When I was a little girl Saturdays were clean-the-house days. My mom would wrap a red bandana around her hair and get to cleaning. She’d get so in the zone that it was like the rest of the world around her just faded away. Music blaring, no dust particle was safe.
Then I noticed Mom would start talking to herself. I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying so I’d ask her and she would respond with “Oh! I’m just talking to myself!”
I promptly wondered (and worried) “do I talk to myself?! What does that even mean?”
The question alone meant I was talking to myself. It was a lightbulb moment, for sure. Only I noticed it was always in my head. Never did I utter the words out loud.
I guess you could say in that moment I became aware of the voices in my head. We all have them. Sometimes they encourage us, sometimes they can really beat us up.
Here She Comes to Save the Day!
When I first started training to be a life coach one of my teachers, Sonia, asked me to NAME the voice. She told me to picture the voice coming from a dog and name and describe it. This felt oddly wrong, like I may have some sort of personality disorder if I actually named it. The compelling movie, A Beautiful Mind, quickly came to my mind.
The main character in the movie was based on a real man, John Nash, a mathematical genius who suffered from schizophrenia and was played by Russell Crowe. Of course it’s a movie, so many claim it did exaggerate his condition, but drama is why we like movies, so it’s understandable. There were many different voices and people in his mind and he acted them all out, so you can see why this exercise scared me a bit.
Naming this voice in my head seemed a little outlandish, but as a good student I went with it and named her Mighty Dog. When I thought of the voice and all the things it tells me to do I pictured a cartoon character I used to watch.
Underdog – his real name but I could have sworn it was Mighty Dog – was there to save the day and this was very much how I was living my life. (Discovered later my visual was actually a mash-up between characters Mighty Mouse and Underdog.)
Anyway, Mighty Dog was the voice in my head that was a perpetual people pleaser. She constantly gave and gave at her own expense in true co-dependent form, and she was never satisfied with me. Her worth was tangled up with how she could do for others.
Mighty Dog was the mixed-tape I had created from my experiences that told me I wasn’t worthy, needed to earn the love of others by saving them from their own peril, and would never be enough. Mighty Dog pushed me ultimately because she wanted me to be loved and she was scared. She also had no idea that saving others isn’t actually a real thing. No one can save anyone else. Help, yes. Save, no.
Name Your Voice
I now practice this with clients when I notice they are running on a tape of conditioned beliefs and it really works to sort things out. I’ve heard beautiful names like Pearl and Cecilia, and heard descriptions of scared, trembling dogs and viscous foaming-at-the-mouth beasts.
It’s fascinating because the name and image typically just “pops” into the clients head like it was waiting to be found.
What’s on Your Mixed Tape?
The tape we play in our head is powerful and very convincing, even if it’s not true. Mighty Dog certainly knew how to keep me detached from my integrity and authentic self.
Beyond the tape is the stillness of our being – our soul. When we can untangle from the thoughts that keep us disillusioned then we can begin to feel a deeper presence, an inner knowing.
To notice the thoughts that scramble across our brains takes awareness of self. It’s a practice and one that continues to evolve.
While Mighty Dog doesn’t do much barking anymore, I’ve moved on to a new tape I recently discovered. Her name is Boss and she is a perfectionist and really causes me to procrastinate on my ideas. She also doesn’t value my time.
Love Your Way Back
These voices that keep us untethered from our truth are usually filled with lies and ultimately fear, so we don’t need to punish them but rather love them.
Thought by thought we can integrate the unconscious parts of ourselves into wholeness and create a more authentic tape that truly reflects who we are. Kind of like re-spooling a cassette tape with a pencil. Thought by thought, turn by turn.
What we tell ourselves – unconsciously or consciously – shapes our perception and influences our life experiences in deeply profound ways. Our thoughts inform every cell in our being, every interaction we share with others…they are the web that holds all this together.
Unspooling our inner dialogue is a process, not a destination. This is why growth can sometimes feel like you’ve just taken two steps back. Layer by layer you keep uncovering more of what’s there and more of what’s ready to be released and recreated.
It’s Okay to Play
I’ve found when doing deep work it’s good to have fun with it. Naming your tape can bring some levity and (healthy) detachment to what may have been weighing you down.
Discovering Boss was a deep dive and very uncomfortable process for me recently, but now when she pipes up I reassure her that sharing the truth of my deepest self will always lead to good things, and never has to be perfect.
Thought by thought. Turn by turn.
Lots of love,