Reconnecting to Your Inner Voice

Key ideas

[00:00] – Introduction

[00:45] – The cost of not listening to my inner voice

[03:48] – Why it’s survival to ignore the inner voice when you’re being abused

[05:05] – How the freeze response relates to shutting down your voice

[07:20] – Why shutting down saved you as a child but endangers you now 

[10:04] – The first steps I took to reconnect with my inner voice

[12:54] – Why connecting with your body helps you listen to yourself

[20:25] – Specific ways you can “hear” yourself

[22:14] – How to trust your inner knowing

[23:25] – Things that prevent you from hearing your inner voice

[25:02] – Helpful ways to use your inner voice everyday



Relevant Links: 

Free Resource:

Reconnecting to Your Inner Voice Workbook




“Compliance isn’t the same as comfort. Lying there wishing it was over is not comfort. And when I considered myself comfortable with abuse or abusers, I didn’t define it as at ease or relaxed. It meant I had just resigned myself to my fate. I was accustomed to danger and knew that there was no escape. The result was I could be afraid for my life and numb to danger at the same time.”



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Episode transcript:


Welcome to the Overcoming Sexual Abuse podcast, where you get the tools and inspiration to help you overcome childhood sexual abuse. I’m your host, Christina Enevoldsen, certified coach, author, and incest survivor, and I’m here to help you heal and live your very best life.

In childhood abuse, shutting down your inner voice is survival, but in adulthood, it’s actually dangerous. I share how you silenced your voice in the first place, why it feels so threatening to hear yourself, and how to work through that fear so you can learn to listen to yourself and keep yourself safe.

I married my first husband when I was 17. My mom and I had never been close, and then once the sexual abuse ended when I was 11 or 12, my dad ignored me too. I really wanted to escape the loneliness and the isolation and just be loved.

My inner voice was telling me not to marry him, but whatever the consequences of that decision, I just figured that I would deal with it later. I was desperate to get out, and I didn’t see any other way.

At first, it was fine. Even though he worked 16-hour days, he was still attentive, and it felt really good that he was involved in so many aspects of my life and cared so much about what I did and where I went. And that was a real change from my parents’ house, where we just coexisted as strangers.

But slowly, my husband’s involvement meant he needed to give his permission for the friends I had, the jobs I took, and even how far I could drive. I really didn’t push back very much because he let me do most of the things that I wanted to do.

But eventually, I started to feel stifled, and I wanted some freedom. I wanted to pursue things that he didn’t really approve of. And he sensed he was losing control so he clamped down even harder. I tried to leave him and he followed me with a gun. He didn’t find me but over the next few weeks the driver’s side of my car was rammed in and the back window was bashed in.

All the while he was calling and telling me how much he loved me and he seemed really genuine and desperate to get me back. I reasoned that if he wanted me back that much that I should try harder.

But when I went back I was afraid of him. And I told my close friends that if I ever ended up dead or missing then it was him.

But three years after I left the first time and I can only describe this as divine intervention I told him I wanted a divorce and after witnessing him crying for a few days and I very nearly changed my mind he stopped resisting. We put the house on the market, sold it in three days and I found an apartment and he even helped me move into it. He tried for a couple of weeks to win me back but miraculously he met someone else so his attention wasn’t on me anymore and I was really free.

I hadn’t listened to my inner voice that told me not to marry him and I really paid the price.

Several years after my divorce and early in my healing, I had a dream about him and we were snuggling in bed together and in the dream I was thinking why am I here? Why am I not jumping up and running out of here? Why am I so comfortable with this? And just as suddenly as those questions came, an understanding, the answer came too, that I’m not comfortable.

What I thought of as comfortable was actually just familiar. As a child,
day after day, after being abused by my uncle, my dad, and other men, I didn’t have the choice of saying no, of getting away or fighting back, so I just froze, and that made me cooperative and compliant. But compliance isn’t the same as comfort. Lying there wishing it was over is not comfort.

And when I considered myself comfortable with abuse or abusers, I didn’t define it as at ease or relaxed. It meant I had just resigned myself to my fate. I was accustomed to danger and knew that there was no escape. The result was I could be afraid for my life and numb to danger at the same time.

And that describes the functional phrase response. If you’re not familiar with that, I’ll explain. And I love how Peter Levine describes this using the model of animals on the Serengeti, and I’ll share a simplified version of that.

