When people hear others say something about the “voices in their head,” the knee-jerk reaction is usually to think that person is a little nutty. First of all, those who do such a thing are trivializing the plight of those who truly do hear voices in their head and can’t control them. That’s not what I’m talking about here.
If we’re being honest, we should all be able to admit that each one of us, when faced with decisions in our lives, hold internal debates with ourselves about which course of action to take. Picture the angel and devil on your favorite cartoon character’s shoulder. The difference is, in reality, your inner voices are never exactly diametrically opposed, and probably aren’t battles between good and evil, or the “right choice” and the “wrong choice.” Instead, the voices we all have inside of us usually serve to either propel us forward or hold us back in life in some way or another. Ultimately, though, it’s up to us to decide which voice to listen to. When faced with a decision that causes your inner voices to speak up, ask yourself the following questions:
Where does the voice come from?
The voices “in your head”, metaphorically speaking, actually come from three different areas of your body: your brain, your heart, and your gut. Each of these entities think in different ways (the gut actually does think— science has long known about the enteric nervous system in your stomach, referred to as the second brain), and cause you to make drastically different decisions when listened to intently.
Your brain is your body’s computer. It internalizes and computes information in a logical way, ignoring any “human” thoughts or feelings. Listening to your brain is important for survival — it tells you when to remove yourself from dangerous situations, and performs other “security measures” providing you with absolute safety. Your brain analyzes risks and rewards, and decides whether or not you should take a specific action.
Your heart, on the other hand, is full of emotion. When you listen to your heart, you act on how you feel, regardless of whether or not the action is logical. This can lead to great things, such as when you donate time or belongings to those in need without a second thought. But it can also lead to trouble — like when you fall head over heels in love with someone you just met. Your heart doesn’t care if what you’re about to do makes sense, as long as it feels right.
Your gut instinct, or intuition, is a combination of your brain and your heart. It takes into consideration both the logical course of action and your emotional response to the possible decisions to be made.While sometimes it’s best to listen to your brain (such as when emotions aren’t involved at all — like an emergency situation), and other times you should follow your heart (like when deciding whether to buy a coffee or give the dollar to the homeless man outside the store), it’s almost always best to listen to your gut instinct.
How does your voice make you feel?
The voices in your head can make you feel differently, and in different ways, depending on where they come from. For example, if you’re walking down an alley in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you’ll likely feel nervous in a logical way: your brain is telling you you’re not safe. But when you’re on a first date, you might feel nervous in an emotional manner: you’re looking for love and aren’t sure if you’re going to find it or not.
But should you listen to the voices in your head? It depends. In the first example, you should definitely listen to your brain; it’s telling you you’re not safe, and you need to remove yourself from the situation. When regarding your safety, the logical way is always the way to go.
This gets tricky, however, when it comes to emotional decisions. If you’re being set up on a blind date, the voices in your head might trick you into cancelling at the last minute if you allow your nerves to get the best of you. But, like I mentioned before, if you completely let your guard down, you might fall too fast and end up getting hurt in the long run. There really is no single way in which to deal with the emotional voice in your head; you just have to make sure it doesn’t completely shut out your logical thought processes.
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How does your voice affect you?
When I ask how the voices in your head affect you, I’m focusing mainly on your emotional voice. I’m not saying that if we all acted upon our logical thought processes our lives would run like finely tuned machines (they might, but it’d be a boring world to live in). But I am saying that our emotional responses are almost entirely what separates us from the animals. This is both a good and bad thing for a number of reasons.
If you have a cat, dog, or any pet for that matter, think of them for a minute. Sure, they show emotions, but they’re incredibly simplistic beings. They don’t have hopes and dreams for their future, they don’t think philosophically — simply put, they aren’t complex. On the other hand, we humans have the ability to think progressively about where our lives are headed, what we want to accomplish, and what we want to do with our time on Earth. Although this sounds incredibly optimistic, the voices in our head also have the ability to hold us back from attaining these goals.
When your emotional voice kicks in, what does it tell you? Does it say things that give you the confidence to face each day and do your best to succeed? Or does it try to convince you you’re not good enough and will never amount to anything? Regardless of how illogical such detrimental thoughts are, they’re often enough to hold back even the brightest and most talented people from reaching their true potential.
Like I said, everyone has an inner voice (or multiple inner voices) and they will try to pull you in every which direction when faced with tough decisions that could affect the course of your life. It’s up to you to know when you should listen to them, and when you should quiet them down and trust in your own abilities.