Those voices in our heads

Emotional baggage is a package deal. The luggage from past history comes with opposing voices in our minds at no extra charge. We get to listen to all that conflicting advice for as long as we keep our baggage intact. In my experience, they disappear when we make peace with our past and become true to deeper selves.

Those voices in our minds typically take opposing stances on issues with our personal danger. They usually advocate flight and fight reactions to anything threatening to our well being. One argues to fit in, get along with others and stop being so self centered. The other says to stick up for yourself, stand your ground and stop selling out to conformity pressures. These voices speak as if we are clueless idiots who fail to look out for our own safety. They become highly agitated when situations appear as set-ups for physical harm, sexual violations, emotional trauma or spiritual abuse. Yet they cannot agree on one reaction and we cannot make up our mind. So instead we get a funny feeling in our gut, lose our motivation in the situation, or get spacey in our minds when were torn between some version of taking flight or taking on a fight.

These voices create the most embarrassment for us when they are in denial. If we don't admit we have a argument running in our minds, we feel like we're wearing hot buttons that others push deliberately or inadvertently. When someone says something that speaks like one side of our inner conversation, we blush, lose our train of thought and stammer. Once we accept that we've got baggage that comes with lots of these inner arguments, we can smile knowingly when someone advocates or opposes one of the positions taken by voices in our mind.

Therapists have developed many different methods for getting out of denial and into familiarity with each of our many voices. Each of these techniques involves talking with an inner voice to learn more about it's intentions, fears and view of us. When can imagine the conversation in our minds, write it out as a dialogue or talk it out with puppets or an empty chair. When we have learned what a particular voice wants, we can present other points of view to it and discover how it reacts. In the process of all this dialogue, we separate our own identity from the various voices. We establish, in our own minds, being someone independent of these conflicting voices. We realize we can choose which to follow or formulate some less polarized alternatives. We prove to those voices and to ourselves that we are not clueless idiots who fail to look out for our own safety.

This series of negotiations with voices in our minds can free up our emotional baggage. It becomes evident that we are no longer living the past, pretending to be the same person as back then, or still attached to how we saw everything from our previous perspective. We have proven how we deserve more self respect, confidence and freedom from lingering self-imposed limitations. We are a new person that can let go of that old baggage and get a fresh start on living the lives we're meant to experience.


  1. Kia ora Tom

    The voices are always there. Some of them talk of our baggage - some talk of our triumphs and successes - some just talk.

    One way of letting the voices out is by talking about what they say, if we can put what they say into words. The psychologists know about this.

    Another way is by writing down what the voices say. Some psychologists use this too. But authors and poets also use this, some to good return, and they give the inner voices the outlets.

    When it comes to talking about the baggage, "a problem aired is a problem shared."

    When it comes to writing about the baggage the sharing is often not possible but neither is it necessarily needed for positive effect.

    John Donne said, "he tames it that fetters it in verse". It's the thinking about what's to be written that's part of the therapy.

    My personal experience with baggage released through writing is that, once written, the finished article can be tossed into the fire with no destruction of the positive effect that occurred in the writing.

    Inner voices are trying to tell us something, but often just listening to them can serve only to frustrate.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  2. Great advice Ken! what you've described helps explain why many of us bloggers find our writing so therapeutic. We must be working out the unresolved issues in our minds through a series of posts that dance around the elusive issue. We eventually see what was troubling us in a different light, with more perspective and greater insight. Doing this transparently, on public display -- gets out of the navel-gazing, excessive introspection, mere listening -- that you wisely regard as ineffectual. Thanks for the comment!