Know the Voices in Your Head

In the 5 years that have passed since my most profound spiritual healing, relying on my intuition for guidance has been my primary practice for staying healthy. In my days prior, one of my deepest sorrows had been feeling so alone in my navigation through life. I felt lost without a mentor, a leader I trusted implicitly. I desperately longed for an older perspective with more experience to explain the strangeness of how life unfolds, which way they would turn at the crossroads, and why. Through my healing — and at the risk of sounding cliche — I found that my greatest teacher was actually me all along.

Learning to hear, and eventually trust, our own intuitive voice does take time but with every interaction this relationship grows stronger. With every choice made with consideration of both reason and gut feeling, our intuitive muscles grow stronger. Intuition is a lot like a muscle, actually. It must be worked, challenged, tested, to grow in strength and clarity. The moment we think to ourselves that we’re ready to listen to our dreams and give weight to our hunches our Higher Self is ready to step up.

Complex beings that we are, we have multiple levels of mind and an inner dialogue that comes from them. For this topic, we’re mostly concerned with a few in particular. What we think of as our everyday waking life is our Conscious level of mind. Our emotions and memories are stored within the Subconscious level. It’s like a huge database with all the sensory information we’ve gathered since our first moments of life and how we feel about it. The Superconscious is the level that is aware of both our material existence and the subtle energies behind it. This is where our Higher Self resides. Here we are also connected to all others and to divinity through what Carl Jung called the Collective Consciousness.

Ego is a term often associated with bragging or an inflated sense of self-worth. We’re actually talking about that part of ourselves concerned with this material experience and reason, here. It’s purpose is basically to keep us safe. It does utilize all the stored information and emotions from subconscious mind to make decisions, but it can be very limited in perspective. Known and familiar trumps what is unknown. Ego often rationalizes that situations with less preferable known outcomes are better than new ones with possibly preferable outcomes simply because of the unknown. Ego likes predictability, patterns of behavior, and limits. Ego can deal with hardship because it knows we can survive what we’ve already encountered and survival is the object of the game. It is also all about efficiency. It takes more energy and creativity to devise new strategies and ways of thinking so Ego is what keeps us in uninspired thinking patterns — aka habits: learned instinctive behavior. We keep doing the same thing because we know how it works and that means no scary surprises.

Higher Self, on the other hand, has creativity, inspiration, and innovation. This is the part of ourselves that benefits from the entire human experience, the Collective Conscious. This is why people in completely different parts of the world who have never communicated can spontaneously come up with the same creative idea. It’s because we’re all connected on this level which also means we have the wisdom gained from all who have lived longer than us and all their experiences as well as our own. Our Higher Self has only our very best interests in mind, so to speak. It is our Soul Self, our Ideal Self, and can direct us to living up to our true potential.

Ego’s voice is much louder than Higher Self at first and it takes awareness and practice to recognize the difference. This is especially true in a society that places much more emphasis and value on logic and the physical world. We just want to be safe, secure, and confident when faced with a life full of unknown variables which include other people with their own free will and agenda. So Ego is all about keeping our physical needs met and our own perceived success at anything we do. Higher Self is about growth, change, and learning through challenges not only for ourselves but for the good of everyone. Change can be scary; even when it’s good. It disrupts efficiency with a new learning curve, so it’s obvious why our Ego isn’t a big fan of change.

Awareness is certainly the key. We first have to be aware of the quality and substance of our thoughts in order to consider their source. Taking purposeful time for ourselves — whether through meditation, journaling, or simply sitting quietly still — we can learn to observe the kinds of thoughts that float through our busy minds without judgment to better understand the root of where they come from. The best way I’ve found to discern whether a thought comes from Ego or Higher Self is the underlying emotion behind it: fear or love.

Ego operates from fear. Even when the outcome is a known success, Ego’s voice is coming from a place that says, “We know this way works so don’t try anything different. We might fail!” Ego believes in scarcity; that there are limits to everything, only so much available of anything, and that we have to fight for our piece of it. Again, this is because we fear being vulnerable and without. Ego is primarily concerned with guiding our meat suits through what it perceives as a gauntlet of dangerous situations and encounters. Our Ego is just self-aware enough that it believes others must be acting from these fears and insecurities as well. Therefore, it has little faith in other human beings because it can’t control them. Anything the Ego can’t control, it fears.

In contrast, Higher Self always comes from a place of love. Higher Self knows that what is good for all of us is also good for ourselves because we are all one. Higher Self knows that the only limits in the Universe are those we put on ourselves. All is energy, eternal and infinite, and we are each an equal part of everything. Higher Self is above condemnation and recognizes events and happenings as opportunities for growth. It sees the forest for the trees, the bigger picture, the purpose and plan for our lifetime. As a result, there is no fear of failure because failure doesn’t exist. There is just experience. Higher Self can connect the dots between our ideal (who we want to be) and where we are in this moment through choices. This is where our intuition comes from.

I often imagine my Ego sounding like the fear-based parent; the one that values being feared over understood or respected. It’s the voice that tells us a flat no and a terrible outcome. It’s like just hearing, “Stop jumping on the bed or you’ll crack your head open!” It may even sound encouraging at first but still casts a critical judgment. Such as, “I know you feel wonderful in that sweater but that style is too young for someone your age/size/whatever. No one will take you seriously.” It uses limiting language. It conflates our value and self worth to a crafted persona or the opinions of others. It kills whimsy and creativity unless within certain rules set by yourself or others using fear of exclusion to keep you in check. Ego also uses phrases and perspectives that aren’t even yours such as a critical family member or social group.

To further this analogy, Higher Self is that calm, picture perfect parental voice that guides us with love instead of commanding us with fear. For example, “Instead of jumping on the bed, lets play outside with this overflow of energy.” It allows us to expand beyond what we knew we were capable of to find new skills, new tastes, new parts of ourselves we haven’t discovered yet. Higher Self speaks with compassion about ourselves and others. It encourages creative expression and highlights what is gained rather than what could be lost. Before we start thinking it’s only all fluffy bunny and ease, Higher Self will remind us of our core values and supports our authenticity. It challenges us to consider what’s best for all concerned, not only for ourselves. It is the voice that tells us we’re worth more and we matter over settling for acceptance for who we are. Higher Self reminds us of our power as creators and that we are valuable because we exist.

The hardest part about learning to trust our intuition and using it to guide us through choices is being aware of your thoughts in the first place. Learning what inner dialogue comes from Ego and what comes from Higher Self isn’t always easily clear but with practice we do get better, building trust within ourselves. The more we intentionally listen to our intuitive nudges, the more nudges we’ll get leading to healthier self-image and choices for ourselves. We can thrive rather than just survive. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, we do the best we can with what we know until we know how to do better.