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Embracing Our Selves
The Voice Dialogue Manual
By Hal Stone, Sidra Stone
New World LibraryCopyright © 1989 Hal Stone and Sidra Stone
All rights reserved.
A New Vision of Consciousness
The Introduction to Our Selves
The moment of awakening is a very special time in our lives. It may happen while we are awake, it may be the result of a dream, or it may occur during meditation. It is always accompanied by a heightened awareness — our perceptions and feelings are intensified and we experience a sense of new perspectives. The moment of awakening is well-illustrated by the case of Marilyn, a woman in her thirties who had a strong sense of identification with the role of "mother." Throughout her life, she treated everyone she encountered as a mother would treat a child. She had taken it upon herself to care for the world; this attitude was her "goat nature." After she entered therapy she had the following dream. It appeared at that moment of awakening when Marilyn began to separate from her maternal nature, when she began to awaken from the "sleep" she had mistaken for reality.
Sounds have become acute. There is so much noise and confusion I cannot rest. I finally become fully awake and I look about me. It is as if I were in a strange house and yet I know it is my house and I have lived in it for a long time. There is a mirror across from my bed and I glance at it. I am horrified to see that I have grown old while I slept. The noise is deafening and I go out to try to find where it is coming from. As I reach the kitchen door, I realize it comes from there. Around the kitchen table are many people, some young, some far older than I am. They are all dressed in children's clothes and are waiting to be fed. They see me and begin to pound their bowls on the table and call me "mother." I see my priest across the room with his back to me, and I think he can surely explain this to me, but as I approach him he turns around and I see that he is wearing a bib and holding a bowl, too! I run back to the door to leave and, as I pass the table, I see my parents there, wearing bibs like all the rest. I reach the door as a man comes in. I know him to be my husband, although he is not the husband I had when I went to sleep. He makes a pass at me and I feel relieved, thinking at least he doesn't think I'm his mother. When I look at him, however, he is wearing knickers and his face is the face of a child. I think that this is a nightmare and I run and shut myself in my room in order to wake up more fully, but I know I am not asleep. I ask myself over and over again: "What have I done while I slept?" Ray comes into the room [Ray is a therapist in the city where she lived]. I think that surely he can help me to understand this, but he is crying because he has hurt his knee and wants me to bandage it.
This dream clearly shows Marilyn's moment of awakening. Until now, the only reality that she has known has been this self-programmed "mother" identity (her goat nature) that she has been locked into since early childhood. The dream image is so poignant — during the time she has been asleep she has grown old while everyone around her has become a child needing nurturing. But now Marilyn is awake and separating from her identification with her mother nature. She is looking at herself and her surroundings through newly opened eyes and thus is beginning to ask questions and search for something different. She is curious. She wants to discover what exists within her, other than this mother, and to move toward the fullness of her being. Much as our tiger/goat discovered his tiger self, Marilyn, too, will discover parts of her true nature that she has not known before.
The "roar of awakening" is not always a roar. We may experience it as a roar when it applies to our "tiger" selves — our sexuality or intense feelings — but many other facets of our true nature also await discovery. Ralph, a successful, hardworking, rational sixty-two-year-old man, had the following dream of discovery:
I am walking on a country road. Suddenly I hear a noise; it sounds like a cry. I look down and, to the side of the road, I see a hand sticking up from the earth. I am shocked and I run to the hand and start digging there. I dig deeper until I unearth the body of a child who is about three or four years of age. He is barely alive. I start to clean him off and I hold him to me.
In this dream, awakening comes as an unearthing of something that was buried long ago — the inner child. Ralph had spent his life identified with those traits that pushed him toward great financial and political success, yet something was missing from his life. He had never known a real intimacy with others. In this dream he began to deal with that intimacy as he made the remarkable discovery that a very important part of himself had been buried — his vulnerability, his fear of the world, his feelings of isolation, and his fear of abandonment. These qualities were embodied in the child who was "buried," one of Ralph's selves that had been fully repressed by the time he was four.
Sometimes the process of awakening to what lies within us is presented to us as a journey. This is a very common motif in dream symbolism. A fifty-year-old woman at the beginning of her voyage of personal discovery dreamed she had to go on a journey by herself, with no assistance from her husband or anyone else. The journey stretched ahead of her; it was a long and difficult process to find her way home. Her unconscious was portraying her evolving consciousness as a journey, a journey that each one of us must take alone. It is a long and often difficult way home, for in order to embrace our "tiger nature" and experience our roar of awakening, we must first meet and embrace the multitude of selves that make up the rich totality of our entire being. As we uncover each new self and learn to honor it, it becomes a source of information for us in our continuing journey.
