If you're anything like most people, you have multiple voices in your head competing all at once for space. Some of them you like, so you welcome them out in the open. Others you want to keep hidden away. Not only do you not want others to see them, you don't even want to acknowledge them yourself.
For example, let's say that your self-image is overall one of a positive, can-do type of person. The glass is half-full - and thank god there's room in the other half for oxygen, because you need that to breathe!
So one of the voices in your head that you let out regularly is your positive-thinking voice. That's the way you like to see yourself, so you let that voice out into the open as often as possible.
But you might also have an inner pessimist. It tells you what you can't do, and what's not possible. It is driven by fear of what might happen, and wants to avoid it at all costs. You don't want that to be part of your repertoire, so you proceed to ignore it.
Why let the negative voices out into the open?
Why would you want to let the voices you don't like as much have their say? Here are three really good reasons:
You just might learn something.
If you persist in pretending that internal pessimist doesn't exist, you miss out on a golden opportunity to learn something that might help you create the life you want. Used judiciously, that pessimist can call attention to potential pitfalls before you experience them. It can help you navigate sometimes treacherous landscape and minimize the pain.
They won't go away just because you pretend they don't exist.
In fact, they might just get stronger. It's the old pressure cooker thing. Stuffing it down and not giving it any release creates more pressure.
Not only that, when you ignore something, it's effectively invisible. And when something is invisible to you, you are helpless to do anything about it. Letting it out in the open helps you keep track of what's really going on.
Sometimes they take control unless you give them focused time.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are voices that run roughshod over the life you're living. Take an over-active internal critic, for example. It might be such a habitual voice that you scarcely notice it's not actually you.
Giving it focused free-range time lets you listen objectively to what it has to say. You can both learn from its valid points (sometimes rephrasing them first into less toxic phrasing) and identify the aspects that aren't valid so you can counter them.
How to go free-range
Taking a free-range approach to your chorus of internal voices isn't about letting them run amok willy nilly, hither and yon. In the US, the definition of free-range for poultry isn't a bird that lives outside. It's a bird that has access to the outside at least part of the time (and yes, I know that opens a whole different can of worms that is outside the scope of this blog). So it doesn't necessarily spend its whole life roaming free.
It's the same with those less-savory internal voices. You don't want them to have the run of your brain, but you don't want to shove them into little boxes and stuff them down in the cellar either.
Here are some ways you might take a free-range approach.
Start by taking stock of what those voices are. Do you have a an internal critic? A pessimist? Make a page in your journal just for that list. You can keep adding to it over time as you identify more.
Pick a voice, and give it space to run (but only a defined space - it doesn't get to take over the show). Let it say what it wants to say. Get those thoughts out of your head and down onto paper.
Then start asking questions, like:
- Is this valid?
- Is this 100% accurate?
- Are there any different ways to look at this?
- What flawed assumptions is this voice making?
- What can I learn from this voice?
- Where is the kernel of truth that I can use to improve / increase my chances for success / etc.?
Talking with a trusted friend
Another good way to give those inner voices some free-range space is to find someone in your life you can be honest with. Ask them to simply listen, not judge, argue with, or try to fix what those voices have to say.
Once you get it out there, then you can start talking about the specifics (use the questions listed above as a starting point). Having someone else in the picture is a great way to get a more objective perspective.
You can take the external discussion up a notch by working with a coach like me. This is someone whose focus is helping you sort through things, find clarity, and adjust your choices and actions accordingly.
Sometimes the source of those voices goes deeper than a coach would be qualified to help you with (for example, if you needed to delve into childhood issues). In those cases, working with a therapist can be invaluable.
Ultimately, whether or not you decide to take a free-range approach with those voices you're not so fond of, they're there. And that means that, in some way, they're having an impact on your life.
Deciding to consciously, purposefully let them into the open will both help you make sure they're not sitting behind the steering wheel without your realizing it, and give you the opportunity to tap into whatever valid, helpful insights they might actually have.
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Time for a career change? Launch it with...
The Occupational Adventure Guide:
A Travel Guide to the Career of Your Dreams
by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst