~ Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung
PART ONE: Roll Call
The rap of the gavel echoed in my waking skull; 6 A.M. and time to get up. As my awareness rose with the sun, I convened the usual morning meeting of my Subliminal Mental Assembly (S.M.A.). The voices in my mind were about to help me begin another typical day.
I started with roll call, "Order, order in the Cortex! Noah Selfesteem, are you present?"
A whisper surfaced from the lowest part of my cerebral cellar, "Here.”
Noah Selfesteem sat in the corner, eyes darting around at the other members, checking to see if they approved of his presence. Most didn’t even see him.
Ima answered promptly, “I’ve never been late, the clock is always wrong.”
The roll call went on, "Ms. Constance Whiner.”
Constance grumbled, "I hate mornings, my back hurts, I slept horribly, I wanna sleep some more. What’s for breakfast? Not toast and honey again. Whatever it is, it will be horribly atrociously disgustingly awful, I know it.”
"Is Mr. Mel N. Collie here?”, I went on.
He droned, "Yes, I'm here, I'm sorry to say, and it's a morbid mournful morning. I wish I had died in my sleep. My girlfriend is leaving me and I'll never find anyone to love me, and I really hate my stupid job and they don’t pay me enough money and I feel awful which obviously means I am awful, which means everything in the universe is awful."
Mel wrung his hands, hung his head and sidled up next to Noel Selfesteem as the two began their usual day of chronic commiserating.
I called for the next member, "Anne Ziety, are you present?"
Anne Ziety spoke up crisply, "Silly, I am always present and you should be glad that I am. It is my duty to keep you constantly and accurately informed through the fine art of trepidation. Do you know the supervisor has his annual evaluation for you this afternoon? He is an awful fellow, very very harsh. Did you see the way he has been looking at you lately? Things are not going to go well for you. You knew this thing with your girlfriend was coming; how many times have I told you that she is too pretty and too good for you? I have a really bad feeling about today, in fact your whole future is pretty much a shambles.”
Anne opened her mouth to further her distressful discourse, but I interrupted, knowing that she would have much more to contribute throughout the day. I went on with the list, "Ben Angry, are you here this morning?”
Ben thundered, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME YOU WORTHLESS PILE OF INSECT DROPPINGS!? FOR GOD’S SAKE, DO YOU NEED TO ASK IF I’M HERE? CAN’T YOU FEEL ME IN YOUR NECK AND SHOULDERS? YOU ARE AN IMBECILE AND WILL NEVER AMOUNT TO A PILE OF CRAP!”
Ben usually saved these sorts of eruptions for the traffic on the way to work. I felt a throb in my temple as I popped three extra-strength TUMS to untie the knot the in my gut, then continued with the list, “Alotta Fear?”
Alotta winced, looked up sheepishly and spoke in a spiritless tone, “Ben scares me. He sounds just like Dad, always hollering.”
I found it a bit ironic that Alotta Fear sounded much like my mother.
I continued, “Thank you Alotta Fear. Next, Dr. Hugh Cheego, are you here this morning?”
“I am most certainly here,” Dr. Hugh Cheego lifted an eyebrow, pressed the tips of all ten fingers together and spoke. “What are you doing at that servile job anyway? Those people you work for are the most inauspicious gathering of dolts, buffoons and boors I have ever seen. And that girlfriend, ha! She is a worthless, under-educated and overly cosmetized loser. And don’t worry about your financial situation; why, you got more class and talent than anyone you know, and are just one step away from being promoted to corporate C.E.O. where you belong. You are better than anyone you associate with. Don’t they know that you have a Masters in Advanced Egomania and a Ph.D. in Visions of Grandeur?”
Del Usion chimed in, “And besdies, if you don’t get promoted, you will be winning the lottery very soon!”
Roll call was completed. Everyone was present. My Subliminal Mental Assembly was in session once more. I took little comfort in knowing that they were all in attendance and more than willing to assist me in starting my day. I knew each of them all too well. For many years they had been with me every hour of the day or night. They were especially fond of bedtime and at all waking moments. I couldn’t count how many times I had been awakened from a peaceful slumber, usually by Ann Ziety with her chronic apprehensions about everything.
