Dialogue of the Inner Voices

Anxiety is fear, curdled.

Two of my inner voices have been diametrically opposed, struggling, both miserable, both mostly unconscious, manifested in lassitude and misery. Both want my good. Both are Welcome. My Frontal Lobe, as the conscious part of this process, this animal, this Euarchontoglire called Abigail, invites both into consciousness, to see if they could be brought into dialogue.

One is resentful, frustrated and angry. It wants me to justify my existence, to have meaning in my life. It wants to stretch me and push me to achieve. The other is resentful, frightened and hurt. It feels bullied by the Stretcher. I call it my No. No, that is unreasonable. No, I will not go out cycling and struggle up hill, being cursed as weak and useless.

Fear, unheard, slops around inside like stagnant water, like bilge water in a ship. It could have been useful. It warned of a threat. And now it has gone bad, detached from the threat it warned of, attached to anything it can slime. It becomes anxiety. It does not mean there is no real threat, just that finding that threat is more difficult, and needs patience; and anxiety may linger after I find the threat, unsure that I really have dealt with it.

So the Frontal Lobe, the Love, the Reconciler, to make this a positive sum game brings both voices into separate rooms, lavishing praise and gratitude on both for their care and labour, with a hint of a suggestion that their aims might be achieved better if a few small adjustments were made.

There is the Stretcher, which the Protector wishes to call the slave-driver. It wants me to achieve. I am competitive, and it encourages me this morning to go cycling. The Protector fears the slave-driver will get angry and frustrated, and start to bully uselessly. Harder! Faster! I cudgel myself, scourge myself, as I go up hill too slowly for my liking, not wanting to go down a gear because I should be able to do it in this gear. The Stretcher is continually bamboozled, as well as resentful, that this is not as easy as it thinks it should be.

Well, the lie it imbibed was that things are easy and its performance should be perfect. It has fixed at quite a young age, this aspect of myself. At that young age, I decided that difficult things should appear easy and require little effort, and the Stretcher, frustrated, resentful, angry and mostly unconscious, affecting me unawares, has not learned how to- drop a gear, literally and figuratively, to break the task down, take it slower, make it easier, take the time necessary to learn it, build up gradually.

With Love, the Reconciler thanks it for its determination to achieve and develop, and suggests it might achieve these worthwhile goals more easily by breaking the task down. That is a long hill, steep in places. I notice that if I drop to a gear lower than I ever use at the steepest parts, I can rotate my pedals quicker, and be in a higher gear later on when it is less steep. I have noticed that the cyclists who pass me turn their cranks much faster than I do. Possibly that is a technique which would make me more efficient. I read about it last century, I think, this idea of Cadence, around the time I found that a simple change to my breaststroke technique made me a faster swimmer.

(Last century. There’s the resentment, the self-blaming. How stupid I am, how stupid these voices! That resentment does not help. Turn it round. Here I am learning ways new to me, which will improve my performance. I will achieve the goals of both!)

Now is what matters.

I am in conscious incompetence. These are decisions to make. Gear 2.1 is much lower than 2.2. I can go up hill in 2.2 but it is a struggle. Then 2.1 feels too low. I may learn which works best by trying both, or perhaps work harder for a bit in 2.2 then go back to 2.1. Trying different combinations may help me learn. Bringing this to consciousness and putting it into words, doing something I don’t know will work in a spirit of enquiry, may help me improve.

This is the aim of the Stretcher.

The Reconciler has also been aware of the Protector, also in its room. The Protector is anxious. It has been scourged and cursed before, it will happen again! But the Stretcher does not seem so angry and frustrated. The Protector might be enticed. Sunshine is good for me. Birds and blossom are beautiful. The Protector wants me to achieve, too, just not to be bullied. Bullying is a No.

The Reconciler hears that demand. No Bullying. Well, that seems reasonable. The Stretcher does not realise it is bullying, that is the problem. Do you see it wants our Good?

Mmm. The Protector is not absolutely convinced, but willing to suspend judgment for the moment. Then its anxiety comes over it. What if my tyre punctures or Something Bad Happens? It has worked so hard to protect me, it needs my care itself.

Most of the time I was out, the Protector was grudgingly admitting that the Stretcher was behaving more sensibly, though some of the time one or the other panicked and needed reassurance. Well, I am a sensitive soul, and that is a blessing, and I need my own love and reassurance. The Reconciler worked to reassure both.

This is a work in progress. And I notice my progress, and give each of these voices, and my whole self, necessary praise and thanks.

All comments welcome.

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