20th November 2016
I have just returned from a trip to North America. It was an interesting time to be travelling there with the presidential elections looming. I had been invited to teach two Voice Dialogue workshops - one in California and the other in Mexico - and took the opportunity to visit old friends.
People who are interested in Voice Dialogue tend to be politically left of centre. It was no surprise therefore that when conversation turned to the two presidential candidates there was much anguish and disquiet about the prospect of a Donald Trump victory.
"Have you heard what he just said about immigrants?" "Did you see how he behaved towards that woman?!"
"He's a bully, misogynist and racist!!!" "How could we possibly entrust the highest office in the land to someone with those attitudes?!!"
I joined in the chorus of criticism. I revelled in the judgements, condemned the man as totally unfit to be a presidential candidate and denounced the "deplorables" who supported him. I found myself savouring each new bizarre utterance from "The Donald".
My sense of outrage was delicious. When I saw the October cover of the Mexican Letras Libres magazine (above), it confirmed my prejudices:
'Fascista Americano' - the new Hitler!!
Surrounded by my like-minded friends, it was easy to get swept away by my
self-righteous indignation. Our collective Primary Selves held the values of tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness. In Donald Trump they were seeing their opposites - our in-the-shadows,
Disowned Selves. And through their eyes what they saw was abhorrent.
As part of my trip I visited the creators of Voice Dialogue, Hal and Sidra Stone. When the election inevitably came up for discussion, Hal shared a recent dream he'd had. In the dream he was inside a house that he knew well. There was a door which usually led into a beautiful garden but, to his surprise, when he went through it he found himself in another room instead. He was shocked to find that the room was full of Trump supporters. Hal asked what they were doing in his house. He hadn't agreed to them using this room. The organiser responded by showing Hal official papers which gave them the right to hold the rally there. Hal then accepted their presence in his house.
There is a difference between judgement and discernment. When we point the finger of judgement, blame, condemnation and criticism there are three fingers pointing back towards us! Our Judgements invite us to look at the disowned material lurking in our psyche - in this case, our own inner Trump supporters rallying somewhere deep in the basement of our house. If we have the courage to do this - not an easy task! - our judgement changes to discernment. Our intense, visceral reactivity softens, our stance becomes more solid and balanced, and we are not so easily destabilised. We can stand in firm opposition to Trump's rhetoric and behaviour without being polarised by it.
Distasteful as it may seem, imagine taking a homeopathic pill of "essence of Trump". What benefit might that bring us? Maybe it could help us speak our mind clearly without worrying about what others might think; or it might help us to have the courage of our convictions, to stand up and be counted; or to believe in ourselves and feel entitled to ask for what we want, however impossible it might seem. The gift of embracing our disowned Trump-like selves will be different for each of us. Remember, it's just a small homeopathic dose - embracing does not mean becoming!
And there is more that Donald Trump has to teach us.
On one of my workshops I was discussing conflict in relationships with the group. I made the observation that all conflict arises out of vulnerability that either we are unaware of or that we do not feel safe sharing. To illustrate my point I showed the picture (right) of an upset child. "Oh my god!" exclaimed one participant, "He looks like baby Trump!!"
In that moment, something shifted in me. I suddenly saw the Inner Child, the little, vulnerable Donald. Trump the combative adult might be totally unaware of its presence in his psyche. But I have no doubt that protecting this vulnerable child has been the unconscious motivation driving his Primary Selves to seek the presidency.
Money, prestige and power - these are three ways
commonly used to defend ourselves against the discomfort and pain of our innate vulnerability. I can only speculate about what unaddressed pain lives at the core of Trump's being. The more important question is how in touch am I with my own younger Selves, my own vulnerabilities? How well am I consciously taking care of them? Or am I unconsciously relying on my Primary Liberal Selves to do it for me?
Watching the president-elect meet with Barak Obama I thought he looked a little lost. I fantasised that a little part of him might be anxiously saying, "What am I doing here?!" Looking at him, and our reactions to his way of being, through the framework of Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves, might we even find it in our hearts to feel some compassion for Donald John Trump? If so, the way we oppose his world view, while firm and resolute, will look, sound and feel very different.
The black actor Brandon Victor Dixon demonstrated this eloquently in his address to vice-president-elect Pence at the end of a performance of the hit musical
Hamilton which Pence attended:
'Vice-president-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. We are all here sharing a story about love.
'We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our children, our planet, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.
'We thank you for sharing this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colours, creeds and orientations.'
