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Spirituality Essay:

The Voices in Our Heads    ( January 2008 )

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This will be a two-part discussion of that large issue of voices in our head ... those values and, importantly, the specific words that we hold in the deepest recesses of our minds that hold critical importance in what we believe about ourselves ... and act as primal forces in who we are and how we live out our lives.

Our first UU "Quality of a Spiritual Life" is leading a dynamic, growing life ... arising from an attitude of always questioning and searching ... to keep what we believe "is true" a continually evolving discovery.

Many of us deal with negative beliefs about ourselves that either aren't true - or which we've greatly exaggerated in our own minds. For some reason, the human mind seems to hold onto negative messages (and memories) far more strongly than positive ones.

I remember a research project many years ago: one group was told to write down all their positive qualities; another matched group their negative ones. The average list of negative qualities was three times longer than the positive ones.

Why? Why do we focus and hold onto negative beliefs about ourselves so tenaciously.

Psychologists say that our first years are primary in who we become. Our basic view of ourselves and life is deeply etched by the time we're five; a semi-permanent belief system about who we are is formed that we're likely to keep all our lives (unless altered by events, therapy, or stronger forces later in life).

For better or worse, most of those core beliefs we have of ourselves come from our parents ... by the messages they give us. What do you believe about yourself? ... more importantly, how much of it is what you heard when you were young?

Are you lazy? stupid? fat? no good? weak? clumsy? difficult? incompetent? disorganized? self-centered? Whatever ... those beliefs likely came from words laid on us by others (even by well-meaning and loving parents) ... and which somehow lodged and became our inner voices. But the words themselves always came from others. If you're fortunate, you can even hear the original sound from whoever planted that seed.

They probably aren't true (at least to the degree we think they are), but no matter ... if it's how you view yourself, the damage is done. Carrying any negative belief system greatly alters how you treat yourself and what you expect for yourself in life ... and, in fact, are a primary determinant in how you live and construct your life.

Next month we'll look at this syndrome from a spiritual healing perspective, including some techniques for changing any incorrect beliefs that block us from being our best selves and limit the fullness of our lives.

What negative self-images would you like to change?

[This is part 1 of 2. Read Voices in Our Heads, Part 2 (February 2008].]

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
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