For all our conversations with family, friends, and coworkers, there is one person you speak to more than anyone else: your self. But too often, the conversation goes like this: “No matter what I do, I just can’t get it right.” That’s because the voice you’re talking to comes straight from the writing on your wall.

Everyone has writing on their wall — those hidden belief systems and prerecorded programs that dictate how we behave, react and experience ourselves and the world. This information has been imprinted onto our subconscious minds like music onto the track of a tape. We may not be aware of it, but we listen to the voice that spouts it everyday — and we do what it says. So we repeat that same unhealthy habits and patterns, and feel discouraged, fearful and even sad.

But we all have the power to undo the writing on the wall, and disconnect from that harmful inner voice. Here are five keys to breaking free:

1. Resolve to rewrite the pathways.

When we think something, our brain cells link up and form neural networks. The more we think it, the stronger those networks become. An hour spent dwelling on a negative thought can double those synaptic connections. If we work to stop listening to that voice or obeying the writing on the wall, those networks wither away, freeing us to think positively, focus on a good outcome, and feel a sense of hope and excitement. Scientific research shows that the brain has neuroplasticity — it can heal and change. The first step to rewriting these pathways is to become conscious of how often we check in with the writing on the wall — and then we can begin the process of changing it.

2. Start journaling.

To build your own awareness of the voice that echoes the writing on your wall, start a journal. Focus your entries on your experience with that voice: record what it says, including details. Then, reality test what the voice says. Respond to the voice, telling it how you feel, and recording your emotions.

Write down everything that voice says to you, and soon you will notice patterns and better understand it. You will soon discover that the voice is not really who you are, it’s someone else’s story that was passed onto you — a parent, a caregiver, a teacher or a friend. Note when you have conflicts with what the voice is saying. Don’t try to come up with answers: you’re just observing, and allowing more questions to come to the surface. In fact, try to end each journal entry with a question instead of a statement, as a reminder to stay open during this process of discovery.

3. Use questions to gain insights.

To gain insights on the nature of the writing on your wall, ask yourself these questions, and make sure to you are paying attention to your answer:

Do I hear/pay attention to the voice in my head?

How often do I hear the voice in my head?

What is it saying to me? Is it positive or negative?

Is what the voice is saying ringing true or false to me?

Then, reality test what the voice is telling you:

What do I think about what it says?

Do I believe in what the voice is saying?

Which statements do I agree with, and disagree with?

What emotions come up for me when I hear the voice in my head?

Does it sound like someone I might have heard before? And if so, who?

4. Share the process.

We rewire ourselves constantly based on what we pay attention to. When we stop believing the voice coming from the writing on the wall, we can focus on more positive thinking and a better outcome. Talking through this process can help.

Start an ongoing conversation with a friend or loved one, sharing your experiences of the voice in your head and the process of journaling. Encourage them to tell their story, talking about their inner voice and when it shows up for them. As they talk, practice active listening. Share reflections on each of your experiences, discussing your conflicts or reactions. Talk about whether those voices have caused you to miss anything in your lives — opportunities, experiences; and any needs, attachments, or beliefs you might have had that interfered with — or supported — that voice.

5. Celebrate your growth.

Most of us have had limited contact with the voice in our head, and were unaware of the writing on our wall. As we undertake an honest examination of these recurring conversations and what that voice tells us, and as we consider the way it makes us feel, we learn so much about ourselves. Monitoring the inner voice enables us to we recognize and experience ourselves more directly, coming to understand why we do what we do, or think what we think.

Doing this takes personal courage and honesty. Celebrate this growth in yourself as you go through this process. Pat yourself on the back — for your ability to create change, disable that critical voice, and rewrite the writing on your wall.

We don’t have the power to control the outside world. But we do have power over how we experience it, and we can transform our own thoughts and emotions. Once we’re aware of that inner voice and where it’s coming from, we can begin to free ourselves of it, create new, healthier ways of thinking and behaving. When we’re no longer heeding the writing on our wall, we can achieve the joy and contentment we all yearn for.

** Originally published at