Integrating the Whole
Drawing out more aspects to complete ourselves
Imagine a room with many different people in it. If it is a vibrant and positive gathering, the unique participants are engaged in a feeling of good will. The artist or poet brings a story to life. A caregiver tends to those around with love and devotion. The comedian might make light and bring humor to the moment while the introvert observes with pleasure. The protector can relax and take the night off while a lover might cherish who she’s with. What if our thoughts and roles are like these different people together? The work of Hal and Sidra Stone Ph.D’s explored this concept in their work on Voice Dialog. This exploration looks at our thoughts presenting as a role or aspect of self that advocates for a particular message. When our many roles are in line with the thoughts that we are having, we experience ease and enjoyment. Using this idea in the coaching world, the question becomes, “How does a role influence how you feel about what you say and the choices you make?”
Here are some examples of aspects the Stones provide:
Protector- voice of caution and protection
Disowned self- voice that was put aside as you grew up that was not welcome,
the Inner Child, the Inner Critic, the Responsible Parent, the Observing Mind…
What about other roles we have in life? The spouse, the lover, the caregiver, the get-r-done, the skeptic, the muse…
Looking through the list, it is natural to see that some of these roles are in direct conflict with another. This is what got me excited about their work! Coaching is all about defining clearly what the conflict is to create a plan to achieve set goals. Awareness of what the conflict sounds like, feels like, and how it affects the person are clues to being clear on what the block is.
Here are two examples of how this can play out in different relationships:
When there is dissonance in the relationship, we address the issue in a role that we have. For example, as a mother, I listen to a problem my child expresses to me. In the role of mother, I may offer solutions and ideas to support my child in handling the conflict. This may be the opposite of what the child is seeking in that moment. Perhaps the child only wanted a listener and felt the mother role overbearing. Or the child wished to be championed for their attempts at solving their own problem in which case a cheerleader role is all that is needed. And taking the opposite in the relationship, what does the mother do with meeting the frustrations of the child? How does a mother navigate bonds that have developed as patterns over time? When we choose the answers to these questions with our goals in mind, we get results that are closer or on the mark of the outcome we sought.
A coach approach is to get curious. If a caregiver were not appreciated, what would be appreciated by the child? If rejected, what could stabilize Mom to remain present and curious to the child and their needs? What other roles are available to meet the moment from child to parent and from parent to child?
How about in marriage? When conflict arises, what thought is the loudest? What does the protector say when using the mind, logic, and solutions based on the past experiences? What patterns are being recreated? What does the lover say about remembering the qualities you adore about your partner? Is there a repressed aspect that wants a say but isn’t sure how to express ideas in a safe manner? What thought is the quietest in this situation? This approach can handle conflict in new ways.
Other curious questions when exploring our thoughts are:
Who plays the biggest role?
Who is smaller?
Who is louder?
Who is quieter?
What does this aspect like protector, do for the whole of you?
When tending to a loved one, what aspect serves us best?
What aspect do we overuse?
It can be freeing recognizing we have different aspects that we have used over our lifetime. Solutions are easier to find when remembering we have roles and parts of ourselves that creatively handles what we do. This tool is called voice dialoging. If you are wrestling with making peace with your thoughts and roles, book a session to explore different aspects of yourself. If you are running in to repeated patterns within relationships that are producing the same unwanted results, book a session. It is illuminating to recognize and honor the whole-self and contrasting aspects that lie within. Clarity leads to choices. Choices leads to decisions. Decisions create action that further us on in the direction of our goals while keeping us in line with our values. This is the same direction that produces feelings of confidence, peace, and joy.