Podcast Episode 70 – The Negative Voice in Your Head

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and you’re listening to the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 70 The Negative Voice in Your Head. 

DIANA: Hey. Hey, everybody. How are you? I hope you’re all doing well. I’m guessing you’re breathing, you’re hearing, your ears are working, your brain’s working. So there it is. You’re doing pretty well. I, uh, just ate a big bowl of watermelon, so I’m going to get right to the topic before that watermelon does its job on me. So are you guys ready? Here we go. A few weeks ago, the people on my email list had a chance to choose the topic for this podcast. I had a couple of ideas and, uh, I offered those. And then I said, if you have another idea, let me know. And I did get some other ideas, too, but the most wanted topic was one that I suggested, and that was the negative voice in your head. I, uh, just want to start by saying that negative voice in your head is you. It’s your brain that’s coming from inside of you. Because in the Christian culture, I have heard many people say that Satan is feeding the slice. And yes, sometimes that’s true. But I just want to point out that that voice would be coming from outside your head. It’s an influence, but Satan does not live in your head. We might hear voices outside of us and then internalize them and then repeat them and then create some sort of negative mantra from them or use them as an excuse or let them badger us. 

But when that happens, that is still happening in our own brain. Some people hear this and they’re like, great. Sarcastically, that negative voice in my head is me. I’m the one who’s being mean to me. And then they use it as another reason to beat themselves up, be like, well, I’m the one who’s beating me up in my head. So just add that to all the reasons of why I’m a terrible person. I don’t want you to do that, though. I mean, you could, but you’re going to feel terrible. You’re just going to keep more frustration and more icky feelings on top of you. So I propose instead that we take this information and celebrate it. It’s me. I’m the negative voice in my head. It’s me. It’s my brain anyway. Okay. I mean, it’s not me wanting to beat myself up, usually, but it’s something that’s happening within me. And that’s amazing because it’s something I can be in charge of. It’s something I have control over. I can learn to change it. I can redirect it. I have power over it. I get to be the boss of my brain. That means change is possible. Relief is possible. I’m not stuck with a nagging, judgmental, mean voice in my head if I’m willing to step in to that role of being the boss of my own brain. 

So I really think that this is good news. Very, very, very good news. And this is the kind of news that helped me change my life, because I used to do this all the time too. I still have a negative voice in my brain. It’s not a problem unless I engage it. The negative voice in our head does not have any power over it unless we believe what it says is true. And we believe that what it’s saying means there’s a problem. For example, I’m going to start with not a voice in our head, but a voice we’d hear from outside of our head. So, for example, with me, somebody could come up to me and say, you’re a terrible cook. Now, let’s just say that’s not true. Uh, okay, you’re a terrible cook. We’re going to pretend that’s not true. So if I don’t think that’s true, if I think I’m an amazing cook, their words don’t have to have any power. I’m just like, oh, you’re just saying something that’s not true. If I’m outside and the sky is blue, and somebody walks by and says, oh, look, the sky is purple, be like, uh, but it’s blue. So I’d be like, okay, whatever. I think you’re just mixed up. The sky is blue. It’s not purple. So it doesn’t bother us at that moment until we think it’s a problem for that person to say that, and we decide that’s not okay for you to say that that means something bad about me, and then I will be offended. But if I think it’s not true and it’s not a problem for that person to say it, they can be wrong. Everything’s fine. I might shrug my shoulders and just get back to cooking. Now, if I think that what they said is true, it’s correct that I’m a terrible cook. 

They’re saying something I agree with. Okay, so what? It’s not a problem until I make it a problem. Maybe I think it’s rude for you to insult my efforts. I do think it’s rude, and now I feel offended. So you can see how just somebody saying you’re a terrible cook doesn’t have to either whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t have to mean anything bad unless I make it a problem by taking it further with the story in my own head. So what I’m trying to show you here, it’s just the meaning that you assign to that thought and the internalization that you do by making it mean something bad about you. We take something, uh, someone says, or if it’s something we’re saying, in our brain. We take that and we make it a problem. We engage with that thought. We believe that thought means something bad. We take it on as a burden. We are adding story and drama. Okay? Now, let’s say instead of somebody else saying it to me, let’s say it’s happening in my own brain, okay? I have the thought I’m a terrible cook. Well, this thought on its own isn’t a problem. I know, because I actually have this thought all the time. And it’s not a problem. I feel fine about it. It doesn’t bother me. It’s true or not true. I don’t even care. I have no idea. Sometimes I burn food, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it tastes terrible, sometimes it tastes great. I don’t know. I don’t make it mean anything bad about me. Maybe I’m a terrible cook, maybe not. I don’t know. Who cares? It’s just a thought, and I didn’t make it a problem. But if I were to pick up that thought and play with it, look at it, try to make it true, make it mean something about me, I could add what I call a bunch of dangling thoughts to it and let the negative voice in my head have a heyday with it. It could sound something kind of like this I’m a terrible cook. I never get it right. I ruined dinner again. What’s wrong with me? I always mess up. This sucks. I suck. And now I’ve let go of the steering wheel in my brain and I’ve let the negative voice drive and take me down Drama Boulevard. 

