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Listening to Your Inner Voice

I love my work. It is different and profoundly moving every day. Yesterday the theme of the day seemed to have been “the inner voice”.

Our inner voice is sometimes hard to hear. We might have not been taught to listen to it. We might have even been taught that our inner voice is wrong, bad or stupid. But when we don’t have the capacity to rely on our ‘gut feelings’, to turn into our inner self and ask, what do I feel about it, we navigate our life like a ship without a compass.

One patient is a young woman, a married mother with children, who decided to go back to school and work towards becoming a mental health professional. She had completed her application, wrote a poignant ‘personal statement’ as required, and submitted it. A mother of several young children, this young woman found her voice and her vocation, and began taking steps to make it happen. On Saturday, she said a line from a song kept playing in her head, over and over. She noticed that the message of it was “freedom”!

On Monday evening, there was a family occasion at which she had to meet her mother and sisters, with whom she has a very strained relationship. Growing up, my patient was the “black sheep” in the family. Extremely talented in many artistic areas, and being a child who needed much autonomy, she sees her young self reflected in her own young daughter, whom she encourages and admires. But in her own family of origin, these traits were not welcome. She was treated as “the bad child”, the one who caused her mother undeserved heartache, for which she was severely and repeatedly punished. The morning after the encounter with her family, my patient noticed that she felt disconnected from everything she was doing, detached, as if in a daze. But a line from a song was playing repeatedly in her head, and when she stopped to pay attention to what it was, she realized it was a song about a mother who had lost her son in the war, and had only one candle which she lit in his memory, but this candle, too, was extinguished. “I only had my own one candle”, my patient said, “my own light, my own strength, but that, too, was extinguished. Why did they do it? Thinking of it is so painful, but once I realized this is what the line of the song was trying to tell me, I was not disconnected any more. There was pain, but it was as if the fog lifted.” Sometimes tolerating the pain of loss, of a past we cannot undo, is very difficult. However, her depression was lifted, as she could give voice to the pain, acknowledge it, and move beyond it to a newfound freedom in the present.

Another patient spoke of being “stuck” in many ways, feeling he could do so much more, take on so much more, yet not being able to do so, for reasons he cannot fathom. In speaking about his father, the patient said, “he was so rigid, very strict. We were never allowed to sit in his chair”. Later on, in our discussion, he said “is it OK for me to take my father’s place (in the family business)?” I brought up his ‘insignificant’ mention of the chair as he was trying to describe his father, and questioned what that image was trying to convey? I asked “Is it perhaps still not allowed to take your father’s seat, and might that be holding you back?”

We speak with ourselves in many ways, by saying things that seem unimportant, yet do mean a lot, or by singing lines from songs in our head, by dreaming strange and seemingly jumbled scenarios, but there is a message there, if we can allow ourselves to hear it.

                  Irit Felsen

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