One of the questions that I receive so often on ‘Ask Emmy’ is…How can I help myself? If you are someone who is looking to work on low self-esteem, anxiety or destructive behaviours, it can be easy to become distracted by the ‘symptoms’ of what you are dealing with and so many of us get caught up in simply trying to manage the bleak pain of existence, without really having any idea on how to begin healing those deep wounds within us. The process of healing and developing a nurturing and compassionate relationship with ourselves really begins when we are able to acknowledge the presence of both an unwell and well voice inside our heads and start to strengthen the well voice until it becomes masterful.
To many of us, it can seem unfathomable to imagine thinking and feeling differently, particularly if that toxic, internal taunting is all we’ve ever known…but just because something is hard to imagine, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I’ve seen radical change in people, seemingly broken and worn down by years of suffering. You were not born with gnawing feelings of anxiety or struggling with the darkness of depression…there was a time when you only viewed yourself with wonder and kindness, even if you can’t remember it. Recovery has been a journey that has gifted me with a faith in myself and in others and you too can rekindle your relationship with your true self, the parts of yourself uncorrupted by that critical voice.
Learning to tell the difference between a ‘well’ and ‘unwell’ voice is the first step. Any voice you hear that comes from a place of kindness, that is telling you things will be ok or is encouraging you to seek help… That’s your well voice. I like to think of my well voice as a kind of wise woman within myself who both praises and comforts me but also lets me know when something isn’t right or if anything needs to change. Sometimes it can be easy to tune in and to hear that well voice but for most it’s just a whisper – it often hasn’t been listened to for a long time. When we start to listen, that voice gets louder and stronger.
The process of nurturing your well voice can take time, especially if you’ve been in the grips of a toxic and negative unwell voice for many years. When you’re so familiar with exercising a critical, destructive dialogue with yourself, trying to connect with something more positive can be pretty challenging. When my clients hear their ill voice, I ask them how a more compassionate voice might respond. Very quickly they say “I don’t know.” So, I ask them how they’d respond to a friend and suddenly they begin to flourish, coming up with numerous compassionate and kind responses in just a minute. This is a good way to kick start the development of your well voice: merely imagine you’re talking to someone you genuinely care about. After all, this process is really about developing a more loving relationship with yourself, becoming empowered and cultivating a life that you truly deserve.
Everyone hears their ill voice in slightly different ways but when we break it down into its simplest form it basically looks like this:
self-critical thought = self-harming behaviour.
When we can identify the unwell voice as soon as we have the thought, we can give ourselves the opportunity to make a choice about whether we want to act upon it or not. Our well voice is rooted in love and our unwell voice is rooted in fear. Living a life of peace and compassion is about choosing love over fear.