A reader of this blog got in touch and shared a traumatic childhood experience that had left them with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I must admit that when I read this reader’s story, I was heart broken but at the same time impressed by how much they had had to overcome. As I read her story, I was drawn to how she had learned to silence the negative voices from her past. I knew there were lessons to be learnt from her story – somehow, I think we all have at least one negative voice in our head that messes with us on a daily basis and we all need to learn to silence it whenever it decides to make an appearance and mess up our day.
My reader explains that when she was a child, her parents had gotten a job in another country – not wanting to mess up their child’s education, they decided to leave her in the care of a relative they trusted. When her parents left her in the care of this relative, she had just turned 8 years old and she would be in their care until she left home for university – for 10 years she endured different kinds of abuse in this household with no one nurturing her as she grew. She narrates the story of her first day in her new home – how she had declined to eat when she arrived as she was missing her parents and expressing her hunger later was met with verbal abuse. She said the answer to her request for food at a later time that day taught her very quickly that she would not have a voice in the household – so from the very early age of 8, she learned that her voice did not matter. For 10 years, this relative, her husband and children will teach her through their actions and words that she did not matter – communication with her was always to tell her off for whatever wrong she may have done. As an adult, she realised that she always wanted to do things to earn love or do something wrong to get attention and this, is something she is still unlearning.
As my reader shared her story, one thing she pointed out that she deals with daily are the voices from those 10 years with her relative. The voices from those years in her head have messed up days, relationships and opportunities years after she left the home of her abusers. I could not imagine the level of abuse she had been through but I too was familiar with the negative voice that would occasionally show up in my head and tell me lies that mess up my day. As I talked about this with friends, I realised that this was not unique to me or the reader that got in touch. However, this is something we do not talk about much and therefore no one tells us how to quiet the negative voices in our heads.
Last year, when I was talking to my therapist, we discussed negative thoughts and how to stop living in my head and living consciously instead. It was during this time that I realised that there was a particular voice in my head that usually stopped me dead in my tracks whenever I tried something new and daring. There was always this voice that would list what could go wrong if I attempted something new – and to be honest, for years, I allowed this voice to stop me from trying new things including new relationships. When she asked me if any of my fears had ever materialised, I could not think of one. But I realised that because of these fears, I was sabotaging myself – because I believed this voice more than my reality. So I started asking myself one question every time I heard this negative voice – what if it goes well and I succeed? This simple question has saved me many anxiety episodes and while it has not completely removed this negative voice from my head completely, it has helped me silence it whenever it pops up in my head.
My reader said one statement that had always stayed with her was how her relative would call her ugly and tell her she would never amount to anything. She recounts how over the years she would meet men that would express interest in her and the voice in her head would ask her why these men would like her as there was nothing good in her to like, according to her relative. So she kept to herself over the years and refused to make any connections because she always felt like a fraud and that if she allowed anyone close, they would discover how ugly and how stupid she believed she was. I was saddened and asked if she was getting any help with dealing with all this trauma from her past. She advised that she was in therapy and some of the things she shared helped me put together the points below to help us silence the negative voices in our heads;
- The negative voice in your head is not your reality – you have the power to write your own story no matter what or who has happened to you in the past. Be patient and kind to yourself and speak kindly to yourself. You have survived everything that has happened to you so far – you are not your past mistakes or what people have done to you. Whatever you are telling yourself or someone has said to you, it is mostly not your reality – challenge your thoughts and stop being afraid of what is only a scenario in your head.
- Live outside of your head – there is so much more happening around us than what is happening in our heads. If there is anything we learnt from Disney’s Inside Out, it’s that, what we imagine in her heads is most times not the reality around us. If you feel you are being sucked into the negativity inside your head, look around you and do something that takes your focus from your thoughts to your surroundings. I would normally acknowledge something I see around me and focus on that instead – shifting my focus to something tangible.
- What is the worst that could happen? – this is a question I always ask myself when the negative voice tries to derail me. From the story of this reader, myself and the many people I have spoken to, we have all overcome very difficult situations which at the time when we were going through them thought we wouldn’t make it – but here we are! There is so much strength within us to overcome – we are not helpless, we are able to change our story and have a positive outcome regardless of our past.
I love music, especially hiphop and 90s rap. One such song I always listen to is Biggie Small’s Juicy – every time I begin to listen to the opinions of others when they pop up in my head – the first statement Biggie makes at the beginning of the song Juicy, helps me see things according to my reality. I always find myself laughing whenever I hear that phrase at the start of the song, crank up the volume and forget all the negativity. Remember who you are and what you have had to overcome – be your own cheerleader. You matter and therefore you deserve to take up space and for your voice to be heard. And for the many people out there who think they are not good enough – believe me, you are enough!
Thank you for always getting in touch – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.