The piece Arianna wrote entitled "Evicting the Obnoxious Roommate in Your Head" inspired me to carry on the conversation by sharing my experiences in getting rid of what I've come to recognize as the "critical inner voice." I first became aware of this universal phenomenon through understanding the brilliant and timely work of Dr. Robert Firestone.
I remember when I was just entering my early teens, I felt extremely critical and self-conscious about my looks, not an uncommon experience, I imagine, for most teenagers. I was often bombarded with mean thoughts toward myself, such as, "you don't fit in," "you have a giant nose," "and "you're too hairy." These attacks directed my life. By the time I graduated high school I had changed schools 12 times and felt awkward throughout, because I was listening to this insidious voice. I hated being photographed, was embarrassed and afraid that my thoughts were accurate, and that the pictures would expose the giant focal point this voice was criticizing me for. Rarely did I wear a bathing suit without a towel wrapped around my waist for fear of revealing what my internal attacker described as "hairy man legs." These are only a few examples of the incessant critical voice at that time.
Years later, after reading and understanding the book "Voice Therapy" by Robert Firestone, I decided to challenge these mean attacks. Firstly, I had to recognize where these voices came from. Were they my own thoughts about myself or were they thoughts that I had come to believe were mine? When I listened carefully to them, it seemed that they came to me in the second person, as someone else telling me negative things about myself. Some of them were so familiar as though I had actually heard them being said to me.
In fact, one day it became glaringly clear that one of the attacks I mentioned above came directly from my mother. I remember her being critical of my nose saying, "When you're old enough, make sure you marry someone with money so you can afford to get a nose job!" It is no wonder I've carried this voice around with me for years. As an adult, it actually influenced me to seek advice from a plastic surgeon, who said I shouldn't do anything, and that my nose was normal. In working through this issue, I started to see that these attacks came from many places: my parents, friends who may not have been the best of companions, teachers and the different cultures I was raised in.
So once I understood this alien point of view toward myself, I had to expel it! It has been extremely helpful to make the voice conscious. For example, when berating myself for being outspoken in a social situation, I've come to recognize that I'm attacking myself. I then separate myself from the berating commentary and try to discern its source. Lastly, I answer back to it from my own point of view, which is more realistic and congenial toward me. I verbalize these statements aloud to a friend, write them down and take actions that contradict them. I've also learned that sometimes without the venom, these voices may have a bit of truth to them that I can use to develop personally but with compassion and understanding, not with malice and brutality.
Arianna's referring to the voice as the "obnoxious roommate" provided the impetus for writing this poem...
My "Obnoxious Roommate"
I live with a perpetual companion
An unremitting voice in my head
I've known her since I could think on my own
This roommate and I are wed.
Not by choice are we inseparable
God knows I've tried hard to break free
It's constant conditionings of the past
That ties this ceaseless, meddling voice to me.
Her identity can change at a moment's flash
My mother, society, and more
Forever telling me what's right and wrong
Unforgiving, at each open door.
Upon my urge to do something new
She rears her ugly head
She ridicules, rants and berates me
The worst, her desire for me to be dead.
If I grant her the power she so incessantly seeks
And obey her exacerbating needs
A suicide of sorts will slowly take place
Leaving an empty reflection of me
So I choose to not give her this power
Which only infuriates her more
But as I rewire the pathway she's on
No longer will she bang at my door!
But the question that's left remaining
Will I be okay left all on my own?
For a companion like she, omitted from me,
Will prove truthfully that I am alone.