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It's the tone of your voice! Thursday August 11, 2016

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.

Andrew
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

Belinda Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 6:12am

Thank you Andrew. I have suffered from exactly the same thing. You have now explained it. I thought it was other people, but now you have enabled me to see it was me, and the negative voice in my head, all along. I have worked through many of the issues I had faced, but never understood. Thank you for your thoughts in the blog this morning.

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 6:20am

It's the toughest lesson to learn Belinda. And if I'm totally honest, for me it is still very much Work in Progress. Only the other day my ear heard criticism where none was meant, and before I knew it, the old voice led me headlong into another hurtful unnecessary and damaging row. Trust is key.
Fare well and good luck in drowning out that voice!
And thank you for taking the trouble to comment...

Hopeful One Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 7:04am

Hi Andrew- I enjoyed reading your blog and about the journey of discovery you are going through , revealing to you the antics of the Inner Voice ,often critical, which leads us to unconsciously behave the way we do. Apart from the Voice I have also appreciated the 'body language' that accompanies it. So sometimes, even if we do not give voice to the Inner (Critical) Voice our bodies can betray us .So I keep a lookout to make sure my body is not saying one thing and my voice another.

To continue the Confucius Series ..He did not say....

War does not determine who is right; it determines who is left.

Man who fights with wife all day get no piece at night.

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 7:07am

Agree - with me it's often an eyebrow raise, or a slight frown.. Or a barely audible sigh....

Lou Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 7:11am

I am very much enjoying your "Confucius Series" HO. They raise a smile! Thanks!

s Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:10am

Thank you Andrew, a useful and timely reminder.

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:15am

Thank you S - take care

Duma Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:37am

What's an intrinsic, inner voice like? I lack it, along with depression and depth perception... ...I am so curious about all three! Could antone help me out on any of the three? I would be very grateful. Thanks in advance, Duma. PS I can twitch my ears, so there's a definate silver lining. lol

Duma Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:39am

By the way, why I use Moodscope - to track non-scoring days, they represent 'blips'.

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:35am

Ear twitching is a rare and great skill! Perhaps I should try that when the inner voice is screaming. All I can say is that it is like a conscience, always worried about what others may think, reminding one in no uncertain terms about those rules drummed into one by the parents/authority figures of one's childhood, and insisting that it is OK to become annoyed when such rules are clearly broken. If broken by others, it's OK to become testy with others. if broken by oneself, a bit of punishment is in order, and that often drives one into an argument with a loved one - for nothing is more punishing than falling out with a loved one. And the easiest way to do that is to upset them..with a few choice, barbed, sarcastic words...all totally undeserved.... I'd stick to ear twitching. And if you have children, teach them love and support at an early age. or they may end up angry....

Duma Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 2:11pm

I am currently not planning on having children, for I am sore afraid what the world would do with them. As to the ear twitching - it's not a skill. I have voluntary control over the (in Homo Sapiens Sapiens they are vestigal) Muscles that raise and retract the upper part of the earlobe. I use this inherited ability to cock an ear, move my glasses closer to my face (to finese the focal length thereof) and to subtly communicate with cats, in the feline language, which I jokingly call "The Eyebrow Game". The name stuck, and I taught the language to a friend of mine, who was happy with the ability to commune empathically with cats, until he got angry with my tiny tiger, for asking him so many questions... ...always starting with "Auntie, why/where/when/why not?" lol

Sheena Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:26am

Andrew, What insightful self reflection. It's only looking back that I can see what outsiders may have seen in me as a child! After all, one is young once and with so little experience to draw on. Your blog jarred with me for another reason. I recently felt I had to 'draw the line' on a longstanding acquaintance of decades duration. This was not something I could do easily or lightly but I had noticed increasingly that contact with this person left me feeing uncomfortable. Prior to the recent finality, I had maintained this relationship thinking I may be of help to them.

