What if the Voice in my head is right and I'm a Loser, AND a Fool for not believing it?
While I was talking with an amazing woman in a session yesterday she voiced this concern.
"If I stop believing the nasty voice in my head, and actually start to believe I'm a dignified and ok human, will I make a fool of myself? What if everyone else still sees that i'm awful but I'm walking around thinking I'm ok?"
"What if I have a giant tumour on my forehead and I'm a fool for not believing it's real?"
What if I consider the notion that I'm
an ok artist?
a good friend?
a great catch?
(But wait, it's not only that I don't want to be a loser, I want to be brilliant, extraordinary and fantastic... hold on, let's not even go into adjectives like brilliant, extraordinary, or wonderful.)
What if you consider the notion that you're a dignified human worthy of living a dignified life and able to follow your dignified pursuits in a normal and ordinary way. As this is how lives generally happen when we're living them and not held hostage by the mean Voice in our heads.
Why does it feel so hard to start believing something different than the Loser story?
It's a tricky moment, when you start to believe something new and stop believing the Voice.
Everything in your nervous system is going to tell you you're going to die. That this new thing you're considering is not real/ true/ natural/ possible.
The Voice has saved your ass, I guarantee it, at some point in your life. And so you're hardwired to keep believing it. It's a survival strategy. Your animal body believes it will die if you stop believing it.
Here's the yapping dog metaphor to help explain a big idea.
In this metaphor we need to talk about the big pain, aka the yapping dog.
Let's imagine that when you were young, younger than 6, there was a lil yapping dog that snuck into your house and attached itself to you. Let's call the dog Eddy.
Your parents already had a lot of their own yapping dogs, and they hardly noticed Eddy.
A small dog belonging to a small human is clearly the responsibility of the adults. No one would look at a small human and say, "Why can't they get a handle on their dog?" or "Why can't they shut it up?"
Obviously you need adults to show you how to feed it, clean it, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY how to soothe it, how to help it chill out, stop barking, and get a good nights rest.
But you knew better than to make it a big deal with your stressed to the max parents. And it just seemed kinda normal, especially because your house already had so many yapping dogs.
And it shit and barked and had a thousand needs you didn't know how to address as a little human.
And you couldn't get rid of it because when you threw it out the door it just came back.
You know the song, "the cat came back"? Kinda like that...you were stuck with it.
And so in your infinite little human wisdom you stuck it in your closet and, to cover up the noise, you began to talk to yourself.
You talked to yourself about what a loser you were for:
being such a burden on your family by having such a noisy and demanding dog.
not knowing how to take care of your pet.
being too emotional.
You talked louder and louder to cover up the noise.
By believing you were a loser you helped this ridiculously noisy and chaotic house make sense.
You also stayed "attached" to your parents by turning against yourself, rather than against them (turning against your parents is evolutionarily a very poor choice for a very small human).
And eventually you forgot Eddy was there. And the noise you made by talking to yourself covered up the barks and cries and whines and whimpers.
And eventually Eddy gave up and went silent, or more realistically was put on mute.
But the Voice went on.
What does it all mean?
Eddy is the pain in our nervous system.
What has helped us survive is the Voice. We owe it our lives.
But what needs attention is Eddy.
We've got to change our attention from the Voice over to Eddy.
We spend hours of our lives going to counsellors, BF's, and diaries, talking about what's going on. We have a full-on secret library of self-help books underneath our beds, and meanwhile, the dog is needing some serious attention.
If the Voice stops talking, or at the very least we quit believing it as truth, you will not be the fool, but you will start hearing Eddy.
This is uncomfortable, and brings you right back to childhood, where you had no way to deal with him.
This means that when you hear Eddy, beyond feeling pain, you go back to a place where you believed you had no tools or support and a very real fear that the barking would NEVER STOP.
Nevertheless, Adult-you, the one who is resourced, has some tools and support, needs to go back and take care of Eddy, who is collapsed and whimpering in the closet.
How do we do this?
It's not about reading self-help books, though yes, occasionally they're helpful.
It's not even necessarily about talking to your best friend.
It's about listening to the damn dog, which involves an entirely different skill set.
Tara Brach has a useful acronym. RAIN.
R-Recognize that there are sensations in your body, below your story-telling, busy-busy mind. Those sensations are Eddy.
A-Allow these sensations to exist. Give them permission. Eddy is not inherently doing anything wrong, he just showed up, and if you would have had the support, everything would have turned out a lot differently.
I-Investigate (physically). What are these sensations made of? What material/ colour/ texture/ material?
N-Nourish. Put your hand on your heart and take a few breaths, this calms the nervous system. Softly say, "I see you" to Eddy, the physical place in you where you feel discomfort. Whisper, "I'm sorry no one knew how to help you." Imagine a current person in your life sitting beside you that would know exactly what to do with Eddy.
And eventually, when the Voice shows up, because she will, she becomes more of an alarm to tell you that Eddy needs a lil attention.
When we attend to Eddy I'm not saying you turn into a super star, but you do start living your normal and dignified life like every other normal and dignified human being.
And when you're attending to Eddy, Sally still might not text you back, and maybe you lose the friendship, and you might say the wrong thing to your boss, but ultimately you're no longer falling into the black hole the Voice sends you to, or if you do you know it's not real, and that's a certain kind of winning.
After all this talk about normal, what do you think about brilliance?
I do believe in moments of brilliance, however, we're talking at this stage about feeling ok, and able to do the simple tasks, like leave your house in the morning, speak up at the potluck, brush your teeth in the morning, or make a collage in the evening, all brilliant and necessary steps on the road to future brilliance.
And eventually, after doing this thousands of times your NERVOUS SYSTEM rewires.
And the belief that you're a loser starts to lose it's charge.
And what happens to Eddy?
You do the opposite of this GiF. As an adult you take Eddy for walks regularly, and make sure he's fed.
When he gets upset, you know how to bring him back down.
He mellows out because he knows you're not mad at him and he's not doing anything wrong.
Eddy becomes your buddy - perhaps the uncomfortable one you've learned to love, but your buddy nonetheless.