you will ever hear will generally come directly from you. That’s right, that little sing-song radio playing in your head. The one that really knows how to bring you to your knees with humiliation and despair. In my job, I am privy to what this little voice says in people’s heads. The thing that surprises me time and again is how that voice plays the same tune for everyone from teenagers to senior cits, CEOs and celebrities to us more modest folk. Try the following on for size. Although the tune is really really common it’s really really hurtful too. I challenge you to make it to the end of the tirade without balking:
‘Why are you bothering to do that you know you will be rubbish at it and just make a fool of yourself and anyway there are heaps of people who can do that better than you you are no better than a fraud and you will just look like an idiot because there really is something wrong with you isn’t there and when people find out they will all turn their backs on you and you will die alone and look at how much thinner and successful and good looking and nicer and funnier everyone else is you really are a disgusting unloveable fat blob why do you always have to be such a loser no-one else ever has these problems you must be insane no wonder you have no friends your therapist probably even hates you and other people just pretend to like you for what they can get why can’t you just be more like her she’s sooo much smarter if you weren’t so lazy maybe you would get somewhere in life and stop being so useless.’
Eeewh! It’s hard to read isn’t it? You can feel the darkness rising when engaging with a dialogue like this. And yet many of us do it everyday without a second thought. You can just imagine how this voice feeds anxiety and depression, and how it stops you from doing anything worthwhile like getting a new job, making a friend, or starting a new enjoyable activity. Usually we frantically seek to drown the voice with substances, addictions, proving ourselves worthy, avoiding new challenges, anything in fact to make it be quiet. But what would happen if we treated this voice as the bully that it is. Imagine if someone walked up to you with the above spiel. How would you handle it? Just because it’s happening in your head does not mean you need to grab a hold of it and believe every poisonous word.
When dealing with this voice it’s best to go against the knee jerk reaction to drown it out and to instead have a really good listen to it. Is what it’s saying sensible? Is it always true or are there exceptions that it seems to be forgetting about? What if the voice was just a total load of rubbish, an amalgamation of every nasty or bullying word you have heard during your lifetime? Then instead of rushing to control it with behaviours we may not value, perhaps we could just let it play and have a bit of a chuckle about the boring repetitiveness of it. Russ Harris, the ACT specialist (see www.actmindfully.com.au) suggests simply thanking this nasty voice for it’s opinion, and then getting on with whatever it is that you would really like to be doing today. What a great idea!