‘Voice Dialogue’ supports
individuation. It explores our Inner family of selves, defined as
sub-personalities, and spawns the resulting Aware self process. The
essence of the work is spontaneity, freedom to feel and share: two people are
face-to-face and allow a creative exchange to emerge. It enfolds as a ‘game of
life,’ wherein humor, surprises, gravity and respect find their place.
All facets of the personality can express, link and interact in a dance where
one will experience a deep connection to oneself, to one’s emotions and the
creativity dimensions that lie dormant in us.
‘Voice Dialogue’ is a vision of the psyche, a tool and a
process for developing self-knowledge, self-relating and self-growth. Its
practice gives insight into one’s personality, into the
motivations and energies that move us, contract or expand us, or remain disowned
in our psyche. These energies express and transmit our resources, values and
thoughts; our desires, fears and hurts; our feeling tones, our bodily
sensations. Via personal skills, behaviors and reactions, they manifest the
often unconscious and automatic physical and psychological ‘survival devices’ of
our character. Unless we learn to know them and relate to them with awareness,
they will to a large extent govern our lives and restrain our free will and our
By consciously ‘identifying with and subsequently
dis-identifying from’ the energies that drive or inhibit us, a gradual
strengthening of ‘central awareness’ occurs, with an ability to hold the tension
of inner opposites within the psychic structure. By discovering the
vulnerability that underlies our reactions, we will learn to acknowledge and
care for our suffering selves and so relate to ourselves and
others with understanding and empathy.
We will discover Inner selves of an unpredictable
sensitivity and freshness which wait patiently to be welcomed, so
as to evolve with all the magic of a seed that germinates, a flower that
blooms. We will progressively awaken to a much longed for encounter with our
Deeper Self. Intimate inner bonding will arise from the choice to cherish
oneself without judgment or fear. Impulses will again spring from abundance
rather than from paucity, reviving our childlike innocence and trust.
Practicing ‘Voice Dialogue,’ leads to treasure the infinite
resources of one’s own being. It is to participate in what one feels, whether in
fragility or in strength, in happiness or in pain, in flow or in limitation. To
know oneself is to love oneself. Out of this closeness in the now with
whoever we are, grows closeness with the other, an intense and unconditional
embrace of all that is.
‘Voice Dialogue’ was created by
a couple of American psychologists: Hal Stone PhD (trained in Clinical
Psychology at UCLA, and at the Jung Institute of Los Angeles) and his wife,
Sidra Stone PhD (trained in Psychology at the University of Maryland). After
more than twenty years of personal and professional experience, they developed,
since the seventies, the theory and practice of ‘The Psychology of Selves and
Bonding Patterns, and the Psychology of the Aware Ego.’ They created a
simple and concrete method, accessible to all, called ‘Voice Dialogue.’
At first they put it to the test in their own processes as
individuals, and as a couple… subsequently developing it in their professional
practice and their joint seminars and teachings. Together they have written a
number of ground breaking books about it. (See the Bibliography).
Three Key concepts:
In my personal life and in nearly twenty five years of
professional experience with it, ‘Voice Dialogue’ work has proven, from the very
beginning, to accompany a spiritual path based on detachment, love and
tolerance. Indeed, its goal is not to correct oneself, like one would snip with
a pair of critical scissors, or re-tailor a character trait that is not to our
taste. It aims, on the contrary, at developing a caring mindfulness for how we
feel and who we are from one moment to the next. It supports a tangible
relationship between a ‘centered space of inner witnessing’ and any given
‘mental, emotional and behavioral pattern’ that inhabits us. This process leads
to a self-awareness and a self-relating based on lucidity and responsiveness.
We learn to meet our vulnerability, to acknowledge our
perceptions, reactions, desires and fears - in heart, mind and body - not as
things, nor as mere objects, but as flesh and blood persons inside us. We
can then relate to these Inner persons with kindness; we can respect them
as Allies. We realize that self-inflicted criticism and indifference do
hurt us even more deeply than when they strike us from any outer source.
The practice of ‘Voice Dialogue’ helps us experience
ourselves intimately, rather than through dissociated mental analysis. Our
understanding arises from a conscious embodying of who we are; this
awakens empathy; it motivates self-acceptance and results in inner peace.
Better than any striving to be different, it is precisely such lucid compassion
that will naturally transform us.
To be really conscious of oneself on manifold levels of
experience, leads to being touched by one’s own humanness and invites us to take
ourselves into our own hearts and embrace. Welcoming and cherishing oneself,
opens the door to love and tolerance toward the other: we recognize the other as
an equal, sharing the same joys and pains, fears and hopes in life.
Mechanisms, Complexes, Energies
By selves, or subpersonalities, one means
the various facets of one’s personality. The sum of their interactions makes up
what we consider to be our identity; that of which we say: ‘But that’s me!’
Yet our subpersonalities cover also the attributes of self we deny or
leave dormant within.
A subpersonality will carry, for example, a specific
suffering self or a pattern of adaptation, a mental interpretation, an emotional
reaction, a self-protective resource, an instinctual energy or a disowned
energy. Academic language will use the terms ‘complex’ and ‘defense mechanism.’
A complex is defined as a cluster of feelings and associated behaviors,
triggered by some past difficulty in which one has remained caught. From there
on, when there is a similarity of circumstances, we go through a reactivation of
the emotions linked with past experiences and repeat associated behaviors.
Consequently, more often than not, we act and react, unaware of what more deeply
‘Voice Dialogue’ explores our physical, emotional and mental
‘energy flows.’ Energy, from the Greek energeia, means ‘force in
action.’ What ‘Voice Dialogue’ calls energy encompasses our reactions and
our silences, our impulses, our inhibitions, whatever blocks or frees us in our
daily life and our personality.
