Everyone talks to themselves. They may not know it because they aren’t paying attention to what they are saying.
When children start to listen to sounds and make up words you will often hear them talking when no one is there. As they grow up the way their parents/ carers talk to them dictate how they talk to themselves. If they hear nurturing words, nurturing tones of voice they are likely to internalize this to create caring inner voices
If they hear criticism, anger or harsh words, what they internalize may cause them to treat themselves in a harsh critical way.
As an adult these voices are often out of consciousness. We don’t hear them because we aren’t looking for them. We feel bad but we don’t know why. With negative voices we push them away so we don’t have to listen to them, then often focus on something more pleasant.
Negative voices can make our lives hell. Nurturing voices help create wonderful lives. It is the troublesome critical voices that we are interested in here, and how we can change their structure to change their meaning to lessen their impact. And we are going to look at different ways of doing this.
Of course before you can do this it’s important to learn to listen for them. This is easy if you are an auditory person, and more of a challenge if you are visual or more aware of feelings or sensations. You can start of by whenever you are feeling bad ask yourself “what am I saying to myself” This may take some time so be patient with yourself.
I am going to talk about some of the ways you can work with a negative voice. A voice will always have a location. When I first started looking at internal voices at an NLP training and I was asked to find a critical voice and point to it I would point to it inside my head. I believed that is the only place it could be located. Developing a bit more awareness and looking into NLP further led me to realize there can be many locations for a voice.
There are several ways you can work with a critical voice. If you are listening to an internal critical voice the chances are the voice is facing you. As an experiment you can imagine the voice turning away from you in the opposite direction and notice the effect this has. Most people will find relief. In the external world an angry voice is less scary if the person is facing away from you, and it is the same with internal voices.
Changing location inside your body. You can also take a voice and move it to another part of your body.Suppose a voice inside your head is uncomfortable. You can experiment by moving this voice to other locations.Perhaps to a knee or foot or elbow ect. to find out what location increases or decreases your tension. Some areas will make the voice more intense and others can give relief. Experiment. Try it and see what happens. ( I know it sounds crazy)
You may find a voice is located outside your body. It took me a while to give up the belief that all voices were inside your head. Often they are not. If you become aware that a negative voice 2 feet in front of you, how would it be if you moved it to the opposite location behind you? If it is on your right move it to your left side and see if that makes a positive difference . If you have a voice above you, what happens if you move it below you? One voice may talk down to you and the other may talk up to you. Both positions may cause problems for you. You may find bringing the voice to eye level makes the voice easier to listen to.
With location comes distance. We know that in the external world a person talking to you from 2 feet away can feel too close and someone talking 30 yards away has less effect on you. So you can experiment with internal criticism by moving it away from you, making it more distant. Move it 10 feet away then 20 then 30 feet. How does that effect you? The chances are it will feel less tense and easier for you to handle the further away you move it.
I know what I am suggesting can feel alien to many people. If it is totally new to you it is worth putting aside doubt to “play” with these ideas. As I have found myself, trying too hard inhibits results and may cause resistance, so you really need a relaxed “lets try it an see” attitude.
The difference between “I Am” and “you are.” Some voices will say “I am stupid” while others will say “you are stupid”. The “I am” voice identifies with you, feeling more like it is part of you. While a “you are” voice is talking to you. It is more dissociated and there is a separateness there. You can take an “I am” voice and change it into a “you are” voice to find out if that dissociation reduces the voices intensity and gives you more breathing room.
Whose voice is this? If you listen closely to a voice ie listen to volume, tempo, tone, and the words used you may find clues to whose voice it is. ( A voice has to come from somewhere ) A voice can be an anchor of much information, and as you listen, unconscious associations may reveal themselves consciously at the time or in the near future.
Adding an image to the speaker. When investigating a difficult voice you can ask yourself “whose voice is this?” Then you can look at all the possibilities until you find one that really fits and add that persons image to the voice, or more often, an image will come to you spontaneously. I have a voice slightly to my right of me at eye level. As I listened the face of the speaker showed itself ( My father). Seeing the image can make a voice easier to work with and can bring more information to consciousness.
Adjusting location of an image. Often an image makes a voice easier to change. You can turn the image away from you so it is not talking directly to you. You can move it above you and then below you or move it to eye level to see where is best to have the image. It may be easier to push the image into the distance than just the voice itself. It may also be easier to talk to a voice when you know whose voice it is and you can see that person.
Changing Volume can relate to distance and location. Almost everyone has had the experience of turning volume down on a TV, Radio, or Computer. What you can do in the external world you can do internally. It’s called a reference experience. How could you turn down the volume in your mind if you hadn’t done it for real? So why not take a troublesome voice and turn the volume up and down to see how that affects you. If you can’t do it yet put the voice in an imaginary radio then change the volume. You can create imaginary nobs that change volume. Make them as real as possible. So real you can touch them. As distance is connected to volume the further away you move a voice the quieter it is likely to become. Try it and see. You can imagine the voice in another room with the doors and windows shut. That will likely quiet a voice, and allow you to respond better to it.
You may not always want to weaken the intensity of a voice. Suppose you have a confident voice that makes you excited. With any positive voice you can use your skills to strengthen that voice. So what you learn about a negative voice can be applied to making a positive voice more powerful. So Pump up the volume. Bring the voice closer. Make the image brighter, larger or more colorful if it helps. Just don’t try too hard.
What happens when you want to install a voice with a positive message to counter a negative voice? I have often found positive affirmation ineffective. If you have an internal message ” I hate myself ” or “your horrible ” and you find positive affirmations that are opposite ie “I love myself ” or ” Your wonderful ” it is likely that the messages will conflict because the new positive is coming up against the “reality” of the old unconscious message. This can only make the old deep rooted message stronger. If you change ” I love myself “to “I can learn to love myself ” you are no longer in opposition to the old voice. ” You are horrible ” can be replaced with ” I am learning to be a more caring person ” Or what ever fits without causing conflict. It is important that two messages don’t clash because the old unconscious message will always win because it is likely a deep rooted belief. Probably a better way is to weaken the old message first and replace it with a more positive message. By weakening the old one enough there can be no conflict.
When a voice doesn’t want to change to something better. Often people make a change that doesn’t hold and goes back to its original location. vol ect. If so, there is likely a part of you that has a genuine concern. Perhaps you need to use language that implies change is happening ie “Soon you may notice that voice comfortably fixing itself in that new improved location ” “and all parts of you can allow that change to become long lasting ” “and that voice easily makes the change you desire ” If a change in language hasn’t worked perhaps you need to talk to the voice or the part that controls the voice to find its positive intention. Imagining talking to the voice as a person makes this easier. When a critical voice wants to protect you, it’s unlikely that you will listen to it if it is harsh and puts you down. You may need to explain to it what kind of voice your more likely to listen to, so it has good reason to change. This may sound a bit weird if you are unfamiliar with parts therapy, but it has been proven time and time again to be effective. If change is still proving difficult you may need a Therapist or Hypnotherapist who works with voices to help you find what is holding you back. Sometimes you need help.
Developing skills takes time. It can take time to develop any ability and practice and repetition are required. Some people are familiar with voices, while others haven’t tuned into them yet and don’t know they exist. Have patience and practice practice practice and you will learn more about yourself and others.
These are just a few ways of working with critical voices. I hope you find them interesting. If you go into anything with a critical attitude it is unlikely you will find success. You have to be open to experimenting, trying things out to see what happens.