Hearing Voices

The place god calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
–Frederick Buchner

Your Creative Life and the Voice in Your Head
You are creative, even if you don’t think so. But if you tell yourself you aren’t creative, you make it true because once you believe it, you will make others believe it, too. It’s the repetition of the idea that makes it so. Our brain can’t distinguish between what we visualize and what we experience. Ever rehearsed a phone call over and over, and then think you’ve already made it? Our brain believes what we’ve rehearsed.

Cover of The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Cover of The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

What do we do with this great ability? If you don’t recognize how powerful it is, you ignore it, frequently sabotaging yourself. All of us have the inner critic who chatters along all the time. “You can’t do that.” “Office politics are ruining your life.” “I never get what I want.” So we turn on music or the TV to push the voice out of hearing range. What we don’t do is change what the voice says. So we create a constant noise in our life to cover our own negative self-talk. And that noise won’t let in new ideas, life-changing thoughts or the silence that nourishes our souls.

Be Careful What you Rehearse into Existence
A dozen years ago, while on vacation, I read Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist. It’s a simple story, beautifully written, about changing your life. I loved the story. Something in it seemed real and true. But the instant I admitted to myself I loved the book, the negative voice in my head said, “What a lot of New Age nonsense! You can’t change your life by thinking yourself into a better position. How can you advance if your boss doesn’t like you? She made that cruel remark during the last staff meeting”

That made me think of the ways my colleagues could sabotage me while I was gone. For the rest of my vacation, I replayed this scenario. I arrived home stressed and worried, and discovered that our office space had been reconfigured. I was moved out of my window office into the cube farm.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d been rehearsing it for a week. I took The Alchemist andvisualize flipped it open at random, page 20.

“. . . at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and [believe] our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

The book flipped to page 24.
“The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness. . . . To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I sighed. I couldn’t control the office moving. The book was part of vacation—and like vacation, it was over. I threw the book out.

Visualizations Show You the Truth
A few years later, I learned about visualization in a course on leadership. The person guiding the visualization told us to imagine ourselves as leaders five years in the future. I had been sent to this course by my corporation, so I took a deep breath and tried to imagine what my role was in this company. Instead, I saw myself standing at an art fair. It was a sunny, cool day, and I was talking to other artists. We were all laughing. I felt a great sense of peace. When the visualization was over, negative self-talk filled my head. “ What about health insurance? Don’t be irresponsible.” “You sure like those selfish thoughts, don’t you?” “You’d better get your act together.”

Meditation Brings More than Calm
I hated those thoughts. I decided to learn meditation. The basics were simple. Once it got quiet, I recognized the negative chatter in my head belonged to the inner critic. It to reminded me of my shortcomings, that the dryer just quit and clothes need folding, that I was not doing anything and a lot needed doing.

I kept putting aside the chatter; eventually it grew quiet. In the quiet, I began to feel comforted. It took a few months, but once my brain was quiet, the silence opened the door to peace, and after that, good ideas.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I take another look at The Alchemist and get serious about the inner critic.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who has an inner critic. Unfortunately, the inner critic has a large extended family that travels.


12 thoughts on “Hearing Voices

  1. “Our brain believes what we’ve rehearsed.” I know someone who calls for cultivating “pronoia”–a belief that the universe conspires to help us thrive. My inner critic is insidious. It tells me I can deal with any loss because losing is what I know so well. Ba-da-boom.

  2. I’ve never worked in a place where anyone’s office might be moved while they’re on vacation, and the idea that coworkers would sabotage me if given the chance has never even been conceivable.

    It makes me feel terrible that such workplaces exist, and angry because the only reason for such a thing is stupidity. It’s very much like living in terrible poverty or in a war zone, except that the slums of Mumbai or in the latest international conflict are *enormous* problems and require huge efforts. Learning how to create a humane, productive workplace in a modern, developed country is easy. But not easy enough for some.

  3. all of Paulo Coelho’s books are amazing! I have them all! great lessons to be learned. whenever I think about greener grass elsewhere, I think of that story, and yes, how easily we can sabotage ourselves by allowing the inner critic to take charge. I am my worst enemy!! Like Miranda, I can hear ‘the whispers” and tell them to shut up. Has anyone here read “the shadow king?” I’d be interested to hear if you have. about dominating fathers . not that I had that problem, my dad was the best there was, and my mom, too. but apparently, a lot of women are destroyed by their fathers. sad.

    • A lot of women are destroyed by mothers, fathers, siblings, and their own belief that they must life the story that started their life. You can’t re-write the past, but you sure can write the future up nice. (I haven’t read The Shadow King.)

  4. Hi Quinn, so true! We are permitting our Inner critic to be so strong while we can choose every minute to ‘ignore him’ and allow ourselves to use and enjoy our talents! And indeed only in the silence when we become quiet we can hear ‘the whispers’. Your first quote reminded me of another one ;Don’t ask what the world needs.
    Rather ask what makes you come alive; then go and do it!
    Because what the world needs
    is people who have come alive.
    Howard Thurmon
    and another; Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” Aristoteles. These are quotes that ‘touched’ me when I did the ‘game of Talents’. It was a workshop of 2 days and very interesting.It was also very surprising what the outcome was because I thought it would be ‘an artist’ but it became clear that it was just one of my talents to work with as a tool and that the final goal/talent to work with was something else.
    creative greet, Miranda

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