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Which One Of Those Voices In Your Head is Yours

Which One Of Those Voices In Your Head is Yours

“And I’m all mixed up again. Which way should I go? So many voices in my head…” – Inhabited

Did you ever have so many voices in your head that you had no idea which one was yours? I know the drill. The more serious the decision, the more voices that show up to confuse you. Who do these voices belong to?

Running away from problems

In my mid twenties I had so many voices in my head and was so sick and tired of the way they talked to me and confused me, that I decided to try and leave them behind. Literally.

So I went to Europe. Alone. I needed to get that far away to try and shut them down. Now I understand that it’s not feasible for most people, so bear with me. You do not actually have to go anywhere to begin to figure this out.

Nonetheless, desperate moments call for desperate actions and at that time, I was desperate. So, I flew from Philadelphia to London one cold December night. Within a couple of hours of landing I was standing in Picadilly Circus all alone in a crowd of people. Cell phones were virtually non-existent. Despite my exhaustion and jet lag, I was elated.

I stood there quietly, just absorbing my surroundings, and my mind was the quietest it had ever been. I felt free. Where did those voices go?

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We soak up so many versions of how our life should be

From the time we are too small to even remember, we have information coming into our brains. We are sponges soaking up everything going on around us. We have Moms and Dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents, siblings, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, television programs and even peers…all telling us how life is, how we should be behaving and what is expected of us.

We just take it all in, all the while attempting to make sense of it so we can figure out how it applies to our lives. Many of those voices, unfortunately, come from a distorted world view, at best. Sometimes those voices are just blatantly damaging.

Nonetheless, as kids, we usually believe those voices are truth. Often times, if we don’t comply with those voices we pay a price. Punishment can be a powerful motivator, especially when you are a dependent, powerless child.

It’s called survival. So we internalize a whole slew of voices and opinions and they become the “shoulds” dictating our lives.

Those “shoulds” don’t belong to us. We inherited them from someone else. So when you tell yourself you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something. Ask yourself why. Before you make that final decision, it would be helpful to figure out whose voice you are listening to…or at the very least, if it is yours.

Shift your focus to find your own voice

The place to find your one true voice will not be found in your head. It will be found in your heart. That means you have to shift your focus. Move out of your head and focus on your heart. If you did not have all those voices in your head telling you what to do or not to do or why you should or shouldn’t do something….what would you do? What do you want?!

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If you are answering, “I don’t know” then you may still be engaged in the conflict between your head and your heart. Try again….in the ideal world, without a millions reasons or excuses, what would you do?

I remember trying to make a difficult employment decision. I was working as an RN for a law firm. It was a nice gig. I had been there for five years. I liked what I was doing, despite having grown bored with it. I was paid a decent salary. I got along great with my employers and co-workers. I was good at what I did. I was respected. I had flexibility. I could take extended lunch hours, if needed. They took us on a trip to Jamaica. Who could ask for more?

I was considering returning to patient care, specifically hospice care. I had interviewed with a local hospice organization out of curiosity. I was offered a position. My brain went into overdrive. The voices in my head were relentless.

“What if you hate it?” “You will never get this flexibility in another job…certainly, no one is going to take you on an all expense paid island get-away.” “What are you thinking?” “Working with dying people…really?!” “Why would you leave a good job for something you know nothing about?” And so it goes, on and on and on…

I was paralyzed, afraid of making the “wrong decision”. I paced around my house, tormenting myself. I avoided talking to anyone about it, already having enough opinions roaming aimlessly through my head.

Legal work to hospice care was a huge and terrifying leap. After almost two weeks of grappling with it, I was no closer to making a decision. I was trying to figure it all out in my head and I was getting nowhere, but frustrated. Suddenly, during my second week of pacing around my home, losing in my head, I stopped suddenly.

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I stood still in a spare bedroom of my house. I unknowingly shifted my focus out of my head and asked myself, “What do you want to do?” The answer was clear, “I want to do hospice care.” The next silent question was, “So what is the problem?” Again, the answer was clear, “I’m scared.”

In understanding why I was unable to make a decision, I realized that I wanted to make the move, but fear of the unknown was stopping me. The voices stopped. I knew what to do.

Listen to your heart

Those voices in my head were all the well intended, nonetheless, fearful voices of my youth. They came from parental and societal expectations of what employment life “should” look like. They were all the practical, well-advised opinions that keep many from finding their true purpose.

I resigned from the law firm and within a month, I was doing hospice care. That life changing decision was a stepping stone to my current career as a psychotherapist. It was while doing hospice care that I realized I was better with the psychological and spiritual side of life than the physical.

My heart knew what my head did not. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Had I stayed in my head and ignored my heart, I might still be trudging through life. Though I may still be doing something worthwhile and honorable, it would be, nonetheless, unfulfilling.

Now, please understand, we need our heads to help us navigate life. Our heads have to work through the practical part of what we are doing. We need our heads and our hearts to work in conjunction with each other in order to make our decision work.

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But when we are making a decision about what is best for our life, the heart needs to lead. The mind is fearful.

Once you make the jump, your are heading on a journey towards your heart’s desire

Although not necessary, it can help to consider to whom those voices in your head belong. Who were the naysayers? Who told you what life was “supposed” to look like? How have parental or societal expectations dictated the life you are living? What fear has been projected on to you?

Whenever your mind is in overdrive…fear is involved. Hesitate, and ask yourself, “what am I afraid of?”

In asking myself that question, I discovered I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of regret. I was afraid I would be a lousy hospice nurse. I was afraid of facing death, not only that of others, but more importantly, my own. I could not disconnect from my own mortality and still help others grapples with theirs.

But I also knew that in desiring it, my heart was leading me to the place that was most right for me. As long as I follow the desires of my heart, I usually, likely always, land right where I am supposed to. I stayed there two years before feeling another pull at my heart, telling me it was time to move on. Each step leads to the next…and to the next and to the next.

Take that first step and you might actually discover, you are creating the life you want.

Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 65.media.tumblr.com

More by this author

Sandra Cooper

Psychotherapist

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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