On reading your blog what I can understand is that just as I can learn from a retrospective of my childhood, and you clearly have learnt more about yourself ... well, as much as we must consider what aid we may offer others, it is also important to allow others the benefit of their own wisdom. Strangely the habitual sarcasm and tone of voice was what eventually I found unbearable, even having deduced this reflected their own unease and not anything I represented! Thank you and every happiness as you go forward. Sheena

Sheena Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:26am

Andrew, What insightful self reflection. It's only looking back that I can see what outsiders may have seen in me as a child! After all, one is young once and with so little experience to draw on. Your blog jarred with me for another reason. I recently felt I had to 'draw the line' on a longstanding acquaintance of decades duration. This was not something I could do easily or lightly but I had noticed increasingly that contact with this person left me feeing uncomfortable. Prior to the recent finality, I had maintained this relationship thinking I may be of help to them.

On reading your blog what I can understand is that just as I can learn from a retrospective of my childhood, and you clearly have learnt more about yourself ... well, as much as we must consider what aid we may offer others, it is also important to allow others the benefit of their own wisdom. Strangely the habitual sarcasm and tone of voice was what eventually I found unbearable, even having deduced this reflected their own unease and not anything I represented! Thank you and every happiness as you go forward. Sheena

Sheena Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:27am

Andrew, What insightful self reflection. It's only looking back that I can see what outsiders may have seen in me as a child! After all, one is young once and with so little experience to draw on. Your blog jarred with me for another reason. I recently felt I had to 'draw the line' on a longstanding acquaintance of decades duration. This was not something I could do easily or lightly but I had noticed increasingly that contact with this person left me feeing uncomfortable. Prior to the recent finality, I had maintained this relationship thinking I may be of help to them.

On reading your blog what I can understand is that just as I can learn from a retrospective of my childhood, and you clearly have learnt more about yourself ... well, as much as we must consider what aid we may offer others, it is also important to allow others the benefit of their own wisdom. Strangely the habitual sarcasm and tone of voice was what eventually I found unbearable, even having deduced this reflected their own unease and not anything I represented! Thank you and every happiness as you go forward. Sheena

Sheena Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:28am

So sorry - no posting and now in triplicate :( Patience clearly needed here. Sheena

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:20am

Sheena hi -(and btw you are not the first to multi-post...sometimes the site is slow to acknowledge our replies!) - I feel for you - but also for your friend. no one likes to be on the end of scathing sarcasm all the time, but then if they, like me, felt entirely justified to behave like this, and considered that others would entirely understand their stance, it will have been a nasty surprise (as it was for me all those years ago). But you did the right thing. And hopefully the other party will have learned. But my goodness it's a tough lesson. And the voice is still hard to control even when the lesson is learned Take care

Wyvern Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:39am

Andrew, how very interesting...
I have a significant other who does what you describe: "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..."
It's very helpful to have your insight into this as I can now see what is perhaps going on in his head. And decide on a different way of responding...

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:27am

Good luck....I suspect they are hearing criticism where none is meant. A classic small and harmless example: You are running late for an appointment. he is becoming stressed as his inner voice is telling /shouting at him that lateness is BAD and punctuality ESSENTIAL (what will others think?!). Even though he knows, and you have both agreed, that it's not the end of the world. You suggest a shortcut. To get you there faster. He could say: 'Great idea, let's try it.' Instead, his voice screaming at him that all is lost and you are LATE damn it, he sighs, scathingly says 'Whatever...' and swerves into the new route, muttering under his breath something about this ALWAYS happening.... You get the picture. ... and it's a tough one to respond to, I know Good luck

Sally Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:46am

What a fantastic piece, Andrew. You come across as a great person. Very interesting insights, very true.