After becoming aware of her strong maternal identification Marilyn (the woman who had dreamed of being a mother to everyone) realized she had also strongly identified with her rational self. She took up meditation, and this practice precipitated experiences far different from anything that she had known before. For example, one night she had a dream with a very religious flavor. It upset her because spirituality was not a legitimate part of her "goat nature" (rationality). The following experience resulted:
I awakened from a dream feeling very disturbed. I could not go back to sleep so I went down to the living room and lit a cigarette. The kitchen light was on, throwing a shaft of light into the living room, so I did not turn on any other light. Our living room rug is sand-colored and the path of light from the kitchen door illuminated it. I was idly looking at this portion of the rug when it suddenly seemed filled with writing. We have a clear plate glass top on the coffee table and I thought that perhaps a letter was lying on it and the light had somehow projected the writing onto the rug, but there was no letter on the coffee table. I even moved the coffee table but the writing remained. I then tried to rub it out with my foot, thinking that the children had been writing in the nap of the rug with their fingers. Still it persisted, so I sat down to try to read it but was unable to. I thought: Whoever you are, please show me what you are trying to say. The words then appeared on the rug one at a time and I was able to read them. If I couldn't read one of them and felt confused, the word reappeared on the rug at once. This occurred each time I felt confusion. It no longer seemed like a sand-colored rug but more like sand itself with words etched deeply into it. These are the words I can recall:
You meet yourself not yet. You must love your life. Find a mind whose hope is a light to light the way for your soul. 1 gave you Mary [a figure in the dream from which she had awakened and from which her disturbance arose]. Why have you not hoped? Now you have begun again. Put love next to hope and follow them to your self. The voyage has begun.
I closed my eyes and thought, this is crazy. I am imagining this. Writing cannot appear on a carpet. Something said to me: "Can you throw stones at those who will not see?"
I opened my eyes and the writing was gone. I got up and looked closely at the space where it had been. I felt it must have left some mark because it had not been written on the surface but with depth, as if it were actually written in sand. There was not a trace. I was angry with myself because I had not accepted it at once and thus had lost some of the words.
In the tiger story, the roar of awakening represents the discovery of our basic instinctual nature. It tells us we must fully become what we are. Ralph discovered the lost little boy of his childhood who would be reclaimed through this process. In Marilyn's case, we discover a radically different kind of energy — what we would call spiritual or transpersonal energy. Her vision initiated her into a different reality. She was asked to find a new mind — a mind of hope that could light the way for her soul. The voice of her spiritual nature offered such a different teaching from what she had known until now! In effect, she was being asked to develop new ways of thinking that were more compatible with the realities of these emergent spiritual energies. The evolution of consciousness is filled with such surprises.
In contrast to Marilyn, Jane was working on the issue of empowerment. Her roar of awakening happened during psychotherapy. She had learned how to be powerful in the world, but at the expense of her inner child and her basic instinctual reactions. She was introduced to her inner child during a Voice Dialogue session (the Voice Dialogue method will be discussed in detail in Chapter Three) when the child was allowed to speak and become real for one of the first times in Jane's adulthood. As a result of this process, Jane became aware of the child, and thus successfully separated from it. A few nights later she encountered her lost instinctual energies in the following dream:
I am in a room with a small Hon. I rush to the door, quite terrified, and open it and push the lion out. I come back into the room, breathing a sigh of relief, when I see another, much larger Hon. I am terrified and I rush to the door to open it, but the lion gets there first, preventing me from opening the door to either get it out or leave it behind.
This dream is very much like our tiger story. This time, however, it is a lion that our dreamer must face. She cannot escape her lion, and it grows and becomes more powerful. In fact, the lion is an aspect of herself that can no longer be ignored. By facing this lion and learning to use its energies, she will make the power of her instincts available. With this power, she can successfully care for herself and, in particular, for her inner child. This is true empowerment: Our vulnerability is available in relationships in a conscious way, and our instinctual energies are also available to function protectively. Thus, our energies are balanced; we do not need to behave in a particularly assertive fashion for we are quite naturally in a position of power.
