When my marriage of some 22 years started to disintegrate and crumble, for reasons I simply could not understand, I made one attempt at marriage guidance. The killer blow during that short meeting was when my wife was asked what it was that made life with me so hard, and her answer was that it was 'my tone of voice.'
Some seven or eight years on, I think I have at last understood what she meant. I was a loving compassionate husband and by all accounts a likeable man – and a good father too. How on earth could my voice be at fault? At the time, I was angry. (There's a clue!) 'How can you possibly want to divorce me because of the tone of my voice, for heaven's sake?' A harsh, critical edge to my thoughts, my emotions, and clearly, my voice... and there was the answer, right there.
Sly nasty sarcasm starts to seep into every comment. I feel justified, because I am annoyed. Others feel hurt, because my comments are barbed. When challenged, I feign ignorance….'of course I wasn't trying to hurt you, why would I want to do that?' I say... and there's yet more annoyance in my voice as I now feel completely misunderstood... My inner voice is telling me that no one else understands, and that it's perfectly OK to be annoyed...
But it isn't.
And so it goes.
Until now. Now finally, I realise that that inner voice in my head is my voice. It belongs to me. It is not a disjointed third party, a monkey on the shoulder. It is me. And because it is mine, I can decide whether to listen to it or not; whether to accept it or not; Or whether simply to ignore it.
So when I hear criticism from another (when no criticism is meant,) instead of reacting angrily and defensively, I can hear what was meant, and process it kindly. And when I am overly self-critical, for taking a wrong turn, or being late for an appointment, or forgetting to pay a bill, and I start to feel the edginess rise, amidst the screams of self-criticism, instead of lashing out at the nearest person/driver/waiter/whomsoever (and so often the poor recipient has been that person who is physically as well as emotionally closest to me), instead of transferring that harsh tone into my next utterance, I simply drown it out with trust. Trust that I am that likeable, compassionate, loving person; trust that I am not being criticised; trust that I am better than a sarcastic put down, to someone who so doesn't deserve it.
Depression is the worst nightmare. But also an incredible teacher. It has taught me to be selective and to trust the truth behind the voice of my partner, not the lies being screamed from within.
A Moodscope member.
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