This is about listening in the sense of paying attention. Listening doesn’t mean doing. It just means listening.
We all have someone that provided for, guided, and advised us. One of our biggest blind spots is our parents’ voices. We seldom connect their voices to the one in our heads. We think our thoughts are different, separate from our parents’.
Perhaps to some extent.
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Peggy O’Mara is a leader in the field of parenting and family raising. Peggy writes to influence families toward healthy love and brings us to think about things like how kids learn and the importance of story telling.
I don’t have kids, but I was one. So when I read this quote last year, I looked at me. What things are on repeat in my head that came from my parents? What are the most basic, instinctual reactions I have toward myself and where do they originate? Are they all of my own creation? The obvious answer is no.
The deeper I meditate on it, the more I find that much of my hardware is made of foreign parts. Just like the iPhone. Unlike Apple, though, I didn’t get to research and choose the best of the best to add to my mind.
There are specific thought patterns, phrases, even decisions, that rise up within me that I don’t approve. A lot of mind energy goes into checking myself before I blurt something or make a rash decision.
Something as simple as self-directed expletives can be traced back to impactful moments of my childhood. When I drop a soapy pot in the sink and making a loud crash, an immediate response comes, heating my belly, filling my lungs, and threatening to roll off my tongue in decisive execution. “You stupid son of a —!”
I love my dad, and it would be easy to say I don’t blame him for the occasional cursing. But what he did and didn’t do about his inner voice was his responsibility. I know him and I know me. So I don’t blame him for my cursing. That’s my own responsibility. But I can definitely trace it back to him.
Parents say and do things from their own subconscious minds, reactions and phrases that fit certain instances of life, coming from deep within their own repositories – their inner voice, which is built in large part by their parents.
Understanding this allows me room to examine my “instincts”. If I can figure out what triggers me to curse at myself, for example, I can make a change to the response. It’s not the pot, or the noise. It’s the feeling that I’m clumsy and incapable. But dropping a pot does not make me clumsy and incapable, and it certainly doesn’t warrant a harsh reprimand. That’s all myth and I can do away with that.
Understanding also allows me to identify the positive elements of my hardware. The ones that keep me going in the roughest moments, the ones that tell me to take one more step when I feel I’m failing. The ones that remind me to tell my wife I love her. The inputs from my parents that give me hope and set a path of truth in front of me.
So listen to your parents. More likely than not, you’ll hear something of yourself.