PART TWO: The Meeting of the Subliminal Mental Assembly
Noah began, “I don’t know why you gave me this job. I can’t do anything very well. I am such a loser. Actually, I am worse than a loser; I am a total and complete failure.”
Noah pulled out a list of past failures and began to remind me, “I failed math in high school; I have been dumped by three beautiful women. My penmanship is horrible. I let a ground ball roll between my legs in that high school baseball game, losing our chance to go to district. Everyone I know is smarter, better looking, more buff and has way more personality. My nose is too big and my lips are too thin. The only thing I can do well is remember how pathetic I really am. Shall I go on with the minutes from last night?” Noah folded his arms and slumped down in his chair.
Before I could speak, Dr. Hugh Cheego leaped to his feet to argue with Noah, “Quit groveling you malignant maggot! Have you compared us to some of those Neanderthal, knuckle-dragging morons populating those streets out there? Why, those protuberant foreheads contain more air than gray matter; we are virtual Einsteins in comparison to those people we work with. We just need our chance to demonstrate our near Messianic capabilities! And remember yesterday when you walked into Starbucks and ordered that double latte flawlessly? Did you not see those fine females checking you out from head to heels? You are no dud, YOU are a stud!”
Listening to Noah Self Esteem and Dr. Hugh Cheego quarrel in my head always made me think of an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex.
“Alright”, I answered, “forget the minutes. Let’s get on with the meeting. First item of new business, shall we get out of bed?”
Mel N. Collie spoke right up, “What’s the point? The day is already awful. I vote no, let’s go back to sleep.”
Alotta Fear looked up from her panicky gaze, glanced timidly around at all of the members and said, “If we don’t get up and go to work, we’ll be in big trouble. People will think we are lazy, or even depressed…”
Mel N Colly interrupted, “We are depressed.”
Alotta continued, “…and if we don’t obey the rules, we will get punished; we’ll be fired, lose our home, car, food and be out on the street begging for change.”
The other members nodded unanimously and agreed that Alotta Fear was right. She often had the final word on almost every decision we made. So I dragged myself from the bed, tucking the blankets under the mattress as the meeting continued in my brain, “Next item, how are we feeling about our evaluation with the supervisor?”
Naturally Ima N. de Nial was the first to chime in. She looked up from reading the classic text she carried with her, the well-worn bestseller, 1001 Ways To Blame Others, by Dr. Oso Mini Xcusus.
Ima spoke, “So you missed the last four Mondays by calling in sick. You were sick. Sure you may have had a bit too much to drink, but that counts as 'sick, and God knows you need to have some way to soothe your nerves. It’s not like you missed Tuesdays too! You’ll feel better by putting a ounce or two of Vodka in your thermos.”
Ben Angry jumped in, “IT’S NOT FAIR! NONE OF IT! I FEEL LIKE RIPPING SOMEBODY A NEW…”
Mel N Collie interrupted Ben and bound into the fray, “We’ll go broke. We’ll be living in a cheap studio apartment soon, with rats and cockroaches eating better than us. We’ll have to sell the car, ride a bike to work, or worse, the bus. I’ll lose my job, end up working somewhere for minimum wage. Woe and misery, what is the point? Let’s go back to bed, or call in sick and drink the whole bottle of Vodka!”
Constance Whiner began to squeal as a shrill voice turned into a scream that rattled my already shaken skull, “People are so darn mean and cruel! Why can’t that supervisor just leave you alone? Life is too hard!”
Noah Selfesteem let out a groan, placed his face in both palms, slouched even lower in his chair and muttered, “The first thing we should do after work tonight is just get drunk!”
Ima N. de Nial promptly shouted, “All in favor of Noah’s reasonable emotion, please respond by saying ‘aye’.” The response was unanimous. Constance Whiner also suggested a shopping spree for new stereo equipment while Anne Ziety recommended that we buy a double layer chocolate cake and eat the whole thing after work. And Dr. Hugh Cheego suggested his usual distraction, sex, or falling in love.
