How often have you found it difficult to find your voice and ask for what you need? A tricky situation where somehow you just can’t find the right words. Or perhaps Mrs Inner-Critic whispers in your ear.
‘Shut up – why would anyone listen to you?’
One of the key aims of counselling is to help you find your own voice and ask for what you need. To enable you to connect with that calm, clear intuitive part of yourself that always knows exactly what you need. Once you have found it you can put it to use to get your needs met.
What do you mean – I don’t hear any voices in my head?
Most people seem to experience an inner monologue where they ‘talk to themselves’ inside their heads. This provides an important part of our processing of events, feelings and information. It allows us to consider our responses and apply logic and reason to our decisions before we act. Some people are not yet aware of this voice. It is possible to learn how to tune into it, however a few people don’t have this at all.
Sometimes the monologue can become a dialogue between two or more voices and drown out the inner voice. These other voices are thought to be our internalised memory of things we have heard or experienced. These also might be ‘facts’ we hold as beliefs about ourselves and life in general.
So who do these other voices belong to?
These other ‘voices’ are most likely to have come from parents, caregivers, teachers or other influential people in our lives. Sometimes we may have an exact memory of what that person would have said under certain conditions. We replay this ‘recording’ each time that situation comes up. The words may be our own interpretation of what was actually said and we store it and replay it. Our belief is that as it was said by somebody in authority it must be true. Or we may have taken on a belief early in our lives as a fact and never questioned it.
Sometimes these voices are useful to us because they provide guidance about things we have never experienced for ourselves. Often they can be critical or negative or just unhelpful. These voices can interfere with our ability to choose what is right for us. They can actively stop us from being able to find our own voice and ask for what we need.
Why do I need to find my voice?
Tuning into our own inner voice enables us to learn to recognise it. We can then begin to separate out the more critical and unhelpful voices. Once identified we can then learn how to turn down the voices we do not need.
If you can hear and trust your inner voice it will guide you and help you to express your needs. With your own voice you can be heard in the world as you tell and shape your story for yourself. When you speak from this place there is a confidence and an authenticity that cannot be denied.
How can finding my voice and asking for what I need help me?
Speaking with your own voice gives you authority. You know what is right for you. If you believe that you are speaking the truth it is easier to say and be heard. This can help with asking for what you need. If you ask for what you need you are more likely to get your needs met. It can also help you to allow yourself to have what you need.
Being able to connect with what you feel is right for you can help you find your voice and speak up for yourself. Most of us have experienced situations where our rights or those of someone we care about are being ignored. Here’s a couple of examples where finding your own voice and asking for what you need can help.
Inner voices meeting needs
‘I was queuing in a shop for ages and needed to go and pick my children up from school. This lady came from the other direction and went straight up to the till. I heard my Mums voice in my head ‘Don’t make a fuss – just wait patiently’. But my own inner voice said – ‘Hang on – that’s not right, you have been waiting and it was your turn’ So I said ‘Excuse me, I’m sure you just didn’t see me waiting here – but I need to take my turn in the queue.’
She looked at me and for a moment I thought she was going to tell me it wasn’t such a big deal, so I looked her straight in the eye and she apologised and went to the back of the queue. I felt ten foot tall – it wasn’t just me that benefitted from that, the other people behind me did too. ‘
‘My Mum was suddenly very ill and taken into hospital. It seemed like she was being treated differently because she was old and no longer mattered. They had no awareness of the person she was just a few weeks before and didn’t seem to care.
It was like they thought she was going to die anyway so what’s the point in doing anything. – she had no voice. But I did and was able to make sure she was not ignored. I made sure she got the care and attention she needed.’
How can I find my inner voice ?
Learning to hear your own voice is the first step in asking for what you need. The more you tune into this the louder it will become. Just sitting quietly and noticing what comes into your head can be really valuable. If you begin to do this regularly you will start to recognise the voices of your inner dialogue. Giving them names can help – like Mrs Inner-Critic or Dame Imposter-Syndrome. Or perhaps there is someone specific they link to? Here’s some tips to help you to learn to tune into your inner-voice.
Meditation is a really useful tool to help you to notice and recognise the thoughts and voices in your head. This is especially helpful when your mind is particularly busy. I have put a link in the resources section below to a guided meditation that may help with this.
Journalling – Recognising and Separating out your Inner Critic
Journalling is another tool that can help you learn to recognise and separate out the critical part of your inner voice. This is the part that we internalised from things we have heard or understood. This can also be called our ‘conditions of worth ‘. These conditions influences the way we believe we have to behave to be worthy of love and acceptance.
In the exercise below, we change the form of the thought to ‘ you ‘ instead of ‘I’. This creates distance and de-personalises the thought, and reduces the impact. When we hear it this way we a more likely to recognise where it originated.
In the last part of the exercise, you are encouraged to explore the reality of these statements. How do you know that they are true? Is there any evidence? By questioning this we can challenge and update our underlying beliefs.
What else can I do to help me find my voice and ask for what I need?
In addition to these things you can do for yourself, you may find talking with a counsellor can help. Empathic, non-judgemental listening can really help you to feel understood. Hearing a genuine reflection back to you of what you are saying can help you learn to recognise your own voice. These things are not learned overnight. With practice and an attitude of kindness towards yourself, you can learn to tune-in and turn up your own voice. This enables you to turn down and eventually lose those you no longer need.
Making Sense of what’s happening
Thinking can be difficult. Trying to see things clearly when there are mixed perspectives in your head is tricky. But how can you consider things from another angle without them?
These other views we have internalised are not all negative, they are not all wrong. Sometimes we cannot think inside our own heads at all and we need an external perspective. Particularly when difficult feelings come up. When its like this, talking can help us sift through the different aspects in our heads. We can then find our own authentic truth.
Learning to manage that Inner Voice
When we are learning to tune into our inner voice, it can be hard to control. Sometimes it might come come up with something inappropriate to share with others……
We generally have filters that help us recognise that we should not say something out loud but sometimes they may fail! Have you ever said anything out loud that should have stayed as part of your inner monologue? How did you deal with it?
If you find your inner voice and ask for what you need, you take better care of yourself
Our inner voice is really good at telling us what we need to do to take care of ourselves. It is so important to check in with this as your inner voice is always right about what you need. If it is telling you that you need a break – you need a break! Its important to hear this and give yourself a break as soon as possible. Your inner voice speaks for both your body and your mind. You need to listen because it’s taking care of you.
Take that break, eat, don’t eat, sleep, go out and socialise, don’t go out and socialise. These are all important messages and responding to these will have a significant effect on your mental and physical well-being.
You will thank yourself for it!
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If your feelings become overwhelming and you feel you cannot cope – do talk to someone about how you are feeling.
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