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:28am

Thank you Sally - that means so much

Skyblue Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:42am

Andrew, your blog is so wise and insightful. I feel there's a lot of love coming through it. I am learning to override my negative inner voice with trust and acceptance which keeps it from spewing out in 'tone'....but your blog shows me that I'm not so good at dealing with 'tone' when it's coming AT me! You've taught me something important and I thank you. xx

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 10:57am

Thank you skyblue...trust is the key. But, like all keys, it is prone to becoming lost! keep it close. x

Jul Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 4:26pm

Hi Andrew. I was so pleased to see you had written another blog for us. I was thinking about you recently and wondering when we might hear from you again! My depression makes me very negative so I am often critical of my OH and make sarcastic comments. I remember when I took anti depressants and before they stopped working, I was much more mild mannered and forgiving. Looking back and at my life now, I can see that inner voice caused by depression and tiredness, speaking. I regret that voice. It's a difficult one however! I think one needs mental energy to really address one's inner voice and turn it around when speaking to other people especially those very close to me. Your blog has made me think. I look forward to your next blog. You are a refreshing writer and it's good to have you on board.

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:51pm

That's so kind Jul - thank you...You are so right - the mental energy required to make the alternative choice - to 'shout down' the inner voice and instead be kind and compassionate - and above all trusting - of your OH - is so enormous, and it is SO HARD ...especially when feeling low... Be kind to yourself...we are far far better than we allow ourselves (sometimes) to be.... Thank you for taking the time and trouble to comment and share..

Hitchhiker Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 5:20pm

Wow Andrew! The last two days I have pointed out to my husband his scathing tone of voice! He responds with bewilderment! But when I let it go un-noted, especially with the kids, i find myself seething inwardly. I have considered divorce because of it! I see the irony in my criticism of his critical tone, but don't have a handle on it yet. Lots of work to do with my inner critic, yes. What about his? Some days I can have compassion for it. Many I can't. Thanks for a timely blog, i am cheered by not being alone in this particular misery and hopeful of progress out of it! Cheers!

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:54pm

You are so not alone! It sounds like he is suffering as much as you are - I wish you every strength.....

The Gardener Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 6:23pm

Andrew's blog - fascinating - Mr G has what I might call a 'lawyers' voice, reasoned arguments which can be destructive and all you were looking for was sympathy and help. You know you've got yourself in a mess, but don't need cross-examination. Although I speak very good French my English accent is unmistakable - I'd love to get rid of it - our third son has, but then he is an excellent mimic, which helps. I see my French as 'scolaire' a bit starchy - then French people like it because they can understand me, especially when I read in church. When I was doing Italian oral for 'A' level I was working on my own, but got an Italian lady to help with pronunciation. She got me to read - after two sentences she yelled 'Stop. You speak my language like your Queen making a speech'. Ultimate insult, because you have to 'sing' Italian. But, seriously, tone of voice is a barometer of depression. People who knew me well would note the voice without nuance or expression, and see what was coming. Even recently, having had a worrying time, a friend of nearly 60 years phoned 'You're better, can tell from your voice'. The advert for gramophone 'His Master's Voice' - when it's too 'masterful'. or hectoring, or lacks warmth, one can understand how that can lead to domestic tension. An aside, is the silly season. For Jeeves and Wooster addicts, is there anything more maddening than Madeleine Basset? The droopy blonde - wonder what the actress's voice was really like, if it was like that nobody would have stood her for a day! I am actually scared, Mr G back tomorrow after a week respite - my confidence is diminishing - Gospel choir concert tonight - will take heart. Daughter in law in UK coping with HER parents, her mother in same state as Mr G, with a lot less help. Getting 'bon courage' all round, need it. Expensive publicity for house sale has brought out more sophisticated scams!

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:58pm

I think I also have 'The Lawyer's voice' - often. Which comes across as at best supercilious, at worst, downright arrogant... Hey ho, what are we like?! Voice, body language, expressions, everything is affected by mood...and it takes one hell of an effort to control everything all the time...energy that depressives lack..at least they do when the dogs are barking full on... Bon courage, bonne chance, et surtout, 'merge', which as you will know, is the French equivalent to 'break a leg'!

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:58pm

merge??? I mean Merde!!

