Thursday, August 19, 2004


We all have an inner voice. A book I read suggested that we all have 2500 hours of “recorded voices” in our heads. Unfortunately, most of the “voices” seem to be of the type of negative reinforcements. These voices are, of course, not real voices but the automatic thoughts that we have in response to experiences in our lives. They may even be subconscious to a large extent. These thoughts can cause problems for us though especially when they are unremittingly negative and especially when they are not challenged and especially when they are not noticed.

After reading about these voices I sat and tried to think what are the types of automatic thoughts that I typically have? I discovered that I have a number of them.

1) I often worry about how I look. My automatic thoughts are “you look dumb” “can’t you fix your hair” “your clothes don’t match” “people are laughing at you”. I have sublimated these thoughts out of sight in my life to the point where I would say “I don’t care about my hair or if my clothes match. But secretly I did and the worry and the denial caused internal anxiety.

2) I am afraid of the way other people perceive me. My automatic thoughts are “people wouldn’t really like you unless you please them” “you are not good enough” “no one likes you”. I have suppressed these thoughts too and become a huge people pleaser. I spent tremendous amounts of energy to discover what people expected or wanted from me and then attempted to meet those needs and wants without any regard to what I wanted or what my needs were. As a result I neglected my needs and reinforced the automatic thoughts through behavior.

Then I had a very interesting experience. I was feeling the need for a break after thinking and writing about these things for a while so I thought I’d take a few minutes to watch the Olympic Games. I was watching and ad during a break in the programming and I suddenly realized that this ad was trying to reach one of my inner voices. I had a sudden thrill of realism that this is one of the most powerful ways that advertising works by getting me to act on an inner voice.

I started to listen for the inner voices during advertisements. I heard a number of times the messages “you are doing something wrong” and “you don’t look right”. These must be the advertising hooks that work best with me since they seemed to resonate with my inner voices.

Another way the book I read suggested to identify the inner voices was to notice when you became strongly defensive about something. Chances are, the book suggested, that you feel that way because the external event you are defensive about is resonating with an inner critical voice. It may not be possible to identify that voice in the moment but later reflection should reveal the voice. I’ve thought about some of the times when I was most defensive and I found my inner voices were “you are dumb” “you are doing it wrong” “you aren’t a good dad” “you can’t provide for your family”.

Scary stuff.

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