The committee was doing its job, as it had for years. I turned on the shower and did a quick shave while I waited for the water to get warm. I was feeling sick to the stomach and felt my soul going down the drain with the tepid water. At least the prospect of some pleasurable diversionary relief after work muffled the voices in my head.
But there was some part of me that felt a desire to fire this worthless committee and find some new members. Yet, they had been with me for as long as I could remember, and there was a certain comfort in familiarity. I had come to love and accept them all in some twisted way. I had once joined a church and tried to force them to shut up by calling them evil and fighting with them all day long. I even once went to an Exorcist who called them demons and cast them out. But they returned about a week later, right after the Pastor asked me to tithe to the church. Ironically, they seemed to get louder and more powerful, so I quit the church and made some sort of peace with my Subliminal Mental Assembly. Yes, I had become comfortable with them, even though very miserable most of the time.
As the day progressed, they battled and informed me on every issue from freeway traffic to radio commercials. What would I do?
PART THREE: Firing and Hiring a New Committee
I decided that something had to be done. I had a phone number a friend had given me. It was for the Attitudinal Consulting Agency. The moment I arrived at work, I called them. I dialed 1-800-NEW-MIND, two rings and an answer, “Hello, this is the Attitudinal Consulting Agency, Rick Coveree, head consultant speaking; how may I assist you?” I liked that, head consultant, very clever I thought. But Dr. Hugh Cheego reminded me that it was pretentious and corny, not clever enough for someone as brilliant as me. I could see the old committee was going to fight me all of the way.
I told Rick Coveree my story and he promised to send me a packet of information in order to get me started. Three days later the envelope arrived. Included was a sign which he recommended that I hang over the entry-door to my old mental meeting room. It contained words from Dante’s Inferno, words etched over the entrance into Hell:
“I AM THE WAY INTO THE CITY OF
I AM THE WAY TO A LONELY PEOPLE.
I AM THE WAY INTO ETERNAL SORROW…
ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE.”
Following his advice, I promptly posted the sign and found that every time I was tempted to go in to convene the old Subliminal Mental Assembly, I was reminded that I was sick and tired of the grief, loneliness, sorrow and hopelessness. It wasn’t enough, however, to disband this relentless band of miscreant mental informants. For even though I made a conscious effort to avoid the room, they followed me wherever I went. I desperately needed new voices. An excerpt from the Attitudinal Consulting Agency’s literature made this point well:
“In the normal human consciousness, there are voices, usually sounding like our own. In our mind’s ear, we can literally hear ourselves talking to ourselves. You can hear one of those voices right now as you read these words. Our voices express our perceptions of reality, our ideas and beliefs about life and ourselves, and our evaluations of experience and circumstances. Disturbed, unhappy people can help themselves greatly by disputing their own irrational ideas or voices that, by definition, are objectively true and serve one’s own enlightened self-interest.”
~ The Small Book of Rational Recovery by Jack Trimpey, pages 57-59
Mr. Rick Coveree also included several resumes of potential new members to be considered in the formation of a new mental committee. The first two prospective members were the British twins that always traveled and worked together. They were:
Sir Ender Now of New Thoughtshire
I will remind you each day to let go of those people, places and situations over which you have no control. I will jog your memory whenever you start worrying about the past or dreading the future. I will suggest that you stop trying to manipulate and force people and circumstances to change. I will constantly remind you that there is a Higher Power or Source that takes even the wreckage of your past and the ambiguity of your future, turning them into miracles if you can just surrender them, now.
Sir Enity Now of New Thoughtshire
I am the twin brother of Sir Ender. I was born just a few seconds after him, and always follow him wherever he goes. After he speaks, if allowed into your new mental committee, I will whisper comforting words of peace. I will remind you that tranquility is yours, even in the midst of the deepest turmoil and pain. I will give you what you were looking for but could never find in that beer, shopping, eating, sex or whatever diversionary tactic you employed before. I will save you from a lot of horrific consequences.
