Who’s Living Rent-Free In Your Head?

I was talking to a friend of mine in his pet store the other day. Sam has a fish tank with the most exotic tropical fish. Those fish as beautiful as you could imagine, with flashing purples, neon blues and golds, all of them lit up more brightly than the lights in Times Square. Staring into the fish tank, I said to him, “Wow, those fish get to live so peacefully in all that silence.”

“Who’s living rent-free in your head?” Sam asked me with a laugh.

I turned to him. “I always have a committee of voices in my head telling me what I’m doing wrong and what I should be doing better,” I said. “Don’t you?”

“I used to have that committee but I fired them,” he said.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“Well,” he began, “let’s say that every morning, you get a phone call from some guy – a complete stranger – who says, ‘You’re stupid! You’re ugly!’” Sam began. “You’d hang up on him, right? Well, hang up on those voices. Don’t listen to them!”

He was right, of course. Why do we listen to those negative voices in our heads? Why do we give them power?

This is what Peace Pilgrim (and more about her in later posts) meant when she said, “If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you would never think a negative thought. They can be a powerful influence for good when they’re on the positive side, and they can and do make you physically ill when they’re on the negative side.”

Those voices are negative chatter. They are not speaking the truth. We don’t have to listen to them. Like Sam, we can learn to hang up. We can replace them with voices that tell us, “Your best is good enough! You’re doing the best you can!” And then we can listen to the calm stillness, the cascading water, a beautiful sonata.

What voices do you listen to? Who speaks to you in the privacy of your own mind?

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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