Know Thyselves . . .

With so much to do every day - deadlines to meet, errands to run, projects to complete - who really has time for the deep inner process of "knowing thyself" (or more accurately "knowing thyselves")? And why bother when all these practical things are so pressing? In the face of so many obligations taking time to understand oneself better can seem self-indulgent and less than responsible.


If you have worked with Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves for a while now, you will probably recognize the above paragraph as selves talking. Alerted by any twinge of anxiety we might feel under all the pressure of our jobs and commitments, the Inner Critic knows just the right thing to whisper in our ear to make us rev up and keep running. The primary selves, such as the Responsible Self, the Pusher, the Inner Patriarch, the Good Father or Mother, are the keepers of our values, and they are quick to point even the slightest deviation from the path they have chosen for us. There was nothing like depth psychology or psychospiritual process in the early training these primary selves experienced, so they really can't imagine how it might be helpful.


There comes a time, though, when many of our inner selves (especially the primary ones) run out of steam. It may be that they drive so hard and fast, to avoid our having to feel vulnerable, that they end up making us more vulnerable than ever out of sheer exhaustion. 

It might be that these primary selves, and the values they hold, got set in motion when we were very, very young, and now, the circumstances of our lives have evolved and changed so much that the strategies to survive and thrive that our selves developed back then have become totally inappropriate.


It may be that some of our selves have taken on beliefs from the culture that get in the way of success or health or happiness. Perhaps your selves believe (as I discovered some of mine do) that you have to start breaking down and deteriorating at a certain age. Perhaps they are sure you can't have a really fulfilling relationship or job or place to live - or at least they don't want you to risk disappointment or heartbreak trying. In these cases, not knowing yourselves may keep you unconsciously stuck in self-defeating patterns or beliefs, and taking the time and energy to learn what's going on in that psyche of yours might just be the most practical, responsible and successful way to spend some of your most precious time. We could think of depth psychology as taking the time to go under the busy house of our psyches and examine the foundation, find out what it's built on, and take the necessary steps to strengthen our base.


There are many tools that can help us to maintain and balance our inner foundation - Voice Dialogue is only one of them. However, a big advantage in Voice Dialogue is the Aware Ego Process that can literally give us the freedom to know the whole range of realities our inner selves offer us without getting stuck in any one of their stories. From that wonderful place in the middle between opposites, it's possible to get to know both sides and figure out what's the source of each side's attitudes and behavior. The hyper responsible side might keep taking on more and more obligations and fulfilling them with great reliability and determination because that was how it learned to get love, approval, success, etc. On the other side might be a self that knows getting sick is a great idea because that's the one thing that makes it okay to take a break. The Aware Ego can sit in the middle saying, "Not so fast. Let's not say yes to everything because getting sick is too hard on the body and actually lets other people down. Let's be human - vulnerable and responsible at the same time, in balance." Getting to that place of balance can be worth its weight in gold and make knowing our selves one of the most important life tasks we can undertake.