The practice of ‘Voice Dialogue’ gives our different
selves the opportunity to be heard separately and then to be integrated in a
new way on the inner plane. Under the guidance of a facilitator, our
subpersonalities will experience and express themselves¾one
at a time¾convey
their points of view, their feelings and sensations. Some of them are quite
familiar to us, powerful and welcome; others are more discreet, others still are
unheard, repressed or perceived as burdens, in reason of their poor health, low
spirits, faulty behavior or vulnerability. Nevertheless they all belong to our
Inner family. Eventually - provided everyone is given a voice and
is heard - wisdom, solidarity and some degree of consensus will naturally arise
out of such multi-faceted sharing.
A Complex, a Defense Mechanism,
…is always a Person.
To look upon a feeling, a thought, an attitude, as an
Inner person, rather than as a complex, a defense mechanism, a righteous or
faulty conduct, breaks new ground. To personify our psychological
dynamics is to move from ‘object oriented analyzing’ to ‘subject oriented
relating.’ In this lies the whole difference: we begin to discover and welcome
in our inner world the expressions of a whole human family; we begin to consider
our ‘ways of reacting’ as persons per se and start to meet them
accordingly, in a clear, compassionate and pragmatic way.
Experiencing what we feel, think and do as an ‘Inner
family,’ creates a heightened quality of connection with oneself and others.
Now transference and the empathic feedback we hope for, will not for the most
part be focused on responses by others or on the patient-therapist axis, but
will be directed back to a face-to-face between a central
dis-identified awareness and the various selves that manifest within
us. Therein lies a precious possibility of maturation and change. ‘Voice
Dialogue’ processes invite you to cease to primarily depend on outer mirroring,
on validation by others or on ‘educative self-correction.’ You learn to build on
your own response to your wounded and anxious Inner selves… and on their
spontaneous relaxing as they are met by your caring.
Because we start to experience our needs and fears
consciously, we can become self-mirrors. We become partners and neighbors to our
Inner selves, in particular to our Vulnerable selves; we begin to
respond to them, to hold them, with rooted and containing affectionate gestures
and words, rather than with driven self-enhancement or pitiless self-criticism.
This is not only an approach for those who feel in
difficulty. It is also a spiritual path for those who aspire to know and free
themselves at a deeper level, tending towards equanimity and serenity. It
encloses the total person, in both its human and cosmic dimensions. It
highlights the fullness of our potential; it gives us a deeper sense of the
meaning of our life; it allows us to develop feeling relationships with our
fellow men that enrich and renew us. We discover that we are - and that every
person is - a microcosm reflecting all that the universe contains.
The Range of our
As spokesmen for our energies, our Inner voices
can be divided into several groups:
The Primary selves
They Insure our Protection;
Carry our Power, our Resources in Life
Our Primary selves compose what Carl Gustav
Jung has called the ‘persona,’ meaning thereby the way in which we present
ourselves to others, function and find our place in the family and in society.
These are the subpersonalities that develop our assets and protect us.
They concretize our talents, our ways of mastering our lives. They monitor us to
exercise control, avoid errors, exclusion and suffering.
Here we meet our Skillful Selves, our Pusher,
our Perfectionist, enticing us to do well, to do more, to do even better.
We will also experience our Inner warriors, heroes and rebels,
who fight our battles, or our Pleaser who agrees with the other and too
often goes quiet in order to avoid conflict. They include also our spiritual,
altruistic and idealistic selves who would solve the difficulties of human
condition. Together they form a ‘super-ego board’ of Primary selves…
directed by our Rule maker who carries the values we identify ourselves
with, and surveyed by our Inner critic who ceaselessly points out our
slightest past and future failings and sins. They also include an Inner judge
who protects us by finding fault in others.
For the most part, these Powerful voices are
‘parental, educating voices;’ they reflect our cultural, religious and social
settings. They give us structure, teach us, drive us, shield us. When we feel
hurt or threatened, they express our survival strategies, like
aggression, flight, submission, disguise and playing dead. They insure our
physical safety and the recognition of our values, identity and self-image. Deep
down they are well-meaning, yet their input necessarily limits us, making us in
many ways guilty, judgmental and untrue to ourselves.
Our psyche covers the boundless variety of energies present
in creation. We also carry Archetypal, Transpersonal and Spiritual selves.
The Archetypal selves personify in us the collective imprints of
humanity, our basic forces: the universal mother, father, woman, man; the heroes
of our myths, legends and fairy tales; they comprise mankind’s instinctual
drives, the powers of light and darkness in our psychical realms.
Our Transpersonal and Spiritual selves can be vectors
of the divine and the sacred. They manifest in us as the Soul voice, the
Wisdom voice, the Healer’s voice, the Voices of saints, of
wise figures and deities.
The range of our subpersonalities is timeless and
We can dialogue with the Voices of our dreams, of our
inspirations and intuitions; or with those of our physical pains and illnesses
and even with the Voice of our old age to come or the Voice of our
death. Indeed we can explore via our sensitivity and perceptions, the energies
of all impulses, emotions and feeling tones; the energies of animate and
inanimate objects; of man, animal, rock and tree; of near and far, of past and
We will experience that every human being contains all that
the universe contains. Provided we meet everything as a Person, with the
love, respect and sacredness that this implies, we will discover a fascinating
world, where every aspect, every force, can be our Ally and our
Excessive Adaptation, Rigidified Values and a Strong
A Danger for our Immune System
For our Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Health
More than we would admit, we are blind to what we really
feel, want and are. This often has its roots in distressful and confusing
experiences of the past, especially during childhood. In order to be loved and
accepted, to prevent pain, to establish our identity, assert our values, find
our place in our environment, support our desires and ignore our fears… we
develop the Primary selves that best serve us in our given
circumstances. Such complying traits, resources and self-protective responses
are standard and necessary, but they can become depriving and self-maiming when
they escalate. Indeed, they do cause us to develop strong censors, in form of
Inner critics and judges, who will blame whatever and whoever doesn’t
correspond to our needs and values. Our constraints and doubts, our compulsions
to do better, prevailing guilt, fear of failure, poison our daily lives,
undermine our happiness and self-esteem or nourish our grandiosity, while also
rejecting our fellow men, creating thereby a lot of unnecessary suffering.
