Voices in my Head 5

At the risk of sounding like a complete wack-a-doo, coo-coo ca-choo, here goes nothing…I have voices in my head. Not literal voices, but thought processes that I call voices. And if that doesn’t sound “spirited” enough for you, let me tell you this…I have names for them.

It’s really not that uncommon to name the voices. It’s a therapeutic technique called personification. The idea is that battling thoughts is a difficult and confusing process, so giving them a personal, human-like quality helps.

If you think I’m losing it, then go see the movie Inside Out. Same idea and a genius one at that!

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the starting line up of my mind…

Meet Ed. Ed is really the first voice that I knew and named. He came to visit me my freshman year of college, and he took over the throne in my brain for a few years. He’s the one that told me what to eat, how much to exercise, what size clothing I needed to be, and how little I actually deserved. He interpreted and distorted what I saw in the mirror, but more than that, he pretty much misconstrued my every experience.

Some of you know Ed. Or maybe you “dated” him a bit in college too? He’s quite the misogynist, so it wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll give it to you straight: he’s a liar. He thinks he knows everything. He makes promises he can’t keep. He thinks the laws of science do not apply to him.  And although he may convince you otherwise, his only use is to make life an utterly hopeless, dark spiral down the drain.

It took me blood, sweat and tears (lots of tears), not to mention years of therapy, nutrition guidance, and support groups, but I managed to get Ed kicked out of the kingdom. Now, I spend my days at work helping others do the same. Ed is a pretty fierce, relentless son-of-a-bitch, so taking him down is satisfying, to say the least.

Then there’s Miss Perfect. In my head, she sounds a lot like Regina George. She is super demanding and impossible to please. She’s queen of all-or-nothing thinking, loves to attack my enough-ness, and will criticize any big or little thing: my wife-ing, my mothering, my therapizing, and my existing. She is the one that “shoulds” all over me! She has a way of knowing how to take the wind out of my sails at the exact right time.

Miss P and Ed used to gang up on me, so naturally I had to get rid of them both at the same time. But since she’s an achiever and a stubborn little snot, she likes to pay me visits from time to time, especially when I’m stressed. How nice of her…boo!

A more tricky voice is Joe, which is short for Josephus. Joe is my inner Pharisee, and since that was the only Pharisee name I knew at the time, that’s what I named him. At first glance, he seems super-spiritual. He knows the Bible, seems to follow God, and wants to uphold Truth. But he’s judgmental, oh so judgmental. And self-righteous. And distracting. And legalistic, which is probably the thing I dislike more than anything in this world.

Joe loves to add rules to my life under the guise that it will make me more spiritual, like, “You can’t listen to secular music.” Or, “You aren’t allowed to feel any negative emotion ever because that just means that you don’t trust God.” He also tries to seduce me into believing that I am responsible for earning my own way into heaven, which is just ludicrous. He believes in the letter of the law, is quick to throw stones, and likes to show his superiority by beating his chest with knowledge and puffing up with right-ness. If I let Joe convince me to take authority over myself, then likewise, I find myself taking authority over others. Judging, one-upping, and condemning: the exact opposite of Love. His presence makes me shake my head and conclude: it’s sometimes the things that claim to most resemble God that can wreak the most havoc.

This leads me to another one of my voices. She doesn’t have a name, but her role is crystal clear: fault, blame, and responsibility. It’s because of her that I automatically assume that I am at fault or to blame for any problems in the world. It sounds insane as I write it down; I know that I am not the center of the universe, but here’s how it plays out in my head…

If I have a client who is not doing well, then this voice convinces me that it’s because I’m not a skilled or caring therapist.  If I see someone in our church post on Facebook that they are lonely, then she ridicules me for not being a relational pastor’s wife.  If one of my friends experiences the excruciating pain of a miscarriage, then she reasons that I’m not a very good friend, because if I were, then my friend wouldn’t have to endure such suffering.  If my children fight, forget to use manners words, or pee on the wall behind the toilet for the fifteenth million time, then she assures me, without a doubt, that it’s a direct reflection of my piss-poor parenting (pun intended).

And if I am the one at fault, then naturally, I have to be the solution. Oh, how overwhelming that feels to me! It makes me want to run full speed into a dark hole, assume the fetal position, cover myself up, and never come out.

I’m learning to talk back to the you’re-always-the-one-at-fault-here voice. Anytime I hear from her, I say to myself quietly, “It’s not about me.” When I’m in a sassy kind of mood, I say, “Not my circus, sister. Not my monkeys.” That does the trick. Let’s be honest. I’ve got a multi-million dollar crazy circus of a life, and I’ve got plenty of my own dancing monkeys, probably more than most, but that voice paralyzes me and makes me completely unable to manage them with confidence and grace.  It’s gotta be shutdown!

I’ve talked with a few of my friends about this fault, blame, and responsibility voice. They hear from her too!  One of them will text me randomly. “Not my monkeys {enter monkey emojis here}.” I respond simply: “True that!” If you’ve got my cell number, you’re welcome to do the same!

Ed, Miss P, Joe, and the responsibility voice are the major players with the most impressive stats. Thankfully, though, I have at least one more voice in my head. It’s quiet and calm and always patient and gentle with me. It rarely engages me in the content of my thoughts, but rather it jumps right to the process. It offers grace. It nudges me towards doing right but without shaming me. It gives me the gumption to stumble through this life. It is Love. This is the voice that all other voices have to measured up against, and if they don’t sound the same, then into the mental slammer they go! Locked up. Without power. Captive. Disregarded. Deemed unreliable.

My voices try to make an escape often, so locking them up is sometimes a daily affair. I’m okay with that, for now at least, because I’m starting to glean that the satisfaction lies within the struggle.  And, lucky for me, I’ve got a husband that comes home from work and will ask, “How are your voices today?”  It makes for some pretty good conversation.

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