That Little Voice
“I’ll never be as cool as ________”
“Who do I think I am expecting to get what I want when I have awful luck”
“Ugh I just tripped over my own feet and everybody saw. I am a loser”
That internal monologue that never shuts up. The private admonishing we give ourselves. The cruelty we inflict. On our own selves.
It’s that little voice inside our heads.
Scientifically speaking, it’s a thing that happens in our brains when we’re babies called corollary discharge. A result of our brains learning how to distinguish between different types of sensory experiences when we were first learning how to interpret the differences between our outer world and our inner world.
That jagoff inner voice who never gives us a moment’s peace. About our own selves. A lifelong private soliloquy about where we fucked up, how we fucked up, and that we’re fuckups.
It also likes to work out scenarios with ourselves. “I didn’t like the way this situation panned out so I’m going to rework it now, in my brain, where shit plays out the way it should have in my opinion, and I will also torture myself with the fact that it just didn’t play out that way at all”.
“That human there has something I want for myself and why do I never get what I want and everybody else’s life is better than mine”.
“I’m embarking on a thing where I want shit to go down in such-and-such a way so I’m going to rehearse what I want to say IF this human cooperates and says THIS or here’s how I’m going to act if the other humans behave exactly the way I’m fantasizing they will so I’m prepared”.
“I’m a loser who sucks and everybody hates me for the following reasons…”
The exchanges between ourselves and…ourselves…is the internal struggle between what we want the outer world to be and what it really is. Where we form our opinions about us and everybody else. Why we think shit is unfair or that we are terrible people.
It’s that jag Inner Voice who’s saying so.
When we’re little, most of us don’t have jagoff Inner Voices. Our brains are in theta mode until we’re about 7 years old or so. So we’re essentially in hypnosis and mostly think we’re great because theta vibration is calm and cool and doesn’t have much of an ego.
Ooooo but once that ego forms and we decide we’re some specific, particular way? Our Inner Voice can start teaching itself to be a judgmental prick to us.
One thought is we’re an ego-driven species who likes to prepare and protect ourselves by considering all of our possible situations and choosing the most likely scenario to get ourselves ready for action. And to protect our fragile, shatterable images of ourselves that we hold in our own brains against all of the naysayers. This isn’t a good or bad thing, just a thing we do as highly evolved humans.
I mean, that sounds okay. So why do some of us have Inner Voices that become our own worst enemy?
When we’re in our ages 0–7 theta mode, that ego is forming. Anything we perceive in that time starts constructing our Inner Voice. We internalize the good and bad theories we see the other humans having about us, mostly from parents/caretakers/stinky lil’ playmates, and then we get busy deciding how the world views us. Once that gets going, our ego starts morphing into its multiple hypotheses on what we think our place is in the outer world. When you say “I’ve changed over the years”, it’s probably because your Inner Voice discarded some old subconscious beliefs about who you are and your life changed accordingly. Positively or negatively.
It depends on how your Inner Voice shapeshifts.
Once we get older, our Inner Voice and ego start solidifying. We get cemented in our beliefs about ourselves and everything else, too. It’s a big reason why the guy who was the stud in high school and is now decidedly unstudly still thinks he’s a stud…high school is where his Inner Voice decided he’s a stud period-end-of-sentence. Or why because the bullying you endured in middle school still traumatizes you to this day…your Inner Voice chose that version of you as the you you’ll always be and you’re a bullied victim. Or why you hate being a people-pleaser but do it anyway…some situation at some time became fact in your brain that making people happy no matter what the cost to you felt better than feeling disappointment or resentment from them.
A lot of times, our Inner Voice picks and chooses the worst possible times and the worst possible situations of our lives as THAT’S who we are.