“So imagine impala grazing in a meadow when a cheetah attacks. The herd rushes to escape, but one young impala can’t keep up. The impala is experiencing the flight response, but there’s no way to outrun that cheetah. So just before the cheetah catches up and makes contact, the impala falls to the ground as though dead. It sensed that there was no escape, so it went into a freeze response. If fighting had been an option, it would have done that, but there was no winning a fight with a cheetah. By falling to the ground, there’s a slight chance of survival. The cheetah might fetch its cubs, and the impala might escape. However, there’s another reason the freeze response is useful. If the impala is killed, that immobility response offers immunity from the pain and terror of being torn apart. It’s as though the impala’s spirit has left its body, so it’s separate from that experience.

Do you recognize yourself doing that? While I was being sexually abused, I left my body and I watched from the ceiling corner and that was the freeze response. That’s supposed to be a temporary state. It’s supposed to be that danger passes and then you return to that calm state. But what happens when day after day you’re exposed to this danger and there’s no fleeing, there’s no way to fight and freeze is your only option?

And this is how I was living in this functional freeze response, just walking around, going from task to task, moving through the day but not really there. And that gave me the feeling of being like a ghost floating above everything and that things weren’t really real or that I wasn’t real.

And remember the gift of this freeze state is that everything is blunted and dulled. You’re preparing to die so it’s better not to feel and better not to be in your body.

And keep in mind that being in your body is how you’re empowered to take action. But when action isn’t an option, then you don’t even need your body. So as long as my abuse went on and on, it was safer not to be in my body. But what kept me safer as a child then compromised my safety as an adult. That disconnection kept me in abusive relationships.

My awareness was clouded so I didn’t think that the relationships were as bad as they really were. And even if I was consciously aware at times, I was stuck in that freeze response and my voice in my body wouldn’t wouldn’t respond.

I had this experience in the early days of my healing. Don and I lived in Hollywood and he would take walks down Hollywood Boulevard almost every day. He met a lot of the actors who dress up in costumes posing for photos with tourists and the musicians who were passing out their CDs and a lot of the homeless people.

When I walked with him or when friends walked with him, they’d always comment that there was no getting a block without someone stopping Don for a chat. And he told me many of their stories and one of them in particular was a bodyguard named Muscles and Muscles was living out of his car. One day when I was walking with Don, he spotted Muscles and Muscles approached and Don said, Muscles, this is my wife Christina and I held out my hand. But before I knew what was happening, Muscles grabbed me and he was a big solid guy and he pulled me to his chest, pressed my face against him and wrapped his arms around me and I couldn’t go anywhere.

I didn’t struggle and I didn’t protest. I just watched it happen from the light post up above. And when Muscles released me, I ran home as fast as I could and I determined to find out how to stay present enough to fight or to speak up for myself.

And keep in mind this was about 15 years ago and there wasn’t a lot of information available about this like there is now. And I didn’t know very much about the nervous system beyond some very basic things. But I did know I ignored myself and I didn’t like the effects of that.

So I started paying attention. I started noticing my inner dialogue and I frequently said to myself, “It will be okay.” And so my question to that was, “What will be okay? What was I perceiving as not okay that I needed the assurance that it will be okay?” There was such a disconnect because I was sensing something that was not okay, but before I was even consciously aware of it, I was lulling myself to ignore it. And if I ignored it, then I couldn’t take whatever action was needed to make it okay. And so that was interesting to me and that told me that I was aware of danger, but that I’d shut down any response to it and any feeling from it.

And that fits what we know of how the nervous system works. There is an initial trigger or threat and that first response is fleeing and if that isn’t effective or possible, the second response is fighting. And if that isn’t effective or possible, the response is freezing. But the point is there’s a signal of potential threat and even if it’s not conscious to you, your nervous system is alert to that. And so I started listening for when I tell myself it will be okay. And that was my signal that I did not feel okay.

And I started just with that awareness. And then I paid attention to how that felt. That threat response triggered fear and that’s why I needed to comfort myself. If I didn’t feel something unpleasant, why would I need comforting? So I noticed that and labeled that, “Okay, I feel afraid,” or “I feel nervous,” or anxious or apprehensive or whatever it was, but I acknowledged it and I witnessed it. At that same time, I was listening to that inner voice telling me how I was feeling emotionally.

