What Voices Do You Listen To?



My friend, Kathy, writes a wonderful blog as Lake Superior Spirit.

She had posted recently about a mental dialogue, where her “inner voice” was being a bit of a harp, providing her with thoughts of how she should and should not spend her morning. The “universe” gave her the go-ahead to do what she wanted, and what she felt was right.

I know exactly what she means by “universe” though she says the word sometimes sends the wrong message.

I think we all know that deep, resonating, to-the-heart feeling that lets us know we are on the right track…that hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-raising feeling that assures us we have just heard a profound truth…that blessed calm that comes from the alignment of our world. If we’re smart, we pay attention when those feeling occur.

Still, I am skeptical. I wonder, for instance, if youth in Hitler’s Germany felt the hairs on the back of their necks rise up when they heard him speak, and thought – because of it – that they were chosen. I think of the “Son of Sam” killer, and what he did because he thought God told him to. Mass murderers and despots aside, I have given myself some indescribably horrible haircuts when moved by feelings that it was the absolute right thing to do. How could something that felt so right go so very wrong? I don’t know.

In any case, I told Kathy that her “inner voice” sounded a lot like my [trying to be a better person] self and her “universe” much like my [slacker] self. She said they usually had opposite roles, and that she’s learned what to pay attention to. It made me think about what voices I hear, and what I listen to.

There are, of course, many voices running through my head (and I hope I’m not alone as I just realized that, if I don’t have company in this, I have just made myself sound pretty crazy!). Some are hold-overs from my childhood; others come from places of fear or insecurity that I have left mostly behind; some are playful, cynical, judgmental and more.

They fall predominantly into three categories.

Freud called them id, ego and super-ego, I think. Mine may be different in scope than his. To avoid any misunderstanding, or possible lawsuit, I’m calling mine Boss Voice, Adult Voice and Child Voice.

Boss Voice is the one that reasons “because I said so” or “because that’s the way it has always been done”. Boss Voice is rigid; it does not challenge the status quo. Listening to that voice – when it matters – feels like the opposite of listening to the universe. It feels sour and cowardly, bitter and wrong.

Boss Voice rarely affects my life anymore. I challenged rules when I was growing up. I continued questioning as an adult. My daughters challenged me further. Nothing is credible only because it’s always been so. Every idea needs to prove its merit to stand.

My daughters would argue. They would say I am very rigid. They would note that I will not embarrass myself by singing in public. I refuse to be thrown into Lake Michigan or even splashed with its icy cold waters; I insist on taking a full hour and a half to get wet to my navel, if need be. They would cite my clothes-folding techniques as absolute proof of my inflexibility. I can picture them nodding vehemently at this statement.

They are wrong.

I am undoubtedly very particular about how I fold clothes. It is only because, after trial and error, I have learned what works. I don’t like to iron, and it can usually be avoided with proper folding. I also take into consideration the size of the drawer, shelf or cupboard that the items need to fit into. My bath towel folding has evolved over the years from “twice in half from the length, then into thirds with the binding out” to “twice in half from the length, then twice in half from the width, with the binding out” to – presently – “once in half from the length, then into thirds from the width, then in half again lengthwise, binding out”…because that is how they best fit on the shelf. That is not blindly following a rule! That is evolving with necessity and the times! That is Adult!

Adult Voice is the one that knows what needs to be done, and harps incessantly at me until I do it. It wakes me in the middle of the night reminding me of impending deadlines or neglected obligations. It haunts me when I sit down at the computer, or pick up a book or magazine to read. It makes me feel guilty when I choose a leisurely bath over a quick shower, a nap over a brisk walk. It is the scourge of my days…and it is my salvation. I would be lost without it. I would quickly devolve into the slothful, disorganized, scatter-brained 12-year-old that is still a huge part of my personality. Evident, always, in Child Voice.

Petulant, silly, sarcastic and playful, the child in me is at the heart of my creativity, joy and hopefulness. The Child Voice is the one singing loudly to distract me from all the “should”s and “shouldn’t”s in my life. It is saying “what if you don’t?” to everything I think I need to do. It is also the voice that encourages me to ignore the pattern, experiment with the recipe, forget what has already been done and forge my own path. It is both a curse and a blessing.

Sometimes, I look around and know, from the clutter and disorder, that I’ve listened too much to Child Voice. Other times I know, from my sense of despondency, that I have been living too much in only the Adult world. Most times, all of it works. Adult gets me up and cleaning house; Child turns it into a game. Child makes wild messes in the studio; Adult organizes it into art. Adult keeps me on top of my obligations. Child makes obligations fun!

What voices do you listen to?


