It seems astonishing when first discovered, and also very simple and obvious.
For most of my life, I have pushed away and struggled with my experience. I have trained myself in pushing away, and I have created a good deal of suffering for myself that way. I tie myself up in a knot.
There is a simple dynamic at play here: I push away parts of myself and my experience, these feel tense, lost and alienated, so I feel tense, lost and alienated.
It’s amazing how simple and powerful it is to instead welcome what’s here. It seems so natural, so healing. I find the love I am seeking, the sense of coming home I have longed for.
I welcome what’s here, thank it for protecting me, thank it for it’s love for me, and perhaps thank it for it’s courage in relaxing, and let it know I need it’s strength.
And there is a simple dynamic at play here too: It feels welcome. Appreciated. Recognized for what it is. (A strategy of protecting, coming from love). It feels welcome, loved and at home, so I feel welcome, loved, and at home.
This supports me in living from this in my life – in how I relate to myself, others, and the world.
And it invites my creative and kind intelligence to be lived through my life, in how I relate to myself, others, and the world.
We all shift into different views and identities throughout the day, fluidly, depending on the situation. We may not always like it, and sometimes we do, but it happens anyway.
We shift into different voices or subpersonalities, taking on their perspectives, seeing and feeling the world from their viewpoints, relating to the world from their place.
And that is why we can shift in this way on command (or invitation)as well, sometimes with surprising ease, for instance in the context of voice dialog or the Big Mind process.
But what are those voices? Are they little men, women, animals, creatures, living in us, pulling our strings?
Here is a quick summary of what comes up for me when I look…
Each voice (subpersonality) is created from a story or combination of stories.
The story of separation creates fear.
The story of need creates wants.
The story of an identity gives flavor to attractions and aversions.
The story of loss creates sadness.
The story of wrong creates anger.
The story of lack creates seeking.
The story of fullness creates non-seeking.
Each voice has its own perspective, viewpoint, and filters the world in a particular way.
There are story, emotional and action components to each voice, all following from the initial story.
Voices can be identified with, disowned, or owned, familiar and free to function yet not taken as an “I”.
When voices are closely identified with, there is a belief in the stories creating them. (This tends to lead to a disowning of the polar opposite voices, and the validity of the reversals of the story.)
When voices are disowned, the validity of the stories creating them is also disowned.
When voices and their polar opposites are all familiar and owned, there is a fluidity among them. Each one is free to function when needed, and none of them are taken as an “I”.
These voices and stories can be identified with or not.
We are identified with a voice when we disown its polar opposites, just as we believe in a story when we deny the validity of its reversals. The voices and stories are taken as an I, we get caught up in the drama of it, and it all seems very real.
Identification is released out of a voice when we embrace, own and become familiar with it and all of its opposites, just a belief is released when we find the validity of its reversals. In this case, there is a fluidity among them, each one available to come out when the situation calls for it. From a voice appearing as “I” and a story as the absolute truth, they are revealed as simply tools for this human self to operate in the world.
So in the Big Mind process, we explore all the different voices, the gestalts of stories, emotions and behaviors created from an initial, often quite simple, story. We gradually disidentify with those we are overly identified with. We become familiar with and own those that were previously disowned. We find a larger space holding voices at each end of the polarities and find a new fluidity among them. Our identity expands to hold and be comfortable with more and more voices.
In The Work, there is a quite similar process. We find a belief and question it, finding what is already more true for us. Our identification releases out of the initial story and expands to embrace the validity of all of its reversals as well. We find a new fluidity among and within this initial story and each of its reversals.
And each of those stories have its own gestalt. They each have associated emotions and behaviors. So we (are invited to) find a new familiarity and fluidity with these as well, in our daily life.
Each of these gestalts, these voices, are more familiar, owned, part of the active repertoire of our human self. There is more of a fluidity among them in daily life. And less identification with them.
They just happen. Living their own life, on their own schedule. There is no “I” there, anywhere.
I recently watched a movie with a shapeshifter in it, and it brought attention again to shapeshifting in our own lives.
For myself, I notice it in how different qualities (voices, subpersonalities) comes into the foreground at different times and in different situations.
Some may shift into the foreground more frequently and be more familiar to me, others less so. There may be more or less fluidity among them, and resistance to the shifts and certain qualities.
I can relate to them with easy acceptance and comfort, with attraction (when there is identification with them, and they fit into my shoulds), or aversion (when they don’t match the preferred identities and the shoulds.)
And there is really no limit to the number and variety of qualities or subpersonalities.
I notice it in how I, as this human self, change over time.
My interests, attractions/aversions, passions, activities in the world, the food I eat, the clothes I wear… none of that stay the same. It changes over days, weeks, seasons, years, decades.
Even if it appears to be the same, it is still different. It is experienced and expressed differently, it exists in a different context.
Who I was some time ago doesn’t exist anymore, apart from as a memory in me and some others. It is often a strange experience for me to talk with someone I haven’t seen for a while, and they assume – innocently – that my interests, diet, or whatever else it may be, has stayed the same.
My identifications may change over time as well.
They may shift from one identity to another, and they may be released from a particular identity to allow for more fluidity between and among a set of identities, and there may be a more thorough release from identification allowing for even more – potential – fluidity.
And then how everything changes here now, in awareness.
If I use the filter of memory, I see how there is a continuous flow and nothing to hold onto. Even a thought with an apparent identical content as a previous thought is new.
(Here, thoughts compare the “present”, which is really what just left and thoughts tries to grasp, with what my thoughts tells me was some time ago. To say that anything changes, or is fresh, or something similar, we need the filter of thought. Without it, nothing can be said.)
I can also work more deliberately with shapeshifting, in different ways.
Through The Work, I explore my habitual beliefs and identities. For instance, identify a belief about Other, find the truths in its turnarounds, find in or as myself what I previously saw as Other, and how I can live the truth in that turnaround more in daily life. I also find a release from identifications in general, which is another shift.
Through Process Work, I can notice a symptom or movement or impulse here now, follow it, allowing it to unfold and amplify, and shift into something else, and then something else. I can take on the role of and become whatever it shifts into. See see how it relates to my usual identity, what it has to tell me, what it asks of me, and how it can bring something new into my daily life. And then how it can be lived more actively, and brought more consciously, into daily life.
I can explore the different voices through voice dialog or the Big Mind process, shift into different ones, see what they have to say, how my usual identity relates to them, and how they can more easily and effectively help this human self in daily life.
I can choose to do something in daily life that goes outside of my normal identity, find more comfort with it, expand my active repertoire, and find more fluidity among a wider range of identities, roles, qualities, voices and subpersonalities.
I can use any other form of shadow work to find in myself what I have attraction or aversion to out there in the world, using attraction/aversion as a pointer to what is really here, but not actively embraced, owned and lived yet. (The living part unfolds over time, as I become more familiar with it, what it asks of me, and what it can bring into my life.)