How We Develop
We have referred to the fact that we are made up of many selves. These selves have been referred to in many different ways by many different people. They have been known as the many I's, selves or partial selves, complexes, multiple personalities, and, more recently, as energy patterns. We use the terms selves, subpersonalities, and energy patterns interchangeably throughout this book.
The concept that we are made up of different selves is sometimes difficult to understand. Some people object to this idea, arguing that such a theory fragments the personality. We feel that it is already "fragmented," and our task is to become aware of this fragmentation or multiplicity of selves so that we can make valid choices in our lives.
These contradictory feelings are apparent in all of us at one time or another. The higher the emotional stakes, the more likely we are to experience a variety of feelings in any given situation. Consider a woman whose only child is leaving home — on one side, we can see her feelings of relief: "I wish she'd hurry up and move out. I'm so eager to have the house to myself." On the other side, we see her feelings of loss: "I wish she wouldn't go. I wish she would stay and keep me company forever. She's such fun." Or think of a man who is offered a promotion to a key leadership position. Needless to say, one part of him is overjoyed and looks forward to the challenge, the authority, and the excitement that come with the position. Another part regrets the loss of camaraderie that necessarily accompanies this move up from the ranks.
How do these selves develop? A newborn infant is a unique human being who comes into the world with its own genetic make-up that determines its physiology (and some of its behavior) and with a specific quality of "being" unique to the infant. We call this unique quality of being the infant's "psychic fingerprint." Any woman who has had more than one child will readily acknowledge how different each child was, even in utero. After birth this difference is even more apparent.
The newborn infant is quite defenseless, totally vulnerable, and dependent upon the adult world for its survival. However, along with its basic, unique psychic fingerprint, the infant also has the potential to develop an infinite array of energy patterns or selves, the sum total of which will constitute the individual personality. At this point in life, the armoring of our vulnerability and the development of our personality begin.
The infant learns that he or she must establish some measure of control over the environment to avoid unpleasantness. This development of control is actually the evolution of the personality. Personality develops as a way of dealing with vulnerability. The stronger the developing personality, the farther away the child moves from vulnerability, from its psychic fingerprint. It loses contact with its unique being as it learns to be powerful.
How does this process work? How does the child become more powerful? The child learns, for example, that the mother is very happy when baby smiles. Now baby may enjoy smiling, but soon enjoyment will be overridden by the knowledge that smiling brings about certain consequences. Similarly, going to the toilet soon becomes a cause célèbre as a system of rewards and punishments is established in relation to the acts of urination and defecation. Aggression is also either rewarded or punished. It may be seen as a means of mastering the world or it may be treated as negative or antisocial behavior.
In some instances, the child might try to establish some measure of control over the environment by retreating into fantasy. Daydreams may then become a key factor in shaping the personality. For example, a young boy whose parents separated developed a fantasy that he was in a submarine deep under the sea. He spent increasing amounts of time in his fantasy submarine in an effort to make himself feel better. Objectively speaking, he was obviously retreating from pain. On another level, he had found a way of dealing with his extreme vulnerability. In contrast, another child realized that success in school was the key to mastering his environment and protecting his vulnerable selves, so he developed his ambitious side and his pleasing characteristics.
In our developmental process we are rewarded for certain behaviors and punished for others; thus, some selves are strengthened and others are weakened. We learn our lessons well and consequently develop "personalities." It is strange to think that a personality is actually a system of subpersonalities (selves) that eradicates our psychic fingerprint as it brings us control — and thereby power — in the world.
In fact, one of the earliest aspects of our personality to develop is the self that watches over us. It is like a bodyguard — constantly searching for dangers that may lurk around us and determining how it can best protect us from them. It incorporates parental and societal injunctions and controls our behavior, to a large extent, by establishing a set of rules that it feels will ensure our safety and our acceptance by others. It decides how emotional we can be. It makes sure we do not act foolishly or in ways in which we might embarrass ourselves. We call this self the protector/ controller.
The protector/controller is the primary energy pattern behind many other selves. For example, it will utilize the energies of the rational self and the responsible parent as a way of maintaining control over our environment. When most people use the word "I," they are in fact referring to their protector/controller. For the vast majority of us, protector/controller energy is the directing agent of personality. It is what many people think of as an ego.
Excerpted from Embracing Our Selves by Hal Stone, Sidra Stone. Copyright © 1989 Hal Stone and Sidra Stone. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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