If you're looking for the page of other unschooling voices, that is here:



Voices in your Head

There are probably some good ones, and maybe some old leftovers

Sue Sullivan left a comment at "Enough or not; too much or not":

I used to read your comments of "if you think you're not doing enough then you're not" and have a completely unhelpful reaction -- a sudden seizure of guilt and anxiety. I'd spiral off into thinking about how I hadn't been doing enough and what opportunities had I lost and was I making a mess of raising my kids and on and on.

Thankfully, I now understand your comment and my reaction differently -- if I think I'm not doing enough, that's just my inner voice, letting me know it's now time to do something different. It's not too late, I haven't failed, it's simply the right signal, at the best time that I could manage to respond to it. And I never let my thinking spiral off into guilt and fearfulness any longer -- I cut that off swiftly and calmly and completely.

If it took me a while to really notice or be willing to face that feeling of "I don't think I'm doing enough," well, that's because I was raised to listen for instruction from outside, from others, and to feel a lot of shame and guilt, and I was still learning to notice and believe my own inner voice. And that's okay. Each time I did finally listen, I learned to recognize what it sounded and felt like more quickly, and I heard it more quickly the next time.

Thank you for reminding me of how I used to feel and helping me notice how much that has shifted. 🙂

It is possible that Sue's "seizure of guilt and anxiety" came from messages in her subconscious, too. That's okay—everyone has those. It's possible to more consciously hear them and say "Wait, though..."

My response to Sue has gone bad (links don't work), at the blog, so I will repeat it here.

Sue wrote:

I'd spiral off into thinking about how I hadn't been doing enough and what opportunities had I lost and was I making a mess of raising my kids and on and on.
I responded:
When I read this part I thought to say that those are the voices of the adults who shamed you when you were younger.

Then you yourself wrote: "I was raised to listen for instruction from outside, from others, and to feel a lot of shame and guilt.”

For others who come by here, I want to leave this note, then: It’s possible to (gradually) shush the old voices and find some new mental first-responders.

sandradodd.com/witness might help, or sandradodd.com/phrases

Voices in your head

In your head, you have some repeating-loop messages. Some are telling you you're doing a good job, but I bet some of them are not. Some are telling you that you have no choice, but you do.

Scanner image by Sandra Dodd

Our own real thoughts

In 2004, someone had written:

-=-I thought they will stop , they will see when they start getting belly aches from it ...But they dont stop.-=-
I responded:
Someone told you you would get a belly ache of you ate too much "junk." Have you ever tested that "theory"? .... We can't really think until we think in our own words without the prejudicial labels and without mistaking the voices in our heads for our own real thoughts.
The original is here, about halfway down that page, in the comment timestamped 12:33.

Volume Control!

"hahamommy" is Diana Jenner.

hahamommy:   that's a mantra of one of my voices "This mess is my issue"

SandraDodd:    How many voices do you have?

hahamommy:    I put the mormon tabernacle choir to shame!

Gil (Guest5):    I know I have at least 3 ..:-)

hahamommy:   thanks to you, sandra, at least I can use the Volume Control!!

Schuyler:    It's a dial not a switch...

hahamommy:   and it's like a mixer board: some I louden and some I quiet

From a 2009 chat called Ideas, Quotes and Affirmations

The people I respect most have become little voices in my head, and I "consult" them when I'm making decisions in their specialty areas. I have friends who are more patient than I am, more generous with time, and I think of them clearly and try to emulate them when I am making choices in those areas. Some cook better and are more organized, and I think back to things they have said, or to things I have seen them do, or I try to induce in myself the presence and mood they have when they're cooking or straightening. I don't want to be them, but I want to be more like them in the ways they have that earned my respect.
—Sandra Dodd
from longer writing here

Past voices

Let the past inform your decisions. Let the past be a little angel on your shoulder, but don't let the voices in your head tell you what to do. It might be time to tell the voices in your head "enough."
Voices in your head
photo by Karen James

A mom wanted new answers to how a kid should fall asleep when he's tired and here's some of my response:
[I]f a child falls asleep in front of the TV, he is really listening to his body about sleep.

If a mom thinks that's not listening to his body, I think what she wants him to listen to is the voices of her mother and grandmother saying "Why isn't he in bed?" to her. Luckily, my children can't hear the voices in my head.

There's probably some TV prejudice at work too. If a child fell asleep reading a book, I think parents would be charmed instead of critical.
Where Joyce saved it, and here's the original post.

Use your words

Someone once wrote:

"In the past my kids have tended to expect to be waited on hand and foot."

I responded:

If you use phrases like "to be waited on hand and foot," you're quoting other people. That usually means the other person's voice is in your head, shaming you. Or it means you've adopted some anti-kid attitudes without really examining them. If you're having a feeling, translate it into your own words. It's a little freaky how people can channel their parents and grandparents by going on automatic and letting those archaic phrases flow through us. Anything you haven't personally examined in the light of your current beliefs shouldn't be uttered, in my opinion. Anything I can't say in my own words hasn't really been internalized by me. As long as I'm simply quoting others, I can bypass conscious, careful thought.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Every word

If you think of every word you use, you won't be able to berate yourself with the voices of others.... Everyone has those little loops of voice in their heads. You can "simply accept" that or you can decide on a case by case basis which ones to keep until you die and which ones to start talking back to.

