Voice Dialogue (Community of Selves)

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Preparation: Like many of the tools in Joyality, this exercise is not something you can do once and be “done” with. It is a constant process of growth that we hope you will use in many situations in your life, but particularly when you meet with a conflict or difficulty. Try Part 1 now, and if there is a personal or interpersonal difficulty you are facing, try using these concepts and questions to reframe it in Part 2. 

Society presents us with a model of the Self, but it is often a one-dimensional, atomized model that does not fit our true experience or serve our growth. The emphasis is on the individual, our separateness from others and from the world around us, particularly the natural world. Separateness is not unimportant – we must know our separateness to know our power, we must explore our own personal uniqueness in order to discover our passions, our path, and our self-realization. But we must not forget that while we are individuals we are also part of a deeply interrelated and co-creative universe. We are active participants in the evolution of this world, and while it is important to honor our personal truth and become empowered in our uniqueness, it is also important not to let that stand in the way of our connection to all people and things and our creative and collaborative participation in the world.

In this exercise, think of your own Self as an ecosystem. You have your own unique personality, but within that personality are many “mini personalities” or “mini selves”. We all have a self that is critical (most of us probably know this self too well), we all have a self that is a pleaser, a self that is a judge, a self that is a thinker … we may have a self that is a beach bum, a self that is quiet and careful, and a self that is adventurous and wild. Some of these selves are very strong, we know them well and experience them often, and others are less developed, some we may not even be aware are present inside of us.

Process Part 1: In your Joyality Journal, begin brainstorming all the different “selves” you have that you can think of. Once you have done that, spend a little time with each one of those selves, getting to know them.

  • When do each of these selves come out?
  • How do they express themselves?

Perhaps even experiment with giving each of them names to make it more tangible and in order to help you explore and develop your relationship with that part of yourself. Try writing a discussion between two of the different ‘selves’ in your journal, and see what they have to say to each other!

Reflection Part 1: Exploring and getting to know our many selves is crucial to our evolution, both personally and collectively. It is a way not only of getting to know oneself more intimately, but also of experiencing how the world is working with us, inviting us to be all that we can be, constantly presenting us with opportunities for growth and expansion and connection to all that is.

This can be seen especially in situations of conflict or difficulty. When a difficulty arises, try to use it as an opportunity to understand and get to know yourself more deeply.

Process Part 2: Think of a conflict or difficulty, either with yourself or others, you are experiencing right now. Use this situation as a way to further explore your many selves and their expressions in your life.

  • What self is reacting to or coming out most in the situation?
  • Why do you think that is? We often react most strongly and negatively to things in others that we struggle with ourselves. Our frustration with others is often a projection of something we are frustrated with ourselves about (this is, of course, not always true).
  • Are these selves helping you be the best (most enjoyable) version of yourself that you want to be?
  • Are some of our selves over-functioning? Are some under-functioning?
  • Does this difficulty or conflict represent a pattern? Is it a pattern that you enjoy or one you would like to break?
  • Might choosing to embody, and therefore strengthen, another self in this situation lead to a more desirable, more joyful outcome for you?

Try thinking of yourself (the one sitting here doing this exercise) as separate from the selves you are identifying as reactors to this situation at hand … kind of like a facilitator in a community meeting, helping each voice be heard, and creating an atmosphere of respect and harmony. This can be helpful in mentally and emotionally stepping “out” of one self and “into” another. Once you have identified what self or selves you would like to oversee and resolve the conflict you are facing, spend some time acquainting yourself with this new persona. How does this version of your Self act, talk, question, think? It’s helpful to get as specific as you possibly can.

Maybe try re-playing conversations or situations that have already occurred in regards to this conflict as this new self you are embodying. What would this new self have said in that situation? How would that have changed the course, and perhaps the outcome, of it?

Reflection Part 2: Once you feel comfortable in this new self, keep it in the front of your consciousness when dealing with the conflict you are facing. As you feel yourself begin to react in the old way, pause, remember your goals for the resolution of the situation, and remember the self you embodied through this exercise that you believe will be most effective in helping you achieve that goal.

You might come back to this process many times throughout a single situation as breaking psychological and behavioural patterns can take time, discipline, effective strategies, or sometimes simple inspiration/insight. However, breaking free of patterns that are not serving your goals and desires or bringing you joy is an incredibly exciting and satisfying experience. It allows us to know, to feel on a cellular level, that we have some power over who we are and how we live, and that this in turn influences the course of our lives.

Also, as we begin to look at conflicts as the universe presenting us with opportunities to grow and develop, our relationship with the co-creative forces of the world is strengthened, and we begin to see these opportunities everywhere in our lives and feel more and more like an active, creative participant.

Sources: This process was developed based on material provided by Dr Caresse Cranwell, and inspired by the original Voice Dialogue work of Drs Hal and Sidra Stone. For more on the “eco-systemic self”, read Caresse’s paper ‘From Ego to Eco.

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