This morning during a group call, one of my students explained that she was feeling incredibly indecisive about releasing the stuff that no longer serves her. We talked about the clothes, toys, and other assorted paraphernalia that came into her home for the first year of her daughter’s life. They haven’t yet decided if there will be another child in their family. So, whether this stuff might be useful again is impossible to know today. Her wedding dress, as they often do in these classes, made its way into our conversation.
She’d almost released it once before but didn’t, and while she’s been in the class, she’s been considering it again. We talked about all of the possible reasons that people cling to wedding dresses — daughter might want it later, it represents her marriage, etc. — and none of the standard reasons really resonated for her. Instead, she realized that one part of her is ready to release it but another part is scared she will regret it.
I could feel that this back and forth battle was something of a theme in her life, so I asked and she confirmed, “It happens all the time.” The image I was seeing was of two people trying to control her, one hers and one belonging to someone else. I explained that there are two forces battling and that the first one is hers. It’s the one that tells her what’s true for her. Yes, it’s okay to release the wedding dress, or change jobs, or let her daughter play and explore the outdoors. Then, the second voice swoops right in and tells her that these things are careless or dangerous, that she will have regret or be unsafe. I asked who the second voice belongs to.
That’s my mother’s voice… the one who always causes me to doubt myself.
That happens a great deal. In my work with another woman, we figured out that it’s her father’s voice that cautions her and keeps her from pursuing the fabulous ideas that bubble up. We all have those voices. Sometimes, they are even helpful. But no one needs to be living in our heads. There is no one whose voice is strong and wise enough to override our every thought.
I like to think it’s like having a dinner party. I am at the head of the table. That means I’m asking my questions and listening for the truth to bubble up from within. This means my intuition, my truth, is running my world. At the table around me, I’ve gathered the major players in my support system. My wife is there, plus several of my closest friends, and two or three of my recovery friends. I have teachers and a couple of assorted experts with me, too. At decision time, these are the people I reach out to for support.
Now, I’m not saying I call on them every time I need to decide what’s for dinner. I am capable of handling a great deal of what happens in my life with my experiences, intuition, and training. This is for the big stuff, the times when I’m uncertain or I need to gather additional information before proceeding. I have around me a collection of people whose experiences, intuition, and training I deeply value.
I don’t hand my life over to them but I trust them to support me in times of need.
Also, there are some people who I keep close but not at the head table. These are great folks, useful when I need their subject-matter expertise, but not always right here with me. They don’t know me as well as my inner circle, and I am not as familiar with them either. We have a connection, and I’m glad they are here but these relationships are a little less intimate than the first group. When I turn to them for support, I must keep this in mind when I get their feedback.
There are also people who don’t get invited to the party but keep popping up in my world. It’s like they accidentally stop by during these parties. They may offer input but — just like everyone else at my party — I must always remember to consider the source of the input. It’s nice to, at least, consider if what they’ve offered is of value to me, but I’m not going to cancel a month-long vacation because they ate some bad fish and got sick while on a similar vacation years ago.
Lastly, we have the folks who are banned from the property on party days. These people bring trouble and aren’t allowed to have input when I’m working through a challenging decision. They are usually banned because of the consistency with which they started food fights at my parties in the past. It’s fine for them to swing by occasionally when it’s not party night, when we are able visit without inviting them into my most tender times. And yes, some people suck so much that they don’t ever get to come around… even on our best, easiest, strongest days.
Do you know about the other voice? Are there any taking up more than their share of your head?
I think it’s fine for your dysfunctional relative to be in charge of his or her own life but you need to be in charge of yours. You can trust that initial response, and then seek support from that chosen community when you’re still unsure how to proceed. And remember, it’s not just okay to create space between you and those who bring trouble to your life, it’s your job. You have to protect this party… it’s your life.