* * * * * *
In her article
Where the Rubber Hits the Road
senior American Voice Dialogue facilitator
shares her thoughts about the presidential election, its impact on her country, and some practical advice for Voice Dialogue practitioners about how to handle our reactions.
Stepping back from the dramas of the moment and continuing with the theme of the last two newsletters - Beyond the Selves and Paradigm Shift -
J'aime ona Pangaia
Voice Dialogue as an Awareness Practice
* * * * * *
If you are interested in learning how to facilitate Voice Dialogue sessions with clients, colleagues or friends, the next
Facilitator Training starts the weekend of 7th - 8th January (see below for details). There are two remaining places available. Please get in touch with me if you would like to participate.
Warm wishes to all your selves!
Voice Dialogue Facilitator Training
This training is for therapists, counsellors, coaches, health care practitioners and anyone working in the area of personal growth and development. It provides a comprehensive grounding in the theory and practice of Voice Dialogue, The Psychology of Selves and the Aware Ego Process. At the end of the training participants will have a powerful new tool that will complement their practice and enhance their ability to help clients achieve more balance in their lives.
The training includes 4 workshops spaced over 9 months (total 10 days). Each workshop will focus on the theory and practice of Voice Dialogue and its application to a range of client issues.
In addition, over the course of the training, participants will have a total of 6 personal 90-minute facilitations from the trainer (face to face or via skype), and will be expected to complete and document ongoing practice sessions with other members of the group.
Participants will receive a comprehensive self-study pack of readings, videos and exercises covering every aspect of the work.
Certificates of attendance are available for CPD.
Maximum group size 4 participants - only 2 places left
The next course begins the weekend of 7th - 8th January
For more information click here.
Where the Rubber Hits the Road
Waking up the day after the US election I have such a deep sense of the reality of selves, the reality of polarization (everywhere in the world, not just in the US), and the joyful challenge from the gods: "So you think you know how to work with this stuff - with judgment and blame, with negative and positive bonding patterns, with projection, with how to create an Aware Ego process - go for it!"
We've all been dealing with our own private inner drama of trying to depolarize, disidentify, become more whole. Are we ready to scale up and jump into the global story with what we've learned, with what we can offer? The election, and more importantly the intensifying polarization of opposites in America, is just the latest example of where the rubber hits the road in the evolution of consciousness. We could say we have a vast epidemic of selves run amok without anybody home at center to sort them out and support them.
Having a whole bunch of selves running loose is like having a lot of kids home alone without any parents. It leaves them open and vulnerable to bullies, con men (and con women), and manipulators of all kinds. This has actually been happening for a long time. It's no wonder in a country where people believe reality shows are more real than life itself, where thousands of our seniors every year lose their homes and savings to gambling casinos, where more and more people buy into pyramid schemes and lose fortunes, where our children kill themselves over comments on facebook (I could go on and on...) that a majority of people are dying to believe in simple solutions and in a strong-looking, strong-sounding parent who can provide them. This scenario has played over and over around the world for generations... who are we not to experience this too?
What can we do? I am asking myself, can I listen, really listen to all the voices in the culture with aliveness and respect? Can I honor certain voices' longing for safety and security even when I can see that some of their attempts to achieve that seem doomed to create anything but the desired outcome? Can I go to the heart of what is happening around me and avoid the pitfalls of withdrawal, despair, and contempt. Can I avoid commiserating with like minded people so that our effort to comfort each other doesn't inadvertently turn into a collective form of blame? Can I keep my sense of humor in relation to reality so that reality remains fluid and free to change and move?
I think I had better at least try. My relationship to the world is the most important one I have, whether I remember the truth of that or not. If I can tend to these matters in relation to one other human, my partner, I think the time has come (some would say came a long time ago) for me to tend to this everywhere.
And what exactly does "tending to our relationship with the world" involve? From the perspective of this rich and wonderful consciousness work we share, it will involve an Aware Ego process. What we know about an Aware Ego process is that it is most often surprising, beyond what selves can know to expect. What we also know about an Aware Ego process is that it holds the tension of the opposites with an organic and natural compassion and humor. From the perspective of an Aware Ego the story is never "over" - instead it is always evolving, possibilities are appearing. It is like that Taoist Chinese story of "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?" How many of us will suddenly upgrade to a higher level of citizenship, community, creativity, responsibility as a result of our country and our culture becoming "this bad," this polarized? I can already feel that working in me and a new consciousness emerging that is welcoming the change.
Some very specific things to do:
♥ Breathe. Take the load of your body. Stretch. Move. Breathe yourself into right here right now. Breathe yourself out of fear. I know the less I'm afraid, the less I'm likely to judge... so simple, but took me a long time to figure that one out.
