A student dreamed little men dragged her forcibly from her bed, plugged a keyboard into her head and started typing thoughts into her brain. They began to show in her line of vision as words upon a screen, scary, harsh words, phrases in all caps like YOU HAVE REASON TO BE AFRAID. She said they appeared like credits at the end of a long movie, never ending. The fear would only dispel when she recited a scripture her mother had given her. Then the words on the screen would delete.
Fearful thoughts, critical voices. They live in our heads telling us false things. They hang out at the borders of things, during times of transition or psychic crisis. Loud, harsh, and insistent, they run interference between us and our greatest potential, holding us back, thwarting our efforts. They keep us from direct experience with our loved ones, our creativity, our yoga, nature, God. They keep us from becoming that which we seek.
And as far as I can tell, inner voices are a universal phenomenon in the human psyche, with the exception of the enlightened I suppose. Where do they come from? Why are they there?
Are they past psychic wounds? Karmic traces? Ancestral hang-ups carried down in the genes, the DNA, and the cells until someone deals with them? Are they aspects of our psyches willing to lie to avoid the truth growth may require, as my student concluded from her dream?
Useless thoughts, berating thoughts.
Sneaky too, sliding in under the radar of consciousness, mere rumbles and mumbles at first when you decide to venture into something new. You can hear them there in the distance, “Man, your house is dirty. And you should really cook more for your family…”
In the book, Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott says her voices show up every time she turns inward to write – banshees and drunken monkeys, she calls them, right there to harangue her through the entire process. And as long as you’re able to apply your sense of humor to them, you’re still alright.
But they know how to rachet up the crazy. You hear them in yoga as you near edges of poses, “you can’t do this one.” They declare everyone else smarter. Other people know what they’re doing. Work you do affects no one, nothing you do makes any difference. They wear..you…down. It becomes difficult to focus through the din. They get under your skin, you start to believe them.
Oh, and they love it when you’re tired. They’ll prey on your every insecurity, tell you you’re weak. Of course this is really a neutral statement if you think about it. So what if you’re weak? We’re all weak, we’re all strong. It will only get you if you don’t like weakness in yourself, which they know you don’t.
You can be sure you’re getting close to a breakthrough when they pull out all the stops and go after that which you hold most dear. They undermine your mothering, your wifing, attack your creativity. They’ll go until they find the hook that catches you. Worst of all, they might succeed in scaring you out of whatever was growing. How many creative projects have been aborted, or relationships distanced by the power of the negative voices?
Every change brings a new ending, something left behind. The little men know when you’re breaking away. If you keep walking forward, through them, past them, they know it’s their end. The jig is up. Being loud and brutal is their last ditch effort to save themselves.
“Do not walk these woods in fear,” a shamaness warns her client before a psychic journey. I recommend the same when your brain is being seriously taken over by the men at the keyboard.
Maybe it is as simple as the instructions in my student’s dream: think a higher thought (like the word ‘kindness’ or ‘compassion’, or ‘God’). Repeat a personally meaningful mantra. Quote an ancient mystic or saint. Or recite the scripture my student was reminded of in the dream: “God did not make me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Focus through the din for a truer voice, one that will never lie to you. Send the little men scurrying with their keyboard, exposed for the fake, manufactured things they are. The jig is up, boys.
Carry on your good work anyway, for the benefit of all.