Voice Dialogue and The Psychology of Selves
Voice Dialogue is a method for connecting with, learning about and integrating our various selves, also known as inner selves, parts, sub-personalities and energy patterns, and include archetypes.
Our selves make up who we are. We have primary selves (which together form our ego or what we call our ‘personality’) and disowned selves (our shadow). We also have selves we’re simply not conscious of, and there are selves we’ll develop throughout our lives.
Our selves are what we experience life with/through. They hold our conscious and sub-conscious thoughts, perceptions, beliefs and feelings.
How our selves are configured in us determines how we experience our lives.
Who Created Voice Dialogue?
Dr Hal Stone and Dr Sidra Stone, American husband and wife psychologists, founded Voice Dialogue in the early 1970s. Their work is known fully as Voice Dialogue, Relationship and The Psychology of Selves and also as The Psychology of The Aware Ego.
The Stones continued to evolve their work over the decades (Hal Stone passed away in 2020), developing the theoretical framework and working on their discoveries about unconscious relationship dynamics (bonding patterns) and the dream process.
Over this time their body of work, all under the banner of ‘Voice Dialogue’, has influenced countless other personal growth and consciousness teachers and psychotherapeutic systems.
How is Voice Dialogue Used?
Voice Dialogue is used professionally in many contexts, including in psychotherapy, personal development coaching, relationship counselling, bodywork, organisational/business consulting, communication training, sports coaching, visual and performing arts education, and in creative industries.
It has been incorporated into some Buddhist teachings, and it is being studied by some neuroscientists.
Voice Dialogue has immense therapeutic value but it is also available to anyone simply interested in exploring who they are and how they relate with their world.
How Your Personality Works
You know how the petals of a rose are hidden before it blooms? With only a few visible on the outside?
You, too, have only a few selves visible on the surface, with many more hidden underneath, all protecting your core.
That part of yourself you feel is you, that holds your rules, values and much of your personal history, is your primary self (it’s usually made up of a few selves).
This primary self developed in your childhood to protect you and enable your survival. It is who you have come to identify as. (You might call it your ego or your personality.)
This primary self does an amazing job (you’re alive!) but it is limited by its nature. By its perceptions, abilities, energy type, rules and values. And so therefore you’re limited by its nature.
Examples of Primary Selves
For instance, you might have developed a highly Responsible primary self, because that’s what worked for you in your family system. Your responsible self probably works together with your Pusher and Inner Critic to keep you in line. So now as an adult you are likely someone who others can depend on. But you probably also find it difficult to let go, be spontaneous and have fun.
Or if you developed a strong Rational Mind as a primary self, then you may find it challenging to express and understand feelings (your own and other people’s).
Or if you became a Pleaser, then you probably find it impossible to feel entitled to take for yourself and have your own needs met.
(I’ve included outlines of 44 different selves in my book Which Self Are You?)
All the selves you accept and include in the package that’s ‘you’ are your primary selves.
Other selves and energies are relegated to your shadow where you judge them or have little or no awareness of them. Those are your disowned selves.
How your selves – both primary and disowned – are ‘configured’ in you will determine how you think, feel and act.
Freedom and Choice
Each self holds particular memories and has a narrative about your life, based on its experience of it. Each self has preferences for how you lead your life. Each self also has anxieties and concerns.
So when you make choices, what you decide depends on who in you is involved.
This has massive implications for how your life and relationships play out.
If you’d like to have more choice in how you experience life, then becoming aware of and integrating your selves is key.
Voice Dialogue and Personal Transformation
When you do Voice Dialogue you experience a transformation of consciousness.
You change from being over-identified with your primary self or selves (and their particular way of being in the world) to being able to access and integrate other parts of your psyche (along with their perspectives, perceptions, abilities and energy).
This process both enriches and frees you. It enables you to experience life with more awareness, acceptance, choice and fulfilment.
Read below for more information about the benefits of Voice Dialogue.
Voice Dialogue and Relationship
Voice Dialogue involves learning how our selves bond with the selves in other people in predictable (but unconscious) patterns.
Understanding these ‘bonding patterns’ is a game-changer for understanding relationships.
Voice Dialogue also includes working with the energetic nature of our selves and learning to use energy more consciously in our relationships.
A Summary of the Benefits of Voice Dialogue
When you listen to the different parts of yourself and learn how they operate:
- You gain a deeper insight into your behaviour, feelings and choices.
- You start to realise which selves are running your life – including your relationships, career choices and goals in general – and which selves don’t get much say.
- As your awareness of and connection to your various selves grows, you develop the ability to make increasingly conscious choices, rather than acting – or reacting – from habit.
- This process of growing awareness and of embracing often very opposite aspects of your psyche develops a more centred and inclusive sense of who you are.
- You become more aware of all the aspects of your humanity, be they spiritual, instinctual, materially-focused, service-oriented, emotional, rational, parental, or childlike.
- Your relationships become teachers for you as you realise your judgments about others hold important lessons about yourself, and that your selves bond with the selves in other people in predictable patterns.
- Your romantic relationships will be richer and last longer as you recognise when your and your partner’s selves become stuck in bonding patterns – and when you know how to navigate those patterns before the relationship deteriorates.
- You’ll be able to better handle the challenges of parenting when you can see the selves of your child emerging as they grow and develop, and that your child’s personality and behaviours reflect your self-configuration.
- You develop a sensitivity to the energies of the selves and learn to use these energies more consciously, such as warm, personal energy and cool, impersonal energy, and you can more easily set healthy boundaries and manage how you connect with others.
Free Voice Dialogue Ebook
Get my ebook Which Inner Selves Are Running Your Life? free via the form below. It gives you an outline of 20 selves and a simple exercise to discover your primary and disowned selves.
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