Let us take a very basic example: with the arrival of
springtime and its first warmer days, our Inner critic has an anxiety
attack: ‘Have you seen yourself? That pale sickly skin, this roll of fat on your
belly, these wrinkles… your tendency to overweight?’ Every aspect of one’s
appearance gets evaluated; every physical detail analyzed, from the single grey
hair to the slightest flaw in the face. Hurry! Aerobics, diet, tanning booths!
Whether we are reputed for our beauty or just an average mortal makes no
difference; the anxiety is the same. It can take on such proportions that it
reduces some women and men to despair, convincing them that they aren’t so young
and lovable anymore … not even worthy of being seen. Self-confidence and
self-respect get lost.
Whatever we perceive as ‘too much’ or ‘not enough,’ imperils
us, becomes a source of internal conflict, of disconnection from self and others
and can render us antisocial or co-dependent. To satisfy cultural, social,
religious, ideological imperatives and the standards of self-image, we are in
danger of becoming blind slaves to them. By coercing ourselves, we suppress our
true potential, our ‘richness of being,’ and we may end up by becoming literally
‘someone else.’ The censorship exerted by our Critic, the denial of our
vulnerability and of our disowned energies, the projection of
guilt on others, entails one-sidedness, psychic impoverishment, self-exclusion
and mutual exclusion. The strain and control this exerts on us can result in
burn out, depression, sickness, addictions and destructive acting out.
When difficulties arise, we automatically disavow our
weaknesses and our shadow sides; we automatically stiffen our resources and
defenses, provoking reactive opposing forces in inner and outer world. These can
suddenly burst forth, wreck our family life, ruin our professional career,
shatter what we’ve worked so hard to construct.
Blocked and unrecognized energies are a source of pain in
body and soul, of illness and existential crises. Their irruption takes us
aback, in particular if we were unaware of the inner pressure they cause or when
we deliberately ignore them. Suppressed vulnerability impedes intimacy,
true closeness with self and others and the letting go of fear, mistrust and
control. It is a source of loneliness, isolation and loss of creativity.
The Vulnerable and Sensitive Selves
Protectively Hidden Behind the Primary Selves and
Our Vulnerable selves are characterized by
their sensitivity. For the most part they manifest as Inner children.
There we meet our playful, magical, innocent and unsuspecting Inner children.
They harbor our aliveness, our spontaneity and inspiration, our capacity for
bonding. They show up when we feel welcome and safe. As long as they feel secure
they will express our loving, trusting, responsive nature. Yet, being
sensitive, they feel easily hurt and will therefore also
manifest as our Wounded child, our Abandoned child, our Abused
and Guilty child, our Despairing child. Powerless,
imprisoned, mute and dysfunctional, they are suddenly upfront when we feel
rejected and betrayed or endure loss.
We also carry Adult suffering selves in areas of doubt
and anguish, in particular those connected with womanhood, manhood or
parenthood. Yet, even as adults, we can observe - when unforeseen pain,
confusion, fear or aggression shock us - that we lose ground and may, in a split
second, regress into a ‘Helpless child.’ As this happens, such Inner
infants, disguised in adult clothing, will remain unmet by us,
paralyzed and alone… while our Protective primary selves try to
step up to the barricades.
For Hal and Sidra Stone the elaboration of ‘Voice Dialogue’
began in a very experiential and personal way. After they met, being both long
term psychologists, they dedicated themselves to facilitating each other in all
fields of their relational process. This intense joint exploration unveiled for
them the primordial role that vulnerability plays in our ability to bond, in our
problems, reactions and conflicts.
One day, Hal suggested to Sidra to choose a place in the room
to embody her vulnerability. Hal relates how surprised he was to come
face-to-face with a very small pre-verbal baby-girl; withdrawn into
herself, incapable of communicating her suffering with words. The concepts of
subpersonalities and of complexes were very familiar to them. But
that these could personify as a real child, fully present in the here and
now of an adult… completely baffled both of them! This discovery was to be the
foundation of the ‘Voice Dialogue’ process that they developed over the years.
Inner selves are not
merely complexes hidden behind acquired skills and defense mechanisms. They are
human! And this means, that if something has a chance to help them to
step from fear into trust, from aggression and flight into connection, and from
pain into joy, it will only be relatedness and love.
When we start to face our Inner selves with
non-judgment, understanding, clear limits and respect, they can begin to move
from Suffering selves and from Conflicting voices to ‘Dear
ones’ and Allies in the context of an Inner family of energies.
Whatever our pain and our shortcomings, it is precisely such conscious and
compassionate self-relating that will further our healing¾as
surely as it does when we lovingly connect with any biological child or person
in the outer world.
Each of our subpersonalities embodies a specific trend
of energy and a particular form of fear and suffering that we can become aware
of, by exploring ‘how, why and when’ it feels, thinks and acts
through us! Questioned, via ‘Voice Dialogue’ facilitation, our
subpersonalities will define themselves by age, sex, specific bodily
sensations and emotions, beliefs and dealings. They have hopes, pains,
worries and goals of their own… and a very precise role and impact in our life.
