I've heard that up to 75% of our self-talk is negative. "You can't do that." "You look ugly in that shirt." "That person over there is better, smarter and more attractive than you." And on, and on.
Do these words sound familiar? Of course this negative self-talk are all lies. Satan is so-named because he is the "deceiver" and "accuser". When Jesus was tempted in the desert, Satan wasn't there throwing rocks at him, he was trying to get Jesus to doubt who he was. "If you are the son of God..." When Jesus told Peter to, "Get behind me Satan!" The devil himself wasn't standing in Peter's place, but he was influencing Peter's self-talk.
While a lot of our self-talk is normal, even the negative- we are our own worst critics after all- some of it is explicitly evil meant to drive a wedge between you and God and rob you of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, namely joy, peace, patience and self-control.
In counseling it is sometimes helpful to give these voices names. "Bubba" the bully who puts you down. "Suzie" the little girl who is scared of who might come into the bedroom at night. Sometimes trauma can be so bad that these voices, these personalities, can create fissures in the subconscious leading to disassociation. Other times, they are there just to bring you down. Once identified, it can be helpful to have conversations with these voices- to let them know you are in charge and that you don't have to listen to them anymore. (But not always- it is very important to do this under the guidance of a professional, especially in cases of disassociation or when there has been significant trauma.)
But no matter how serious or real they seem to be, they are all lies.
A friend of mine recently went on a business trip for a high-profile meeting. One of his voices was telling him that he was going to do something to screw it up and that he didn't deserve the platform he had. But he effectively told this voice to shut up. He told his voice, "Look, you're not going to have a good time on this trip and I'm not going to have a good time if you go on this trip. So save us both the trouble and stay here." He took a cue from Jesus and told him "you do not have in mind the things of God" And it hit him, this voice was Satan. It always was and it always will be. And it didn't have to control him anymore.
I remember once reading the book of Job and being struck with the realization that Satan had to ask permission from God to torment him. I recalled Jesus saying to Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you." (Luke 22:31-32a, NASB) And of course there is the promise found throughout the New Testament of being set free from the slavery of sin.
This self-talk, you don't have to listen to it. While some voices are stronger, some trauma too real to just "pray away", many of the voices in our head are nothing more than Satan trying to deceive us and those voices can be overcome with prayer. Recalling Job and Jesus' words, I've found this prayer, or ones like it, helpful:
"Lord God, you are all-knowing and all-powerful. Nothing happens outside of your will. You are faithful and promise that you will not allow us to be tempted more than we can bear. [1 Corinthians 10:13]. Please, Lord, do not give permission to Satan to tempt or deceive me with his lies. Close my ears to his accusations and give me hope and confidence in the blood of your son, Jesus to overcome all my doubts and fears. In the authority of His Name I pray, Amen."
What are some of the negative voices you hear? Have you given those voices a name?