I Hear Voices…

Man sad face ken donaldson

There’s this little voice in my head,” as I’ve heard many clients state over the years. Are they having auditory hallucinations? No, they’re simply describing a series of negative thoughts that create negative emotions. And this all gets in the way of taking the healthiest course of action.

There’s an epidemic of these little voices that are trying to convince people that they’re good-for-nothing-worthless-losers. You may have even experienced them yourself. It’s that irrational utterance that tries to persuade you to believe that you’re irresponsible, unreliable and undeserving of anything good in life.

Over the last thirty years I’ve noticed an increased occurrence of these devilish voices. This experience is more properly termed, from a psychological perspective, as a series of “cognitive distortions.” These are the persistent, annoying, negative, motivation-destroying thoughts that can twist your thinking, mood, behavior and, most importantly, your life.

For example, these voices:

  • Try to convince you to quit and give up on anything worthwhile because you’ll never do it anyway, and even if you do, no one will like it.
  • Try to convince you that you’re a fraud and when people find out how messed up your head is, they’ll all run the other way, rejecting and ostracizing you.
  • May sometimes even try to convince you that you might as well go smoke, drink, use drugs and engage in other addictive or self-destructive behaviors because that’s about all that you’re really good at doing.

I can completely relate because I too have to be very aware to not get blindsided by these same crazy mind gremlins.

Do YOU relate?

I suspect so because I see clients every day who tell me about these bothersome patterns of stinkin’ thinkin’.

And just when you think you’ve gotten a reprieve, know that the chorus of shame is warming up to slam you again when you least expect it.

All of which leads to the following questions:

  • Where does this inner humiliation come from?
  • And more importantly, what can be done about it?
  • How can we silence or at least turn the volume down on all this destructive inner chatter?

As far as I know, we can’t, at least not totally.

But there a couple things I’ve discovered that help.

Writing helps. I don’t know why exactly but I suspect revealing what you’d otherwise keep secret is part of it. “We’re only as sick as our secrets,” is what one of my mentors keeps reminding me.

Also, when you write you slow your thinking a bit, and you get to see it rather than just think it or “hear” it. When you write something the charge seems to be diminished. Plus, when you take the time to read some of what you were thinking, you may realize the irrationality of it and that makes it easier to challenge the thoughts, or even neutralize them.

When you talk about the crazy thoughts in your head to someone who can really listen and relate to what you are talking about, that too takes some of the energy away from the senseless babblings.

That’s the crux of why good counseling works.

Counselors listen and respond without judgment. They create a safe space for the client to share their innermost thoughts and ideas.

And, as the saying goes, “a burden shared is a burden lifted,” talking to a good friend or loved one is helpful.  These are the people who can understand and empathize with. With this support, you can mute some of these bothersome thoughts.

Dr. David Burns realized this years ago when he wrote the book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Click here if you’d like a free download of Dr. Burns’ insights. He shows how we make ourselves depressed, anxious, guilty and angry. And he offers his self-affirming interventions and redirects as well.

I’m sure that if you’ve read this far you’re relating to this. However, if you’re still reading and not personally identifying with it, then this will better help you understand someone you know.

I want to remind you that we’re all human. Each one of us can be irrational, pessimistic and certainly embarrassed about admitting our distorted beliefs.

Welcome to the Human Race.

Perfectly imperfect beings are what we are. Open your copy of Marry YourSelf First and read pages 207 – 216 ( Wabi-Sabi: Always [or at Least Usually] Practice the Art of Perfect Imperfection) to get a refresher.

Perhaps the primary purpose of life is to be our real selves. I know when I’m real and authentic, my life seems to flow more fluidly. Part of our realness includes admitting our cognitive distortions.

What about you? Can you be the real you and unconditionally accept the real you? It may seem like a tall task, but it’s worth it.


What negative, irrational thought is bothering you today? I’m here to help.


About Ken Donaldson

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