They can change, and they do¾provided
we put across a caring, conscious, personified linkage, between our
Witnessing Awareness and the selves that arise inside us.
Our Disclaimed Vulnerability
The Unseen and Abandoned Inner Child
Sensitive Heart in the midst of our Fortress
Our Inner child, so helpless at birth, nevertheless
carries the Source of our true beingness, the seed of our
spiritual evolving. To save it from harm, our ‘survival personality’ builds up
and gravitates around its needs and fears. Our suffering selves have
their roots in our inheritance from preceding generations and in many of our
painful experiences early in life, repeatedly confirmed as we grow up. Even
though our story and its events are long gone, our ‘Inner children of the
past’ wait to be truly mirrored and cherished. They wait at the core of
our bodies, fully alive in our here and now, responding in our very
At birth, we are a little being that doesn’t yet have a
separate sense of self, that doesn’t really know how to distinguish itself from
the mother. As infants¾to
survive, physically and psychologically, we entirely depend on the love and
approval of our caretakers. To ensure love, acceptance and power in the world,
to safeguard the delicate nucleus of our being, we set up the entire group of
our Power selves and reject into the shadow their opposites. We
cannot, however, save the cost of all the hurts. Little by little, protective
shielding camouflages the child’s natural liveliness, its spontaneity. We entomb
it, abandoning its treasures of creativity to oblivion and loneliness. Our vital
impulses towards the sharing of love, remain captive and in waiting. Throughout
life, such buried hopes are steadily projected onto others, onto our parents
first… later onto our partners and even our children. We solicit outside - too
often in vain - what our Inner child still misses. And yet, in spite of
all, woven into the soul of every powerless newborn, lies the untouched Source
of our Life, the Divine Child, forever innocent, intuitive, loving, all-knowing.
Who then will respond to it? Others can’t do it all,
especially as they also suffer from similar wants!
If life is hard on us, our protective reflexes, the automatic
disowning of our vulnerability, end up resembling electric fences that isolate
us. We become a self-built stronghold at the centre of which lives an
Invisible child we are no more conscious of¾busy
as we are, ensuring its defense from the heights of our watchtowers! At every
real or imagined threat, our Powerful selves make use of attack or flight
or play dead, or play victim. But defending is not a relating! To fight, or to
be conciliatory by taking care of the other, does not mean that we take care of
ourselves. And our sensitive selves remain cut off, deprived of love and
Ancient emotions and strategies endlessly repeat themselves.
Unless we gently and decidedly connect with all these forms of me¾whether
they are vulnerable or defensive, they will hardly evolve. They remain frozen in
their given contexts and complexes. Being prone to spurn any weakness, we stay
unaware of them; we fail to notice that, at times, we are as inexperienced and
bare as we used to be as babies. We do not realize that loving and mirroring
ourselves consciously, could render such high and well-guarded enclosures
superfluous. We do not take hold of our capacity to re-parent our
Inner child. We do not trust that our Inner child is still undamaged
at its core; is endowed with the courage, love and strength of Life
itself, and that it will boundlessly draw on it¾provided
we resolutely hold his hand!
Owning our vulnerability can transform our fortress into a
garden, can awaken in us a secure, trusting, joyous and creative budding, and
with it the richness of our feelings and gusto for life.
The Disowned Selves as ‘Opposites’ to our
Our Disowned selves are usually out of sight.
They embody energies opposite to those we have favored and developed.
They are our excluded, unknown and dormant voices. We disown them for
ethical, educational and religious reasons; because they stand for styles and
values we disapprove of or have difficulty to access. We come up
to them in persons we react to¾by
attraction or repulsion. They correspond to people and attitudes we judge or
Evolution is a tricky game of apprenticeship. Opposing
energies magnetize each other, and therefore we find our disowned selves
represented, not only in those we condemn… but also in the primary selves
of those we fall in love with or are drawn to. And if we don’t use the
opportunity to assimilate the skills and energies ‘the other’ has developed –
particularly in couples – such assets will soon cease to be felt as compensatory
and become a source of mutual irritation and reproach.
If we fail to acknowledge our disowned selves, fail to
learn from opposites present in the primary selves of others,
conflicts will arise in our relationships, turning our respective primary
systems against each other. Yet, when given a place in us, however small,
disowned energies will enrich us, catalyze and fertilize renewal. By opening
ourselves to undeveloped energies in our lives, we will feel younger, healthier,
more balanced and less judgmental.
When we omit to learn from them and to integrate them into
our lives - at least at homeopathic doses! - it is our own denied selves
that we project onto others, condemn and attack in the outside world.
Escalating opposites signal unmet vulnerability; they breed
conflicts, lead to ruptured relationships, divorce, ethnic cleansings, wars, and
all kinds of exclusions.
The Dance of
in the Psyche
The facilitation and observation of the different selves
shows how their dynamics rest on duality. Like night and day, wake and sleep,
warm and cold, masculine and feminine, birth and death… we structure ourselves
within a system of balancing opposites that dance together and polarize
each other. The energies in our psyche can be compared to ‘beams of
contrasting impulses.’ What we know of ourselves, what we convey and achieve,
represents only part of us; this can be compared to the light side of the moon,
whilst its other side lies in the shadow.
