It’s an interesting title, the voices in the quiet of the night.
I don’t mean literal voices, the voices of drunks and others with loud voices who walk past our bedroom windows late in the night and disrupting our sleep.
No I mean the voices in the form of thoughts that some of us get when the rest of life has gone quiet, often late at night. I’m talking about those thoughts that leave you feeling wretched and wondering why it’s only ‘me’ that suffers like this. Those voices that tell you you’re useless, that nobody really likes you, that your life is a sham and you have no prospects on the near horizon. And the same voice that tells you it’s only a matter of time until the world finds out you are a fraud.
If even a single part of that description of ‘voices in the night’ rings true for you then you need to know some things.
Your mind should belong to you, you should be in charge of how you feel and how you react. But generally very few of us are, and very few of us believe that it’s at all possible. A lot of us feel like we have no control over our mind and at the same time we assume that the random negative thoughts must be true because they come from inside.
And that’s a problem. When you have two things that you believe to be true that are actually opposite points of view. If you were in control you wouldn’t normally say things like that to yourself, and if you are saying such things to yourself then you don’t sound like you’re in control.
“Ah but it’s the subconscious at work!” Comes the usual reply.
“Really?”. Say I. There is evidence to support sub-conscious processing, a way to do things like catching a ball or walking in a way that allows us to think at the same time. So the complex task of controlling your body in real time can be left to an automatic part of your brain while you are still thinking. But there is no evidence of a sub-conscious with it’s own idea of what you should be achieving. It’s a theory that started with Freud.
So short of coming to someone like me to help you get in charge of your own mind, is there anything that you can do?
Yes there are a few. First of all, when it comes to thoughts, just because a thought appears to come from inside doesn’t make it true. That gut feel that so many tell us about is no more to be trusted than any other information.
Next, although you can’t stop thoughts occurring, you can start to recognise the reaction to some of the thoughts because you’ve been through it time and again. Recognise that hurtful sequence of feelings and recognise that it came from a thought. How would you rather react in that situation, because you can do it. And although you have to fake it till you make it, your mind will support you eventually with your new preferred reaction. So you can stop the bad reaction and set in place a new one that is a lot better.
Next don’t give up on yourself. You can make it change, you can teach yourself to learn a better way. You can make it work. Look to the truths of your life. I had a marketing manager for a client once, he said that when he gave presentations that he felt it was only a matter of time till everyone found out he wasn’t up to the job. We looked at his job record and qualifications, and I asked him about the person who interviewed him for the job. He had to accept (eventually) that he was there on merit. Just like you. When you look at the good stuff that you can do, whether it’s things you’re qualified for or things you are just naturally skilled at, you have to admit that you are worth the effort and you are OK.
And another thing to add here is that a lot of those thoughts in the night are the automatic ones that are just checking we are OK. And they have got mixed up with other thoughts. For example what if the “you are useless” thought is actually saying “am I OK right now, or do I need a bit of help” because that’s a whole world of difference.
Don’t stop believing, in yourself. The voices in the quiet of the night are not always right, and we don’t have to keep reacting to them in the way we’ve always reacted to them.