Internalized Oppression: My Inside Voice is a Bully
Has a simple TO-DO list ever mutated into an ALL-THE-REASONS-YOU-SUCK list?
Within minutes of starting my day, I was close to tears. Who am I kidding? I can’t do this! What a joke I am — pretending to be someone special. A talented professional. A wise mother. Someone who makes a difference. But I’m not who I say I am. Or want to be. I’m incompetent. Foolish. Irrelevant.
GOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAAAAAAMMMMMMM.
My inside voice can be a real asshole. But I’m learning how to deal with it — to stand up to the inner bullies. To reclaim my power. Confidence. Peace.
Emotional sobriety is the ability to take 100 percent responsibility for the way you think and feel. To not be intoxicated by your own internal negativity. The key is learning to notice (and separate from) the thoughts causing you distress.
The negative self-talk in your head is not TRUTH. The voice you hear is not God. It’s not even YOU. It’s just a flow of commentary running through your head — your own personal radio station. It’s a collective of words and ideas reflective of things you’ve heard and experienced — contaminated and warped by the people and situations and systems that have abused, hurt, insulted, rejected and shamed you. Patriarchal, misogynistic, elitist, racist and other toxic norms infiltrate your story and masquerade as “reasons why I’m not good enough,” and “things about me I am ashamed of.”
When we are unconscious of our stream of consciousness, we are vulnerable to internalized oppression. This is the human condition. Also, generational trauma. We have been taught to abuse ourselves. And we do it better than anyone.
Unlearning the Emotional Patterns of Internalized Oppression
Intelligence is the ability to learn. While artificial intelligence solves problems via algorithms, biological intelligence relies on neurochemistry (neurons that fire together wire together). Our brains “learn” to predict the future based on past experiences. Our default in any given situation is to think and feel how we’ve thought and felt in the past.
The key to escaping the trajectory of your past is learning the difference between active thinking and passive listening to internal chatter.
Our inside voice can only be trusted when we are conscious. Connected. To Source. Self. Spirit. Call it whatever you want. When you are intentional, loving and present (versus distracted and biased by the stories in your head), you can avoid repeating familiar thought-loops and emotional patterns.
My mindfulness practice has provided a huge relief from emotional discomfort. The moment I realize I’m in a tailspin, I shift my focus inward. The problem isn’t out there.
I’ve learned that when I’m feeling emotional, the problem is never the circumstance or subject matter. It’s my thoughts about myself in relation to the circumstance. How I’m interpreting the situation — what my inner bully is saying it means about me.
This morning, I was feeling overwhelmed and behind. Not because the tasks on my to-do list are inherently complicated or past due. But because my inside voice was comparing me to a false ideal and judging me to be old, stupid and slow.
But today, when I noticed the thoughts that were creating emotional suffering, I caught a glimpse of the forest through the trees.
This is a pattern. I always feel like this on Mondays — no matter what’s on my to-do list.
AND. As I applied intention and love and stayed present in the experience, I noticed that no matter how I tried to shift my thoughts, I kept returning to the same conclusion.
I suck. I can’t. I’m lost. I’m late.
That realization actually made me smile. HA! I get it! The difficulty level of today’s To-Do list was NOT the problem. My unattended inside voice was the problem.
Emotional Sobriety Isn’t Magic
I’m not very woo-woo. I don’t believe that meditation alone will reliably manifest wealth and health. I’m a MAYBE on miracles but a YES on prayer. Though I do love to ponder cool shit that can’t be explained.
But it feels more like common sense than a leap of faith to think of emotions as energetic. I feel the vibrations in my body. The more I pay attention, the more I understand that emotions are physical phenomenon. Just like I can hear the words that I speak, I can feel the thoughts that I think.
But the street runs in both directions. I also think what I feel.
For example. Have you ever resolved a conflict only to continue being mad at whatever happened next? Or been around someone who is literally looking for a reason to vent their rage?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, have you ever extended kindness from one situation to another just to keep the mood going? Or been the recipient of someone paying their gratitude forward?
The emotional vibrations of thoughts trigger more thoughts with similar vibrations. Like attracts like. The topic of conversation doesn’t even matter. Their frequencies just have to sync up.
That’s why it’s easy to talk to someone who is in the same state of mind as you, and it takes concerted effort to “shake off” a bad mood. It’s like switching lanes on the highway in heavy snow. It’s easier to follow the existing ruts.
So this morning, because my emotional state was being generated by negative self-talk, it didn’t matter what topic I tried to focus on. I ended up with the same underlying conclusion.
I suck. I can’t. I’m lost. I’m late.
You can’t solve a problem with the same feeling that’s creating it.
Trying to focus on the tree in front of me (in this case, my Monday morning to-do list) kept me from seeing I was in the forest of Emotional Doom and Gloom.
But once I shifted my focus from my thoughts to my feelings, I felt IMMEDIATE relief. All the resistance and worry about my task list fell away. Because I have tools to deal with my inner asshole. I KNOW how to manage my mind.
So I dropped my to-do list and got the hell out of there. Went for a run. Wrote in my journal. Did a meditation.
When I returned to my desk, this blog post jumped out of my brain. It wasn’t hard. Complicated. Or late. And now I’m on to the next project. What a fun day!
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