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'Shut Up!' The Voices In Your Head
Won't Go Away - So Employ ' Em!
By Penny Abshire
Voice Talent & Coach
VoiceActing Academy
Arrgh! How can I get these voices in my head to SHUT UP?
Some days it seems they gnaw at you constantly, offering wonderful little insights like, "Why did you make that mistake, you idiot!? What's wrong with you?"
Or, "Don't even try that audition, they won't like you anyway. You really aren't that good. You don't want to embarrass yourself, do you?"
Or the ever-popular, "You are never going to make it in this business. There are too many other people out there who are better than you!"
Sound familiar? It should. We all have these voices in our heads.
But one of the things that helps us achieve success is how we deal with them.
I've found over the years that if I try to ignore the negative voices, they just get louder - screaming in fact - for attention!
So I have developed a couple of techniques to give them the attention they crave and keep them under control.
First, acknowledge that these voices exist and are very real to you. They are real and they've been hurting you for years!
When they offer their opinions, calmly tell them, "Thank you for sharing ... now GO AWAY, I will do it anyway!"
I often say this out loud, but I wouldn't suggest it in a public place (or as one of my British friends puts it, "You should wave as they walk by, but don't invite them in for tea!")
Two things will happen when you do this:
  • because they are now being acknowledged (given a place on the stage so to speak), they will become quieter with their negative input, and
  • they will eventually stop.
Think about your own personal voices for a moment. They are sometimes referred to as "The Committee." For example:
1. The JUDGE, who cheerfully points out every single mistake and reinforces your insecurities at every turn. He takes great delight in this power.
2. The MOM. She wants to protect you and tells you it's okay not to try. She soothes you and gives you permission to "just be safe, dear" and by doing so, nurtures you far away from the path of success.
3. The DRILL SERGEANT. He tells you that you are good for nothing - basically a waste of skin! And he does so with extremely abusive and hurtful language designed specially to cause the greatest degree of pain.
4. The CRITIC. He points out what you've done incorrectly but (unlike the Judge), he encourages you to try again. (I love my critic - she keeps me going in the right direction.)
5. The CHILD. He's just plain scared. He can't take the first step, and is practically paralyzed with fear. This voice generally represents a traumatic event that may have happened in your childhood. Or your child may be one that just wants to play all the time instead of doing the necessary work.
There are many more - the cheerleader, the prankster, the bully, the junkie, the teacher, etc.
Who populates your "Committee"?

The second technique for quieting these voices is to give them jobs.

I was recently asked by a student how to get rid of the voices - or at least to quiet them to some degree.

I said, "Why not just give them each a job? If they have something constructive to do, then they will have neither the time nor the inclination to abuse you."
When you are developing characters for your scripts, think of how you can use each of these voices. For example,
  • What does your "Judge" sound like?
  • What does he look like?
  • What is his attitude?
  • What is his vocal placement?
  • How does he hold his body when he's passing out his judgments?
After you have a feel for him, start thinking about where he (or she) might fit in your stable of characters.
He might play the role of a politician, a professor, a banker, a doctor or attorney - even a police officer.
HEY, MOM ...
What does your "Mom" sound like? Is she young or old? Does she have high energy or is she very quiet and shy?
How does she hold her body when she is taking care of you or protecting you? Is she an upbeat young mom who is telling an audience about peanut butter?
Is she genuinely concerned about her child and his safety?
Is she a lonely spinster whose only children are her cats? Would she do anything to protect them?
How about the "Drill Sergeant"? Maybe he is an abusive boss or parent, the chairman of the board, the bully who used to beat up on you on the playground, the headmaster of your school, your mother-in-law?
Your "Critic" could be a counselor or therapist, a teacher, a religious leader, or a caring and trusted friend. It's probably someone whose opinion you value greatly.
And the "Child"? She may be scared, but she loves to play! If you can capture your inner child, and give her full permission to play - WOW!
Get the idea? You have a plethora of characters to choose from! 
If the voices are there anyway, why not use them to help you create wonderful, believable characters for your voice work?
If you are (or are going to be) an accomplished voice actor, you must learn the importance of having rich characters from which to choose when you approach any script.
Using this method, you won't have to imagine the characters - you already have an entire cast of them living between your ears!
No one on this planet knows your voices better than you. So take positive action - TAKE CONTROL of your voices! They'll be thankful for the "work" and (ultimately) so will you - for the work they bring you.
Penny Abshire is senior producer, creative director and voice talent at the VoiceActing Academy in San Diego, CA, where she co-teaches workshops (in-person, by phone and on the road) with James Alburger. A classically trained concert pianist - performing since the age of seven - actor and dancer, she has won numerous industry awards and is author of the popular book, Demo and Marketing Magic for Voice Actors.
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