May your inner voice be the kindest voice you know

Through intention and new habits, it can be.

Most of us have an inner voice that’s a mix of the voices we heard growing up – from our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, schoolmates, and so on.

And for most of us, not all of these voices as kind. We learned to speak to ourselves in unkind ways, especially in some situations and areas of life.

WHAT UNKIND VOICES DO TO US

What do these unkind voices do to us?

Mainly, they create an atmosphere that feels uncomfortable and unsafe.

At any moment, our inner dialog can turn harsh and unkind.

And this distracts us from our natural kindness, wisdom, and engagement.

It also makes it easier for us to speak to others in unkind ways. The way we speak to ourselves tends to color how we speak to others. We pass on the ways others spoke to us early in life.

HOW DO WE CHANGE THIS?

The first step is to be aware of what’s happening.

What is my inner dialog?

In what situations do the unkind voices come in? In what areas of life?

Then we can learn to see through and replace these voices. We can find where they come from and who spoke to us in that way early in life. We can examine what they are saying and find what’s more true for us. We can intentionally speak to ourselves in a more kind and supportive way.

THE INNER DIALOG WE ARE NOT CONSCIOUS OF

This applies to our conscious inner dialog, and it also applies to the inner dialog that’s here and perhaps not so conscious.

The part of our inner dialog that’s conscious is just the tip of the iceberg and the rest colors our experience as much if not more.

How do we be more aware of this inner dialog? What can we do about it?

The most effective way to explore this may be through different forms of inquiry.

Here, we can identify this inner dialog and learn to see through it. Fortunately, we have a clear sign that unkind voices are operating in us: a sense of discomfort and stress. And structured forms of inquiry can help us with the rest.

If we keep at it over time, our unkind inner dialog will lose its power and be replaced with a more naturally kind, wise, and pragmatic voice.

And there is always more to explore. There are always voices we haven’t seen yet. There are often more essential underlying stressful stories, and more stories in the wider network of stories.

For this, I especially like The Work of Byron Katie for finding underlying stressful thoughts, and the Kiloby Inquiries can do the same, as do many other approaches including cognitive therapy.

AREN’T SOME UNKIND VOICES TRUE, NECESSARY, AND HELPFUL?

That’s what the unkind voices tell us, and when we explore this for ourselves we may find something different.

I find they are not as true as my mind sometimes tells me. There is often some validity to them, but they are definitely not the whole picture, and the fuller picture is typically far more kind.

They are not necessary. We don’t need unkindness or even stress to act.

And they are not that helpful, especially if compared with the alternative of clarity and kindness.

THE OTHER TYPE OF INNER VOICE

I use the term “inner voice” here since that’s what the quote calls it, and it does work.

The term “inner voice” can refer to two different things.

One is our inner dialog, which is what this article is about.

The other is our inner guidance which sometimes but not always takes the form of a voice. Our inner guidance is calm and clear and available for us to listen to and follow or not. It’s neither kind nor unkind, it just offers guidance.

Image: A meme from social media, source unknown (to me).

When I can give to myself what I want, it’s much better for me, you, and us

Earlier tonight, I noticed some restlessness and discomfort in me. My first impulse was to send a message to my partner or talk with her, or eat something. Then I noticed what was going on, I wanted to comfort myself through contact or food. And I decided to give what I wanted to myself instead and before doing anything else.

I noticed the uncomfortable part of me, and that it was, in many ways, like a little child wanting comfort. So I met it as a good friend or parent. I noticed the discomfort and how it feels. I gave it space. Said I love you. Found kindness and love for it. Respect. Patience. I allowed it to be as it is. Mostly, I met it with love at a feeling level and in how I related to it.

I also noticed it was like a confused seeker, someone seeking something without quite knowing what it’s seeking. So I met it as a guru would meet a seeker. I felt it as a flavor of the divine. Noticed my own true nature, and that its true nature is no different. I helped it to find its own true nature and rest in and as that.

When I give this to these parts of myself, I don’t need it from anyone or anything else. This helps me have a much more healthy relationship with, in this case, my partner and food. It takes out the compulsion.

All of this is a learning process. It’s approximate. I cannot do any of this fully. I am winging it. I am exploring. Playing with it to see what happens.

And that’s OK. That’s life. We learn as we go. In many ways, it’s better than if I could do any of it “perfectly”. Noticing that I am winging it and learning puts me on the level with everyone else. It’s an ongoing exploration and adventure. There is always more to learn and discover, and it keeps it playful.

Wanting to feel better is healthy, although look at the compulsion

Wanting to feel better is natural and healthy. It’s built into us through the generations, and it’s a form of self-care and kindness to ourselves and those around us.

Compulsively wanting to feel better is a bit different. That’s a way to avoid something. It’s a way to avoid our current experience. To avoid feeling certain uncomfortable feelings and looking at the scary thoughts connected to them.

When we compulsively seek healing and awakening in order to avoid our current experience, it adds another layer of suffering. Compulsively seeking to escape is inherently uncomfortable.

So we can welcome this compulsion and explore it with gentle curiosity. We can meet it with kindness and see how our mind creates this compulsion to avoid our current experience. And that allows the compulsion and the charge in it to relax.

What’s left is still a natural wish for healing and feeling better. And we know that a component of that is to welcome and rest with our current experience as it is. And that includes welcoming and resting with any wish for our current experience to be different.

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