Whose voice do you hear over and over in your head?
It’s really yours, of course – but whose does it sound like? Your mother, your father, your second-grade teacher, your favorite yoga teacher, Casey Kasem? If you listen closely, do you hear the laugh track of a sitcom, the dramatic fade in of a soap opera, or the fast-paced rhythms of an action movie?
Maybe it changes depending on the day, what you’re doing, who you’re around, or your stress levels. Whatever it is, it’s likely to come from what you’re most often exposed to, and it’s also likely to keep you looping in the same cycles of emotions and thoughts.
I think most of us have constant background noises. We’ve been raised on popular media through tv, radio, books, and computers and probably share some conveniently implanted thematic similarities. Some of them are helpful and some not so much. Some remind us we’re ok and some keep us locked in difficult roles like “victim” or “elitist” or “in control”.
Several years ago when Oprah was still on daytime I recorded her shows and watched them at night. Some days, especially after watching two or more episodes the night before, I had her confident and deliberate voice stuck in my head as a running narrator (“She was a young mother of three, trying her best to hold family life together even as things began to unravel around her. Her feelings of being overwhelmed came to a head one night when, during dinner, not once – not twice – but three times an entire bowl of couscous was overturned onto the carpet by her three-year-old. And it was in that moment, she realized it was time to get a dog.”).
I don’t even watch his show, yet Dr. Phil is a tough one to get rid of, too. Some of his advice from his Oprah appearances is pretty spot on (“How’s that workin’ for ya?!” and “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you!”). I always hear him in his loud Texan drawl.
Whenever I do housework, for some reason various old episodes of Friends run through my mind nonstop. What’s that about?? Because I relate to Monica’s cleaning obsession? I’m really not sure, but I kick ass at Friends trivia…
Whether they come from impersonal media sources or a peer in everyday life, it’s interesting to notice our tapes – the ones played over and over in our heads along with the voices, music, and energy of characters that stick with us. They’re a big part of our subconscious, and deserve a closer look. Are they filling empty space simply as a distraction, or are they slowly, slowly forming us into media-cut cookies?
I want to take back the power in my thoughts.
I want to blow up the noise dam in my consciousness and see what it’s in the way of – to get rid of that mass of interference holding me back from intentional consciousness and instead let my thoughts flow like an unimpeded, quiet stream. I fantasize about a meditation retreat but it’s not on my agenda at present, so I’ve got to figure this out in a way that fits into my daily life.
Per usual, the universe helped me out with this.
In 2011 and 2012 my minivan’s radio wouldn’t work if the outside temp got over 75 degrees, so that meant that here in NC I had no radio for at least half the year or more. The model I drove was from before iPod plug-ins were standard, so I didn’t have the option of music there, either. No matter how many times they looked, the mechanics at the dealer just couldn’t figure it out; they kept suggesting I buy an entire new sound system…
At first I hated not having music available while I drove, which was probably 2 hrs cumulative daily. I felt like a noise addict detoxing. But then I got used to the quieter commuting and really began enjoying the peace it brought. I had more conversations in the car with my kids, I made to-do lists in my head more efficiently and became better organized, and above all the quiet time in the car served as a mental break from my hectic schedule.
Even when the weather cooled down and my radio temporarily worked, I found myself first reluctant and then refusing to turn it on. The voices in my head had become my own again, and it felt better.
Those voices…they’re tricky. They subconsciously lull us into rhythms and patterns and feed our justifications and rationalizations, especially if we consider the voices as authority figures and what we hear them saying is self-serving (positively or negatively). We have to really pay attention to what they’re saying, because things tend to feel more real when we hear other people voice them whether their content is true or not. And in our present media and communication-centered culture, we hear other people talking A LOT.
I have my own repeat buttons to stop pushing. I’m trying to be careful what I tell myself, and even more careful what I tell myself under the cloak of someone else’s voice in my head. A big part of clearing the voices away is separating myself from sources of noise and claiming the quiet more often. It’s in that space I feel the dam has burst and I can finally listen to what I really want to hear and feel connected to the stream underneath all the chatter.
I went onto Facebook yesterday and happened to find a Shel Silverstein excerpt on a post by the yoga studio where I teach that was perfectly in sync with this post I was writing, so I’m sharing it below. Synchronicity, again!! Thanks, Universe.Share