I’d Never, Ever, Ever, Ever. . .

Some days the teacher’s not the teacher. Some days wisdom rises up through a single voice to give voice to our collective experience and pain.

We’re working on an Inside/Outside project at The Lighthouse, a faith-based residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse, for the next few weeks. Someone in recover recently said  that what goes on in her inside often doesn’t match how she looks on the outside. She may look to others very put together, but feel wretched on the inside. So our art project is to explore that dissonance and explore steps toward becoming more congruent.

Last Friday’s art piece was an exploration of the negative self-talk each of us lives with daily.  While we may speak ten thousand words a day in conversation with others, we might speak millions of words to ourselves in an unchecked internal conversation of comparisons, complaints, putdowns, and condemnations. Those critical voices I’ve come to call the committee that meets inside our head and votes against us. Part of recovery is to slow down that internal talk and check it out – identify it, examine the grain of truth in it, and update it to constructive self-talk.

Each woman was invited to create an image, on the inside of a manila folder, including the most common negative self-talk she speaks to herself. Many of their drawings contained similar words and phrases – stupid, ugly, you’re a loser, only good for sex, you’re a monster, I’ll never change, you’ve ruined everything, and on and on… When it was Amy’s turn to share her painting, the anguished honesty of her words were powerful – “I’d never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever….say to another person the things I say to myself.”

Sometimes we are so much more able to love our neighbors than ourselves. And if we’re going to extend that same kind of love to ourselves, we may have to tackle the committee that meets inside our head and votes against us. We may have to fire a few, instruct others on being appropriately supportive (which also includes constructive feedback and caution), and discourage others from globalizing, catastrophizing, degrading, and condemning, just to name a few.  

If you were to draw a picture of the committee that meets inside your head, what would it look like? Who would be a part of it? And what would they say? Are there some folks that meet inside you head and vote against you that you might like to give some loving guidance to? What would you say to them? How might that change any negative self-talk you might have?

I’ll look forward to your comments. I love it when you describe the art work you would create in response to one of my questions.

3 comments to I’d Never, Ever, Ever, Ever. . .

  • Deanna J Bowling

    Though I was sickly most of the time before I turned 8 years old, there were moments when I was up and around. I can’t remember if what I am going to describe happened when I was 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 years old, making my brother Jerry either 16 months or 28 months at the time.

    One of the two of us, maybe both, had been on one of our rampages, and my mom was extremely upset. Jerry and I were standing in the kitchen, and our mom and dad were in the dining room that was connected to the kitchen by an archway. My parents had taken apart Jerry’s play pen and made the sides into gates that could somewhat “ring Jerry in” The gates were in place that day, and I don’t think Jerry had learned yet how to escape, though it wouldn’t be long before he did so.

    I remember my mom saying that if we didn’t behave, she and my dad were going to go away and never come back, and then they stepped out of sight. That’s all I remember.

    I hadn’t thought about that moment in time for a long time, but the memory came back today after reading this piece. I don’t know specifically if that particular moment was what started my fear of people leaving me and my not being able to take care of myself, but that scenario would be the picture I would draw.

  • Hello! I love this post, thank you for sharing it.
    I’m adding it to my blog as well, feel free to comment there if you’d like.
    Blessings on your work!
    Terri Schanks
    Blessings Enterprises, LLC

  • Committee in my head — great image. I’m going to have to explore that one a little. I think I’ll journal the types of responses I usually get and then create characters to identify those voices when they get a little too loud, or need instruction.

    No question I’ve also got a “support team” that meets in my head as well. They are voices from my past as well as my image of Jesus. I like to consider Jesus’ voice when the committee gets a little loud.

    Great post. Thanks!

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