Perhaps it was the culture of the 60’s and 70’s in the UK, perhaps it was my family culture, but I grew up with a lot of shaming, blaming and ridicule in my family of origin, school and peers. A common saying in my house was, “Look who’s talking!” or “You’ve got no room to talk, you’re just as bad!”. It wasn’t safe to voice an opinion because of the put down (or shut up) remark it invited, which was meant to whip us into shape and keep us in-line (and quiet!).
I am a meditation novice and am frequently distracted with thoughts during meditation. Whilst meditating today those words came to me in a different way and I wondered ‘who’ actually was talking! This distancing and separating from our thoughts and observing them can be very useful.
We talk to ourselves constantly. It’s normal – it’s called thinking! Research claims that we think between 50 – 80,000 thoughts per day! And even so called, positive and successful people, it’s estimated that 70% of it is negative! So, it’d be handy to notice what these thoughts are saying to us and ‘who’s’ voice this is.
There are many parts to the Self, that unique person each of us are. I’m not talking about split personalities or a mental health disorder of any kind (although if you have one that’s ok too), but rather different aspects of our psyche, the variety of ways of thinking and responding that we all have within us.
Here are some examples, see if you can identify with any of them:
- The Inner Critic –the voice we beat ourselves up with (usually originating from a parent or care-giver in the past)
- The Inner Child – usually a wounded part where historic emotions are kept, especially abandonment, fear and the need to be loved
- The Inner Teenager – that rebellious part that just doesn’t want to comply. (I know if I want something, even if it’s not good for me, my Inner Teen will often kick up a stink!)
- The Nurturing Parent – a part that needs developing which can help heal and integrate the other parts, a kind, compassionate voice that talks to us like a nurturing parent would. (Even if we didn’t have one, we can imagine)
- The Inner Addict – often will lead us into unhealthy behaviours that are difficult to control
- The Ego – thinks it is in control or wants to be, claims it knows best, is competitive and always wants to be right
- The Higher Self/Spirit – this can be called whatever you like to call it; God, Source Energy, the Universe, a Higher Power – this is the pure untainted part of us that we all have inside, our pure essence that is underneath all the conditioning, abuse and other stuff that we take onboard or that gets dumped on us
Perhaps there are others you recognise within yourself?
In psychological terms, thinking about your thinking is called ‘metacognition’ and in order to change your beliefs, thoughts, behaviours and moods (and they are all linked and influence each other) you need to cultivate this skill. Spiritual practices and literature, such as meditation, invite us to observe our thoughts without judgement or attachment to them. This is mindfulness.
Asking yourself ‘who’ is talking without judgement, starts to raise your awareness about what and ‘who’ is motivating you. When we are unaware of the thoughts and motivations that drive us, we are like a leaf tossed about by the wind. When we react instead of respond – it could be that some historic or unhealed wound is triggered and we are living in auto-pilot, not consciously (more about triggers in future posts). Developing this skill of observing ‘who’ is talking or wanting to react, is a worthwhile exercise that becomes more natural with practice and can help to sift and sort through things before or after making a decision (and perhaps avoid a train wreck!)
It is always useful to STOP before you respond to any situation and check-in with yourself about where you feel compelled to respond from, e.g., is it your Inner Critic, your wounded Inner Child or is it motivated by our Higher Self? The responses will be very different!
When you react automatically, what happens? Is it a good outcome?
Often it is not.
The S.T.O.P. acronym is a useful tool. This one is adapted from the man who made mindfulness a household word, Jon Kabat-Zinn.
S – Stop – pause before you respond
T – Think – take a few deep breaths
O – Observe – your bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings (including ‘who’ is wanting to respond)
P- Proceed with more awareness
I’d love to read about your thoughts and experiences with these tools and concepts.
Remember, we are all in this thing called Life together, learning and growing and, hopefully, becoming more of our true selves every day.
Comments and questions are welcome.
Words by Karen Lighthouse.
I also offer –
- One-on-one counselling/coaching via Zoom
- Mental health education
- Group facilitation
- Oracle card readings