Voice Dialogue starts from the assumption that we, as humans, consist of different selves or subpersonalities, which make up our personality. These selves determine how we act, what we think and how we respond to the world around us. The more we get to know about these selves, the better we can make conscious choices in our lives and thus be more effective in our communication with others.
Each day we find ourselves in several internal dialogues. Imagine yourself in a clothes shop, where you might recognize the following internal conversation.
“Nice trousers! You already bought three trousers this year, a voice says. Besides, you look fat in trousers, they’re just not your thing, says another voice. What would my boyfriend say when I get home with these trousers, another voice brings in. He might think I am a compulsive buyer. I don’t care what people or what my boyfriend thinks, I earn my own money, yet another voice brings in.”
Before you know you are at the cash register, paying for the trousers. Or you just walk out of the shop without buying them. These decision-making processes usually happen fast and unconsciously, without you realizing this was an actual dialogue between your different selves. Buying or not buying new trousers might not be a big thing. But, suppose you need to make a major decision with a high impact. How do you reach a decision among all these voices, who all want to play the first fiddle?
From the perspective of Voice Dialogue, our lives are led by our different selves. Our personality is a collection of these selves or subpersonalities. The selves that are prominent, whose voices you hear most often, we call the primary selves. They are the ones who often are in the driver’s seat. The ones that are in the background, who you don’t hear, we call the disowned selves.
The subpersonalities come into existence as a way to survive when we are babies. As a baby you coincide with your Inner Child, which is open, dependent and receptive. This Inner Child is extremely vulnerable. In order to avoid pain, babies develop ways to influence their environment. A baby who finds out his mother likes it when he smiles, can develop a Pleaser, a primary self. Primary selves take care of us, they make sure we are protected against the outside world, and that we get what we need. They are the bodyguards between the Inner Child and the outside world.
Every primary self has an opposite, who was banished to the backseat. We call them the disowned selves, because they have caused pain or have been rejected in the past. The disowned selves live in our shadow. However, not being in contact with our disowned selves, is like walking on one leg.
Although usually there are various ways to respond to situations, most people have their standard coping styles. These styles aren’t always appropriate in a given situation; sometimes we would even call them dysfunctional. However, most of the time we lack awareness of what’s appropriate or not. It’s automated behavior. Primary selves limit our freedom of choice and our behavioral options.
Disowned selves can be disrupting. The more you coincide with your primary selves, the more the opposite disowned selves are suppressed. It’s like keeping a ball under water, which takes effort. At a certain moment, it doesn’t work anymore. Just like in real life. Results can be a sudden outburst of anger or even worse a burn-out.
Voice Dialogue: Awareness and the Aware Ego
Voice Dialogue honors both the primary selves and the disowned selves. Both sides offer something valuable and both need to be included if we want change in our life.
Voice Dialogue is about making you aware of the dynamics of your primary and disowned selves. Being aware of them, enables you to separate yourself from them. Because the moment you discover a self within yourself, you no longer coincide with it.
Separation and awareness lead to the development of an Aware Ego, which makes life a lot easier. An Aware Ego is like the manager of your bus full of selves. it is the only part of our consciousness that may possibly become aware of all our selves and embrace them all. Over time, the Aware Ego is able to develop real choice about what actions or inaction it wishes to take, by managing our different selves.
Voice Dialogue focuses on becoming aware. You discover who you are. It is not only liberating, it also teaches you how to get more alternatives in your actions and thinking. It’s all about taking over the wheel in your bus full of selves.
When to apply Voice Dialogue?
- Complex work-related issues that need cutting the knot
- Search for balance and creativity
- Need for more freedom of choice
- Dilemma’s like: will I become a manager or will I stay an expert?
- Difficulties with relationships
- Being a trainer or coach
From: Embracing our Selves, The Voice Dialogue Manual, Hal Stone & Sidra Stone; Ik(ken) mijn Ikken, Karin Brugman, Judith Budde & Berry Collewijn.