The Voices Inside
We are often told to listen to that voice inside, the voice of our true self, the one that will guide us to what we really are. But which voice is that?
- The angry and irresponsible voice that tells me to quit my job and other silly responsibilities?
- The self-loathing one that reminds me of my social incompetence; of the many ways I have humiliated myself; of the many times I have let other people walk all over me, and how I am trapped in self-defeating behavior patterns that cause those things to happen again and again?
- The fearful voice that tell me to desperately do anything necessary to avoid loneliness?
- The tired voice that tells me to just stop worrying, eat a pint of ice cream and watch a movie? Because, what difference does it all make anyways?
- The whiney one, constantly reminding me of the many ways my parents, acquaintances, colleagues, bosses, politicians, media and big bankers have screwed me over?
- The voice that constantly brings it all back to sex?
- The worried voice that always predicts what other people will think, and plots how to present my actions in a good light?
- The optimistic one that always tells me to try something new, to search for the truth, to drop those useless inhibitions, and to quit my job and other silly responsibilities so that everything will turn out right?
- Or the bitter and realistic voice that tells me all of the other voices are totally self-deluding?
Theoretically it should be easy to differentiate. I just have to listen to those voices that come from my true self, and ignore all of those that only represent the fears and false ideals instilled by mother and society. But of course, it is never so easy. Each voice is very skilled at making the others look bad. And no voice ever manages to drown the others out. In fact, they only seem to incite each other.
Those voices and feelings that seemed, at the moment of hearing them, by far the truest and most meaningful—the ones that came in moments of great emotion or psychedelic vision—are often the ones that look silliest after that moment passes. And those voices and fears that are so obviously are the echoes of others telling me what to do and how to do it; the voices that are most obviously the channels of fear and jealousy. These are the voices that use the most potent and irresistible words: responsibility, achievement, strength, firm personality, compassion, commitment, making a difference, helping, sympathy, family, respect, service, honor, productive, successful, popular, admired, good citizen, etc.
And how about those voices amplified through intense self-reflection, psychoanalysis and the lousier psychedelic trips—the ones that show the many ways I deceive myself, the self-defeating patterns that I still repeat, the many ways that I fail to live up to my own inflated image of myself. This is the voice that convinces me that every attempt to break away from those patterns is only yet another manifestation of those patterns? Does this voice, dredged up with great difficulty, some how show my true self? Then why does it make me feel so shitty? Can’t it be the poisonous products of social expectations instead?
And the voice that brings everything back to sex. It is both the least articulate and most persistent of the voices. It is embarrasing, tiring and frustrating. It is also filled with hope and dreams and the promise of mystic unity and transcendence and social connection and the realization of infantile fantasies of flesh and the womb. This is the voice that so insitently points to an unattainable ecstasy that always seems just within grasp and yet constantly retreats further. . . Should I fight this voice or flow with its seductions? Both options seem to only make the voice louder. I don’t know a third option, although I suspect it has something to do with the kind of self-discipline that leads to liberation (or, is that yet another sex-fueled fantasy?).
And that cynical voice, the one that rips through everything, never trusts and never lets down its defenses. It is a voice so loud and familiar that I often take it to be the voice of my self. But I know that this voice has been a great source of pain and alienation for me. It is a voice that I have been far too attached to and need to let go. But it is also the voice that keeps me going further, the one that fights most aggressively against all of those other voices, the voice that is never satisfied until we reach bottom. But it is a dead end itself, unless we constantly throw up new hopes and voices for it to demolish.
Perhaps none of these voices speak for a true self. All they do is peel off the layers, showing again and again that each new truth is also an idiocy. And so I should keep on peeling. Sooner or later, a few of those voices will be peeled off along with some of the layers. And if I don’t stop, if I refuse to get attached to any of those voices, perhaps I will get to the end, to nothing, silence. Which is where I’ll end up anyways.