Men are often held back by multiple, mental, critical voices that hijack our reality. We think they are us, when really they are just one part of us. They are not bad. In fact, they’re actually trying desperately to protect us and keep us safe. They come online as we walk through the world, and come into contact with something that reminds us, even a little, of the pain of disconnection, overwhelm, or violation that occurred to us as children. They’re also some of the toughest places for men to get out of, and what’s even tougher, is that we have to be able to love ourselves through doing it.
Here are 5 ways they show up.
The Voice of Defend and Distract.
This one is so tough to become aware of because it’s unconscious. It speaks and acts before we even know what has happened. It seems to come from an inner conviction that “I can’t be wrong or bad.” What may look or sound like reasonable banter, sarcasm, name-dropping, or scoffing at other’s criticisms, is actually a hijacking of shame and fear about our felt-sense of safety in the world.
One way to suspect if this is happening for you, is to ask yourself, “are people more drawn to me, or intimidated by me? Are people, and especially women, showing that they feel a sense of warmth and safety, or do they tend to keep their distance?”
The beauty of this voice is that it reflects a physical mastery and vigilance over our environment, so we’re never caught off guard and we always have an answer. The problem is, when we’re not in control of when, or why that vigilance and defensiveness asserts itself, then it’s of no help in bringing us greater connection, meaning and peace.
The Voice of the Grass is Always Greener.
There have been times in my life where I wanted something, but I couldn’t own that I wanted it. What I did to cope, was take down the thing I was in—the relationship or the job— by criticizing it, then fantasize about the thing I wanted.
Put simply: the grass-is-greener voice is entirely out of rapport with reality, but we rush to defend it as if it were representing our truest, highest yearnings.
The beauty of this voice is that it shows us what we want, or that’s other than what we have. The problem with this voice is that it will never help us get what we want, because all it knows is how to do is protect us, not take a risk and go for the thing directly.
The Voice of the Hyper-rational Justifier and Excuse-Maker
This voice really believes our bullshit. It projects an arbitrary structure out onto the world, so that we can come home at night and justify why we did or didn’t get what we wanted. It writes a story that keeps us from feeling the heartbreak of hurt or disappointment. We don’t enter the world in good faith—we set it up so that we must always triumph or we must always fail.
The beauty of this voice is a gorgeous rationality. The problem with this voice is that rather than embodying the clarity and crispness of the healthy masculine, it is fear masquerading as insight, brought to bare against lack of control and meaning.
The Voice of the Victim
This voice sees the universe as conspiring against it. This is the voice that has already written the tragedy, before the play is out of the first act. This voice loves to reference and tabulate a lifetime of failure, in order to protect oneself against the unpredictability of being in genuine, mutual engagement with a world that is neither out to get us, nor out to favor us.
The beauty of this voice is that it brings us into direct awareness of our ‘petulant boy,’ and by simply seeing and recognising our tendency to embody that, we can refrain. Like the hyper-rational justifier, this voice has an inarguable rationality—the problem is that we end up actually defending our right to be a victim, which is madness.
The Voice of the Storyteller
In a way, all of the critical voices are storytellers. One way to recognize we’re in this voice in particular, is to notice simply that we are out of rapport with the moment in our head, responding to things that already happened, or fantasizing about how we’ll react to what might happen. Holding whole conversations in our heads and ultimately, wrapping our embodiment around the axle of the assumption that we are safer creating a story, whether it’s a tragedy or a comedy, than we would be simply responding to the actual reality in front of us.
This is also the one always building a case in a relationship, or at work, about how things are going to go, how they should go, how they always go, etc.
The beauty of this voice is that it keeps us protected in a kind of fictional predictability. The problem is that living in this fiction, means we’re much less likely to grow as a human, or experience greater abundance from that which we’ve become accustomed to.
How to Soothe Your Critical Voices
It’s first worth noting what does not work when it comes to soothing your critical voices. First, refusing to become aware of which version we are embodying, and then numbing out or blaming others when we feel out of control— this only fuels them, never soothing them. The answer is also not simply to think a little harder— it’s thinking that gets us out of rapport with a mutual universe.
Rather than casting these voices and what they are saying as bad or good, it’s about recognizing our relationship to it. Are we static and stuck in these places, or is there fluidity?
Aim for fluidity, not stuckness.
Beyond that, here are some things that will help:
- Learn to name and claim the voice. The first step is recognizing that we are hijacked and by which one.
- Learn to create space by direct energy away from the brain. Remember: more thinking is not the answer.
- Direct the energy towards passions. Go for a run, do some yard work, get out of your head and into your physicality.
- Get support from anybody who can see the more beautiful person we are trying to become — a therapist, men’s group, etc.
If you’re ready to dive deeper into untethering some of the threads that keep us stuck in these voices, book a free connect call, I’d love to meet you.