Taming the Voices in Your Head

Don't See Eye to Eye by chris on Flickr
It is 2013 and most of us now accept that sane people also have “voices in your head.” In fact, learning to discern them and interact with them is one of the most powerful tools for creating a conscious and happy life. (BTW I have a lot to say on this topic.) For now, here are a few tips from the inaugural broadcast I did today on the topic. Part 1 was me solo (as I had some tech issues inviting my guest.) Part 2 is with my friend and colleague Crystal Nuding. You can read the backstory on this event here.

Let’s Group the Voices into Small Self and Large Self

This just makes it easier! No need in my mind to sort out the many flavors of small self. This is partly because one of the defining characteristics of the small self is the ability to push for opposing things in the same moment! Have you heard variations of this:

You can’t do that! No you have to do that!

Identifying the Small Self

One of the really clear and simple things Crystal shared was to notice “catastrophe.” The small self (SS) is concerned about safety and survival. S/he is stuck in a small world and has not yet discovered how much power a grown person has! The small self tends to see most things in that realm. Just like a little kid at the checkout stand who really does feel in the moment that s/he will never be happy if s/he doesn’t get that candy bar! They don’t know how to remember that in 5 minutes she’ll be happily playing with a book in the car. Your large self is here to help you remember.

Language can be very helpful. Small self has some preferred words. When I hear them (from myself or my clients) I take note: sounds like a little one is here! Here is my top ten list of SS preferred words:

  1. Need
  2. Never
  3. Always
  4. Have to
  5. Should
  6. Can’t
  7. Nothing
  8. Everything
  9. Everyone
  10. No one

I’ve trained myself to be aware that when I hear or use those words, it is time to slow down and check in. If I am using those words, I know one of my buttons has been pushed. So I stop and unplug the wiring to that button. If I hear others using these words, I know one of their buttons has been pushed, so I open my heart and listen for what is happening beneath the surface. (More on this later…) I find myself editing my emails all the time to make sure those words are not in the mix. If you pay attention to just this one tip, your Consciousness IQ will soar!

Urgency is not your best friend.

When the emotions get tripped, responding in the moment often fans the flames. Being conscious of the timing of our responses is really helpful, and controllable. If I am on the receiving end, I stay silent and let the other person vent. I don’t affirm or deny their reality. I do try to slow things down. Responding to hurt with lashing out, makes more hurt. Responding to anger with more anger, well, you know escalation does not end the conflict. These instant reactions more often than not create more messes that ultimately, will require cleanup if the relationship is to continue. The more you can slow down and wait for your own feelings to pass, the easier it will be to resolve differences.

As a sidebar to this last point, I really do try to ignore other people’s first reactions – and not take them personally. I understand that it is likely their SS – not their enlightened adult self. I don’t want to hold anyone’s small self against them! If on the other hand, a person just keeps presenting their SS in the relationship with me, I may withdraw until things shift.

A Few Testimonials

Just wanted to say I enjoyed watching your recorded webcast today as well as the fantastic 10 minute recorded session with your guest. Having it recorded makes life easier, so thanks for making it available for later. I had not heard the terms you used before – small self/big self. You did a great job laying the foundation for people unfamiliar with them. Can’t wait until we get some nuggets of information from Crystal Nuding too – you folks were just getting started with the hellos! – via email from Honolulu, HI



Part 1 of the Taming the Voices in Your Head video

Photo Credit: Don’t See Eye to Eye by @chris on Flickr

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About Roxanne

I use a specialized form of coaching to help people be more of who they are and less of who they're not. I lived in Hawaii for 17 years and now reside in Santa Fe, NM. I work with clients around the world. I invite you to join my "Get Blissed" email list for updates.


  1. Hi Rox, I enjoyed listening to your webcast today and hope it was the first of many more to come!

    • Me too! I am going to do it again next Friday; not sure every week is sustainable but I would love it to be. Thanks so much Kate!

  2. An excellent topic- thanks for sharing. The SS list of words is perfect to create a little trigger now.

    • Hi Sherry – Those words have changed my world! Consciousness is often “out there in the clouds” – language brings it front and center for me. I’d love to hear how it goes – and especially for you, a writer.

  3. Hi Roxanne, sorry, that I couldn’t listen live to your webcast last evening, but I enjoyed listening to it this late morning. Just thinking about my small self and large self…

    • Manuela – keep me posted. I have been using this framework since 1993 and it is so helpful. Just having a sense of who is talking or planning my next move – wow – what a difference that can make!

  4. I will be continuing the webcast series on Friday, Jan 18 at 9:30 am HST. You can check your time zone here: http://itt.me/XcHvUC. This week will be about learning to manage your first reactions – yes, that is often center stage for the small self!FB Event here if you are interested: https://www.facebook.com/events/407720159312009/

  5. I just had to share this private comment I received – it stays anonymous but I hope you can feel the energy:

    “I shared your webcast with [a friend] yesterday who is having a particular had time right now. we sat together and viewed it and she said today it was life changing for her!! thank you for your works. love to u!”

  6. I really need to read your posts more often. Everyone should have to learn about their Small Self since nothing can replace a healthy mind. When everything feels urgent and you find yourself always running around and never being in the moment, it’s time to slow down. No one needs the added stress we put on ourselves by being negative and scattered. Why can’t we all just untangle our problems without emotions?

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Break the rules, tame the Small Self, and obtain our goals/dreams! Thanks for the great post and video!

    • Hi Chris! No apologies required for sharing your opinion! I agree with most of your comment – although I have found the emotions are key actually. It is just that we don’t know how to manage them so well – so the small self takes over and makes a mess. A grownup can feel the full range of human emotion and be inspired by that not deflated or spurred into vengeful action. Emotions have a way of hanging around when not fully experienced, hence the backlog that we end up with on occasion!

  7. It is so true that much of our anxiety is created internally. Also, the feeling of having no choice is often due to our small self. We always have a choice and our “must” is usually self imposed.

    I still need to listen to the stream and will do at home tonight.

    • Hi Tania – Enjoy listening at your leisure. I love that YouTube records these for us to experience in whatever time-shifted way we choose. I agree – there are almost always more than one choice – though the small self will try to block them, dismiss them, or poke holes in them to protect the single-minded agenda. The agenda formed from a very limited worldview.

  8. I really enjoyed the livestream! Mahalo for the insights… Aloha

  9. Sounds like you’re familiar with NLP (neurolinguistic programming) as well as concepts around cognitive behavioral work and manifesting, a la The Secret. I like the combo you present here and the way it can be used to move clients forward out of defeatist thinking.
    Toby Neal, LCSW

    • Thank you Toby. I do have a lot of experience in a lot of things; this framework I use now (and am writing about!!) is the cleanest, clearest, easiest I have found so I am thrilled that others find it so accessible.

  10. Roxanne, that was very worthwhile. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was very clear and articulate. (Well, why would I have expected anything else?) And it was in practical, real life terms, not airy-fairy. Love the image of the “bad emotions” stuffed down in the basement trying to “bubble up” and allowing the big self to experience those feelings and let them be. Also, that’s a good quote, “Perfectly reasonable people disagree about everything.” so I will be borrowing it liberally!

  11. Great insight into our many voices.