This blog will now host the audio and video of the new EvoFaith Podcast! Below you will find the transcription. Or you can just click through to watch the video on YouTube or hear the audio on Achor.
A few years ago, I heard a TED talk by Eleanor Longdon, and then I went and tracked down her book that she referenced in the talk. It’s called ‘Learning From the Voices in My Head’. She tells a story of suffering from schizophrenia, where the voices in her head got so angry, so aggressive, so threatening, that she ended up in a padded cell in a psychiatric institution. But thanks to one therapist – I think he was a psychiatrist – she was able to to make her way out of the darkness, and discovered that these voices were parts of herself, trying to make her aware of things she needed to deal with. And she went on to study and become a psychologist or a psychotherapist herself. And of course, told her story and shared her talk. She still hears the voices in her head but now they’re helpful and she’s learned how to function well and allow them to lead her and guide her. It was a wonderful story.
And it got me thinking that we all have voices in our heads. Maybe they’re not as loud as Eleanor Longdon’s, and maybe they don’t feel like they’re outside of us to the same extent, but they can be equally destructive or equally creative depending on what we do with them.
And for many of us those voices have kind of been implanted into us from our spirituality, our churches, our spiritual communities, and they are voices of toxicity. Of course, some of the voices that we have in our own heads originate from within us. Some come from people around us, from family friends, and culture, and yes church as well. And I know that many people have found religion extremely healing and helpful, and religion and faith have helped them to counter negative voices in their heads. But if you’re here, I think there’s a good chance that, like me, religion has been something that has implanted negative voices. Voices that have harmed you. Voices that have said things like you’re not worthy, not worthy to be loved, you’re so lucky that there’s a thing called grace because God couldn’t ever love you unless Jesus died for you. You have to be perfect as God is perfect.
I mean perfect? Really? I mean think about it – we have to be perfect. That’s actually quite crazy. From an evolutionary perspective, everything is evolving. Everything. Including you. And that means by definition that nothing is perfect because it’s constantly changing. And you’re evolving
Because you should be. Because that’s how the universe works. You’re not meant to be perfect. Perfection is stagnant and unchanging. You’re meant to be evolving if you’re growing. And even if you did reach perfection, it wouldn’t last long because what’s perfect for today, or for this age, isn’t perfect for the next.
And so many of us still struggle with these voices that tell us we’re not good enough, we don’t measure up, we aren’t worthy of love/ These voices of judgment, of condemnation, of self-hatred often, that have been implanted into us. And I believe that the work of spirituality is to help us overcome those voices the way Eleanor Longdon overcame hers.
Now, if you’ve broken up with Church, or if you have a complicated relationship with Church, then you probably have a fairly difficult relationship with spirituality. Maybe you don’t believe in God anymore. Or you’re not sure whether you do or not. Or maybe your view of God is so different that you’re not sure it even counts as God. That’s okay. You can still be spiritual – which for me is really about being conscientious and intentional about your own evolution. It’s about showing up fully, authentically, and courageously in your life and relationships. And spiritual practices – by which I mean the stories we tell, the language we habitually use, the symbols that fill our vision, the rituals that develop our habits – these things help us to be more conscious and intentional. And they’re exactly what we need to work with the voices in our heads.
So what are the voices in your head? The ones that tell you that you’re not enough, you’re not worthy, you’re not loved, or you’re not lovable? Take a moment now in silence and let those voices surface. I’m sure it won’t be hard. Usually, those negative voices come to the surface fairly easy for most of us.
What are those voices actually saying? Do they have any foundation for their negativity? Where do they come from? Or maybe you could ask this question: who do they sound like? Do they sound like a parent, a priest, a bible study leader, an older sibling? If the voices in your head sound like somebody else, that’s a pretty good indication of where they originate.
Do you really believe what these voices are telling you? Are they telling you the truth? Or can you see that they’re not? Can you recognize that they are just one way of looking at you, one way of looking at your life? You don’t have to believe them.
Now don’t get me wrong, there may well be places where these voices in our heads can show us that we still need to grow and evolve and that’s okay. But if there’s judgment and hatred, if there’s mocking, diminishing, devaluing, then that’s garbage. Then we need to tell those voices and we’re not going to listen to them. They’re not allowed to talk to us like that.
So take a moment – you might even want to pause the video – just to identify those voices in your head that you’re wrestling with, those toxic voices that break you down.
But I bet they’re not the only voices. I bet there are other voices. Usually quieter, less insistent, probably gentler and kinder. But because of all of that, they’re much easier to miss, much easier to ignore. What are those voices saying? Can you identify them? Can you hear them? The voices that remind you of goodness and of the kind things you’ve done for others. The voices that remind you of the love you’ve shared and how lovable you really are. What do these voices say? And can you hear the voice of God – however you might understand God – or the universe or your higher self in them? Can you hear a voice of grace?
How do you feel as you listen to these voices? And what can you do now to make a practice of listening to these voices regularly?
Now from my perspective, the goal of spirituality is to empower us to live more consistently from our best selves. And our best selves are the selves that are deeply connected with ourselves, with God, with others, with the world or with the cosmos, with the universe. And by God, I don’t necessarily mean the man in the sky. Feel free to interpret God in whatever way works for you – or drop God out of the equation if you need to. But all of these connections are needed.
And then out of our connectedness, we’re able to express compassion for ourselves, for others, for the world, where compassion is appropriate. And out of that compassion, we automatically become more generous and contributing. And we’re able to give to others, to ourselves, to the world in a deeper way.
But we can’t find our best self, we can’t live our best life, when we feel bad about ourselves. When we think we’re useless, unworthy, and unlovable, then we just want to hide and do nothing. We’re not going to risk anything, we’re not going to create anything, we’re not going to try anything. We’re not going to connect with anyone in any way, because we’re too afraid of being judged, attacked, and told yet again how bad we are.
So today, I want to encourage you to be more mindful and intentional about the voices in your head – especially if they’ve come from your religion. Don’t believe any voice that condemns you.
Turn down the volume on the negative hateful voices that echo the people who’ve treated you badly. Learn from them, yes, where needed – which is when they speak to you about specific things you can do to change and to grow. Learn from them in those times and apply what they teach you. But don’t listen when they speak about things you can’t change – about who you are, about your character, about whether you’re worthy of love. Turn down the volume on those voices, and practice turning up the volume on the quiet voice of love and kindness and encouragement and hope.
Make a practice of choosing to listen more to the voices that remind you that you were born worthy of love. And learn from the voices that show you how to connect more deeply with your own sacred self, with the divine (however you understand that), with others, and with the world.
So what are the voices in your head? How can you turn down the volume on the toxic ones, turn up the volume on the positive ones, the healing ones? And how can you use a practice – a spiritual practice – to help you do that as a regular repeating activity of listening, identifying, turning down or turning up the volume.
That’s it for this time. I hope this has spoken to your heart. I hope it will help you to evolve more consciously and compassionately, especially to yourself this week.
Catch you next time.
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