Voice Dialogue and The Psychology of the Aware Ego
by Miriam Dyak
For thousands of years, we have been caught in a struggle between seemingly irreconcilable opposites. Almost every religion and philosophy holds certain aspects of life to be good and others bad. Human society reflects this in innumerable divisions between white and black, masculine and feminine, spiritual and sexual, rational and intuitive--on and on. We are asked to pledge allegiance to one side or the other not only in war and politics, but also in our neighborhoods, our families, and inside ourselves. This means trying to hold back part of our humanness, an exhausting and ultimately futile task.
Imagining we can get rid of certain parts of ourselves, we project them out on to the world where they inevitably show up in our more challenging relationships, in our dreams, in our enemies, and perhaps worst of all, in our physical bodies where they manifest as illness and even death. The concepts of the Psychology of the Aware Ego applied through the Voice Dialogue method allow us to transform the unconscious struggle of opposites that we carry within us into a conscious acceptance of all of our humanness, making it possible to disengage from old reactive patterns and become fully alive in the present.
The Psychology of the Aware Ego describes human personality as multifaceted, made up of numerous [perhaps innumerable] selves. These selves, which are also often called "voices," "sub personalities," "parts," or "energy patterns" have their own feelings, desires, memories, opinions, world views. Many of our more dominant selves have grown up with us our whole lives, taking care of our early survival, our identification as individuals, and our success in the world. These "primary" selves form the core of our personality we think of them as who we actually are. Other "disowned" selves have experienced a lifetime of repression, becoming evident only when we lose control and act contrary to our character ("I don't know what came over me!" "I'm not myself today."). Or, more commonly, we project these disowned qualities out on to others, usually those we either overvalue or deeply dislike.
Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone, originators or the Voice Dialogue method, point out that what we think of as our ego, is not really a single entity at all but rather a group of primary selves that run our lives, an "operating ego." Understanding the reality of the operating ego explains the mystery of why so many of us sabotage our efforts at success. From the perspective of the primary selves that make up this operating ego, success is safety, comfort, and the status quo. Taking on a bigger project, becoming more accountable, getting out there in the world, being more visible, leaving a relationship, etc., all threaten the security of this group of primary selves to them success is likely to be making as few waves as possible.
Voice Dialogue facilitation gives us direct access to the selves and their experience. It also enables us to separate from the selves and become aware of them. Out of this separation and awareness is created the space to birth a new aspect of personality, an Aware Ego. It is this Aware Ego that can stand in balance between opposite selves, honoring both of them, perceiving their sometimes mutually exclusive needs, and taking action based on wholeness and integration rather than on duality, control, and repression. That Aware Ego is capable of perceiving both sides of the story and can make choices that honor the concerns of the primary selves while allowing us to evolve beyond their constraints.
Voice Dialogue facilitation is an effective tool for people who feel caught, immobilized, or torn between opposites in themselves as well as those who are seeking balance, wholeness, and creative expression in their lives. In relationship Voice Dialogue work enables us to separate from the parts of us that judge and resist other people and then teaches us to reintegrate those energies in a positive way through an Aware Ego. We often reject the difficult offerings we bring to each other in relationship, the qualities one person has and the other lacks. Developing an Aware Ego helps us to receive these important gifts.
Several aspects of Voice Dialogue work make this modality very different from many other approaches to psychology and personal growth. An essential element of the work is a focus on "energetics"[our personal energy] and teaching the person being facilitated to become conscious of how they use their energy and how to manage their energy field. One important result is achieving a new form of intimacy that allows us to maintain both warmth and closeness and create healthy boundaries. Voice Dialogue is also collaborative in nature and profoundly non judgmental and non-pathologizing in its approach.
Of key importance is the Voice Dialogue model of consciousness. Many traditional models of consciousness have held awareness to be superior to the experience of ordinary life, but the Psychology of the Aware Ego honors both [the selves] living life and our witnessing of that life through awareness. It is the Aware Ego that is responsible for being aware of the opposites within us and balancing between them. A very positive consequence of this approach is that everything that happens in our lives, including our "mistakes," is useful in the process of evolving consciousness.
People who do Voice Dialogue work find that they are better at connecting with others and communicating their feelings appropriately they learn to resolve challenging situations with much less stress and conflict. If you are in a life transition, this work can be very helpful in both letting go of old patterns that no longer serve you and also opening up to new possibilities. Decisions also become easier when you can truly honor both sides of yourself and not get stuck in either/or thinking. Most people who experience Voice Dialogue report more "breathing room" inside themselves, more ability to access their inner strengths, and an expanded range of self expression.
Voice Dialogue is a tool and not a separate psychological discipline. This means it can be used creatively in combination with many different therapeutic, healing, and coaching modalities. The Stones comment that "It is an approach to working with human consciousness and relationship that can be used by individuals for their own personal growth or by professionals in the fields of psychotherapy, counseling, personal coaching, and business and organizational consulting. Voice Dialogue is a powerful and compassionate medium for personal and spiritual growth."
The Voice Dialogue institute has some exciting workshops, teleclasses and trainings coming up. Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have. You can also call or e-mail us to register for a class and/or schedule a private session for your own experience of the Voice Dialogue process.