15 responses »

  1. This post is simply amazing, I love your insight! Your analogy of the voices as the Boss Adult and Child fit perfectly. I’m entranced by the idea of metacognition (thinking about thinking). I recently realized that not everyone can identify their thinking patters, or in this case, their inner voices. To have the ability to comprehend how your own mind works is a very mature and acquired skill- I’m trying to improve that in myself! Thanks so much for this post, it really got me thinking!

    • Thank you so much for these comments! I did narrow it down quite a bit…Boss Voice is also fearful, closed-minded, bigoted; Child Voice is the one that fuels my self-pity and wants to shout, “not fair!” I thank Kathy for getting me thinking in depth about this, and your feedback gets me thinking even more. Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  2. Cindy, I agree with all4autotelic — amazing! How wonderful that your Adult Voice and your Child Voice have found a way to exist in harmony, and that Boss is no longer the boss of you! (And don’t worry — you’re not the only one!)

    • Well, unfortunately, I’m probably not as harmonious as I let on…but I have learned to compensate for my indulgences. If I sit in front of the computer all morning, I’d better get really busy later. As for that Boss Voice, I think most of us have taken a close look at old notions, and set aside the ones that no longer fit in our lives or in this world. The rare exception – hearing someone spout thoughtless rhetoric or bigotry – is always a sad surprise. Thank you for reading, Kate, and for your comments!

  3. I read Kathy’s post and now yours – you guys are just so deep. I’m very familiar with the id, ego, and super ego, and also the elusive “universe.” I’m not really sure if I can define what voice I listen to, but for one to have the courage to look inward when something is amiss is a very good thing in my book.

    • I’ve always been one of those people that dwell on things. Even as a child I was a thinker. I don’t know that it has ever given me an advantage in life, nor even made me more capable or knowledgeable…but I live with it. Thanks for reading, Sara, and for your comments!

  4. What a great post! I LOVE posts like this! *big wide grin* But you knew that, didn’t you? You would probably have enjoyed the Voice Dialogue workshop that I attended in Chicago about eight years ago. It was so valuable in identifying the different voices. It is a scary thought to think about the Hitler Youth and others who have been indoctrinated in hate and exclusion not having an inner voice of conscience that knew right from wrong. I can usually (or so I think) recognize yes from no, but sometimes don’t have the energy or conviction or ability to go the way that feels like the true way. For example, can often feel that the cup of coffee is not the best way to go, but the desire feels like a strong force that insists on its way, almost like a 2 year old child. Then it feels like suffering. So glad you chose to write this. Great thoughts, Cindy.

    • Well, yes, I thought you might like this post, Kathy! I couldn’t figure out how to link to your site; I hope just a mention was okay. I think most times, when it’s a decision of coffee or tea, exercise or not, we do know what’s best and either choose it or allow ourselves to be swayed by desire. Bigger issues are what scare me. When it’s something really big, sometimes the pull is so strong, it feels like a power greater than ourselves. It feels perfectly right and necessary, as if “God” or “the Universe” is dictating. I think that is what accounts for followers of charismatic bad guys and inhumane doctrines and other horrors. I think people are inherently good, but still need to remain vigilant and a little bit skeptical of that powerful voice or feeling.

    • Thank you, Tammy! “Wise” appeals to me so much more than “Wacko”, which is the other word that usually comes to mind when one begins talking about listening to voices! It was a fun piece to write. Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  5. I am currently doing a meditation challenge and today’s message was to focus on the way the body reacts to the messages being sent by the mind (or inner voice). After giving it a lot of thought, I am amazed at how my body seems to know which voice I should be listening to.

    I love your labels for your inner voices (better than Freud’s). I suspect my children might think of me an inflexible because of my peculiar ways of doing things, ways that I’ve learned over the years are the most efficient so I can go off and follow my Child Voice once in a while and have some fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes! Exactly! I try to convince my daughters, too, that to have discipline in some areas allows for much more flexibility in others. Doesn’t usually fly with them, though. My older daughter commented, in fact, that I yelled at her just last year for folding clothes wrong. I don’t remember that! Thank you for reading, Robin, and for your comments!

  6. Cindy, I wrote in my last post about watching a motivational speaker in the wee hours of the morning. He was speaking to the subject of your blog. He was saying how often we begin to do something and our inner voice talks us out of it. He was cautioning against letting our ego (his word) talk us out of moving forward out of fear or laziness or lack of self esteem.

    I too, have many voices. In my case I believe the child runs the show a lot, although I’m very responsible in my day to day life. I love to play and much prefer running in the grass to dusting the furniture. However, I dust the furniture because I like a neat house, so the adult is running around in there somewhere. Guess it’s give and take with my multiple me’s.

  7. This post just popped up on your page as a suggestion to read. Wow, 2013! So much time has passed; so many different interior voices clamoring to be heard. ๐Ÿ™‚

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