The thought has become a problem. My thoughts on autopilot made it mean awful things about me. But let me point out something that I think is important here. This bunch of painful, dangling thoughts that say I’m a screw up and I never get it right. All it is is a bunch of words in my brain forming a story. That’s it. It’s a story in my head, and it isn’t even true. Just the first thought. We already talked about that one. I’m a terrible cook. Is it true? I don’t know. How do we know if it’s true? Who decides that? Emerald lagasse. Me. My kids? The neighbor? My mom? My mother in law? Who decides? What’s the measure? Is there a chart? I don’t know. We don’t even know if that’s true. But in the case of this example, the negative voice in my head decided it was true and decided to glob on a bunch more thoughts that were possibly also untrue. And in this case, extreme and dramatic. And this is what happens in our head. So it adds on all those dangling, extra thoughts like I never get it right. Well, I never get it right is an extreme thought. Did you notice the word never? I never get it right. Never. Really? Never. I never get it right. That’s not true. 

Just because it has the word never never, always, every forever these kind of extreme words, because they take us all the way to one end of the spectrum, they’re extreme. When you add them to a sentence, you almost always make that sentence untrue. At this point, the negative voice in my brain, if I questioned it, if I was like, really? Never really? I never get it right, it might answer back, like, oh, okay, well, not never. Just most of the time and still try to prove that I’m a screw up. It’s relentless. It wants to be right, but that’s just what our brain does. It still doesn’t make it true. I run dinner again, is the next thought. Again, this one is also dramatic. Who decides what makes a ruined dinner? If it’s burnt, is it ruined? I mean, I’ve scraped burnt stuff off plenty of meals and still fed my family edible food. So apparently they had dinner. They ate it. 

They were nourished. I might have thought I ruined dinner, but I didn’t. I just got some dark brown stuff off and off we went. So I don’t know, how do you even classify if you ruined dinner? But when you have a thought like that in your head, again, it’s very dramatic. It’s destroyed. It’s demolished. Oh, my it’s ruined forever. Okay, next thought. Let’s see if this one’s dramatic. What’s wrong with me? Now, this is interesting because it’s a question and it is a common thought. I mean, you might not be making dinner, but whatever else you’re doing in your life, have m you had the negative thoughts in your head start creeping up, and you ask yourself, what is wrong with me? And really, when we have a question as a thought, we can flip it around into a statement and find it a lot more helpful. It’ll give us a clue what’s going on with that thought. 

So if we turn this thought into a statement, what is wrong with me becomes there is something wrong with me. All right, well, I’m going to admit that one’s true. There is something wrong with me, but it also means there’s something wrong with everyone, because there are no perfect humans. So every single person on this Earth can notice a flaw in them. Um, and truthfully, say there’s something wrong with me, because every single one of us has flaws. But if you want to think like a philosopher here or use logic, this one just for those of you who like to geek out a little bit on thinking, we could equally say that if there is something wrong with every person, it’s also true that there is nothing wrong with every person. Because if we all have flaws, then flaws are now the norm, and there’s nothing wrong with any of us. We’re just normal humans. Sorry, negative voice in my head when I examine your thought, it doesn’t actually mean anything painful about me. There’s either something wrong with me, and there’s something wrong with everyone, and, well, Lady DA, we’re human. Or it’s normal for humans to have flaws, and I’m human, and it’s not a problem to be a human. All right, next thought. I always mess up. Well, there we go. Always wrong again. I don’t always mess up. I do lots of amazing things. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. It’s funny how our brain offers this, though, and we think, oh, I always mess up. 

It’s so true. We’re just blindly following random thoughts in our brain. We can question it. I always mess up. No way. Not possible. I do lots of good things. Even if I messed up 99% of the time, I don’t always mess up. But that’s not true. It’s probably just more like half the time. Maybe we all mess up half the time. Again, humans. But what I’m really hoping you see here is that negative voice in your head. All it’s doing is offering you a bunch of thoughts that make you the problem, and you are buying it. It’s dishing up a painful story about you. Instead of saying, what the heck is that garbage going on in my brain, you think, oh, these thoughts must be true. It’s true. And then you feel miserable. 

