If you want to be guided by your true Soul Voice (or you could say, your heart, God, The Universe, inner wisdom, Source – whatever feels right for you), you need to learn how to quieten your fear-based Ego Voice.
The first step is to identify the voices in your head, so you can distinguish between your fearful Ego Voice and your more authentic self’s Soul Voice. Notice what they say and get to know them. Then choose which to listen to. Don’t let the fear and worry and anxiety about what other people will think take over. Notice what your Ego Voice is saying, how it reacts, what it is scared of, what makes it feel better.
When you know what your Ego Voice is scared of and trying to protect you from you can soothe it. Like a child you can give it the love and safety it deserves without letting it make the decisions.
For example, when it’s late afternoon and I’m in mum mode, having spent the last few hours answering questions, dealing with the kids’ demands, mediating arguments, cajoling children to do their homework and chores, working out what to cook for dinner that is healthy cos I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer this morning, I feel weary and overwhelmed. Mix that with my Perfectionist Mum persona, which believes that I should be able to deal with all this, then my Ego Voice gets pretty loud. It believes that I should have been more organised, better prepared, more resourceful,. It tells me it’s all going wrong and that I’m being a rubbish mum again, and that I should get my act together and stop damaging my children by not doing it right. Notice the words that the Ego loves to use: bigger, better, more; always, again, never; should, ought, have to.
Sometimes the Ego Voice comes to me in words, like I am talking to myself: ‘You are so useless, why are you tired all the time?’ Other times it’s more of a feeling, a sinking in the stomach, a familiar wash of disappointment, anger or shame that needs no words to convey it’s judgement on my worth in the world. In both instances it is difficult to disentangle myself from this powerful Ego Voice. When it speaks to me in my voice, it sounds like me, it is how I’ve been speaking to myself for years, it uses my tone, my language and my goals and dreams as a stick to beat me with. So I believe it. I am totally and utterly hooked and attached to what is being said in my head. I am converted, a faithful follower of my scared and frightened Ego. At other times, when the wash of emotion and pain and shame creeps through my body, my Ego is so in control it doesn’t even need to speak. Instead I can feel it as shame, guilt, disappointment or self-hatred. As Brene Brown says… ‘When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun.’
In these situations nowadays I am quicker to notice what’s going on. I still get carried away by my emotions, my shame and my feelings of inadequacy and failure and have my own tantrum, or run away to my own cave (my bed), and don’t realise what’s happened til I’ve calmed down. That is how powerful our Ego Voice and the emotions it triggers are. But other times – and the frequency of this is increasing – I notice what is going on before I do or say something mean to myself or my family.
As I mentioned before, your Ego Voice does have your best interests at heart, it is just a bit out of date and misguided as to what those best interests are. In fact it could be said that it has your physical and survival interests at heart but not your best emotional and spiritual interests. Remember evolutionarily survival is all about living long enough to procreate, not to find happiness.
There are many ways to reduce the power that your Ego Voice has over you. Mostly they have to do with noticing, employing compassion and practicing a different response.
Firstly we need to get intimately acquainted with your Ego Voice, as we discussed in Habit 2. Knowing your triggers, knowing what your Ego Voice is scared of, what it thinks is a stress or a threat, and what your normal responses are.
For example, my Ego Voice is very concerned about being in control. Not in the typical sense of having control over everything around me; I don’t need to be in charge, telling people what to do, imposing my agenda. It is not worried about my status, or my social power. It is only worried about my ability to cope emotionally in a certain situation, and to help that work my Ego thinks that if I can control certain things then I’ll be much more able to cope with the situation. That sounds complicated I know, because we all have our very own nuanced triggers and coping strategies, and when you know what yours are, you’ll be able to start dealing with them better.
My Ego Voice also worries about everything being just right. It is concerned about this because it hates to be judged negatively and it mistakenly thinks that controlling what other people think of me is within it’s control. Which it isn’t. As the famous saying goes: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” A good philosophy for quietening your Ego Voice I think. We can’t control what goes on inside other people’s heads because they are influenced by all the unique experiences of their lives. You might be worrying about people thinking negatively about you for having a good income, a nice house and a big car and so tend to play down your financial situation. This is useless because how do you know what the beliefs of the people you come in contact are? Some of them will have grown up believing that money is the key to happiness and will be impressed by your seemingly ‘perfect’ life. Other’s may believe that money is the root of all evil and will either judge you automatically harshly, or judge you carefully on how you behave and treat others. Other’s may not give a flying fig how much money you have but judge you on how in thin and fashionable and ‘cool’ you are. Or how kind you are. There are so many variables that it is totally pointless worrying about them, because in the end you are only harming yourself. What you are actually doing is trying to fit in. You are trying to squeeze yourself into a box that will ensure EVERYONE will like you (or at least not judge you harshly). So, instead, you become completely bland and you squash the very character traits and uniqueness that makes you awesome and powerful and most importantly, fully expressed and therefore able to be happy.
So, grab a journal and spend a week getting to know your Ego Voice. Give it a name first. Do you call it your Inner Critic? Gremlin? Monkey Mind? Chimp? Negative Voice? Mrs X from primary school? Ego? Scared Voice? Find something that resonates with you.
Next notice and record the following things, in any order, and not necessarily all at the same time:
- What things does it say?
- Which phrases or insults are its favourite?
- What tone of voice does it use?
- When does it appear?
- What triggers it?
- What makes it get really loud?
- What happens in your body when it is loud?
- How does it make you act?
- What impact does it have on you?
- What impact does it have on those around you?
- How does it make you feel?
- What is listening to it costing you?
- How do you feel when it is loud?
- How do you feel after it has had a tantrum?
- How helpful is it?
- What do you wish it would say instead?
- What could it say that would be more helpful?
- What would you say to a friend if her Ego Voice was saying this to her?