The ultimate addiction may be to our thoughts.
Everybody is aware of that voice in the head. You know, the one that urges you to action, the one that you argue with, the one that criticizes you, the one that narrates the movies you make in your head.
A friend of mine joked that the only difference between the people he sees on the streets arguing with themselves and himself was that he didn’t make public the dialogs he creates in his head. I laughed a little uneasily about this, and I was reminded of a passage from Eckhart Tolle’s The New Earth in which he makes the same observation as my friend.
One of the things that non-addicts get grumpy about is hearing addicts in recovery say time and again that everyone would benefit from reading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. As a recovering alcoholic, I was guilty of this in my early recovery.
Yet, as I read more and more spiritual psychology, the more I learn about the voice. Tolle makes a cogent point that we are all addicts…addicts to our own thinking. Part of it, particularly for those who love drama (and we all do to a degree), is that creating these mental movies is like the rush of crack. There is a release of hormones and an adrenaline rush that is…well…addictive.
The majority of us have come to believe that the voice is ourselves speaking to ourselves. What psychologists say is that the voice is really a collection of voices from parents, caretakers, and people who were influential in our lives back as early as childhood. We have internalized these voices into a composite voice that is constantly chattering away in our heads.
Because it is so familiar, we consider it to be one that “has our back,” that is looking out for our best interest, that is like a best friend. We sometimes forget that this voice is the one that drags us over the coals for the blunders we have made.
If we have the courage to really step back and listen to this voice as if it is someone we are sitting down with having coffee, we would begin to notice that frequently it is a very critical voice. It cruelly takes us to task about who we are and what we do.
Can we really call this voice a friend? Friends love us, support us, and say encouraging words. They remind us of our strengths. Does the voice really “have our back”? In my experience, no. Why do I listen then? Because I always have.
That is the addiction.
One of the most life-changing realizations I have made during my years reading books on recovery, spirituality, and spiritual psychology—and the one that was so tough for me to grasp—was simply this: we are not our thoughts, we are not our behaviors, and we are not the roles we play. These are things we do. They are not who we are.
But there is a part of us that is at the core of our being. It is that part of us that has remained the same from the time were in diapers, from the time we were children, from the time we were in middle school and high school, and throughout the entire span of our adult lives. In spiritual terms, this is the soul.
The soul has a voice. It is often called the “small voice” within us. The reason it is small is because we have allowed the cacophony of voices of our social conditioning to dominate it.
The soul-voice is the one that is who we really are. It is our essence. And it truly is our most loving friend.
In order to hear it, we must no longer identify ourselves with the critical voice. We must step back from it, again recognizing it as the composite voice of our parents and caretakers. Experts call this taking the “witness-observer” position.
Being able to assume this position will dramatically change the way that you respond to life and all the people who make up your life.
With practice it becomes easier to dispel the noise of the critical voice and to hear the small voice within. Just take a few moments every day to sit in stillness. Visualize stepping back away from the critical voice you are hearing like backing away from another person. Remain still and listen. See if you can’t begin to hear the loving and compassionate of your small inner voice.
It is there, and it is the voice of self-compassion, love, and acceptance.
It is the voice of your true Self.
I would love to hear your personal experiences doing this. Your comments are welcome!
If you’d like to be free of your addiction, please contact me at ValuesBasedRecovery@gmail.com. I work with people who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction as well as behavioral addictions such as food, porn, and gambling. I work with clients in person or on the Zoom live video platform.
RJ Handley, Addiction Recovery Coach