I started listening to my body sensations. And yes, I do remember that we’re talking about reconnecting with your inner voice, but coming back to the body is the way to do that. For most sexual abuse survivors, coming back to the body feels threatening. I know I felt that. And that’s for two reasons, one, of course, the body was the target. It’s the way the abuse came in. And so being back in the body feels vulnerable. It’s the feeling of being trapped or imprisoned. As I’ve already shared about my experience with Muscles, not being in my body actually left me helpless to do anything about that. We learned as children that it’s not safe to be in the body. And that was true then, but it’s not true anymore.

The other reason it doesn’t feel safe to be in the body is because that’s where our inner knowing comes from. Everything comes through the body before you feel it. As an emotion, you experience it as a sensation in the body. We use the language of body to describe emotions such as, “I have butterflies in my stomach,” or “That’s gut wrenching,” or “I have a lump in my throat.” “I’m weak in the knees.” “She’s hot headed.” “I’m on pins and needles,” or “He has cold feet.”

Those actually describe the physical sensation and we understand them though as emotions, the emotions of excitement and devastation, fear, nervousness, anger, anticipation and apprehension.

So you might notice that when you feel angry, there’s a particular area in your body where you feel it. And it’s usually the upper body like the chest and the face and it feels hot. Or if you feel nervous and excited, you feel that usually in your belly. And there’s a primal connection between the brain and the gut. We often talk about that gut feeling or trust your gut or gut check time, but this mind gut connection isn’t just metaphorical. The brain and gut are connected by this information superhighway called the brain gut axis and it provides constant updates about what’s happening inside of you. It’s to be more aware, more feeling, more knowing.

So if you’re afraid of being in your body, what are you afraid of feeling or knowing and why? If you saw clearly what would you see, what truth would you have to admit and what would you need to do about that? Who would that hurt or anger disappoint? What might you risk or lose and how would that feel? Those questions are already inside you.

Your brain is already asking those questions and if you don’t have an answer, they exist as this big obstacle. But if you do answer them, then you can work with them. You can work through them. Then they become concrete things you can deal with instead of this mysterious scary blob. So these questions exist inside of us because we’re always looking for threat and that’s not just an abuse survivor thing. That’s a human thing and that keeps us safe but it also keeps us stuck.

Tony Robbins says that the quality of her life is determined by the quality of questions you ask and those default risk avoidant questions will get you a certain quality of life. But what if you asked better questions? What if you asked yourself, if I saw clearly how would my knowing help me? How would seeing the truth set me free? What actions would I no longer be confused about? How would that help others? What would I gain?
What would I be able to feel?

Now when I worked through my fear of being in my body and it wasn’t even all my fear, it was enough to get me started. I first started noticing when I had to go to the bathroom or when I was thirsty or cold. Very, very simple things. Because before that, those body sensations felt like just this fly to swat away. Like I’m trying to focus on something, but a fly keeps buzzing around. And I didn’t even notice it, but I would just mindlessly swat away without focusing on it. And that’s what it was like. I was already pushing those sensations away before I was conscious of them.

So I tuned into those feelings, those sensations. And I started responding as soon as I noticed the signal. I ate when I was hungry. I slept when I was tired. I started really listening to me. Now, don’t underestimate the power of tuning in to those simple things like body urges. And then pay attention to other sensations.

You might start with pain. That’s where a lot of my clients start. What kind of pain? Is it throbbing, an ache, sharp, shooting, dull, heavy, tight? And when did it start? And when does it hurt the most? What relieves it? Then you can also bring comforting, self -touch to the area that’s feeling discomfort. And just sense the warmth of your hand. And the purpose isn’t to fix it, not to make the pain go away, but just to be aware of it and with it. And don’t stop at the pain. What other sensations do you feel? Do you feel a fluttering in your belly, a tingling in your toes, a numbness in your lips? And that’s something you do very slowly. Just pay attention to how you feel and respond to yourself.

And just take one step at a time. One of the things animals do to feel safe in their environment, and animals are very much in their bodies, is something called orienting. And orienting is knowing your position in relationship to your environment and circumstances. And this allows you to see the danger and potential sources of escape and safety. So with an animal, when a twig snaps or a bush rustles, then the animal looks and smells and listens toward that potential threat. And when it doesn’t detect anything, it returns to grazing or resting or playing or whatever it was doing.

To feel grounded and safe in your environment, you can orient too. So feel your eyes as they move around the room. And notice where they go and just scan the room and move them slow and steady. And just see different parts of your environment. Notice the objects, the shapes, the colors, the materials. And notice the sounds and smells, the feel. What’s the temperature that you feel? What textures do you feel? What’s the sensation of your bottom on the chair or your feet touching the floor? And let yourself just feel that connection with your environment. It’s very grounding.