Mr. Newt Ruth
I will encourage you each day to simply speak the truth to yourself and others. Dishonesty creates suffering, resentment and ignorance. Those emotions are eating you alive. I will clear your conscience. I will remind you that when you tell the truth, you don’t have to waste precious time and energy trying to remember what you told people. You’ll be amazed at how light hearted you will feel when you’re not always trying to keep your stories straight.
Ms. Cora Age
I will equip you each day with reminders to simply do the tasks you keep avoiding. It is likely that your old committee avoided the hard jobs and told you to go for instant pleasure. I will let you know that avoiding responsibility and avoiding completions causes mental anguish, emotional stress and physical disease. I will not remove your fear, but show you that 90% of it does not really exist. I will remind you to walk into the uncomfortable places and clear them up so you can enjoy the rest of your day with a clear mind.
Ms. Grace Applied
You may get discouraged as you attempt to change committees. I will remind you that failure is not unusual, and that at the end of each day, you have done your very best. I will tell any old judgmental voices from the past to go away, and there will be many, especially at first. I will remind you that your Higher Power is not mean, angry or waiting to punish you for your failures and inconsistencies. I will help you remove the little whispers of guilt, shame and worthlessness that will creep under the cracks of the door. You are perfect as you are.
Ms. Bea Faithful
I will be the first and last voice to speak to you at each meeting. I will record the minutes, report our positive progress and close the meetings. I will remind you that if you listen to the other new voices consistently and diligently, your future is literally full of boundless opportunities. There is no financial, relational, occupational, educational or health difficulty that we cannot move through toward prosperity and soul-making. Your old committee will return; I will remind you that they use pain to cause you to reflect and wonder.
These seemed like extravagant promises, but I was ready for a change. I subsequently hired all of these new voices and dismissed the old Subliminal Mental Assembly. I placed a new sign over the meeting room door the day I hired the new voices:
“I AM THE WAY INTO THE CITY OF
I AM THE WAY TO A SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE.
I AM THE WAY INTO ETERNAL PEACE…
ABOUND IN HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.”
However, the govern-mental shift of power was neither easy nor smooth. The fired members continued to hang around outside the meeting door, marching with placards and shouting their displeasure at being replaced. At times, the cacophony of voices was maddening. The old voices and new voices were in a constant struggle. Initially, Anne Ziety organized several cerebral assaults. She was the most upset since I had always given her the prominent right to be heard in my past mental committee meetings.
She appointed Ben Angry to be commander of the revolutionary army. They master-minded some incredibly sneaky and subtle coupes. On several occasions, they battered down the door, taking me hostage for hours or days at a time. Once, they succeeded in holding me captive from Thanksgiving through New Years. But Ms. Cora Age reminded me that their intrusions were allowed only by my choice, and it became easier to keep them away and allow the new assembly to work. I was also very grateful for the loving words of Ms. Grace Applied. She frequently held my hand and reassured me after each failure, and there were many.
With time, my life began to change in a very positive fashion. The old voices grew quieter. They did vow to never go away, and I eventually learned that even they possessed valuable input when I didn't fight them. Mr. Rick Coveree told me that the voices are real Presences and quite alive, and that they just wanted attention. I still must maintain my new current committee by caring for them consistently, lest the old voices take the gavel and assert their miserable rule once more.
Archetypal Psychological Post-Script:
“…the persons of the psyche are not mine. I do not own them, and so I do not own their feelings and actions either. These other persons give me ethical dilemmas and crises of conscience, but when I own up to all of their events as mine in the name of moral responsibility, I commit the even greater sin of satanic selfhood, the ego who owns what is archetypal. The very recognition of the “others” as not mine, disowning them, limits their scope of action. They can be heard but not literally obeyed. The knowledge of “who” is involved in an urge already inhibits the urge through the image aspect of it. So too for moral judgments, whose voices also reflect non-ego images and persons. Disowning thus prevents another psychological “sin,” identification.”
Re-Visioning Psychology, James Hillman, pp. 179-180
Michael Bogar, MDiv. ThM
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