Get rid of the voices that are within you
and soon you will be surprised
to hear a still, small voice
you have never heard before...
then a sudden recognition that it is your voice.
There is so much noise inside and outside of our heads, that it is often difficult to hear and make space for the still, small voice within. This is a culture full of stimulus and sounds from TV, radio, Spotify, podcasts, social media, texting, chatting, or spending time in loud busy places like gyms, bars, and restaurants.
There is usually a similar noise level within our heads as well; there are voices that are critical and judgmental of ourselves and others or that are playing over conversations that happened or rehearsing conversations that may happen. These voices feel like our own, yet are composites of things we heard and absorbed from parents and others. Meditation teachers have called this the Monkey Mind, as it tends to leap from thought to thought, and we can get caught up in its antics, identifying fully with it.
Yet we are more than our minds and its thoughts. There is another voice that in volume can't compete with the loud chattering in our heads. It is the authentic voice, the voice of intuition, the voice that is the real you, beneath the layers of voices that have built up over the years in your mind.
Especially at first, it requires effort and quieting the mind to hear that voice, and may be difficult to not only hear but to recognize as genuinely yours. It may not speak in an actual voice but may be a "gut feeling" or sensation that communicates wordlessly with you. The more you pay attention to it, the more attuned you will become to your true self!
The opposite of depression
is not happiness;
the opposite of depression
~ Andrew Solomon
The definition of vitality is: "the state of being strong and active; energy." The experience of vitality is one of feeling energized and alive, engaged in what is "vital," essential and important. When you are engaged in your life in a vital way, you may feel that you can take on anything, that you are up for the challenge of whatever comes your way or whatever endeavor you choose to undertake. You are unlikely to be impacted much by fear or doubts.
Depression, on the other hand, is an experience of feeling stuck; energy, motivation, and aliveness feel very distant. It is often described as being trapped in a dark hole and not knowing how to get out of it.
Often people think of happiness as being the opposite of depression, as they seem to be such opposing feeling states: optimism vs pessimism, hope vs despair, energy vs lethargy. If you are feeling depressed, you may yearn for the elusive feeling of happiness. Although depression does include the loss of a feeling of contentment or pleasure which are part of happiness, the true energetic opposite would be vitality.
What has become unavailable due to a situation, trauma or brain chemistry, is that sense of feeling alive and engaged, active and directed. Pleasure, contentment and happiness will follow this state, but the essential first step is to connect to your vitality, your chi, your energy again.
Psychotherapy, possibly medication, meditation, exercise, nutrition, social interactions: all of these will help you connect or re-connect to your vitality.
We don't receive wisdom;
we must discover it for ourselves
after a journey that no one
can take for us
or spare us.
- Marcel Proust
Our culture abounds with experts: in the arena of the inner world, there are spiritual and psychological teachers, self-help books, TED talks, webinars and workshops. They often suggest that you can have the life you desire if you follow their wisdom and advice. There is certainly an allure to the hint or implication of a magic wand that will solve your problems!
In fact, there is valuable guidance and information to be gleaned from all of the above resources. Yet the journey is still uniquely yours. Just as you have a fingerprint that is not duplicated, so the journey to wisdom and to fully inhabiting your own life is also unique. Certainly there are templates and models of growth and change that are universal. Yet, the unique combination of nature and nurture that makes you YOU, also means that your path to self-discovery and wisdom also has its own healing symbols, twists and turns, your own demons to face, as well as making peace with yourself, your life and others in a way that resonates with who you are.
Psychotherapy ( and therapists), in the best of circumstances, will NOT tell you what to do! Therapy will provide you with a safe place to be curious and honest about your life, your inner world and your path. The therapist can help you learn more about yourself, your patterns, your hopes and desires as well as the obstacles that stand in your way. But the transformative process and path to wisdom is uniquely yours!
If you would like help exploring your path to wisdom
call me for a phone consultation
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
There is nothing I can add to the eloquence of this invitation by the 13th Century Sufi Mystic Rumi, to welcome and accept any and all feelings as they appear. It is very much in line with current ideas of mindfulness and self-compassion.
Call me for a phone consultation
you would like to explore the "guests" who appear at your inner doorstep!
Once the search is in progress,
Something will be found.
- Oblique Strategies
It takes courage to embark on an inner exploration when you feel unhappy, depressed or unsatisfied with your life. There is the temptation, and you may have tried these "solutions," to more actively distract yourself, attempting to find happiness or meaning in more activity, travel, substances, sex, dating, or purchases. All of these activities in and of themselves are enjoyable and not in themselves harmful; however when they are used to fill up a void they will inevitably leave you feeling empty and/or become compulsions over time.
Many years ago Ram Dass said "wherever you go, there you are." Basically, you can run but not hide from yourself! Ultimately you may be called to begin an inner journey or exploration, to begin the search with no clear path to follow and only a hazy idea of what you hope to find and of what you may actually find.
I sometimes think of it as setting out in the jungle with a machete, having to make a path out of seeming no path, following your gut, your instinct about which direction to go in. It is a practice of trust or faith, that if you enter your inner world there will be signposts and guidance from within if you listen carefully. If you initiate the search and are curious and interested, you will definitely find something or some things: there may be painful feelings that were buried or semi-buried and there will also likely be treasure that you buried to protect or keep safe in the distant past.
To begin simply take the first step, begin the search. This can take many forms from journaling, reading, spiritual work, psychotherapy, self-help groups. The most important thing is to do something, to begin somehwere and trust that something of value will be found!
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley