I'm reading a really good book: Making a Change For Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline. The author, Cheri Huber, starts out by talking about the conditioning we go through as children, absorbing the ‘rules’ about what’s OK and not OK in our family, in the neighborhood, at school, and so on. She shows how we’re in a fairly constant state of self-checking about what’s allowed and not allowed in any given situation. For example, when you came to this blog a tiny, but immediate conversation took place in your mind about whether or not it was “OK” to be visiting a self-help blog and what that “means” about you and could you “justify” it. Right? Those verification-type conversations occur constantly and are super-quick — but also super-powerful. They influence, and even dictate, our behaviors.
Now, that’s not really a new concept to any of us — the idea that we’re uncertain what’s allowed (normal) in any given situation. However, what Cheri offers that was completely new to me, was the idea of that voice in our head having a persona. She refers to it as The Voice (and there’s a cartoon character associated with it). We’re all going through our days grappling with The Voice. The Voice influences how we order our coffee and form an opinion about how the barista treats us, how the bus driver greets us (or doesn’t), etc. And on, and on, throughout the day. But – here’s what blew my mind and gave me a huge AH HA moment: The Voice isn’t just one persona. No. There are actually several personas embodied by The Voice in our heads (our conditioned minds). Depending on the situation, a particular persona, or sub-personality, is invoked.
What are, for me, The Voice’s sub-personalities? Let’s see. There’s the optimist, the daughter, the step-daughter, the sister, mother, loyalist, reader, writer, art lover, animal lover, philosopher, recover-er, crusader, the motherless daughter, the adult child of addicts, spiritual person, the drill Sargent, black-and-white thinker, fault-finder, abandoned child, Buddhist, the divorcee, single mom, the blogger, and…many more to discover. Some have complimentary voices, but most don’t.
When I wake up in the morning, several sub-personalities speak at once through The Voice.
“What did you dream…let’s recall your dreams and feel magical,” says the Spiritual Person.
“You must post to your blog today! And finish editing Fenella’s chapter! And shower! And be on time!” says the Drill Sargent.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re not going to get fired if you’re late. Be present. Breathe.” says the recover-er and Buddhist-leaner.
But, you and I both know that probably ALL the voices take their turn yelping or whispering at me — particularly in the morning. I get up when, finally, I need to escape the cacophony or because a sweet, kind voice resonates with me.
There’s a fun exercise at the end of the second chapter, which I’ll excerpt here because it’s useful and fascinating. And easy.
As a parent, as I do this exercise, I am keeping in mind that I have a lot of influence on the voices that my son stockpiles, and for helping him navigate the difference between societal expectations and his own, developing ones and for using his own litmus test for authenticity.