Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shutting up the voices

I have voices in my head. Not psychotic voices, at least not so far as I know, but destructive little murmurs that tell me I can't do some things, will never be the best I can be, should stop and consider the consequences of my actions rather than being bold and risky. I'm betting many of you have them too.

These voices have kept me from trying many things or have held me back from really committing myself to grand adventures. Sometimes I conquer them: When I first got on a bike 10 years ago the voices were terrible, telling me I could never be an athlete. I've learned to ignore them, can ride for many miles and have learned to love being active. And sometimes I can't. That's when I become reticent, stumble, am afraid to take any risks because I might fail. Even writing a blog post seems impossible when the voices get going.

Who wants to read that anyway? What have you got to say? Just watch tv.

I read an article today about a new technology, low-level electrical stimulation of the brain, that appears to make the voices shut up and encourages the state known as "flow." What if we could wear a "thinking cap" that made us more confident? Less afraid? Able to be who we are, without fear or voices intruding?

The author of Better Living Through Electrochemistry makes it clear that her experiment with a thinking cap was extraordinary. While she wore the cap she could learn more easily and more confidently. She was able to get out of her own way.

The potential ethical considerations of this technology are considerable. If only the wealthy could afford thinking caps, would that make the opportunity gap between rich and poor even greater? And there isn't good research yet available on the long-term effects of low-level electromagnetic stimulation of the brain. Is it a good idea to have what is essentially mild ECT to help you through the day? Does your brain adapt, will you need greater and greater dosages for this to keep working?

But I have to tell you, when I read about the thinking cap and that it made the voices simply stop... I don't know that I would say no if someone offered one to me. Even if I knew that the effects weren't permanent, that I would need more treatments at greater dosages. If I could shed the voices and uncertainty, what would I give for the chance to be my best self, all the time? What would I trade to achieve flow without trying? A great deal, I suspect.

That understanding of myself and my relationship with the voices in my head leads me to this: How sad it is that I cripple myself with my own doubt and worry. Because that's what the voices are, even if they sound like family or teachers or society, they are my own self-sabotage in whispers and hisses.

So I have to ask myself, how can I silence the voices, really rid myself of them (not simply muzzle them, because they still can make me flinch at the wrong moment even if I can't hear them) without mechanical assistance? How can I live in flow more often?

I don't know.  Beyond living my life as fully as I can, beyond remembering to take risks and accept success as well as failure, beyond forgiving myself for my inadequacies, I don't know. I'd love to know how you keep your voices at bay.

I'm doing my best to kill the voices, one by one, by doing exactly what they say I cannot. I don't need a chorus in my head, just one strong voice, telling me I can achieve my goals. I just need that voice to be my own.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I don't believe my positive voice-- so I just use other people's quotes they've said to me before as evidence against the negative whispers. Yours are high on my positive quote list.


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