The Power of Cumulative and The Voices in Our Heads

Filed under Feed Your Strength on Feb 23 12 by

I read once that we start each day according to how useful and productive we feel and to what extent we feel like we belong. If we awaken feeling loved and cared for by others and skilled in our life stage of family and work, we meet the day with energy and hope. Then why do so many of us feel abandoned at some level and certainly less than useful and productive? Is change possible? How hard will it be?

I think there is good news: Change is possible! The key is to understand two driving forces that must be reckoned with if we want the energy and hope of our days to be different: the power of cumulative and the voices in our heads.

The Power of Cumulative

My medical doctor brother once pointed out that if you gain one pound a year for twenty years beginning at age 30, you would be…right, 20 pounds overweight at age 50. No rocket science there, but I was so shocked. I can gain a pound in a weekend. It was a startling example of how the power of cumulative is so missed in our culture. We deal with life day-to-day and often fail to step back and remember that the accumulation of days—or anything else—is like a swift-moving river that is gathering energy either for us or against us.

For instance, it might have been unimaginable that you and your high school or college best friend would be farther away than coffee together or at least a call or a text. But somehow months, even years, have gone by and you have scarcely communicated. Distance between good friends accumulates with a sad energy. The relationship is missed but that river of time makes the gulf between you ever larger.

Clutter may be the best example of the power of cumulative. We fight clutter of space, to be sure, but what about the clutter of our heart? What grudges have we gathered that are taking up heart-space and energy? What bad memories do we try to let go of, only to see them resurface with a vengeance? I am convinced that clutter of any kind takes on a strange, life-like quality of its own —the cluttered room and the cluttered heart just seem to have an energy that fights us.

The Voices in Our Heads

My friend’s mom is a paranoid schizophrenic, precious and funny, living an arduous journey through the reality of mental illness, and of course, taking my friend through the landmines of her life. One of the best commercials of our time is led by Glenn Close and those with her, wearing t-shirts that connect mental illness to real family members, getting the conversation out in the open and demonstrating so beautifully how families are all in the fight together. When my friend told me her mom had a t-shirt that says, “I’m schizophrenic and so am I,” I laughed out loud—not at her mom or any mental illness, but at how it reminded me of the fight we all have with voices in our head.

In his song “Voices”, Chris Young is right: we hear voices in our head all the time. They begin with our parents and family members who, hopefully, give us tender advice and unconditional love. Sadly, these voices often tear us down through criticism and meanness. Friends, and not-so-friends, take up the battle cry of who we are and are not as we enter school and social circles. Critics are everywhere in our lives, and these are often our inner circle with whom we interact daily.

As if that were not enough, there is the advertising voice that deluges us through 24/7 media, leaving us short in some measure so we will buy its wares. Magazines that paint life in air-brushed still shots tell us we should look made up and gorgeous, our houses and cars should be gleaming and up-to-date, and that everyone else’s life is manageable and successful except our own.

Every voice that comes into our head impacts our own voice toward ourselves. Are we lovable and useful, or should we beat ourselves up in hopes of achieving…what, exactly?

I want to scream, “Enough!” We are enough, wherever we are in this journey. I have had enough with the pressure to be more, do more, and have more. But telling people something they don’t believe in their heart is counterproductive and leaves them feeling even less sure of themselves. So I say simply this:, “If the voices in your head and what is accumulating in your life are somehow doing you harm, let’s figure out why.”

When we talk about tough issues with each other, no matter how painful, they somehow lose their grip on our minds, and our suffering is shared. We are asking how these tough issues get birthed and is there an origin to at least some of our tough circumstances that we can understand and alter?

I warn you: I am the tortoise, not the hare. If you need hare-pace, look elsewhere. However, if you sense that you don’t want to wake up 30 days from now with the same lack of energy and hope— but you don’t expect to be magically transformed by then—we may be on a journey of intent and care that would be helpful to you.

In the words of one incredible hero, Todd Beamer, a 9/11 hero, “Let’s roll.”

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Debi White
Debi is a former NC elementary teacher and middle school principal. As an educator, she was keenly aware of the need to inspire students and teachers, helping each to understand what keeps the heart melted and learning and productivity strong. She left education to research, on a broader scale, how each of us can move from exile to freedom in every area of our lives. For daily inspiration, check out her blog at