In this three-part series, we discuss how and when negative voices appear in our minds, techniques used by our coaches to quiet the voices, how quieting these voices can help you in your life, work, love, and parenting, and finally, the techniques our coaches use with their own clients to help them quiet the negative voices.
And, as always with a topic which is of interest to many , we asked our MMSNorCal coaches on how they quiet negative voices in their own heads; and how they coached their clients to do the same.
In this article, let’s start first with understanding:
- What are negative voices in your head
- Situations in which negative voices start to appear
- Situations in which they become louder
What are Negative Voices in Your Head
Interestingly, the ability to talk to ourselves or have an inner dialogue in our heads starts in childhood when we try to make sense of activities or play together with others.
This inner voice could criticize the way you look (perhaps, you have gained a lot of weight), it could repeat harsh words used by loved ones in moments of anger or abuse, blame you for your lack of success in love, parenting, or your work, and so forth.
And as we grow, we may begin to experience the inner voice becoming critical, negative, and even extremely damaging. This is especially true when one is suffering from extreme stress, depression, or anxiety.
When Negative Thoughts Start to Appear
In this section, we talk about negative voices that could begin in adolescence, cyclical negative voices, as a response to unwanted situations, and a result of work.
Negative Voices Starting in Adolescence
Coach Carla Morton says that she feels negative voices in her head started somewhere in adolescence. They have not necessarily disappeared; but, she has had sufficient life experience and has built enough self-confidence to override any negative voices with self-love, self-compassion, self-forgiveness and a certain lack of attachment to things being perfect all the time.
Coach Sarah E. Spencer: “As with Carla, my first negative thoughts I can remember was in adolescence, probably the mean girl phase of middle school. These centered about friendships and frenemies (a person who is or pretends to be a friend but who is also in some ways an enemy or rival) and I’m sure did much to undermine our confidence, which resolved as we matured.”
Coach LIndsey Taylor-Vivier says that she did not notice her negative voices until she was in college. She has also realized from observing herself and her coaching clients that the negative voices tended to get louder when you try something new, or when you are in a stressful situation.
She adds, “I overcame them with a lot of personal reflection and hard work with therapy and coaching. I got to a place where I accepted myself, all of me, all my darkness and all of my light.” And, that broke the hold of the negative voices on her.
Negative Voices as a Cycle
Coach Muriel Murphy says: “My cycle of negative thoughts come and go constantly. I recall noticing them for the first time in my life around the ages of nine or ten when I began to inquire within myself, why I was having these types of thoughts. How do I continue to overcome them?”
Coach Muriel feels that her negative thought patterns are a cycle that have been and continue to be never ending for her.
She is not sure if she has actually overcome them; however, she is able to manage and control them.
By Recognizing, Allowing/Accepting, Investigating/Nurturing these thoughts, Coach Muriel has found a pathway to turn things around a bit.
She does this by:
- Redirecting her thoughts to more positive ones, such as gratitude
- Seeing the beauty in nature and the world
- Recalling kindnesses that were extended towards her by others
- Doing kind things for others, such as listening when someone is need of a friendly ear.
Response to Unwanted Situations
Coach Michelle Hayden-Marsan says that she finds that, negative thoughts arise as a response to an unwanted, unforeseen situation.
For example, when we have a reaction to something that bothers us, for example when the plans we were looking forward to get canceled, or even something as simple as when someone cuts us off while driving on the road. We tend to go into automatic pilot and react. It takes a lot of practice to unlearn our reactive tendencies.
This is a worthy practice as it’s impossible to expect things to always go the way we’d like them to anyway.
The more that we are able to go with what comes up, knowing that if we don’t like it, it will eventually pass anyway, the better we are able to practice using that muscle and let things roll off of us more easily.
Coach Hayden-Marsan also finds the expression, “What we resist persists.” to be true for her.
In fact, she encourages her coaching clients to consider this philosophy when they are stuck and unable to make progress.
Negative Thoughts During Work
Coach Sarah also found that professionally for her was “years of working in a (at times) toxic workplace and this did much to drive the monkey mind, sucking up so much of my best energy (and wasting so much money when one really thinks about it).”
A key way that Coach Sarah was able to move forward was to find an excellent therapist who specialized in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and, with the help of the therapist, she was able to move the trauma to find a new centeredness within herself.
She also invested in working with a professional coach for support, and to bring action to her short-term and long-term goals. (More about this in the next article in this series.)
Situations Where Negative Voices Get Louder
Coach Michelle Mueller Ihrig finds that negative thoughts come to her in a variety of situations:
- When she is feeling overwhelmed
- Thinking too much about the future
- Not following what she feels or believes is right for her
- Listening to the opinions of others rather to herself
- Comparing herself to others
- Allowing the fear and doubt from others dampen the hopes and dreams for her own future
At such moments, she finds herself getting angry at herself for not staying on her course.
Coach Mueller Ihrig also gets frustrated when she feels like she is not making progress fast enough, or others making progress faster than her.
A common situation for many of us when we feel stuck and unable to progress.
Coach Mueller Ihrig says,”I have a lot of ideas in my head and hold myself to high expectations. And, at the same time, I am craving more work life balance and making time to keep doing things that inspire me so I can continue to lead by example and inspire others.”
Sometimes, the tension between these can cause an imbalance leading to louder and more frequent negative voices for Coach Mueller Ihrig.
Not Listening to Your Inner Compass
Coach Lindsey has come to realize that most of the time she hears negative voices is when she is not listening to her inner compass.
She has also realized that the voices get triggered when she takes on “projects or challenges that I don’t want to do, or don’t feel I can do. Understanding these triggers has resulted in me becoming pretty good at saying no.”
An advantage indeed!
Conflicts with Others
Coach Muriel’s insight on when her negative thoughts and voices get triggered, or get louder, is quite different from Coaches Lindsey and Mueller Ihrig. She finds that, for her, “situations that trigger negative thoughts are usually when I am in conflict with a loved one and I am not feeling valued or heard or understood.”
Coach Carla adds, “I agree 100% with Muriel. I get triggered by other people. I also get triggered into negativity when I start to compare myself. That’s when I pull back into myself and start meditating.”
Coach Sarah finds herself in complete alignment with Coaches Muriel and Carla as she herself is “triggered by conflict and criticism, and even basic disagreement with someone I respect. As I learned to quiet the negativity, I found the confidence to stand in my own opinion, and not to let the monkey mind sitting on my shoulder to hang on.”
Feeling a Victim
Coach Hayden-Marsan finds that “situations that make my negative thoughts persist are when I just go along and feed the story, when I choose to play victim to the circumstances, instead of saying, “ aha, here I am, I don’t like this, this is a moment of suffering for me.”
She adds, “If I want to and am able to stand in my power, I say, “ Everyone suffers, I am not alone in this. May I be kind to myself, may I know that this will change.”
And, she finds things start to shift for her!
In the second article of this three-part series, titled, How to Quiet Negative Voices in Your Head, we feature techniques used by our coaches to quiet their own negative voices; in the third article in this series, learn How Quieting Negative Voices Helps Life, Love, Work & Parenting (Part 3).