My final question today in my session, was “Am I the only one who has this many voices in their head? Or am I going mad?”
Her initial, wry, light hearted answer was “and who was that asking? Dobby?” Followed by, ‘No, you are not the only one. Not in the slightest.”
I first became aware of the incredibly enlightening and surprising fact that we do have different voices or personas in our head when I read ‘The Chimp Paradox’ several years ago. I didn’t really fully understand it until it was explained to me in far more simplistic terms when I started a series of sessions in professional coaching after I had left my very structured, pre-determined, established career and started to work more entrepreneurially and creatively. My coach introduced me to my ‘sabboteur’ and my ‘cheerleader’ voices and helped me make sense of it by giving them personas. For some reason, Dobby the house elf became my saboteur and Snow White my cheerleader.
Today, I discovered a few more have joined my mind gang.
Dobby is still there, dancing around my feet, hiding behind my calves like a small child, questioning me at every turn ‘are you sure…..?’ expecting a justification in response to his warning. He is my protector, the one who has the important role and power to keep me safe and but the potentially damaging voice to hold me back, preventing me from realising everything I want to in life. While he can make me feel safe, he can also make me feel small and silly, unsure and indecisive. All I can do to quieten this voice is to listen and acknowledge and move on.
My ‘Pushy Parent’ is a new one. A cartoon-like bubble floating above my head with an androgynous face and a pointy, chastising or chivvying finger. I think this one must have appeared around the same time as #breakingbadhabits. Sometimes it is motivational and encouraging, but mostly it is derogatory, loudly opinionated and incredibly judgemental, always telling me I am doing it wrong, lazy, incompetent and could be doing better. The voice of ‘you should be over this by now’. This loud voice pops in and out of visibility and when it appears, usually while I am doing something for myself; or being unproductive or eating something that isn’t entirely wholesome and has the ability to make me feel like a guilty child, makes me feel disgust for myself and worthless. I know this voice has good intentions, just like Dobby, to keep me moving forwards, improving and growing, but this is probably the hardest voice to ignore and is particularly vocal at the moment.
Then there is Pamela. In her kinky knee-high patent boots, goading me, taunting me, showing me all those photos again, flinging them in to the forefront of my consciousness. She isn’t appearing as frequently as she used to. And I physically turn her off. When I am feeling good, it is a quick flick of the wrist and fling over my shoulder. When I am tired, she is relentless, disgusting, jealous, greedy, needy, cheap and childish and brings out the same feelings in me. I can only think that her role is to protect me by reminding me to be alert. Or perhaps to remind me to be grateful for so much and so close I came or could still come to losing it? I am not sure on that one…
Snow White is strangely quiet and absent these days. My original cheerleader. She was the biggest opponent to Dobby’s negativity, with her positivity and swirling happiness and tuneful, joyful songs. She helped me see the good in everyone and everything, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, choosing to see the good only. And I wonder whether she is hiding in shame, feeling the blame is all hers; her fault for silencing Dobby’s questioning intuition when he was right all along. Or maybe she knows that dancing and singing in my head is not what I need right now; it is too soon to feel happy and joyful, and she is biding her time.
As we looked at these 4 voices on paper, my therapist helped me realise that there is one voice, a very important voice for me right now, missing. With Snow in the shadows, there is a lot of negative noise and would explain my feeling of lowness and depression.
And so we are back to compassion. And we worked on what that voice would sound like and how it would make me feel. The voice would be calm and friendly and make me feel safe and worthy. The voice has to be strong enough to stand up to the Pushy Parent, calm enough to deal with nervous Dobby and someone to protect me from Pamela, overwhelm her and keep her out of my head.
As we talked about this voice, it took shape in the form of Hagrid. Quite possibly because the boys are on a Harry Potter box set frenzy. But he is perfect. He is formidable yet soft, sensitive and kind. He is loyal, the master of protection and will always have my back because he loves me.
I felt Hagrid’s power almost immediately. I felt calmer knowing he was there. And no one made a noise as I spent the rest of the day deep in a fictional novel, eating a bagel smothered in butter and sweet, sweet strawberry jam.
5 voices in my head. I wonder which one is me? Or is there a 6th?