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Posted Dec 18 2008 7:20pm

In a recent group, we discussed inner voice. It is a difficult concept to grab onto. I keep searching for images to help people connect with this concept. I pulled in a quote from a daily inspiration service and asked everyone to journal.

A day spent judging another is a painful day. A day spent judging yourself is a painful day.  You don't have to believe your judgments: they're simply an old habit.
- The Buddha

The many negative judgments that individuals make about themselves were discussed in the group. Ed is pernicious and pessimistic. He works hard to make people feel bad about themselves. In the discussion, one woman said that her inner voice was like the “whack-a-mole” game. That stopped me for a moment. But when she shared her thoughts, they gave me such a visual image; I knew that I’d have to share it here.

She described her inner voice as trying to tell her positive things. But whenever it pops up, Ed, like the big whacking hammer of that game, tries to mash it down. He makes her inner voice duck back in and hide. But like the game when the moles keep popping their heads out, her inner voice can’t stay silenced. It pops out again and shares more positive beliefs. It dodges Ed’s pounding hammer. But it has to hide again when he delivers a blow. In and out. Hide and seek. Her inner voice might have to hide from Ed, but it’s not gone forever. It’s still there.

We made a “Whack-a-mole” list of positive things her voice would say. The list included: “You’re beautiful.” “You can get through this.” You’re unique.” “You’re wonderful.”

Sometimes the concept of inner voice includes our core beliefs. It includes one’s own individual desires which help make life feel complete. Writing is entwined with my inner voice. It was when I listened to a small desire to write, when I pursued it despite setbacks and criticisms, when I found ways to include writing in all aspects of my life, that I started to feel fulfilled, at peace and whole. Maybe that’s part of what inner voice is—what is the puzzle piece that is missing which will help make you feel whole?

You might be trying to push Ed in its place to get him to plug up the hole, but Ed is not your inner voice. He is not part of your deep dreams that whisper to you and tell you who you are in this life. Ed is a chameleon and he’ll try to fit into that spot, but don’t let him fool you. He is there, on guard, ready to whack down on your true inner voice. He is working hard to keep her from being heard. He knows that when you stop and really listen to her, when you include her in your life, when you find those dreams that will help fill that hole inside, then you won’t need him. So he’s whacking and whacking and whacking even harder. Your inner voice will keep dodging. She’ll keep tossing out hints and encouragement, but you’ll have to listen. It will be hard to hear under Ed’s pounding blows. But she’s in there! She’s calling to you. Listen.

Journal about the quote that we used. What judgments do you make about yourself? About others? How do these beliefs affect your life?

What image comes to mind when you think about your inner voice? Can you interview her? Writers sometimes interview their characters to understand who they are and what they want in a story. I’ve done writing exercises in which characters have told me how they feel about their names. They share memories with me that I didn’t know they had. Yes, I know all of it is coming from my mind, my imagination. But sometimes you have to trick parts of your mind to come out and talk, especially when Ed is looming in the picture. So close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and then ask your inner voice, what she would like to be called. What does she hope you’ll be able to discover in life?

Journal about the missing puzzle piece inside. What is the shape of the piece? What color? What kind of picture is it a part of? Is it a corner piece or right smack in the middle?

And in the whack-a-mole game, what positive thoughts would your inner voice pop up to share? What does she want you to know and believe about yourself? If you need to, use the thoughts we discovered in group. Remind yourself that you’re wonderful, you’re beautiful, you’re unique, and you can get through this.

So go on now, go write on!

Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.

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