We are hardly aware of these polarizations, and yet - in
accordance with the laws of physics (law of Newton) - each of our ‘visible
poles’ constellates an ‘opposite pole, an energetic and emotional charge’ that
is equal in power… but held tight, until eventually the momentum reverses. Owing
to the tension between our primary, vulnerable and disowned
selves, we may suddenly swing from one position to the other. This is
especially marked when we powerfully identify with a given self. Such an
increased drive - our going too far in one direction - will finally toss us to
the other side, like the swing of a pendulum. Violent shifts in polarities can
be terribly destructive… for example, when some seemingly unobtrusive and well
meaning citizen suddenly becomes ruthless and kills innocents with a machine
Such dramatic reversals can also trigger deep and healing
shifts. We can see it in the lives of certain saints, like St Paul who changes
abruptly from unbeliever and Christ offender to a life of piety and holiness. We
can also observe it in terminal illnesses or major trials, when lasting peace
and a remission occur at the favor of a radical change that turns us, so to say,
To invite and facilitate our powerlessness, by means
of ‘Voice Dialogue,’ will naturally give us access to some aspect of our
strength and vice versa. Or to facilitate an intense Activist, will
spontaneously trigger on the other side some Slow down self advocating
rest and leisure. We can equilibrate our inner duality and so further our
wholeness, by respecting both sides, by welcoming our power without scorning our
weakness; by working with pleasure, while granting recreations to our minds and
bodies! Following the example of communicating vases, pressure will adjust, our
strong points will be more measured and our lacks less harmful.
‘Voice Dialogue’ doesn’t aim to alter or amend a person, but
uses this ‘law of polarized energies’ and the laws of love, to facilitate a
progressive and wise integration of a much wider range of selves. This
will help us to release bottled up needs and resources, to diminish blockages
and to prevent the risk of an abrupt loss of stability! Unexpected and violent
eruptions of coerced energies can prove disastrous, i.e. in mid-life crisis… or
by causing illnesses, depressions and dismantled relationships.
To work with ‘Voice Dialogue’ enlivens our potential and
opens us up to new horizons of wakefulness. We give ourselves choices. We expand
our repertoire. We become more feeling, free and flexible.
A. ‘Voice Dialogue’ Facilitation
Meeting and Experiencing our Various Selves
A session begins and ends in the
centre seat, facing the facilitator. The centre seat is the locus of the
Aware self process. To mark the entry into a subpersonality, the
facilitated person will take another place in the room. The facilitator
supports this self-exploration with empathy, deepening questions and
mirroring. During the facilitation, and until the person returns to the centre
seat, the Aware self process will be, so to say, its Invisible witness!
At the beginning of ‘Voice
Dialogue’ practice, our Inner world resembles a mesh of woolen strands of
varying colors and textures. Little by little, one will unravel this cluster of
selves that we claim as ‘Me!’ We will free these ‘threads and
shades of who we are’ from their entanglement and they will arrange themselves
around one’s central pole of witnessing awareness.
With the help of the facilitator, each
subpersonality will deepen self-experiencing as far as possible. The
subpersonality will say ‘I,’ and when referring to the person taking
the session, will use the familiar first name. For example an Inner critic
might say: ‘’I
stand how Jim procrastinates. He is such sloppy guy when it comes to doing
something straight away!’’
‘Voice Dialogue’ is a living tool that helps us to
become conscious of what repeatedly fills us or drains out of us. It helps us
discern the succession of impulses, inhibitions and behaviors, carried by the
mental, emotional and physical selves, we identify with. For
example, someone hurts our feelings: for a split second we are overtaken by pain
and hopelessness and then, immediately bursting with anger or freezing inside;
we may first deny the hurt or justify ourselves, then switch to conciliation,
then harbor resentment, and finally ebb towards indifference. Such ‘reactive
sequences’ happen so fast that we often don’t even recognize the wound that
initially triggered them! We are largely unaware of the genesis of our automatic
reactions. And they will be disproportionate when the initial wounding
originates in some painful past or early childhood experience.
Facilitation gives us the opportunity to meet and to relate
to our vulnerable selves, to face our reactive defensive selves
and to integrate our disowned selves, exactly as one would with real
persons. We will understand how we unknowingly give birth to them, how we
perpetually replicate similar responses and how this makes us and others suffer
in our daily lives.
One could also compare what happens in us with driving a car.
The car symbolizes our life, and from moment to moment our question should be:
‘But who is now at the wheel?’ If one refers to the sequence cited above,
our car is first steered by some ‘Responsible adult,’ then suddenly by
the Wounded Child, then replaced at the wheel by Burning Anger,
then by Indifference or by a Conciliator… and so on. What we call
‘me’ is made of these drivers competing for control on our existential
road. Most of the time, we are on automatic pilot and unaware of it. And this
exposes us to accidents.
‘Voice Dialogue’ invites us to question ourselves: ‘Who,
in the house of ma psyche, occupies which room, and how many square meters?
Who monopolizes how many of my daily allotted hours? Who is confined
to the broom closet or the basement? Who enjoys all of the ‘living-room’
in my life?’
A ‘Voice Dialogue’ session takes on average two hours. The
facilitation of a given self, can last anywhere from a few minutes to an
hour or more. The facilitator holds and mirrors every subpersonality.
He shares, enters into resonance with the different selves. This
initiates a dynamic present moment experiencing¾in
body, heart and mind. The context, the problems, the related events of a recent
or distant past, will be part of the work, shedding light on energies and
selves that repeatedly surge up in our reactions. Associations will
spontaneously emerge within the memory through bodily sensations, images and
feelings. The facilitator listens to the whole range of your perceptions, to
your entire, physical, emotional and verbal register.
The acquired capacity to distinguish who is operating in us,
the capacity to respond to our needs, without projecting them onto others or
circumstances, will change our lives and guide us from dependency to self
reliance. We can alleviate and stabilize what distresses us by acknowledging
what we feel. By envisioning our psychical family with clarity, compassion and
measure, we will evolve and make choices, rooted in a real understanding of
ourselves and others.
