In college, I was addicted to “Days Of Our Lives”.
My roommate Heidi and I would tape it if we had a class (college was a long time ago) and watch it almost every day.
Around my junior or senior year, there was as storyline about Dr. Laura Horton resuming her psychiatric practice after being in a catatonic state for many years and setting up shop in a new office.
(This seemed much more plausible when I was younger.)
In the new office, she started hearing voices. Turns out, her office was painted with hallucinogenic paint.
(Do they sell that at Sherwin Williams?)
The story was really entertaining until I realized that I heard voices, too.
Not out loud, but in my head.
Before you start worrying about my mental health, let me point out that I think most of us hear voices in our heads. The voices go something like this:
“Why is your house so messy? You’re a slob.”
“If you really had your sh%t together, you wouldn’t be late all the time.”
“Only a really bad friend would be jealous of her friend’s new relationship.”
“Why did I ever think I could get that promotion? I was stupid to get my hopes up.”
For whatever reason, humans seem wired to have a hateful and mean monologue in our heads.
It’s like the Wicked Witch Of The West became a DJ and is spinning up gloom and doom on your own personal Pandora station.
Dial a New Station
But just like the music we listen to, we also have a choice with the voices in our heads.
We can listen to them or we can change the station.
When we are in a good frame of mind, the negative voices are obvious and we change the station immediately.
But there are other times, like when we are feeling tired or stressed, where it is tough to know if the voices in our heads are the voice of truth or the voice of The Wicked Witch Of The West.
Here are 3 criteria I use to know whether or not I need to change the station in my head:
1. Is this thought true?
This first question comes from The Work of Byron Katie. I have referenced it before in other posts (and you can click here for more details), but I think it’s worth mentioning again.
Many of the negative thoughts that we have swirling around in our heads have no basis in reality. But they do have a basis in fear.
The more fearful we are, the more these negative thoughts will stick to us like soap scum in the tub.
And like soap scum, the fears and negative thoughts can be tough to “scrub” away.
When it is hard to get rid of the negative thoughts, it’s easy for me to start thinking that they must be true.
99.9% of the time, they are not.
It seems too simple to work, but just acknowledging the thought I am having is not true gives me the extra energy I need to keep scrubbing it away.
2. Does this thought help me to grow or become a better person?
The thoughts I want to pay attention to are thoughts that inspire me. Specifically, thoughts that inspire joy, happiness, and compassion.
Unfortunately, when I am having a bad day, the only actions my thoughts inspire are to complain, cry or give up.
When I’m in danger or falling over the edge of despair, this piece of mountain biking wisdom comes in handy: “Look where you want to go. Don’t look where you don’t want to go.”
Here’s why: When you are riding a bike, If you fixate on the ditch you don’t want to fall into, you will unknowingly ride right into it because you will steer in the direction you are looking.
In life, we steer in the direction of our thoughts. So you want to choose thoughts that lead to where you want to be.
That’s why it’s critical to make sure our thoughts are helpful, rather than hurtful, toward ourselves and those we love.
3. Would I ever say this out loud to someone else?
Sometimes, I catch myself muttering the words of the voice in my head. Something like “Oh, that letter looks really professional with the typo in it. I can’t believe you were stupid enough to send that out.”
Then I stop and say them a little louder.
When I’m able to pay attention to my thoughts enough to actually say them out loud, it helps me to realize how mean I am being to myself.
And I have made a rule that if I wouldn’t say the words in my head out loud to someone else, I have to “change the station” on my thoughts.
In addition to these three criteria, I have one more tip that I have found helpful to manage the b&tcy voice in my head.
I gave my voice a name and personality. (Here’s where you start thinking I’m crazy again.)
I named my voice Myrna….and she has all of the ruthlessness of Kathy Bates’s character in “Misery”.
When I can visualize a character who embodies the voice, and I can “see” how unhealthy she is, it’s easier to disregard her negative chatter.
We all have days were we feel like the volume is blaring on “Wicked Witch Radio”, but by using these tips I hope you will find it easier to change the station to something more pleasant 🙂
PS- If you know someone who has been listening to Wicked Witch Radio lately, please pass this blog along to them!
PPS- If you live in Austin and would like some in-person help to “change the station” in your head, please join me for my talk “Unstuck and Unstoppable: 7 Steps To Start Living Your Dreams In 2014”. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details!