♥ Connect - strengthen community. Be open to those close to you. Do you have African American friends, Native friends, Muslim friends, Latino friends, LGBTQ friends, women friends? Reach out, stay close, watch each other's backs - not in a paranoid way, but in a clean and sober and mindful way full of vulnerability and love. Also don't imagine that if you are in one or more of these groups that those in the other groups don't need you - we have arrived at the heartful and joyful recognition that we all need each other!
♥ Listen - listen to the deeper stories. Listen beneath the surface rhetoric to the energetic imperative for life and evolution that is in all of us, whether it is apparent or not. You are trained in this and for this. You are trained to go beyond content to the underlying energetic reality. You have a wisdom from your work that says there is always a level on which seeming opposites actually can and do work together. The time to use that amazing wisdom and training is now.
As I write the above words about the potential of what we have learned and the work we do, I find myself in tears and a kind of trembling on the edge of both sorrow and joy. As a child I used to jump waves on the shores of lake Michigan - waves that towered over my short skinny body. If I caught it just right I would sail up into the crest and whoosh toward shore. Often, though, I caught it wrong and got dragged under, ground into the sand, and then sputtered to the surface choking and spitting out a mouthful of cold gritty water.
A part of me definitely feels caught in that undertow again. I'm in shock not just from the election but also from the long story of divisiveness and devolution leading up to it. A part of me is choking in disbelief at the loss of the country I grew up in - almost too painful to really take in.
Another self, though, the one I imagine was created for this, is ready to scramble up and catch the next wave. In that energy every moment offers a new possibility of it all coming together just right. In that energy I imagine winning, but not elections, not arguments, not power, not position. I imagine winning Life. I imagine winning Evolution. I imagine winning a higher dimension of being Human. In that energy I'm watching the world move around me, ready to jump on the next big wave of love, of community, of healing that comes by. And I can feel so many of you out there still undaunted, still full of life's ridiculous breathtaking persistence, still game to open your hearts and fly.
Miriam Dyak is a facilitator, writer and director of the Voice Dialogue Institute in Seattle, Washington
For more information about her work, go to:
Voice Dialogue as an Awareness Practice
'aime ona Pangaia
Some of the most common reasons people are attracted to Voice Dialogue is to either get help solving personal problems, relationship issues or to heal emotional pain (past emotional wounds or current pain of a strong inner critic.)
The founders of Voice Dialogue, Hal and Sidra Stone, began the titles of most of their books with the phrase, "Embracing our ..." (selves, each other, our inner critic). At the same time, the focus of their work is to 'separate from' identifying with any of our selves.
Let me take a side moment to define 'selves'. Examined carefully, these 'selves' are no more than a composite of ideas, feelings, sensations, perceptions. They are both 'universal' (everyone experiences them in their own way) and they seem to be made of 'me-ness'. The are not 'real people' in us; they are composites temporarily imbued with the full experience of "I am'.
When we 'embrace' a self, what that means is that we non-judgmentally embrace the fact that this self, or composition, is happening in our experience. When we 'separate' from a 'self', we are noting the difference between the composite experience of thought/feelings/sensations/perceptions and what we essentially are: awareness aware of itself. We are recognizing that we are NOT that, rather, that happens (and passes). Little by little, through practice, we come to recognize our true aware nature, which has no essential form, yet is known to the mind, in disguise as infinite expressions.
This doesn't mean that the composites, the selves, the thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions go away. It means that little by little we become less identified with them and our true nature begins to shine through.
We don't have to practice at 'being good'. Goodness is our nature. We don't have to practice happiness. Happiness is our nature. When we're not identified with selves, this is clear.
In the end, using Voice Dialogue to solve any problems is an engaging distraction. The only 'problem' we actually have is being convinced that we are the compositions of thought / feelings / sensations / perceptions. It is THERE that we experience suffering, fear, longing, etc.
It took me many years of practice to really understand in my direct experience that what the Stones' call the 'aware ego process', is not at all about making more conscious choices. It's about awareness being directly experienced even as selves (thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions) are occuring, and not becoming caught up in them. From that, life still continues to happen.
In all honesty, I'm not sure if this is where the Stone's understanding is, but it's where mine is, and that is where I will continually teach from. Of course, I dearly love and respect what gifts the Stones have brought forth from their own direct experiences! And they were significantly instrumental to supporting me to come to 'this.'
For me, Voice Dialogue has gradually transformed from being primarily a psychological practice to an Awareness practice.
J'aime on a Pangaia is the director of Voice Dialogue Centre Northwest