But when we can slow the thoughts down and examine them like we did today, we can see it’s just garbage. It’s just garbage thinking. Sometimes, though, it feels true. I admit it, you guys. Sometimes we have these negative thoughts in our head, and they feel true. Sometimes we can’t shake them. That’s okay, too. Sometimes we get to give ourselves lots of grace. Like, oh, okay, yesterday I beat myself up a lot in my brain. I let the negative thoughts go, okay? That’s just another thing that humans do. That’s what happens in our heads. It’s fine. And it won’t matter if I’ve shown you that they’re just a bunch of dramatic thoughts. When they feel really true, you just might want to hang on to them. Honestly, it’s okay. They’re just thoughts in your head. Thoughts in your head might cause emotional discomfort. It’s fine. They’re just words, sentences, thoughts, emotions. That’s what we do. 

But starting here, you guys, and getting this awareness, uh, it is the best place to start. If I were to give you kind of a practical way to think of this and have some awareness. I love this scene. Well, it’s a couple of scenes in the movie Home Alone. In the movie Home Alone, there’s this part where I don’t know if you’ve seen it or not. The main character is named Kevin, so I’ll just call him Kevin. He’s like an eight year old boy. He’s home alone, and he needs to do laundry. Actually, his family accidentally left him. They raced off to the airport. They were late for a flight to Paris for Christmas. They accidentally left without him, and so he was home alone for days. That’s, uh, why he needed to do laundry. The laundry is in the basement, and there’s a big old fashioned furnace in the basement. And every time he goes down there, his mind imagines that the furnace grate opens up like a mouth and ominously says his name, like Scary Kevin. And I mean, it is a kids movie. I feel like the way I’m describing it makes it sound more like a horror movie. I don’t know. And in some ways, that negative voice in our head gets that dramatic, like a terrible horror movie. Anyway, okay, it’s a kids movie. He sees the scary furnace, and he hears the loud voice. It sounds clear to him. It sounds terrible. And he runs up the stairs. 

Okay, this happens a few times until spoiler alert, he needs to stop being scared, and he needs to be responsible. There’s another reason, another thing going on that he needs to be responsible for, but he gets to practice it by doing laundry. He needs to face the scary voice. He grabs that basket of laundry, he heads downstairs. And that furnace, there it is. It opens up its mouth and it starts to talk. And Kevin says, shut up. The furnace mouth clamps shut, stops looking scary, and never bothers him again. And that, my friends, is what we get to do with the voice in our head. It’s all talk. It’s all words. It’s no bite. It can’t hurt us, and it won’t bother us unless, um, we let it. I’m telling you, those dangling thoughts that are extreme and dramatic and they pop up in your head and they seem so true, you don’t have to make them mean anything bad about you. And you can tell them to shut up. It’s just the bully in your brain, and you don’t need to give it any control over you. 

One time I was being coached by my business coach, and, um, she thought I should name that nagging voice in my head that was complaining and feeding me doubt and whining and trying to get me to be afraid, to take a risk and all that kind of stuff. So I did that voice in my head. Say hello to Bertha. Oh, Bertha hangs around sometimes. Sometimes she makes noise. Sometimes she tries to get me to be afraid. She tries to get me to doubt myself. She feeds me extreme, dramatic thoughts. And when I engage, she has a grand old time. It’s very fun for her to play with me, but I feel miserable, so usually I don’t want to play with her. And I tell her, shut up. She has no power over me unless I let her. She offers thoughts, and I get to decline. So that’s what I have for you guys. With that voice in your head. I mean, sometimes they seem really true. And it’s hard to muster the energy to tell that voice to shit up. I know sometimes it’s going to be hard that’s okay, you can at least ask yourself if what you’re hearing is true. 

Be courageous to grab a thought. Pick one. Look at it. Ask yourself, is this thought true? This thought that says, I’m screwing up, you screwed up again. Is it true? Do you need to think it? Does it help you? Does it hamper you and come to a place of awareness that these are just words in your head? You get to choose what you’re going to do with them. You really, really do. I know this is one of those things that can sound simple, but it isn’t always easy. Have patience with yourself. Some of the thoughts in your brain, my brain, we’ve been believing them for a long, long time. Okay? So just start with one. Start with one and question it, and you will start to get awareness. You will start to get leverage. You will start to get closer and closer to being able to just tell that Bertha in your head shut uh up. All right, y’all, that’s what I have for you for today. So until next time, I will catch you next week, take care of you. 

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast ah.com to get my free resources or free coaching call.

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