LillyPet Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 8:13pm

Hi Andrew,
I really respect your honesty, such a difficult things to face up to. I can identify with alot of what you said. It's when I feel that I have been wronged and am in the right that I get angry. I normally bottle it up then let it all out sometime later.
The good thing is having self awareness and learning from when things have gone pear shaped ( what's wrong with pears?:)) I have been told that I'm very hard on myself, so in admitting that I can react in a negative way, I must be carefull not to see my self in a horrible way because of it.
A very helpful blog Andrew. Thank you. LP

Andrew Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:01pm

Thank you LP....you are right of course...although the self awareness can lead to awful remorse and guilt, which can give way to further self criticism, harm and punishment... Be kind to yourself...you are doing your very best... And love those pears!

elizabeth Thu, Aug 11th 2016 @ 9:31pm

Hi Andrew, Thank you for your piece of writing which I found to be most helpful. You say "it has taught me to be more selective" please can you explain what you mean by this, are you saying that you think why the person made a particular comment and then select in your thoughts that you are deep down a good person and think why the person said what they said?
it is my insecurity which leads me to ask for this clarification, so please accept my apology if this has offended you in any way. kind regards
Liz

Andrew Fri, Aug 12th 2016 @ 12:11am

Hi. No offence at all - gratitude that you have taken the time and trouble to comment... By selective, I mean I make a choice. I choose this path, the one straight ahead towards which I am hurtling at breakneck speed, urged on by the six cylinders of my turbo charged inner voice, driving me to that inevitable yet oh so cutting jibe.... Or... I select - choose - thst tiny, barely visible single lane track to the right... The one that says slow down, take a breath, and hear what is really being said... And trust that the sayer is NOT having a go at you, NOT being nasty or critical or spiteful or trying to score points... But maybe is just trying to be helpful. Select that route. And then respond accordingly.

elizabeth Fri, Aug 12th 2016 @ 2:43pm

Thank you. I am currently reading a book about highly intuitive sensitive people. And. i think I can sense when someone is trying to have a go at me. This is in contrast to what you say as sometimes people are actually trying to put you down, and it is up to our intuition to decide whether this is the case or not. But I like the fact that you suggest people are also trying to help too.

Andrew Mon, Aug 15th 2016 @ 8:56am

it's all in the context...which in the moment is like the proverbial wood...invisible because of all those darn trees in the way! After a 'vocal tone faux pas', when I am usually feeling guilty and remorseful, I will often try and analyse what happened, and try to spot the trigger points that led to whatever i said or did that was so inappropriate (great word that, as it really does help clarify whether one's actions and words are acceptable in any situation, i find). If someone is really trying to put you down, it is pretty obvious. but on reflection, after the event, in the calm of hindsight, it is also usually quite clear when one's own reaction has been triggered not by another party having a go, but by thoughts and emotions (and that incessant critical inner voice) of one's own head.... Which is why, if the other party is simply trying to help 9or at worst, not trying to be critical or have a go in any way), one's actions and words in the moment can seem so very damaging.....

Moonlight Mon, Aug 15th 2016 @ 7:30pm

Thank you xx

S Fri, Aug 12th 2016 @ 9:11am

Wow, just wow Andrew. Thank you so much for sharing your pain and hope for facing such difficult realisations. S

Andrew Fri, Aug 12th 2016 @ 9:28am

Thank you S...sharing is in and of itself helpful... We are not alone, and we are all struggling in our own 'bubbles' being buffeted hither and yon by the maelstrom of life. Sometimes it's good to open up ... I suspect I, like many many others, will be still trying to get things right until my dying breath...always work in progress! But at least we're trying! Take care, and thank you

Nicco Sat, Aug 13th 2016 @ 6:26pm

Thank you so much Andrew. I always thought my OH should look at his tone of voice but, after reading your piece, I am now convinced I should look at mine, too. (How selfish to consider it's all his problem.) You explain things so well. Communication is such tricky business, even after nearly 40yrs of marriage! Thank you again.

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