Let’s go back to science. Negative information is processed in a particular area of our brains that deals with critical thinking. And because of the surge of activity that our brains produce in that area when it’s stimulated and because brains tend to naturally learn more from negative stimuli, we get addicted to it. It’s why folks automatically repost negative news articles before even fact-checking them, and why we focus on the one critical thing somebody said years ago instead of the bajillions of people who've praised us since. It’s an evolved brain thing. Back in the day of our human history it was life-or-death to discern what was bad (death by sabertooth) from what was good (sweet fruit from that plant over there). Since the bad stuff was really, really bad, our brains decided the bad stuff was more important to focus on and Death By Sabertooth evolved into I’m A Loser Because I Did Something Dumb Like One Time In 6th Grade.
It even has a proper name. Negative Bias.
So now we know a lot of us do this and some of the science behind it. Now what?
How do we change our Inner Voices to start being nice and stop being jags?
Lots of ways and you know the first way I’m gonna mention is meditation. Meditation, by the way, isn’t some rose colored-glasses thing where you ignore the modern-day sabertooths. It’s not emptying your mind of all thoughts, sabertooth and sweet fruits alike. It’s just being aware that they both exist and looking at that. Just looking. Being okay that they both exist. Being curious about them instead of attaching opinions to them. It’s not that you can’t meditate by the way, everybody can. It’s that you need to learn how you as an individual can resist labeling everything with your own opinions. But it’s not the only way to allow your Inner Voice to chill out.
We can consciously reframe situations, maybe even seeing stuff from a POV that’s not our own. We interpret everything from only where we’re standing, and since we like to frame everything from our negative bias, we tend to frame shit as bad and sabertoothy. Maybe instead of telling yourself that you’re a fool because everybody saw you doing something dumb in 6th grade, catch yourself in that inner dialogue and remind yourself that we’re all awkward idiots in 6th grade and that your own opinion of what everyone else bases you on is just a lie your own brain is telling you. Because let’s face it, middle school is when most of us first discover that sabertooths also come in the human variety in the form of our peers.
We can also just distract ourselves when our Inner Voices start critiquing our every move. Go for a walk, make a cup of tea, lip synch to a Journey song. Not as effective, distractions rather than dealing with the root of the problem never is. But if you can establish a habit of doing something positive in the face of your brain telling you something negative, that’s something. Even distracting yourself to think of a situation where you acted all bad-ass and exactly how you wanted to act is better than focusing on a situation where you looked like a clown.
But let’s all agree that replacing our Inner Voice personal bash-fest should NOT be with drug or alcohol use, or anything self-destructive like that. Because that sort of shit is the modern-day sabertooth equivalent, it can kill you or mess you up permanently and for real. Don’t replace one destructive behavior you do to your own self with another destructive behavior you do to your own self.
And to be clear, our Inner Voice is NOT our conscience. True, our conscience determines what’s right and wrong. But our Inner Voice acts more like a play-by-play announcer who usually hates us. Our conscience understands that we just are. We’re all a mixture of positives and negatives in the eyes of the other humans but we’re not all one or the other and all of that stuff is just the other humans’ opinions anyway.
Calming our Inner Voice is one of the toughest things in meditation and root/shadow work we do. And our Inner Voices never really go fully away, they just eventually get replaced with the good stuff that we nourish ourselves with when we decide to really do it. We’re supposed to reach some higher plane or become enlightened or vibrate at a higher level and be able to Manifest Our Dream Reality in that pleasant space. Or so say the gurus. I think that just being nice to ourselves, you know, talk to ourselves with the same consideration we talk to everyone else, just simply makes being US feel better. It puts us in a more receptive frame of mind to look at nice vs. nasty. Good vs. evil. Calm vs. storm.
It’s important. Being nice to ourselves is really important. Just because we’re assholes to only ourselves inside our own heads where no one else can bear witness doesn’t make it okay. Just because we’re only hurting ourselves doesn’t make it okay.
We really need to unpack why we think being douchebags to ourselves is how we should be doing it. Why we think it’s normal. It’s only normal in the sense that, until we control our critical jag of an Inner Voice, we’re all gonna let it spin off the grid until it ruins us.
There are no more sabertooths except the one whispering to us inside our heads.