Middle of the Night Voice, or Why You Should Never Listen to Your Inner Voice

First, let’s be clear — your inner voice is an asshole.

Regardless of the time of day it may come to you, that nagging little voice that tells you that you’re too much or not enough; too fat, too ugly, too loud, too bossy, not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough… that voice is intended to fuck with your head. It is never ever there to help you, even though it will pretend to be.

Often the inner voice will come to you sounding like the actual voice of someone who has or does criticize you. Those voices are particularly difficult to free yourself from because they’re based on a relationship, usually toxic, and which you often feel is unfair or imbalanced or in which you’re not taken seriously. The inner voice’s job is to make you feel like crap about yourself, to doubt yourself, to question yourself to the point of failure.

Again, never forget, your inner voice is an asshole.

Your inner voice never ever comes from a place of caring. While it may appear to be caring and concerned, it is trolling you.

Closely related to the inner voice is its even more evil and insidious cousin, the middle-of-the-night voice. The MOTN voice will be familiar to anyone with insomnia who has ever lain awake at night worrying about anything and everything. We usually have some kind of awareness of the daytime inner voice. It comes to us when we’re doing something where the voice can find fault — getting dressed, eating lunch, doing some kind of work or chore, but the MOTN voice comes out of nowhere, when we’ve woken up for a drink of water or a trip to the bathroom. Then it strikes…

You’re going to die alone in a cardboard box under a bridge.

You’re a horrible, lazy, worthless person.

Everyone hates you.

The MOTN voice loves a good sucker-punch.

While the daytime inner voice can sometimes be reasoned with — no, I do not look fat in this dress; I am good at my job; as a matter of fact, people like and respect me — the MOTN voice often catches us unaware. There’s no set-up and often nothing to latch on to in order to defend ourselves.

Mine especially likes to grab my attention by giving me images of someone I love dying in some horrific manner — my dog being hit by a car, for instance. Then, when I’m lying awake, my heart beating furiously from the fear, it will begin to needle me. Now that I’m 50, it likes to tell me about all of the horrible things that might happen to me as I get older. Hospital stays, infections picked up during said hospital stays, surgeries, especially ones where the anesthetic doesn’t work, my husband dying young and leaving me alone.

Then as the MOTN voice gets me worked up into a grand old anxiety attack, worrying predominantly about what might happen to me, it starts to berate me for being selfish and narcissistic, for only caring about what happens to myself, not others. Then it likes to tell me how horrible I am.

MOTN voice used to plague me frequently. Daytime inner voice as well. I thought I might be stuck with them for the rest of my life. And to be fair, it takes ongoing vigilance to keep them in check, but I have mostly managed to shut them down.

Some years ago I had a terrible reaction to a fairly common drugstore medication. This reaction is apparently quite rare, but it does happen. It left me with anxiety and depression for months after the fact, and during that time, my inner voice needled me constantly, 24/7. It never shut up, berating me, insulting me, with an ongoing stream of criticism. I was suicidal at one point and the inner voice regularly let me know that I should consider just stepping out in front of a bus and ending it.

It sounds silly when I explain it, but I managed to conquer the inner voice, both versions, with what I call Homer Simpson theory. Also known as “Shut up, brain!!”

Keeping in mind that the inner voice is an asshole that absolutely does not have our best interests at heart, the key is to silence it by telling it to shut up. As often as necessary. That sounds stupidly simple, but it works. And if you tend to hear your inner voice as the voice of a real person who has criticized you, it’s also astoundingly satisfying.

Whether you offer a silent “shut up” in your head, or a full volume, out-loud “Shut up, brain!”, or even a volley of criticism in return (again, super-satisfying if your inner voice is that of a real person invested in making you feel bad about yourself), you’re telling your inner voice that it is you, not them, who is in charge. It takes a while but eventually the inner voice learns to mind its manners.

Daytime inner voice, for me, almost never makes itself known now. I don’t give it my time or attention. I’m at the point where I don’t even need to tell it to shut up, it just knows better.

MOTN voice still tries to engage, and as I almost always wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it gets an opportunity every night to try and fuck with my head. Daylight Saving time in the spring finds me especially susceptible as it marks periods in the past when I suffered bouts of insomnia as well as that severe depression and anxiety I mentioned earlier. So this past week, MOTN voice has plagued me a bit. Sometimes it’s still there when I wake up, and I have to remind myself to not engage as well as to tell it to shut up and back off. My rule is that I will make note of issues that my brain throws at me first thing in the morning, but that I will not think on them seriously until I’ve had a coffee. By then MOTN voice has gotten bored with waiting and has crawled off to whatever grotty rock in my brain it lives under.

The real key is to remember, always, that your inner voice is not your friend, Your inner voice is an asshole and is not to be trusted, whatever time of day it might come to taunt you.