Editor’s Note: Pete is on vacation so we are dusting off one of his past columns. We hope he is back writing for us next month.
Almost every waking moment, I hear a voice inside my head. Granted, you’re reading someone who has battled mental illness for 30 plus years, and even though I am not delusional, admittedly during that time I’ve seen a few shows that were not listed, I mean they were not in the TV Guide. But it isn’t that kind of voice. It’s that stream of consciousness just below the surface, the voice that does a running commentary on the movie/ball game that is my life, something we all have in one way or another as our minds are fitted with and process data.
As long as I can remember, my narrator has always had a dark streak, a way of slipping a dagger past my defenses, a way of always making me feel less-than, trivial, worthless. George, my old cognitive group leader at Abbott-Northwestern, called it the “Inner Tyrant” as he believed that there wasn’t any better term for this judgmental dictator that lived inside so many. It seemed to exist most often inside people who had been hurt, betrayed or traumatized by others, especially people in authority or who were supposed to be our protectors. The abuse suffered left a residual wound that is hard to heal, a message that one must be really worthless-bad-guilty if the ones that were closest to us, who knew us best, abused us instead of loved us.
The “Inner Tyrant’ ‘is the voice inside that says that every victory is hollow, that every defeat is total. The voice that says “Why bother? You’ll only screw up in the end.” The voice that sabotages me and then says, “See, I told you so.” It’s the voice that tells me that whatever I do, it isn’t enough, and that whatever I am, I will always be alone and unloved. It’s the voice of society telling me that I am lazy, weak, and flawed of character. It’s the voice of every teacher who humiliated me, every person that rejected me, every family member who was disappointed with me. It’s me at my worst. It is judgment and guilt and pain. But it’s me.
The Bible says to “love others as yourself.” Maybe that’s the problem with the world. So many of us are constantly at war with ourselves, there isn’t time or energy for others. Many of us know what it’s like to live inside someone who hates you, and it’s very “my-sided.”
So what’s the answer? 1 know what George would say if he were here. He’d say, “Pete, remember the paradoxical law of change: ‘It’s only when I accept myself as I am that I can change.’” He’d say, “You’re not crazy by feeling this way. Considering all of the terrible and traumatic things that have happened, what you’re feeling is actually pretty appropriate, and just staying alive has been a miraculous thing.” George would say, “You’ve done a terrific job. You’ve been a good person, a good son, a wonderful child of God. You are perfectly fine just as you are, and you don’t need to remake yourself into anyone else. You are a human being, not a human doing and you don’t have to do or be anyone different to be loved. You don’t need to ‘buy’ your love. You are lovable just as you are.”
George’s voice is the one I hear when I need kindness and mercy. I have a hard time saying nice things about myself, but George was someone who never lied to me, who never judged me. Someone who gave me hope that I really was all the good things he said I was. I think that hell is where you become who you fear you are, and heaven is where you may become who you hope you are, and George’s voice is that divine spirit I use to give my heart healing and mercy. It’s how I have a touch of Heaven to combat my ongoing Hell. All of us have had a “George” sometime or somewhere in our lives. A teacher, a friend, a grandparent. A loved one. Trace your footsteps back to that time, and hear that kind voice again. Nurture it and keep it close