I live with a sadistic bully.
One with verbal diarrhoea, who never shuts up.
Who tells me constantly what a failure I am, what a waste of space I am, how fat and ugly I am. Who always wins all the arguments.
But there’s no escape. I can’t call ADT or the police for help, because what would I tell them? That the enemy who abuses me is inside my head?
I am, of course, talking about myself.
We all have an inner voice. You know it: that smug, opinionated prefect that squats in our minds and won’t leave no matter how many eviction orders we issue.
It comments on everything, like an annoyingly perky tour guide on a Contiki bus who points out the sites, makes us sing and dishes out humiliating punishments to anyone who’s late.
My inner voice is vicious. I say things to myself that I’d never dream of saying to someone else. But when it comes to myself, I’m helpless before all that contempt and anger – because I am afraid that what it tells me is true.
Sometimes it’ll get stuck in a loop like a stuck record, and for hours I’ll play myself a mantra:
uselesspieceofshituselesspieceofshituselesspieceofshit. Try to imagine having to listen to the music you hate the most. (Pan pipes? Andre Rieu? Best of Kenny G?) Now imagine listening to that 24/7.
For the rest of your life.
This is worse. If there’s an off switch, I haven’t found it.
In my defense, I do have arguments with my inner voice. No you’re not a complete failure, I tell it. You’re not as ugly as you think you are, and there are worse things than being 10kg overweight because carbs are evil and you have no self-control.
Other people tell you that you’re too hard on yourself, so maybe they’re right. Look at the new Dove ad with the police sketch artist. You’re exactly like those women! If only you could learn to love yourself, everything would be ok! (Cue Whitney Houston.)
This is what cognitive behavioural therapists tell you to do: become aware of your thoughts, and stop them in their tracks before they do any more damage.
“Thoughts expand,” writes Dr Colinda Linde, probably the leading CBT therapist in South Africa. “Thoughts become things. We become what we think.”
Scary, and true. If only the sadistic bully I live with would develop laryngitis, and shut up, and leave me alone.
Is your inner voice mean? Tell us how you counter attack her verbal abuse in the box below.