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Friday
Oct312014

The Voice in My Head Is an Asshole

This is such a great line. I read it in this wonderful book by Dan Harris, 10% Happier which speaks about incorporating mindfulness meditation into your life.

This is not a book review. However, I can relate too much of what the author describes, particularly his tendency to have an incessant ongoing dialogue in his head that tends to do more harm than good. I guess we all have this experience in one form or another.

We may call it our “inner dialogue,” “self-talk,” “conscience,” or, for those in recovery, “The Addict” (more to come on this concept).  Many of us have always felt its presence and have come to accept it as our internal critic or narrator. In fact many credit this “voice” with pushing them forward towards success.  Unfortunately for many of us this voice is no friend; it is a tormentor.

Pay attention to what you say to yourself even over the course of one day. Listen carefully to yourself from the moment you open your eyes and become conscious in the morning. I am willing to bet that at least some of what you say is self-critical or negative.

Maybe your voice comments on how you look how you behave and what you say. Maybe your voice observes your environment and comments upon others, or takes a global view and has something to say about religion, politics or whatever the news story of the day is. Listen to your voice and chances are, I’m sorry to say, it is an asshole.

I suspect that your voice has little good to say about you, your environment or the world.  Worse, it pits you against others by way of comparison. Think of walking down the street. Isn’t your voice commenting on how other people look or act, and comparing you to them? You look so much better than that one; you’ll never look as good as that other.  This one looks happier, sexier, more successful or more fashionable than you. On and on it goes.

I am here to tell you that you don’t need to live this way, allowing this inner asshole to make you feel bad.  Here is my handy 3 step process:

1-Start by becoming more aware of your internal dialogue. This takes time and practice because we are so used to it that often we tune it out, even though its messages continue to be picked up.  You may have to start with small chunks of time. Listen to what you say when you open your eyes in the morning or get ready or drive your car or prepare supper. Focus on specific times and eventually you will become more aware in a general sense.

2-Develop some reasonable expression of self-talk that you may begin to insert into your daily life as a means to counter-act the asshole voice. If “I Love Myself” sounds too corny, something like “I am a good person’ “I accept myself”  “I am capable” can be a start. There are oodles of suggested sayings/mantras online.

3-Practice meditation. I talk to people about meditation and teach people basic principles every day. I will not attempt to do that here, but I will explain why meditation is the remedy to your asshole voice. Meditation helps slow down the body and breathing and as a result helps clear the mind.  If you meditate regularly and consistently I promise you, you will feel increased levels of serenity, and be visited by your asshole voice much less often. Not only will the frequency and force of your inner dialogue (asshole) decrease, but you will become much more detached from, and more of an observer of, your thoughts than a victim of them.

 

“The Addict”

For those who struggle with addictive behaviors or substance misuse, this inner voice can be even more detrimental and possibly life threatening. A common framework in recovery is to conceptualize “The Addict’ (sometimes called “My Addict”) as a separate and distinct entity that resides within oneself. This is very useful because it speaks to the many parts of us. It is a way for a person to identify as an “addict” but also be much more.  Let’s face it, most addicts have a part of themselves that wants to use and a part that does not. Work in treatment often focuses on fostering a conflict between these two sides with an eventual positive change in behavior as a result.

So for people with addictions, their asshole voice becomes “The Addict.”  The Addict does not want a person to stop the addictive behaviors, does not want them to have happy, productive, healthy, fulfilling lives with quality relationships. The Addict always wants to pull them back into the hole of addiction and the longer a person has experience with the former and not the latter, the less of a pull the Addict has. However, people in recovery conceptualize the Addict as always there lurking and waiting to strike, thus the importance of diligence and vigilance. Recovery is an active process of daily growth.  In recovery group meetings there is an expression; “While you were at meetings your addict was doing push-ups.” This serves as a reminder not to let your guard down.

It is no coincidence that one of the 12-steps, step 11, suggests incorporating prayer and meditation into your daily routine. Way back in 1939 when the steps were written, the founders knew about the asshole voice and how to deal with it. We in everyday society are now just catching on.

So I hope that you will take some time to pay attention to your incessant internal dialogue. If you do, you may find that it is not your friend but in fact your foe. If so, I suggest that you do something about it, because you deserve better. And if you have addiction issues, that asshole has become your Addict.  Living daily in the solution of recovery as opposed to the problem of addiction, can keep it at bay.

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