You may be acutely aware, or perhaps, dimly aware that you have two voices in your head, and that most of the time, these two voices are in direct opposition to each other. Stop and reflect on this a moment, and see how recently you might have experienced such an internal conflict. Which voice do you typically listen to and why? Have you ever taken the time to examine the consequences of listening to one voice or the other? The purpose of this article is to give you insights into the two voices and to guide you to choose which voice to listen to.
The Voice of the Ego
I have already written extensively on this blog about the voice of the ego. (See “Iago or Ego?” and related links ). Therefore, I will only briefly review. The voice of the ego always speaks from invalid beliefs that activate fear that triggers knee-jerk reactions. The voice of the ego speaks first and loudest, so you feel compelled to act from fear. Consequently, when you listen to the ego, you weaken yourself further, and although you may feel empowered momentarily, fear returns again and again like waves on a beach. This process is so well portrayed in a television series on Netflix called “Ozark.” The main protagonists are a married couple, Marty and Wendy. Due to some nefarious circumstances and out of fear, they agree to launder money for a drug cartel, believing they will eventually extricate themselves from the cartel’s influence and protect themselves and their two children, a teenage daughter, and 10-year-old son. However, they keep listening to their egos, thus making more and more decisions from fear. More and more dead bodies pile up until at the end of the third season, they have become indistinguishable from the cartel in their thinking and their tactics.
The Other Voice
There is another voice that is always present, but not as easily discernible because this voice is soft and gentle. This voice arises from silence and fearlessness. This voice always strengthens, clarifies, enlightens, harmonizes, and creates. Often this voice is wordless but sometimes comes through the words and/or actions of other people. There are many names for this voice depending on culture, religious tradition, and life experiences. Some of the more common names are Wisdom, Truth, Higher Power, Tao, Holy Spirit, intuition, inner advisor, spiritual guide, guardian angel, the heart, and so on. Whatever name you choose is less important than being aware of this voice, learning to listen to it, and making choices based on it.
How to Hear the Other Voice
Although this other voice is always present and accessible, it often feels remote and inaccessible because the voice of the ego is loud, intrusive, invasive, insistent, and persistent, seemingly drowning out the other voice. So, for most people, hearing the other voice requires strong intention and conscious, consistent effort. The good news is there are many portals to hearing the other voice. Among them are meditation, prayer, music, poetry, spiritual writings, mindfulness, nature, solitude, and quiet stillness. In “Teaching Spirituality to Children: Parts I and II,” I write about prayer, meditation, and mindfulness. In this article, I introduce you to two straightforward ways to determine whether the voice you are hearing is the ego or the other voice. I believe with alertness, sensitivity, openness, and repetition, most people can become quite skilled in distinguishing between the two voices.
Dr. Dain Heer
Dr. Heer in his book Being You, Changing the World describes a simple way of knowing whether something is true for you. He writes, “Now, please know that what’s true always makes you feel lighter. A lie always makes you feel heavier.” (This clearly does not apply to severely disturbed, character disordered people who might indeed feel light at the thought of killing someone. Their capacity for true self-reflection is severely limited or completely lost.) So if the voice is telling you a lie, you can be sure you are hearing the ego, which A Course in Miracles calls “the Great Deceiver.” In the Bible, in the gospel of John, Chapter 8, verse 44, Jesus tells his listeners, “You belong to your father, the devil (the ego), and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Taken from the New International Version)
What self-statements do you listen to that are lies? For example, has a voice in your mind ever said to you, “You’re such a loser!” or “You never do anything right!” or “Don’t trust anybody ever!” For effect right now, say these three statements to yourself aloud and with conviction. Say them as though you are hearing the ego speak to you at this moment. What do you experience? According to Dr. Heer, if you pay attention, you will notice a detectable heaviness. Also, you may have noticed all three statements contained absolutes, and that is because the ego typically speaks in absolutes–some key revealing words are always, never, every time, whenever, totally, completely, and constantly.
Now, take the opposite approach. Relax, slow and deepen your breathing, and quiet your mind as best you can for a few moments. Then in your mind allow these words to arise, “Sometimes you make mistakes and you learn from them.” or “You are capable of being a kind person.” or “You face your fears.” (You can listen for and insert your own personal statements here. Do you feel lighter or heavier?)
Dr. David Hawkins
Dr. Hawkins in his book Power versus Force presents a kinesiological test for truth which is another way of knowing what voice you are listening to. He describes this test in detail so the reader can begin practicing it immediately with another person. I refer you to his book, rather than go into a detailed description here. The gist of the test is how a person reacts physically to a statement–whether their arm goes weak or strong. So this test, like Dr. Heer’s, draws upon something inside the person that is non-intellectual and non-rational, but very present. Dr. Hawkins conducted extensive studies using this methodology to test for truth, and although he is deceased, there are many researchers continuing his work.
Although these two approaches can be very helpful to hear the other voice, they work best if preceded by even the briefest moments of stillness. The voice of the ego thrives on noise, hurry, disorganization, crises, and mind clutter. Therefore, it is crucial to hearing the other voice that you learn to slow down, step back, breathe deeply, and get quiet long enough to listen. Out of that stillness comes comfort, strength, insight, inspiration, truth, creative ideas, and sometimes a deep, enveloping peace. The other voice waits patiently, gently, and everlastingly for you to hear it and to receive it. You do not have to become a slave to the voice of your ego. You are free to choose what voice to listen to.
*** To learn how to listen to the other voice throughout your regular day, read “Listening to the Other Voice.”