In meditation and other spiritual practices we address the voices in our heads. Indeed, meditation is a practice wherein you actively quiet (hopefully silence) the voice in your head for a period of time. By turning off your “mind” (so goes the theory) the innate you-ness of you can express itself, make its needs known, thereby allowing you to live a more genuine and authentic (and therefore satisfying) life. In practice, we attempt to find the spaces between thoughts, and eventually expand the length of those spaces, turn down the volume and increase the ease with which we can turn off those annoying and sometime malicious voices.
The mind isn’t a “bad” thing. It’s just that the mind has a desire to take over, to do more than what it is designed to do. It wants to run the show. Why? Because the mind’s main job is to make decisions. The mind exists in a binary world: right/wrong; on/off; good/bad. It’s anxious to be right and safe…unchecked this becomes a desire to be “better than” and “safer than”. And that means someone’s going to suffer. Because what’s the opposite of better? Worse. What’s the opposite of safe? Endangered.
So the mind is awesome for remembering whether the berries on that bush are poisonous or not, and in planning how to take down a buffalo. In modern society, the mind is excellent at reading an owner’s manual, learning a new skill, etc. What your mind is not so great at, is knowing your emotional and spiritual needs. It is uninterested in the emotional lives of others, and therefore it should not be the primary organ with which you interact with your partner.
I had reason to reflect on the behaviors of my first husband recently. In so doing, I came to realize that his is the voice in my head. Stated differently, I realize that I am still holding myself to the impossible, insane standards to which he held me. Wow. I left the guy 6 years ago but he still lives in my head.
Pants a little tight? I can practically see the judgment on his face, or hear him telling me that I ought not to wear things that showed my “thick” legs. (Aside: I have gorgeous legs.) Got a little sweaty working on a house project? I can see the way he would curl his lip and sneer at the smell of me. A project go badly at work? There he is, shaking his head and walking away from me, clearly indicating what an idiot he believes me to be. (I have a genius-level IQ, an incredible career in a highly demanding field and enough common sense for three people. No, seriously: broken down car? Got it. Burst pipe? Handled. I get shit done.) So my internal voice does not match up with reality, and yet I believe it? Why? And why did he do that?
I believe he denigrated me constantly because his mind/ego were out of all control. In overshooting his efforts to feel safe he had to make me feel scared with yelling, intimidation or painful and humiliating sex. When his need to be accomplished ran amok, he tried to sabotage my career. I have so many examples of this it’s hard to choose just one, but I think the fact that he screamed and yelled at me, and eventually walked out on me the night before I took the bar exam is a good one. The reason? I had made the unconscionable error of becoming upset by the graphic depiction of violence against horses in a movie he had selected for us to watch. Yes. He was angry that I was upset. Angry, because I was sad. Angry, because I had a feeling that didn’t match up with his plans for the evening.
So why is his voice still in my head? Because I let it be there. I never really addressed the abuse, I was just so glad it was over! I stopped getting counseling when we divorced because “problem solved.” I started counseling a year ago to address the anxiety I felt after the end of my second marriage to a person who is prone to psychotic breaks (you’ll want to know this about someone before you marry them; on the upside “completely fucking psycho” is legal grounds for an annulment). Only recently have we started to touch on my marriage and the patterns I developed as a result of that relationship.
I didn’t really internalize Steven Stosny’s lesson about the “mirror of love” and how we believe that our worth is reflected to us by how the people we love treat us. I didn’t understand that I had internalized his opinion of and standards for me. I am still trying to win his approval even though I have no contact with the man. He treated me like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe: gross, inconvenient and a waste of his time. But I loved him. And I believed everything he ever told me about my value.
So, now that I know he is there, I can get him out. That dude doesn’t have a chance against me, because I have his number. That’s the thing about oppressors, they are stupid. They disregard and ignore the oppressed between bouts of torture. But we, the oppressed, we study them. We learn their habits and preferences, but more importantly we study their weaknesses because we know we’ll be held accountable for them. When in love, we try to protect
our partner from his weaknesses. In battle, we can exploit them.
I know all his moves: make Embee feel stupid, powerless and unattractive. (He’s pretty much a one-trick pony.) But what I learned about him is that his logic is poor and his analysis weakened by his arrogance. Every time I feel ugly, smelly, stupid or otherwise “deficient” I will know that he is there, and I will smite him with my favorite weapon: truth.