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The Voices in My Head

My struggle with control

I first became aware of them when I was eighteen years old. The voices in my head began to clamor for control of me and it scared me.

Metaphorically speaking, they carried pitchforks. They wanted to kill me or run me out of town.

My voices had faces. Angry faces. Shouting faces. They had noses, eyes, and hair. Some had shaking fists directed at me. Others simply pressed forward invading my personal space, crowding me. Literally, crowding me. There were so many of them. And each wanted the same thing. They wanted control of me.

Yes, I was scared. I was afraid they would win. I was afraid that I would be pushed aside and they would take control. They would only use me for their gain; for their purposes and not for my benefit.

Sometimes they wanted my mouth to speak words that I would never speak. Sometimes they wanted my body to feel angry, or hurt, or betrayed. The worst feeling they wanted from me was diabolical. First, a sense of power: strong, commanding power that could force others to do my bidding and then, suddenly, they wanted me to feel weak. And the weakness they wanted me to feel was terrifying. They wanted me to surrender to everything, anything. They wanted me to feel like I was nothing and they were everything.

I was scared. I had never experienced anyone or anything before that wanted to remove me from the equation of life. They wanted to win and they wanted me to lose.

In my head, I covered my eyes and I cried. There was no one to save me. No one to protect me from them. For a year, I struggled to keep ME. The struggle was real and if you have never experienced it then you can never know how relentless they are at taking over.

Finally, I decided I could not win the fight with them. It was obvious. I needed another approach.

That's when I decided to put them behind a wall. A wall would prevent them from reaching me. Brick by brick I would build a wall with them on one side and me on the other. In mental seconds, I realized a wall was not enough. They would climb over or go around. I didn't need a wall, I needed a tower to lock them in. So I built it.

I held the image in my mind. I was building a tower to imprison them. I laid bricks in a circle and row by row, I built a tower. They screamed, they threatened. As the tower increased in size, they could see I was serious and strong enough to build a tower. Their voices became louder and more of them shook their fists at me.

At eye level, I left room for a window. They pressed their faces to it. Still trying to control me. Oh, yes, they made promises. They wanted to barter with me. Negotiate.  And then they were wooing me. Seductive voices came forward and made me promises they thought I wanted to hear. I didn't listen. I kept building the tower until it was complete. It took me a year to finish the tower. A long year, yes, but I needed to build it myself and I needed it to be large.

It took me another year to realize that a window might as well be a highway. A window still lets me hear their voices even if I didn't feel crowded and pressed upon.

I was twenty-one when I bricked that window over and sealed them inside. For the first time in three years, I felt singular control of me. There was peace.

I checked the tower for cracks and repaired them for several years afterward. Almost eight years lapsed before I felt strong enough to confront the legion I had locked away.

One day I unbricked the window to test myself. The voices were still there. Somewhat muted, but still present. I know this will sound crazy but I realized I could use some of those voices to my benefit. They could help me if I could control them. It was a bold thought. Could I control the legion in the tower?

I came to the window often to study them. There were so many. As far as I could peer into the tower, the characters stood there looking back at me. Some looked malevolent, others envious. Others appeared to just be waiting for conditions to change. I wasn't confident I could control them so I watched them.

That's when he stepped forward to the window. His voice had a practical face. Bald, clear-eyed, pragmatic, hands on hips, and a straight talker.  He said I wasn't strong enough to control them by myself. He told me the problem was I needed a mentor to teach me how to be tough and strong for me. He said because my father had died when I was nine and my mother was a weak person and my stepfather was ignorant, I had never had someone teach me how to live in a world of adults. I had never been taught how to shape my life. He said I needed to learn how to control me and when that happened, I could control the voices in my head. 

I said, "What're you saying?"

He replied, "I'll keep them under control because I know how to do it. When you need one of them in your life, I'll keep him under control while he's with you. I'll teach you what you don't know about taking charge of your life. All I ask is that you let me out of here from time to time. Give me a little freedom and I'll teach you what you don't know."

The crowd of voices sensed change was in the air. They were murmuring behind him and moving towards the window. He turned around and commanded them to back off. They moved away from the window and gave us space. He definitely had control of them.

I had not seen him before in the crowd of voices with faces. But then, they were so many and I had been so scared before.

We came to an agreement. I took a while before agreeing to a contract. He would teach me, I would learn, and I would give him the freedom to express himself through me. I didn't know what he wanted to do with me. He said he needed to be a man in an adult world. I had no clue what that meant.

Over the next decade or so, our contract held. He taught, I learned. I learned also what he really wanted. It was the attention of women. All of them. Not as an adulterer, although he would have done it if I let him, he wanted to experience the chasing of women. He wanted to capture the moment when she knew she would surrender herself to him. Size did not matter, neither did shape, ethnicity, age, or beauty. If there was a woman around when I let him out, he tried to woo her. I stopped him from committing infidelity. I was married and had three children. I pulled that dog's chain hard every time he wanted to break and run free.

But I let him lust. Often. In bars, at company events, in stores and gas stations. I let him flirt and I let him woo but I never let him commit infidelity. I made sure he was too drunk or didn't have time to take it further. The best blocking move I had was infecting him with stupidity so he would not recognize when women were reciprocating. He often realized it the next day or the next week. Three times in the past four decades, women actually said the words I love you to him. He never kissed them or held them in his arms and yet they fell in love or lust or something with him.

Ten years ago I learned enough to control Mr. Pragmatic and, by extension, the legion of voices in the tower. I destroyed the tower I once created. Didn't need it anymore. The tower is now rubble and the voices are now silent... Unless I give them permission to speak.

When one is in control, one is often more generous. That is how I am today.

I let the voices speak now. I type their words and I tell the stories they want the world to hear. I try to capture their voices and their moods, their characteristics, and I really try to tell the stories they want told in the voices they use with me.

In fact, Mr. Pragmatic wants to talk to you right now but I won't let him. This is my turn and my story.

Besides, he just wants to woo women who read this...even though he knows I'll yank his chain. I won't let that dog hunt anymore. The contract is expired.

He sits with the other voices now. He waits for me to call him over to tell his story. There are many ahead of him and I promised to tell their stories first. He must wait his turn.


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