I recently worked with a little girl who had some worries about going to school. She was very young – around 5 years old and since going back in September the worries had resurfaced and manifested in shyness around speaking up to her teacher and asking when she needed things – such as needing to go to the toilet.
I had never explored self talk much with children, as I had always thought that the conscious faculty developed later – children are thought to be less conscious, filtering information less than older children and adults- which is why they are able to believe in the tooth fairy and father Christmas.
However in talking to this little girl I discovered that she already had a very persistent internal voice. I discovered this when I asked her “How do you know it is time to worry?”
She said “I think about being worried.”
Thinking about being worried could still mean rather lot of things. It could mean she is making worrying pictures, hearing a worried voice or feeling worried feelings.
So I asked “Where do you think it?”
She replied in my head.
I asked “Do you see a worried picture or a picture or something worrying?”
And she said “No, it’s a thought!”
I said “Does it make a worried sound?”
She said yes it says “You need to worry now in a very worried sounding voice.”
So I asked her if she knew whose voice it was and she replied “Is it God?”
I told her it was not god as god doesn’t want to worry her but it might be her imagination being a bit silly. I said she could do silly things to the worry voice and it wouldn’t sound worrying anymore.”
Then we experimented with silly sounding squeeky voices and one’s with a questioning tonality so it didn’t sound so certain anymore.
The fascinating thing was that although she had acknowledged that the internal voice was there causing problems, she really had believed it was caused by something outside of herself and outside of her control. As soon as I gave her back the reins by saying “It’s your imagination” (which also avoided blaming her entirely and might have been too big a jump for a 5 year old. “Your imagination” is akin to saying “your pet cat.” You are responsible for your cat but still the cat is not you yet you can control the behaviour of your cat) she was relieved. The relief was that she could control it, but not be at fault for it and that there was not great God controlling her mind like a puppet.
It’s made me think that we could do more with young children, to educate them about their internal voices, so that they are not bullied by them. Learning at a young age that the internal voice is your own could save many children the challenges of feeling tormented by their own mind. If the consciousness hasn’t developed to that extent yet, at least when it does they will be ready and prepared for it!