DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, & THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD
We all have what is called in Mindfulness teachings, a “voice in your head.” The voice is constantly commenting on everything in your life. “She looks beautiful”, “I’ll never get anywhere”, “Did I make that reservation?”, “Why does this always happen to me?”, “I need to have sex”, “What’s wrong with me?”, “Things will never change”, “What a nice sunset”, “He’s going to leave me”, “I don’t know what to eat”, “I hate this.”
The voice can also be carrying on unfinished conversations from the past when you’re alone driving, doing the dishes by yourself, or taking a bath: “I told you I didn’t want you to buy that car Mary. Now you spent all the money. You never listen to me! I’m not going to put up with this anymore. You need to get help Mary or I’ll leave you.” There, you told Mary! But, umm, not really—Mary wasn’t part of the conversation. You were alone taking a bath, remember? Oh...yeah.
The “voice in the head” is a conditioned sub-personality or false self. It is conditioned from all your positive and negative experiences from the past. Its commentary is usually laced with some degree of fear. It often talks like your parents or like someone who raised you. It uses your own voice to convince you it is you. It is almost always generating some degree of fear, anxiety, depression, or anger.
From a Mindfulness place, this voice is an imposter. Who you are is different from the voice itself. In Mindfulness the goal is to break our identification with the voice. We need to develop an awareness that we are the ones who Witness the voice—not the voice itself.
Let’s put it this way, when you say, “My head is driving me crazy” or, “I can’t stop thinking about her” or, “I can’t get that song out of my head” –all of these are examples of the part of yourself that is WITNESSING your own thinking (i.e. the voice in the head). Who’s aware that your head is driving you crazy? Who’s aware that you can’t stop thinking about her? Who’s aware that you can’t get that song out of your mind?
These examples point to the undeniable fact that there is part of you that is Witnessing what you are thinking. That Witnessing Self constitutes the true self that is very different than the voice in your head that you usually identify with.
So how do I break the identification with the voice? Glad you asked. The main practice in Mindfulness is simply to relax and observe the thoughts. You can also use meditation to relax and observe the thoughts. You can focus on your breathing throughout the day. You can make whatever it is that you are doing in any given moment the most important thing you are doing, giving it your full attention. With these practices, over time, the mind calms down, and the Witnessing Self begins to increase in its influence. The fears of the voice in the head diminish and they are no longer the guiding force in decision-making – the Witnessing Self is; a much wiser, aware self that can guide you to the kind of life you want.
The anxious, depressive, voice in the head guides us to all kinds of bad decisions when we make the mistake of believing it is us and it knows what it’s talking about. It does not! Today take the time to observe your breathing, meditate, and watch the voice in the head. Do this for 10 minutes and see if this doesn’t calm down the voice in your head. Mindfulness can calm down the voice, and in turn calm down your depression, anxiety, anger, and fears. What replaces them? Joy, calmness, and peace of mind.
Below is an excellent talk on Mindfulness and the voice in the head at the University of Florida by Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul. Check it out: