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Short and Sweet Summary: Do you have competing voices in your head, like me? The voices in my head have a very specific job to do. Their job is to keep me safe. And they take their job very seriously.
Do you have competing voices in your head? Do your brain and heart have something different to say about everyday occurrences?
Or is it just me?
The voices that compete for my attention these days are my brain, my heart, and my gut. Because I’ve been traumatized by my husband’s death, each voice has a very specific job to do.
Their job is to keep me safe.
And they take their job very seriously.
These competing voices in your head can get into intense arguments with each other when even the hint of instability threatens your environment. Like the conflicting emotions of young Riley in the Disney movie Inside Out, my voices compete with each other to see who can be the loudest and most persuasive. Because I’ve become so accustomed to protecting myself AT ALL COSTS, these voices shout over each other to make sure I don’t get ever get hurt.
Like. Ever. Again.
My voices don’t like to take risks. Taking risks is too scary. Too risky. What if something happens and I get hurt? I mean, shit’s out to get me every day. Right?
Well, theoretically yes. But realistically? Not really.
The imaginary demons I conjure up are far more hideous than what actually happens in real life.
The Dreaded First Date
I decided after two years of widowhood it was time to go on a date. Really, I just wanted to get the first-date-after-the-death hump over with. I had no expectations other than to jump this self-imposed hurdle and get back out into the world.
My neighbor offered to set me up with her husband’s coworker.
Because I was widowed and grieving, I assumed the first date would be a disaster but I could at least cross that “first” off my list. I planned to bid adieu after our first meeting. I created an exit strategy and “it’s not you, it’s me” game plan was in place.
Before we even agreed on a date.
Talk about self-sabotage.
Anyway. Back to the voices.
The first date went surprisingly well. We had a lot in common and he was very easy to talk to. He even asked me before the first date ended if I’d like to go out again sometime.
Hmmmnnn…the voices got louder and louder.
BRAIN: “What the hell are you doing? Are you INSANE? You are clearly NOT ready for this! I forbid you to agree to a second date. Seriously, it’s not practical to think you can maneuver dating while you’re still grieving. It’s too dangerous. You’re not ready for this.”
HEART: “Oh my, he seems nice. Look at his face. It’s such a friendly face. He’s really sweet. But I’m sorry honey, I’m here to protect you. I’m much too fragile to risk heartbreak. There are hazardous road signs ahead. So, turn back NOW because I CANNOT and WILL NOT break again.”
GUT: “Good grief. For the love of everything good and holy, it’s just coffee you numbskulls. Chill the fuck out and let this guy finish his sentence. Stop trying to control the universe. Because it hasn’t served you so well in the past. Just keep an open mind.”
The gut was much more persuasive. Even though my brain was screaming like a wounded animal on steroids, my gut voice won over in the end. My gut basically justified that even though I had a valid exit strategy, he seemed like a nice guy. “Can’t we just see where this goes? We don’t have to decide anything today, or tomorrow or the next day. Just go out with him again if he asks. Let’s play this one out.”
So I did. I listened to my gut. And we’re still together two years later.
Which competing voices in your head do you listen to? The loudest? Most persuasive?
Are You Competent or Not?
These voices lead me to believe I’m not really as competent or capable as I am. Well, the brain and heart voices do. The gut usually comes through in times of dire need to remind me I can do anything I put my mind to. Do the competing voices in your head do the same?
When I took over running my husband’s chemical business, I convinced myself I wasn’t capable of returning a profit after this death. I mean, I knew nothing about the chemicals he sold or the rust preventative oil formulas he created. Sales isn’t my forte. I figured I was doomed from the start.
So the voices began…
BRAIN: “So, I get why you want to continue running the business. You can keep his memory alive. But, you’re not suited for this. You’re a writer. You write. You don’t even like chemistry. Remember when you dropped out of chemistry in High School? This isn’t your thing, sweetie. Why don’t you just get a freelancing job and call it a day?”
HEART: “It’s too much seeing his handwriting every day. His notes are everywhere. You can’t heal while you’re still running his business. His stamp is on everything. How can you ever get better if you relive his death every single day?”
GUT: “The business is paying the bills, right? The customers are still ordering from you, right? Well then, why don’t we just see how it goes and if the customers start ordering from someone else we can figure out a Plan B at that time. Until then, why don’t you just enjoy the fact that you have a flexible schedule to be home with the kids when you need to be. No one said you need to be a chemist. You just need to show up every day. Half the battle is just showing up.”
I listened to my gut again. The other voices were pretty loud and persuasive but my instinct won out again in the end.
I’ve been running the business going on five years now. So I guess I must be doing something right. LOL.
Parenting Teenagers Who Suffer From Teenage Angst
Oh geez. The voices about my parenting style? Don’t even get me started. If you don’t think I’m slightly schizophrenic by now, wait until you hear my parenting voices.
For some inexplicable reason, I assume I’m supposed to know how to do this parenting teenager’s gig. And, I’m supposed to know how to do it alone.
But, I don’t.
So, there’s that.
The competing voices in my brain, heart, and gut try to reconcile the fact that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. And each time I figure something out it changes. What do the competing voices in your head say about your parenting styles?
Do they go something like this:
BRAIN: “You’ve figured everything else out in your life. Now figure this out too. You can fix this. Fixing things is your specialty. Research it, implement it and fix it. Rule with an iron fist. It’s your way or the highway and if the kids don’t like it too bad. You are in charge and they have to do what you say.”
HEART: “They hate me. My kids hate me. And, when did they start spewing such venom? How can they disrespect me after all I’ve done for them? They have no idea how hard this is for me! No idea! This is such bullshit. I can’t do this alone. I don’t have any backup. No breaks. I just can’t handle the constant battles. It’s too hard.”
GUT: “Well, well, well. Seems like you’ve finally come to the realization that you’re not perfect? And you don’t control the universe? You especially can’t control teenagers. No one could tell you what to do at 15 either. You have good kids who are going through a terrible stage of grief and puberty and general teenage angst. Everything isn’t your fault. They act out. They’re teenagers. I know you question your parenting ability, but your style is consistent and effective, you just happen to have strong-willed kids. Kinda like you, huh? Why don’t you take a break from trying to manipulate the outcome of everything and let the universe, which you don’t control, work that shit out?”
Which Competing Voices in Your Head Win Out in The End?
I try to rationalize a lot of things in my life, but luckily, my gut is the loudest voice and calls me out on my bullshit.
My gut knows, instinctively, that I will get through whatever it is I’m going through because it’s job is to guide me.
Somehow, someway, it will all work out in the end. My instinct knows this. However, my brain and heart are still learning.
But the gut voice is just insistent enough to keep its decibel level above that of my other uptight, anxious voices.
I don’t always believe my gut. As a result, I go running back to my brain and heart when things get really rough because they whine with me. Sometimes I need to whine.
My gut doesn’t whine. She whips me into shape and tells me repeatedly that I’m capable, competent and self-conscious enough to know the real deal. While I might whine and complain and cry and throw temper tantrums, ultimately I come back to the voice that constantly repeats the same mantra to me over and over again.
YOU CAN DO THIS.
What do you voices tell you? Which one is the loudest? Share in the comments!