Sunday, April 17, 2011

Voices in My Head

Before I write this post, I should clearly state that I am not a psychologist and I do not even play one on tv.

Why is it that we often joke about people having voices in their heads? I'm not talking about the kinds of voices that people who are schizophrenic have. Rather, I'm talking about the voices that reflective individuals have. For example, as I sit here writing this blog post, I am not writing everything on the screen that pops into my mind. Rather I am searching for the best words and the best phrases to convey my ideas. Basically, I am thinking and my thoughts are little voices.

I think that too often people are embarrassed about the voices that they have in their heads. I'll use myself as an example to clarify the kinds of voices that I mean. For many many years I had a very low self esteem. I used to say to myself, "I hate myself." "I am a wimp." "I can't do anything right." Imagine the negative ways in which these voices influenced me. (By the way, the voices were not accurate. While I was thinking these thoughts, I was doing well enough in school to get accepted to Columbia University. I was a leader in my high school youth group. Finally, I was matriculated at Columbia earning a fairly high GPA. But, if I'd thought this myself during those years I quickly would have rationalized, "Oh, come on, this is school. School is easy. Anybody could do well in school if they just tried.") I did not understand these voices and feelings. Furthermore, I never could have articulated them.

You might be wondering how I came to develop higher self esteem. For it is fairly safe to say that somebody with a low self esteem would probably not publish the previous paragraph.

Shortly after I graduated from college I had an idea. (Actually a therapist helped me formulate this idea.) Each day I would identify the things that I had done during the day that were truly accomplishments. At times I felt so down, that shaving felt like an accomplishment. But, over time, my lists helped me develop better feelings towards myself. Now, I often hear voices in my head that actually make me feel good. "I have a successful business." "I can make other people feel good."

Teachers work with students every day. My guess would be that on a regular basis, students have voices in their heads. These voices can promote high self-esteem. But, they can also promote low self esteem. I wonder how many teachers actually think about the voices and feelings of their students. My thought would be that not very many do so. Essentially this means that teachers do not get to know their students as individuals. I fear that not many parents think about these variables either. This means that many children and adolescents do not have adults who truly know them. Without this knowledge of youth it is very difficult to help them grow up in the best possible way.

It took me until I was in my mid-20s to feel good about myself. What if my parents or teachers had understood my feelings. Would they have been able to help me feel good about myself at a younger age. I was lucky. Eventually I did find somebody who could help me develop a deeper understanding of myself. Some people never really learn to understand their feelings and emotions.

We kid about voices in heads. But this kidding is destructive since everybody does have voices in their heads. These voices should be understood not made fun of.

What do you think?

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