When you abandon your inner voice, you will feel lost
When you embrace it as your best friend,
you will be in for a deep and fulfilling hell of a ride

I have a bright memory of talking to someone about the inner voice. It was with a colleague in the café I worked, about twelve years ago. She was having a rough time and was absolutely clueless on what to do next. I said to her: “if you listen to yourself deeply, there is this inside voice, that knows exactly what is right for you. All you need to do is listen. The next step is telling the rest of the world about it, but at least you know for yourself what’s true.” For me it was such a powerful feeling, to know something deeply for yourself. It would then be so clear to work through the rest that comes as a result from that – whether it would be easy or not. I had used it a lot as my guide.

Years after this memory I remember saying to myself: “I feel so disconnected from my heart. I used to hear this inner voice, the voice that knew. I even used to tell others about it, to help them find it, and now I have no idea where mine went.”

Right now (more than twelve years later), I’m in this space again. The inner voice is back. I don’t think I will ever lose it again, as I know how I lost it. And I will never let that happen again. Because life with the inner voice as a close friend is deep and fulfilling. Without it, I feel lost.

The inner voice unpacked

Sometimes we can get distracted by what we think people’s response might be, our own thoughts or judgements of what we believe we should be doing, and fear of the consequences of our choices. Or what people might think, say, feel or do after hearing our ‘news’ or sharing our story. All that fogs our own reality. We can get so carried away by this, that we actually get removed from ourselves. I describe that as losing connection with our inner voice.

The thought-voice vs the inner voice

The inner voice is quite an abstract concept. There’s not really anyone talking to you. It’s definitely not friends or family around you. And it’s not your own thoughts either. Thoughts tell you what to do, how to do it, what is right or wrong, what is the best choice, the most logic, effective or efficient one and asks if it makes sense. The ‘thought-voice’ doesn’t talk from the heart, it talks from the head. In actual fact, the inner voice doesn’t use words. It uses emotions, feelings, reactions. And then often the ‘thought-voice’ kicks in to make sense of it all – believe me, it often doesn’t. There is no logic, sense, efficiency or right or wrong in whatever the inner voice reveals. It just is. It’s like a scientific fact that can’t be changed. The tricky part is to stay with it. As thoughts often try to make sense of it and with that, kill it. And that’s how we deviate from our inner truth – because that’s what the inner voice represents: inner truth.

Good, but possibly terrifying.

It’s not necessarily pleasant or comforting to listen to your inner voice. In fact, it brings more difficulties, hurdles, shakes and challenges.
My reconnection with my inner voice was anything from pleasant. It was one of the hardest times of my life. The voice wasn’t even saying anything. But I was prepared to listen and act upon anything it would reveal. And I was terrified.

If I had not listened to my inner voice I would have been led by my thought-voice. And I would have continued to build up quite a nice life – because from the outside it was picture perfect. But…. what is the value? Without revealing too much detail, but my heart was in pain.

(Re)connecting with the inner voice

The inner voice talks in so many ways. It’s not necessarily taking quiet time only and concentrate on what comes up (what we tend to do when meditating), it’s in everything. It’s our emotional and physical responses to whatever happens in life. When we encounter a situation that makes us angry, upset, mean, jealous… or makes us question life or ourselves . Or whatever makes us excited, pumped, or makes our heart rate go up. It can be something that someone said that stays with you, and you keep thinking about. Anything that triggers us, really. That’s when we need to tune in. That’s a moment that is trying to tell us something. And it’s very easy to ignore.

Being prepared to listen

If there is one thing I have learned that makes it easier for me to go to the inner voice-place, is that I don’t have to act upon anything ‘right now’. I just need to listen, see, observe myself. That’s it. Just because you realise something, doesn’t mean you have to make an immediate change. Things take time.
I have developed trust that ‘the next step’ will reveal itself too. Sometimes taking things in and sitting on it for a bit is all that needs doing. Especially when you realise something that may be quite shocking or scares the hell out of you.

One learning I took from quite a spiritual guy I follow on YouTube applies here. “When you let go of the need to know, you develop something called faith.” That speaks to me so much. It’s not that you don’t want to know, it is that you don’t need to know. Feel the difference?

It takes courage

I have often found myself (and still) in situations where I notice something significant, but haven’t got the answer yet on what to do next. This point between realising and not knowing is crucial. This is where you can either go for ‘safety’, which means ‘I can’t handle this not-knowing, I’m going to fix it, so this is what I do (back to what you know, or do something silly/destructive, just for the sake of change). Or… you go for courage. You surrender to not-knowing and trust that your process will reveal the next thing there is to know until the moment you can act. This process requires courage. As you kind of have to be open to anything the process will reveal, whether these are things you like or not.

Remember, the inner voice is your friend. It’s there for you – it has your best interest at heart. You (read: the mind) may not like what the voice tells you, because it’s not easy, inconvenient and so on. But if it is true, you may as well know — and act upon it; it really is the fastest route to happiness we are all searching for. It may also be the most painful way. But hey, you just gotta think long term.

The tricky mind

The mind has its ways to not let you get to this inner voice. The mind likes sense, logic, fun, ease, approval, fitting in, safety and so on. It can be so tangled up that it’s hard to clear the ‘rubble’. This is where reflecting with someone else can help.

The best option for me was counselling for that self reflection. I needed to peel off a few layers which basically reduced my fear – and then I could listen. I found counselling a lot more helpful than conversations with others. The conversations with others almost distracted me from my own process. Sometimes it’s better to not give words to what you are going through, before you know it, it turns into a story that you start to believe. Then the story becomes the so called truth, but it’s still a lie.

Questions to connect

To connect with that inner voice, here are some questions I often ask myself:

  • What if I look back at my life in twenty years time, what do I see and how do I feel about that?

  • When I picture a conversation with my children when they’ve grown up and tell them my story, will I feel proud? Are my decisions today the decisions I want them to make when they find themselves in a situation like mine?

  • Am I the adult I want my children to be? (I find depersonalising things to the people I care about most, quite an honest reflection)

It’s a commitment to reality

Listening to the inner voice is a true and honest commitment. Sometimes we can think it is our inner voice, but it still is our thoughts speaking. As a friend of mine described this: “Sometimes our mind can try to persuade us that one action is courage when in fact it is the opposite. All we can do in those times is sitting peacefully and listen to our heart. The sitting seems to be the biggest challenge.”