And then notice that in this moment, you’re safe. We’re not looking at an hour from now or a week from now or a year from now, but right now in this moment, you’re safe. And you can put your hand on your heart and tell yourself, I’m safe. And how does that feel? And that might have helped you feel grounded and safe and that might not have. But just bring your attention towards yourself and notice what you feel without trying to fix it. And that presence is so good. And that’s the beginning of feeling safe. So those were some of the ways to connect with your body so you could reconnect with your inner voice.

So let’s get more into the direct ways of listening to yourself, some of the specifics. So remember how I told you that I knew it was a mistake to marry my first husband? Well, with Don, my current husband, we got engaged after four days and got married a month later. And that decision truly didn’t feel risky because I intuitively knew it was right. And we’ve been married 18 years and he’s the best person I’ve ever met. So how did I determine that was a right decision?

There are different modes we can check in with and one is seeing, it’s the visual. It’s maybe a red light or green light. Red light means stop. Green light means yes, go. Or it might be an image. It might be an arrow.

And then there’s hearing. So that doesn’t mean actually hearing audibly, but internally you might hear a word or phrase or a sentence.

And there’s feeling. And often in your gut, maybe it’s a churning, maybe it’s a feeling of peace. Maybe it’s a feeling of excitement or joy.

And then there’s a knowing, just an inner knowing without knowing how you know.

I use a variety of these, actually all of them. And sometimes it’s just words and sometimes it’s a picture. But often I get a contracted feeling when something is a no and an expansive feeling or a lightness in my chest for a yes. Another person’s body might have a clenching feeling in the gut for a no and a tingling feeling that rises in the head for a yes.

To tap into your inner voice, recall when it’s been there for you before to help you in the past. So what’s something that worked out well that you felt good about beforehand? You felt like, yeah, I have a gut feeling that’s gonna be great. And what was that feeling? And what’s something that didn’t work out well? Did you have a bad feeling about that? So look at the past where things went wrong and where you said, “I knew it.” And then recognize what truth feels like in your body. How does it feel when you hear something you know is true versus something that’s a total lie? How does it feel in your body when you say something that’s true versus saying something that’s not true? So try it by saying something you know is true.

Like, “I love my husband,” or “My name is Christina.” And if I try to say a lie, “I hate chocolate.” That feels completely different to me.

So acting on intuition will make it stronger while ignoring it will make it weaker. And then the other thing to keep in mind is to be mindful of who you’re around. Attuned people make it easier to become attuned.

Some things that disconnect you from your inner voice though are rushing around, living without margins, just lots of noise and activity and not allowing stillness or quiet.

Or living in a cluttered environment that keeps us insulated and distracted or having a buildup of toxins in your body. So intuition partially comes from our GI tracts. So gut health impacts how well we know things without knowing we know. So you can do a faster cleanse and that gives you so much clarity. The other thing is stored emotions and that might even manifest as gut issues like IBS or leaky gut. And when that area of your gut is compacted, it’s hard to be clear and it’s hard to hear yourself. Emotions are meant to be felt and acted on and then released, they aren’t meant to be stored. So processing emotions impacts hearing your gut.

And the last thing is an unresolved past. So whenever you have this experience in the present, the first thing your brain does is it filters that experience through all of your past experiences. So in other words, no one really experiences reality as it truly is. We experience it through the lens of what we’ve already experienced. So healing then helps us kind of clean the lens so we can see more clearly about what is in our present.

Your inner voice is there to serve you and protect you and provide for you. And listening to your voice though is more than just avoiding harm. It’s about pursuing good. I use my inner voice every day to know things like what articles or books I should read, or responding to clients. No understanding if they’re asking a question. What are they really asking? Or knowing which friends to reach out to. You know, I’ve had so and so on my mind. And I use it in my writing. So your inner voice is invaluable for using every day in every circumstance.

Well, thanks for joining me today. If you’re serious about reconnecting with your inner voice, I have some more exercises for you to work through to take this deeper. And to download that for free, go to the show notes page at

And when you download that, be sure to accept my invitation to subscribe to my emails and I’ll send you lots and lots of helpful healing tips and resources. You’re gonna love them. I’ll be bringing you more on healing and boundaries and self care and family dysfunction. So be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of it.

Reconnecting to Your Inner Voice

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