Habit 2: Notice what is going on in your head.
Knowledge is power.
As we discussed in Habit 1, we all have conflicting desires, thoughts, opinions and beliefs that have developed from our evolution, our upbringing, our experiences and our culture. To help understand and deal with the ebb and flow of all these influences I find it useful to divide them into two dominant identities; our Ego Voice and our Soul Voice.
Unhappiness is often simply a result of the battle between Ego vs Soul taking centre stage.
I describe the Ego Voice as our scared voice. It’s the voice that keeps us safe from the tiger, from social exclusion, from going against our parents’ belief systems, from other people’s judgement. It’s there to protect us from the myriad of threats that it has evolved to interpret and anticipate. It does a very good job of keeping us safe from physical and social harm. However…and you knew this was coming didn’t you…it also keeps us from being our truly authentic self. It keeps us small and hidden, afraid to be vulnerably courageous and express our brilliant selves to the world for fear of failure and judgement.
Our Soul Voice on the other hand is the grounded, wise, connected voice that comes from deep inside of us. As I write that – ‘deep inside us’ – I know that this is not a scientific statement. Science has not discovered some part of our body or brain that is designated as the space where our soul or personality or self resides. But I know that most of you reading will understand that phrase. You know that you have an inner wisdom that you can tap into sometimes – some of us more than others. It manifests itself as that nagging feeling that something is wrong, or the conviction that a decision is right, despite it not being logically so. It’s that feeling you get as you step into the 100th house you’ve looked at and know immediately it’s the one for you. Or the unrivalled sense of peace that envelopes you on a crisp winter’s day walk. Our Soul Voice has a feeling of alignment, of connectedness, of being grounded in nature and the universe.
For most of us in our modern frantic lives, our Ego Voice is usually in charge, often completely suffocating our Soul Voice. It does this all in the name of protection and safety – as the brain is designed to do – but is unhelpful in modern life, where there are fewer physical dangers and even fewer survival threats.
Our Ego Voice is also encouraged and manipulated by the culture we live in in the western world. The pressure to be successful, to be the best, strongest, smartest, richest or thinnest tells our brains that these measures are crucial for our self worth. It defines what is (supposed to be) most important to us, and not surprisingly over time we begin to believe it too. Our Soul Voice’s desires to live a simple life, to be kind rather than competitive, to switch off social media, or to downsize to the coast are ignored and squashed because they don’t fit with the biggest, better, strongest image of success that we have been inculcated with.
I know that many of us are aware of these status, money and power driven standards in our society and we know that we can choose differently, and indeed many people do. Some of us become teachers despite the scorn and low pay, some of us parent our children with love rather than fear in the playground while tutting tongues and shaking heads are all around. Lots of us ignore the latest fashionable trends and buy the jeans that we’ve always bought, knowing they suit us and our lifestyle. Lots of us choose fresh food over pizza most days. Others save money and build a nest egg for retirement while resisting the constant calls to bring sunshine into their lives with the latest gadget, bigger house or new car. We all know that we can make decisions that live outside of our media culture’s dominant values as we do it every day. We do this when our Soul Voice is strong enough and persistent enough to lead the way.
However, for every decision that the Soul Voice makes I would guess there are at least 10 that our Ego Voice makes – maybe more – as we go through our days on automatic pilot. You head the messages from your Ego Voice: to wear the bland, safe clothes that will make you fit in, rather than that floaty dress that you love and makes you feel like a goddess; to go against your urge to make that casserole for the friend who’s having her kitchen done, cos you don’t know her that well, and she might think you’re a bit creepy; to not risk doing the school run without make up in case you meet someone who may judge you for looking so ‘tired’ or ‘rough’.
So Habit 2 is all about noticing what is going on in your head. Start listening to all the thoughts and urges and impulses and whispers in your head. Notice what they are saying, from what place they are saying them (peace or fear, love or hate, acceptance or resistence). Are they coming from your Ego Voice or your Soul Voice? Can you begin to build up a picture of each of these voices as they are inside you. Can you recognise their characteristics?
Notice when and how you tune into your intuition and gut feelings.
Notice what triggers your anger, your fear, your automatic responses that you perhaps regret after the event? Is there a common theme? Is there a voice from your childhood that is coming out in your Ego Voice? What fears is it feeding? Are they real fears? Are they helpful?
Get to know that negative, fear based Ego Voice that’s only trying to protect you. What is going on when you are in stressed and overwhelmed and in threat mode. Learn to see your emotions as feedback. Not good or bad – just feedback.
And get to know what makes your heart and soul sing – this is the key to connecting and strengthening your Soul Voice. We will look more at this in the next Habit.
Remember – if you are feeling ill at ease, overwhelmed, unhappy, stressed, anxious or depressed, it’s probably due to an internal battle between your Ego Vs Soul. But if you listen hard enough you’ll learn to distinguish between the two, and start to choose more often the option that nourishes your soul rather than be a slave to your ego.