If you use language without careful examination, you won't be speaking mindfully. School-style responses and reports involve parroting back, sounding confident, using the right buzzwords. But to be truly original and thoughtful, each word needs to be the one one really meant to use. It's a different kind of thinking.

photo by Sandra Dodd, of birds outside Schuyler's house

cartoonish characters in the peanut gallery of my conscience

Sandra Dodd, [on the once-glorious, now-long-gone Unschooling . com forum, Wednesday, March 10, 2004 — 04:39 pm:

A couple of younger gentleman (adults but not my age) have hung out with me and talked philosophy (mostly SCA context but not all) to the point that they have me imbedded in their playback loops (superego, where moms and grandmas and dads tell us to wash the car or not to touch the savings accounts or whatever all they say, those tapes).

It's weird, but I was used to it before I was involved with unschoolers.

I think of whose voices I've let speak back to me when I'm wondering what to do, what cartoonish characters are in the peanut gallery of my conscience. I have Mr. Jamison who was the best voice coach I ever had. That's when I'm singing, or sometimes when I'm getting gushy about certain kinds of music and a voice (Sam Jamison's) says it's pap. I don't always agree with him, but I wrestle his opinion lots of times when I don't expect to need to.

(later note about Mr. Jamison, bottom of page)
I have lots of former best friends, neighbors, teachers, relatives. Some have to sit in the dark back rows, and I don't listen to them as much as I once did because I decided their advice was bad. Some are totally situational (music, or money, or cooking). Some are more about philosophy and ethics and compassion, so they sit up in front with the light on them more often.

I don't mind being one of the council of imaginary advisors anyone has. I just hope they'll listen to lots of voices and not follow any of them without really thinking about it or understanding why.

Holly dreamed about Ewoks last night, but she thought they were called Yetis, and in her dream, there were a bunch of them in a park in Albuquerque and her friend wanted to play with them, but Holly held her back and said "NO! Remember how they were in the movie!?"

I said "But Holly, they were good guys in the movie."

She looked at me like that was ENTIRELY beside the point (which it turns out it was), because within her dream, they had been bad guys in the movie.

So dreams are what they are, and sometimes when friends say they've dreamed about me I've asked "good or bad?" I have to assume I could play an evil ewok (or worse) anytime, anywhere, in dreamland.


That topic had started off with someone recounting a dream I had been in, which is why the dream reference.

A response, that day, also saved by the wayback machine here By Meg on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 09:36 am:

I think of this site as a "council of imaginary advisors" sometimes.

I often find myself composing a post in my head—thinking about something in terms of how I'd describe it to all of you. And then I can pretty much imagine what the various replies would be.

It's like when I was a teenager and would write imaginary letters to Dear Abby!

- Meg

Five years after I wrote what's below, someone read and clicked "like," so it popped back up. 🙂

It's in response to someone having written, about her young children fighting with each other, "it stirs some old stuff in me....I want to just love them; that's what feels right, and there is all of this other noise. Hard to tune out sometimes. I have so much shame and confusion left over from my childhood."

My response:

"Tune out" what noise?

If there are messages in your head, you're human. Replacing them with better messages is what needs to be done. Trying to ignore your conscience isn't possible and it's not a good plan.

Make choices. Consider doing what your mom would have done, at first BUT ALSO consider something else. Then make the better choice.

Next time, consider doing what you did last time, or something else, something calmer and more peaceful.

Gradually the old message might be so far in the background you won't hear it because you have experience with better ways of being.

Making choices is only possible when the person considers at least two options. Tuning out one's thoughts doesn't help one be more thoughtful.

original, February 2013

I had my granny's voice, for years, saying something she said more than once to me when I was five, six, seven: "Sandra, you're book-smart, but you ain't got no horse sense." Horse sense could be replaced with "common sense" (it wasn't about horses), or an urban version might be "street smarts." NO ONE who is six years old has that. I did NOT know the things that come of experience. So I rejected her message, eventually, when I was in my 30s. It also helped for me to read Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner, about his theory of multiple intelligences.

When I was writing this, it occurred to me that the way she said it sounded like she was quoting someone who had said it before. I wonder how many of those messages could be traced back several generations? I hope the things my kids hear, in their heads, in my voice are kinder than that.


a story about me, and one about Anne Ohman, from 2004:

Unschooling.com's Message Boards: Conversations With Sandra Dodd: Sandra, you were in my dream last night

The original unschoolingDotCom, not the second or third passes. 🙂 The REAL one.


Deschooling (even though the voices aren't all from school, still...)

Mental Health for Unschoolers

2018 update:

I hadn't let Sam Jamison critique my musical choices for years, but I did think of him two days before bringing these old writings in here. It was about a day when my friend Jon Tsosie and I were at his house, briefly, at lunchtime, in November 1970. We did some little household tasks for him and he made us lunch of tuna with mayo and some pickle relish, on saltine crackers. That was it. But we were hungry, and he didn't apologize about it. He had been out of town, we weren't invited to lunch (nor expected, really) so he put that on nice, tiny plates and we ate happily.

Good example of making do, with grace.