The voice in my head

I’m curious to compare the interior of my head to the interior of yours, so please step behind my eyes and between my ears for a few minutes. Take a look around. This is me. Is it similar to what's your head?

Yesterday I mentioned that my inner voice had tried talking me out of having breakfast at a diner I hadn’t been to before, and that’s just kooky, but it's typical behavior for the voice in my head. It’s been arguing with me my whole life, and it's a frickin’ coward. Don’t do that, it always says, and often I obey and don’t do that.

If my head had its way, I never would’ve done much of anything interesting — and I haven’t done much that’s interesting, really. My head wins most of the arguments.

Here's an obvious confession: I was damaged in early childhood. We’ll skip the details because most of them I’ve forgotten, but afterwards I became a very quiet, shy kid, who almost never spoke. If I said anything — even just 'Hello' — it was only after winning a lengthy argument with my head.

“If you say something, they’ll just think you’re an idiot.”

“But I have something to say!” 

“Nah, really you don’t. See? They’re talking about something else now. Good thing you kept quiet.”

My first-grade teacher wrote on my report card, “Doug is very quiet and well-behaved, and never disrupts the class.” She could've written, Doug never raises his hand, never asks questions, and sits on the steps alone at recess. Always be afraid — that’s what my head said at six, and at 16, and that’s what my head says in my sixties. Damned head.

I’ve written many times about maybe the biggest decision of my life — pulling up stakes from Seattle, abandoning a relatively normal life, and fleeing to California for no reason except I wanted to. It was a risk — I'd be alone, knew nobody there, had no prospects, and only the vaguest plan about where I’d settle or how I’d survive.

Spoiler: It worked out great. Moving to Cali changed my life for the better in 63 ways, and put me on a course that led to meeting my wife, who changed my life for the better in all ways. If it wasn’t for that discouraging voice in the back of my head, though, I would’ve been in California ten years earlier. That’s how long I waited, arguing with myself, telling myself it was a crazy, stupid, and dangerous idea. Don't do it, dummy, said the voice, for ten long years.

In entries I’m retyping from my 1990s zine Pathetic Life, I’ve just reached the point where I quit my stupid job at Macy’s, and recreated myself as some strange sort of odd-jobs man, doing “anything legal for $5 an hour.” That’s another big change that came only after arguing with myself for far too long. Gotta be sensible, Doug. Let’s think it over for a few more months, or another year.

There have been many times when the voice talked me out of taking a chance — jobs or promotions I never applied for, political action un-pursued, writings un-written, and mountains un-climbed. (That last item is only figurative; I’ve never wanted to actually climb a mountain, and regretted it the one time I tried.)

For me, though (maybe for everyone? for you?) romance un-pursued is a bigger regret than most of the others piled to the ceiling. When I wanted to say something to an interesting girl or, later, woman, my head usually talked me out of it. Nah, it’ll be awkward for you and for her when she turns you down, and look at you — of course she’ll turn you down.

I had a decent 'batting average' with women when I spoke up, but there must've been hundreds of times when I stayed in the dugout and had no plate appearances. The voice always told me, Just shut up. Sit on the steps until recess is over, then go back to class and sit quietly at your desk. Don’t even raise your hand.

Avoiding everything — people, drama, risk — became my basic strategy. It’s because I don’t like people, is what I usually say when explaining myself, and that’s true, but that’s only part of the reason. The voice tells me that if I open my yap, most people will hate me, so I keep my yap zippered. I avoid people because 'people' means a chance at being kicked in the head (sometimes physically, sometimes psychologically). 

The voice in my head protects me from injury, and from life, and from you, and from everyone and everything. I wonder where I would've gone without that voice nagging at me? San Quentin, perhaps. Or maybe college, and NASA, and Mars.

It’s safer to hide at home, said the voice in my head, and it still says that, as I spend the waning years of my life in this beloved recliner, a comfortable solitary confinement, writing instead of interacting with anyone. 



← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. It' is brave to confess as much as you've confessed here.

    I have a voice in my head that hates me too. It thinks i fuck up everything I do and always tells me I'm stupid. I think most people have that voice, and always I want my headvoice to be extinct and I wonder what evolutionary purpose it serves.

    1. An interesting question... It must be evolutionarily advantageous to anticipate what could go wrong, to pause and think, and I'm all for it. But jeez, half an hour would be long enough, usually — not frickin' *always*.

  2. I almost never admit it but yes thereis an asshole voice in my head

    so did your voice argue against writing this?

    1. Writing is the one thing in life where I gag the voice, for the most part.


🚨🚨 BY THE WAY... 🚨🚨
The site's software sometimes swallows comments. If it eats yours, send an email and I'll get it posted.