B. The Aware Self Process
Separation and Individuation: The Leaven of True Love
At the end of a session, the facilitator thanks the
subpersonality and invites the person to take a final step back into the
Aware self process. This is a crucial move. Provided you have intensely
expressed a specific energy/ subpersonality, you will - as you return to
the centre seat - naturally experience the contrast between the two positions
and sense an ‘energetic shift.’
The distinction between one’s Aware self process and
one’s subpersonalities is based on this ‘spatial, experiential and
voluntary separation’ from the facilitated selves. Back in the central
position one observes what is now different - in sensations, emotions, and
thoughts - compared to the self which one has just left. By separating
from your subpersonalities, while at the same time feeling deeply touched
by what they go through… you become your own mirror and develop a non-fusional,
dis-identified, relating to yourself. You can now recognize the difference
between an energy-driven stance and the being quality of your
The liberation that comes with it will be surprising and is
the essential key to the whole process. You are more centered, more rooted and
calm; more spacious and alive. Instead of feeling torn apart in between opposite
directions, you discover yourself as a ‘volume of beingness.’ You have just
switched from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional
experiencing. You are now totally present in your physical body and in your
consciousness body; fully in touch with your five senses; in touch with
yourself, in touch with the facilitator and in touch with your surroundings¾instead
of unaware and disconnected ‘urbi et orbi.’
Once a self has been clearly perceived in its energy,
its behavior, its aspirations and motivations, it will be seen as a person per
se for whom one has real feelings and understanding. This face-to-face with
one’s Inner selves becomes the leaven for an evolving
connectedness with one’s Inner family and particularly with one’s
Inner child. We hear and acknowledge what we feel; we name and describe it.
We become a partner and a co-creator of our personal venture. ‘Voice Dialogue’
grounds on this mindful differentiation, without which one cannot risk true
closeness with self and others.
It might be the very first time that you face yourself as
the non-judging and attentive trustee of your own experience. This
reflective and sensitive process frees you and dissolves your undigested
burdens; it helps you to uncover the truth of who you more deeply are and
to recover a sense of serenity and intrinsic oneness.
C. Lucid Witnessing
Rounding up a Session as the Viewer of One’s own
After the last return to the center seat, after having
completed there the Aware self process, a ‘Voice Dialogue’ session will
best be concluded by a final rounding up. The subject will stand beside the
facilitator, facing all that has taken place during the session. He will now be
a spectator, an auditor, without any other task than to be the Silent viewer
of his own life. He envisions the place of the Aware self, the places of
the different Voices, and listens without intervening to the summary of
the session that the facilitator will do. This last position is called
Awareness level or Lucid witnessing
contributes to further clarity and detachment, and helps stabilize emotions.
Compassion and non-judgment, for all that lives within us, are reinforced.
Strengthening the Aware self
Self-Mirroring, Self-Relating, Self-Reliance
Because our parents have their own desires and fears, because
they have to educate and adapt us, they seldom mirror us without preconceived
notions and biases. A lot of our suffering and identity problems are due to
this. A child that wasn’t reflected enough in its own reality, with love, while
at the same time given clear limits, may remain emotionally stuck at different
levels. In time, as we grow up, it becomes an Inner child, unseen, frozen
in some of its feelings and behavior patterns. This is what can be referred to
as an autonomous complex or a conditioned reflex. And it might never evolve,
unless we use one of the most effective tools available to us: mutual bonding
between one’s Aware self and one’s Inner child.
‘Voice Dialogue’ helps us recognize how the
Primary selves act as ‘interjected parents’ inside us. The Aware self
is invited to be - from now on - the main beam of our inner structure, the
reference of one’s inner relating. The ‘biological child’ we were, is still
present in our Inner child of today as an ongoing cause of recurrent
suffering. The good news is… that at any moment, we can take its hand
into ours and become its ‘loving and mirroring vis-à-vis!’ By cherishing it now,
we will heal its past and present wounds; we will help it to feel secure,
trusting, creative and joyful again.
Whenever we address who is lonely and stuck within us, we
embody the Inner friend we still need and await… and so undo and assuage
our ills and sores.
Why do Separating and Relating have to go
Hand in Hand?
Intra-psychic differentiation and subsequent inner relating
take their model from life itself. Let’s remember a
law of evolution that impacts the development of every biological child and the
unfolding of our existential path. From conception to birth, from birth to
death, we convert symbiosis into individuation. This is a dance between being
close and making a distinction. Both are necessary to our full flowering. We
gain self-awareness by combining ‘separating from’ and ‘relating to’ …our
environment and our perceptions. This is indeed, why it is crucial to be
mirrors of love and pain for our biological children; mirrors through which
they can build their basic trust and a coherent identity.
This same principle proves itself when we engage into
self-parenting by consistent and affectionate self-mirroring, in
particular regarding our Inner child. The moment we respond to it in the
same way we should optimally respond to a biological child, our Inner child
starts to recapture its creative liveliness and trust. In the timeless realm of
our psyche, we can re-parent our ‘child of the past’ today. This
insightful practice will also show us how to connect with those around,
respecting what others feel and loving them ‘as they are,’ rather than ‘as we
wish or require them to be.’
‘Intimate connection,’ between one’s own Compassionate
awareness and one’s Inner selves, alleviates excessive projections.
Our overt and covert expectations exert pressure; they lead to painful
disappointments, heartbreaks and a lot of mutually inflicted distress. We need
to take responsibility for actively cherishing ourselves as well as others. And
when we do, our demands regarding our partners and dear ones lessen, become more
balanced. Resentment fades, linkage grows, bringing with it peace and serenity.
