Have you ever wondered about that voice in your head? The one that seems to be there all the time. A helpful analogy I learnt from Lama Marut is that that voice is like a radio station. Sometimes it is tuned to a pleasant enjoyable radio station and other times there is a lot of static and unpleasant talk going on.
Another helpful analogy Lama Marut taught, related to this self-talk, is that is it is like having a couple of little people perched on each of our shoulders. On one shoulder is the critical, nagging, negative, task master voice (that is the unpleasant radio station) The second voice is the kind encouraging friend voice. (that is the enjoyable station or the angel voice).
At times that critical, negative voice is so loud and bossy we can't even hear the friendly, kind voice on the other shoulder over the din! We get so habituated to believe and reinforce that critical voice (that is not true) and that is how it gets so loud, attacking and bossy.
Angels have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I love seeing them depicted in religious painting, yet have felt confused by their meaning. Harvard Theologian Meggan Waterstone's definition of an angel has helped my understanding. She says 'an angel is simply a thought that lifts us up from out of ourselves, from out of those cages the ego would prefer for us to remain within". For me that kind, encouraging angel voice on the left shoulder is the one that lifts me up by speaking the truth of love. It is the one I want to turn the volume up and listen to.
So how do I turn up that kind, encouraging voice so that it becomes the radio station I love to listen to instead of letting that the destructive, unkind one that seems out to get me dominate?
Awareness is key. I had the experience a couple of weeks ago where I was onto this self-critical, destructive habit. I was feeling unsure about a discussion group I was leading that evening. I had done all the preparation and was seemingly ready. About an hour before the class I had doubt about my ability to teach the class.
I was aware that the inner voice, the destructive one on my right shoulder was getting louder. "Do you think you are qualified to take this group? You are not an amazing teacher like ........" There is more but I will spare you the details. I was working myself into a nervous wreck.
Woooo, such unhelpful habits - judging myself as not good enough', unrealistic expectations, and comparing myself to others. How are any of those judgmental, attack thoughts of any use? And they are simply not true.
So I remembered to be curious and use the formula I have been finding useful.
1. ACCEPT the feeling - stress, doubt are happening
a). UNHELFUL REACTION.............
This is terrible, I am not qualified, good enough ....Letting that destructive attacking voice take over.
b). SUPPRESSION THE FEELING
Ignoring the anxiety. Instead accept and Remember it has come as a reminder to .....
2. BREATH and tune into the kind, encouraging angel voice
3. Kindly ask ....What do I need? (to be of benefit)
I need to give myself what is missing - the encouragement and kindness! (I would give it to a friend, so why not give it to myself?) Brene Brown says 'Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love'.
So, I know it may sound a little crazy but I tuned into and turned up that kind friendly, angel voice gave myself some kind, friendly encouragement. I said to myself 'you have done your best to prepare for this class, how it will be received is not in your control, you have no need to compare yourself to others.
This kind talk meant I could get on with what I needed to do - teach the class. We will explore some more helpful self talk slogans to replace some of those unhelpful ones next blog!
So it is just a matter of changing those untrue, destructive thought patters into more helpful ones. A work in progress that takes practice. With awareness we can remember to insert a new soundtrack, a much more helpful one, to replace the self criticism.
Amazingly as I was preparing for this class my daughter was playing a song by Michael Hurley entitled 'Be Kind to Me' . The song begins with lyrics 'Why be mean when you can be nice'? This was a very timely reminded to 'be kind to me'.
With love and my very best well wishes to you all