I have a come clean confession for you. I hear voices and, I daresay, you do too. They come uninvited at random times, often when I am attempting to tumble into much needed slumber. They awaken me once I have entered that state and run around in my head with their fingers in their symbolic ears going, “nanny nanny boo boo.” Although they are not the tortuous barraging of a person with a mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, they are still deeply disturbing.
They tell me things like, “You will never do enough, be enough or have enough.” They infiltrate my façade of confidence with reminders that if I were “all that,” I would be more successful in my areas of endeavor. They hammer at me with the juxtaposed thoughts that, although I have worked hard, earned my chops and deserve the position I am in, I shouldn’t brag about it, so other people won’t judge me as “full of myself.” At other times, they remind me of all the items left undone on my never ending to-do list.
They shower me with reminders that I need to keep proving myself to remain visible and consequential. The really personal voices tell me that I will never find the love of my life, since it has been more than 20 years since I have been in a committed relationship with short-term partners, lovers and friends with benefits interspersed in the interceding years. They warn me about my aging body as I am now 60 and have noticed that I don’t have the speed, stamina, strength or flexibility that I had in previous decades.
The most frightening message is also tied to aging and that is that my memory takes a vacation at times as words, people’s names, directions, lists of things I need to do, and even writing prompts slip between the cracks of my brain. Eventually, I am able to recall what I need to know. Once I take a deep breath and surrender the compulsion to pull up the information, it usually returns with a resounding “ta-da!” (This article falls into that category as the idea came to me in the wee hours this morning.)
On the flip side, those insistent voices can also be positive and informative. The prompting that led me to meet my husband in 1986 was one such message. The way I was called to become an ordained interfaith minister was another. Each day in sessions with clients, I receive internal guidance to share certain pieces of information that seem to come out of nowhere which have them shaking their heads in bewilderment and asking how I knew what I told them. My response is that when we are tapped into the flow of life, we are an open channel for what can come through. Call it intuition, if you will, since as a career therapist I avail myself of it daily.
One of my favorite movies about the power of listening to the Voice is the Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones classic Field of Dreams (based on W.P. Kinsella’s novella Shoeless Joe). Costner’s character Ray Kinsella is the son of a would-be Major League baseball player who rebelled against his more mainstream father John. He becomes enamored of the writings of Terrence Mann (the resonant-voiced James Earl Jones), an erstwhile rebellious author from the 1960s. They had the opportunity to meet only after Ray plows under his Iowa cornfield to construct a baseball field. He was guided by the words, “If you build it, he will come.” The “he” was not who Ray imagined he might have been. As the story unfolds, he follows the invocations to go to Boston to take Terrence to a baseball game because he was told to “Ease his pain,” where another message, “Go the distance,” was sprawled across the scoreboard. They continue to follow the Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail, to meet “Moonlight (a.k.a.) Doc” Graham whose desire was to play the game but instead became a medical doctor. When he had the chance to play on Kinsella’s field, he relinquished it to save a life. In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending, but know that following powerful guidance pays off miraculously.
In the midst of this time-traveling tale, is the real-life predicament of financial ruin since the cash crop of corn was no longer viable when transformed into a baseball diamond. Toward the end of the film, Kinsella’s brother-in-law warns Kinsella that they will lose their house and land if he doesn’t sell the property to his business partners. He volleys back and forth between hearing Mann tell him that people will come to his field of dreams to watch games and brother-in-law cautioning him to be responsible. For the first time in countless viewings of the movie, it occurred to me that both were echoing the voice of fear and the voice of trust.
When the snarky negative voices become too insistent and guide us down a perilous path, it is helpful to have a flashlight at the ready to steer us clear.
- Do a reality check by asking, “Is it really so, that you are not successful?” and then list your accomplishments.
- Imagine it having a form (animal, person, object) and engage in conversation with it. Make it a full sensory experience as you see, hear, taste, smell and touch the image before you.
- Ask the voices what they want you to know. Sometimes they show up to protect us from potential harm, even though it may see as if they are not warm and fuzzy.
When the positive voices make themselves known, you will be able to tell the difference since your gut won’t be twisting with trepidation. It will feel good to acknowledge them. Listen to their wisdom and step by step follow the path that may lead to your own field of dreams.