Self-Relating: Three Steps in a Nutshell
Learning to know our Inner family is the first step.
The second step is non judgment and compassionate detachment arising from
awareness. The third step is the tender connection we can establish between
one’s more and more Aware self and one’s subpersonalities.
We all dream of the person who will accept, respect and
treasure us unconditionally, despite our limits, errors and weaknesses. We
project this expectation onto our parents who cannot fully meet it. And we are
angry at them! Our hope to be unconditionally loved and at the same time left
free is in constant contradiction with our trials, with educational priorities,
with the necessity to adjust to who and what we come across.
As we grow up, we project our deep set desire onto our
partners, spouses, children, friends and colleagues, and they will not be able
either to quench all of this thirst. We then suffer from repetitive
disappointment, unrequited needs and presumed or actual betrayals that poison
Being responsible for oneself implies taking back our
projections, becoming The Friend for our own abandoned parts. It means
responding to what we feel by way of a more and more conscious and loving
Self. In so doing we start giving back their freedom to our near and dear
ones, taking from their shoulders the weight of our anticipations and subsequent
Let us realize that there are only two persons who can
deeply and consistently meet our inborn thirst for undivided love and
acceptance: God, The Ever Present - whether we are believers or
not - and our Own Tender Attendance that holds in itself a spark
of God’s Love. Indeed, these are our closest and truest Neighbors, inhabitants
of our heart twenty-four hours a day from conception to death and beyond. Let us
invite, both God and our Core-self, to hold and embrace our distressed and
erring world! It is this path of love, faith and forgiveness that ‘Voice
Dialogue’ brings alive in us.
The Aware Self as the
As men oppose each other on the outer plane, so are we
In times of trial we become aware that joy and sadness, love
and hate, genuineness and deception, trust and doubt, alternate and compete
inside us. Our smile is forced, covering up anger, misery, emptiness. We feel
far from our own truth, trapped by incompatibilities, estranged from ourselves
and cheated. We feel powerless to solve the world we live in; powerless to
change ourselves. We desperately try to suppress, deny, reject, whatever weighs
on us. Compulsive improvement and bitter criticism abound. The partner turns
against his mate, the child against the parent. Our differences become a source
of conflict and pain and cease to be sources of enrichment
‘Voice Dialogue’ practice is a radically novel approach to
our difficulties. It no longer primarily builds on analyzing and solving. It
invites us to discover the sensitive, creative and loving Core-Self that
awaits us beyond our desperate quest for power and recognition. Little by
little, with the unfolding of the sessions, our Inner selves experience
being heard, understood, witnessed without judgment, by the facilitator on one
hand, and by our growing Self-awareness on the other hand.
The Spiritual Friend, the Wise Leader
Stepping in and out of our subpersonalities builds and
sustains our Aware self process, our sense of expanding
consciousness and freedom. As this ‘inner widening’ repeats itself, we
grow into a calm, lucid Womb of compassionate awareness. We become
the Spiritual Friend who responds to who and what inhabits us, the
Wise Leader holding council with his Tribe. We welcome, listen, give
word, set limits, until everyone has refined his own stance by a progressive
assimilation of the points of view of others. Particular attention will be
given to vulnerable members, to those feeling orphaned and distressed inside us.
Rounds and rounds of different opinions, situations, fears and hopes, will
gradually lead to mutual adjustment and peace. Decisions will arise out of a
growing team spirit. This is how the Aware self process can become the
pilot and the containing vessel of one’s whole range of selves.
To use still another metaphor, the
Aware self process marks the centre and draws the boundaries of our
psychic Mandala, while our various selves gravitate around it like
atoms around their nucleus¾safely
harbored in its precinct. The symbol of the ‘mandala’ illustrates well how
‘Voice Dialogue’ - far from fragmenting the perception of who we are - insures
the integration of opposites, of ambivalence and of vulnerability into our
dynamic wholeness and balance.
Honor All the Gods
Hal and Sidra Stone compare ‘Voice Dialogue practice’ with
honoring all the gods. To honor all the gods is to listen to all the
voices, is to respect all energies, even if they are unwelcome. In
ancient Greece, the numerous deities and their temples were assembled in large
sacred areas. And Visitors made sure to mollify them all, by making offerings to
each of them¾however
obscure, feared or menacing.
Like pilgrims in our inner world, we have to advance through
our own mystery, contradictions and diversity, and to reject no one and nothing
totally. Every subpersonality is a facet and a force of our human nature;
each has to be acknowledged; each has to become an Ally rather than an
adversary. Honoring every one of them, doesn’t mean we cannot have our
Not to proceed in this way proves risky. History, fairy tales
and myths, illustrate in innumerable ways the danger of ignoring or rejecting
the other side. In the tale of Sleeping Beauty, the Thirteenth
fairy - which the King neglected to invite - takes revenge. She puts a spell on
the family, on the well regulated life in the castle, by plunging the princess
and her entire entourage into a profound sleep… image of the powers in our
subconscious that overwhelm us when we don’t respect them or exclude them.
The tale also offers a remedy: one hundred years later, a
Prince - more mature and more loving, than those who previously had failed to
free Sleeping Beauty - overcomes the hedge of thorns that encloses the
Princess. With a kiss of conscious love he awakens her, and with her the
castle and its inhabitants.
Loving ourselves as we are, failings included, seeing our own
Beauty, the courage to know, the resolve to care, are unavoidable steps towards
an Awakening to our deeper Self. ‘Voice Dialogue’ supports this coming together,
without judgment, of all that lives in us, of all our energies… be they of
shadow or of light, joyful or sad, powerful or fragile, known or unknown to us.
The Awareness Process
An Empty and Radiant
Aware self process can be compared to a transparent vessel which
fills, colors and empties again as our various selves constellate, change
and dissolve inside us. Suddenly we are nothing but anger, or elation, or
sadness, or flight upon the piano. Our perceptions, our thoughts and our
projections are shifting constantly. They alternate or superimpose at high
speed. They are not felt simultaneously: when one of our selves plays up,
all other selves recede into the background, are not perceived and not
taken into account.
Aware self process unveils our Nature of intrinsic Oneness, of stable and
profound serenity. It underlies our restlessness and anxiety, like the calm
deeper waters underlie the waves at the surface of the ocean.
Aware Self can also be compared to a neutral screen upon which the story
of our life, and the subpersonalities that personify it, are projected.
One illustration follows the next, but the screen of consciousness upon which
they appear remains virgin, untroubled and changeless. This is close to the
vision of oriental spirituality: our thoughts and emotions are acknowledged and
yet will fleetingly cross the limitless sky of our inner space.
such a perspective, ‘Voice Dialogue’ offers a metaphysical insight and a
spiritual discipline; we learn to revert to the empty matrix in which all
and everything can take shelter and be harbored as it is.
Who Am I?
We encompass all our facets but cannot, however, be reduced
to any one of them in particular. As a conscious vessel we grow towards
infinity and transcend the sum of our contents. ‘Voice Dialogue helps us to
apprehend a threefold experiencing around the question:
‘Who am I?’
Who am I…
when I am intensely identified with
a given aspect of my psyche?
What do I perceive of myself; of
the world around me; of the other?
Who am I…
when I am all this, but also more than the sum of my parts?
What do I perceive of myself; of
the world around me; of the other?
Who am I…
when I am none of my subpersonalities; neither this nor that?
What do I perceive of myself; of
the world around me; of the other?
By and by, this consciousness
procedure will become less and less abstract and inner freedom and vastness more
and more tangible. Rather than being the toy of our impulses, we access - in our
depth - the being quality that underlies all our moves.
Know Thy Self. Love Your
Neighbor as Thy Self
To know and love oneself… is to love the other, is to
initiate peace. To recognize the underlying suffering behind all violence, to
extend empathy, even whilst setting limits to damaging behaviors, is deeply
transformative in our lives, couples, families and communities. This may be the
wisest way to become less judging and more understanding toward those we regard
as distasteful or offensive in the outer world. Inner balance, built on lucid
self-care rather than on self-rejection, is the touchstone of harmony. It also
provides a model for peaceful communication and cohabitation on our planet.
The maxim ‘Know thyself and you will know the universe and
the gods,’ etched into the pediment of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, was
the motto chosen by Socrates. Christ in the second commandment, tells us:
Love thy neighbor as thyself. Far from being a selfish endeavor,
self-knowledge and self-love, are the very foundation upon which love for others
can be built. If I don’t extend love to my abandoned Inner child and
suffering selves, if I don’t understand and set fair limits to my Power
selves, like the Rule maker, the Desire driven, the Critic,
the Activist, the Perfectionist, the Aggressor, the
Pleaser, if I don’t give some space to my disowned selves… how will I
be able to comprehend them when I come up to them in the outer world?
Isn’t the definition of selfishness ‘to privilege an isolated
element’ to the disadvantage of the whole? But if we make the experience of a
growing comprehensiveness and inclusiveness that treats oneself and others
equally - excluding neither - we can say: ‘I am the world, the world is me.’ In
so doing we will link our personal good with the good of all.
A spiritual practice for
Man is somehow at the measure of the universe, including in
his finitude all the characteristics of infinity. Today scientific research
offers evidence that in our body each cell carries, in its genetic code,
information covering perhaps the whole organism. Can one imagine that the
knowledge of the universe itself could be inferred from one single cell, one
single atom? Following this proposition couldn’t each of our energies
shed light on the nature of all others, as well as reveal some aspects of the
deeper meaning of one’s wholeness?
Our physical bodies are formed from a single cell, the ovum,
fertilized by another single cell, the spermatozoid. From that point on, there
is a dividing, a multiplying, a differentiating… the cells interlock, gather
into organs that develop into high performance systems connecting inside us.
Then there is this miracle: a complete being gifted with transpersonal
Consciousness. It is not similarities which create unity, but interrelating. An
interrelating that links divergent data, that constantly drops obsolete
elements, constantly includes new elements, constantly gives birth to one’s
renewed dynamic wholeness, to a creative totality.
Some physicists put forward that an implicit order underlies
the universe and gives a direction to the elements which divide and reassemble,
shaping and ever recreating new structures. Our expanding consciousness possibly
evolves in an analogous manner: by separating and connecting the elements in our
psyche in an endless process of relatedness to ourselves and others. ‘Voice
Dialogue’ is in this image.
But we are not familiar with practicing - or even imagining -
what a ‘relating to oneself’ could be and bring. We are too identified with our
egoic selves, too automated in our reactions. Like someone putting his
nose directly on the page, we fail to decipher our own book. To see clearly
requires distance, a distance that we then bridge with aware love: Love that
embraces the freedom and beauty of diversity. This will be felt as a breath of
fresh air in the dungeon of inner prisoners. The bird will find its wings; the
vulnerable child will recapture its joy and its tears, its spontaneity and
Each and every one of us contains the whole of
creation, all people, all energies. To understand and welcome them in ourselves,
leads to understand and accept them in the other. It means to open up to a
dialogue which turns the stranger, the enemy, into a brother.
Copyright © 2017 by Adelheid Oesch
All reproduction rights reserved