The Voice dialogue model of consciousness
In the Voice Dialogue manual ‘Embracing our selves’ Hal and Sidra Stone start with the tale of the tiger who has grown up with goats from birth. He bleats like a goat, eats like a goat, smells like a goat and is convinced that he is a goat.
Until one day an old tiger attacks the herd and kills one of the goats. All the others flee except for the young tiger who stays, he smells no danger so is not afraid. He tastes the fresh blood, eats the newly killed meat, he stretches to his full size and roars… for the first time in his life he roars as a tiger. Then together with the old tiger he disappears into the jungle.
This roar is what the Stones call, the ‘roar of awakening’.
On a symbolic level you could say that we are all brought up or raised as goats. We learn to think, feel and act in a special, limited / constricted way. And because the input of our experience is framed in the way we have learned things, we assume that the world around us really is as we perceive it. We also assume that the self we know as ‘I’ or ‘me’ is the only self. It is the only one that we know, but not the whole of us by any means. By knowing only this self we lose contact with the rest of our ‘true’ nature, with our ‘essence’.
Voice Dialogue helps us to reclaim the rest, to discover and reclaim the parts of ourself that we have lost, and to integrate them into our lives.
There are many different ways to wake up from the dream of who we think we are.
Voice Dialogue works from the assumption that we are made up of different parts, known also as sub-personalities or energy patterns.
It is important to realize that this is already the case even before you start to understand the full implications of what this really means in your own life. It’s all about acknowledging this, that you in essence have many contradictory ideas and feelings, and that it is important to learn to make conscious choices in your life given this fact, given the complexity of these different and contradictory feelings.
At birth a child is extremely vulnerable, and at the same time this child has the potential to develop countless different parts or selves which together will form and define the adult personality.
To avoid discomfort and / or pain the newly born learns quickly that it needs to have some control over its surroundings: by developing the strength and skills to do this the child learns to protect this infant vulnerability and be safe with it. So from the start there is both vulnerability and also the possibility of building or developing protection for this vulnerability This often happens to excess, the protection takes over and we lose all contact with the unique ‘finger print’ of identity which has its origin in the vulnerable parts.
If we have no awareness of this process, of which protective parts of us have developed in this way, as most of us do not, then we are not aware which parts are helping us to survive. This ‘cluster’ of parts or selves is in charge, and their rules hold sway inside us without our knowledge.
So for our consciousness to be able to evolve it is of vital importance that we find out which rules are actually governing our life without our knowledge. And to be able to speak clearly about this process of discovery and rediscovery of our ‘true nature’, our unique ‘finger print’ it is useful to define the nature of this evolving consciousness.
Consciousness is a process – not a static fact or state. It is an evolutionary process, constantly changing from moment to moment.
In the Voice Dialogue ‘model of consciousness’ we speak of three different levels, or ‘states’ of consciousness: the awareness state, the selves and the ego state. This process of consciousness is happening in all three states of consciousness at the same time.
This is the state in which it is possible to witness life in all its aspects without judgement or evaluation, and without the need to control the outcome of what happens. This position is neither rational nor emotional, it is simply a non-attached and value-free perspective from which we can watch and see what is going on.
Awareness is the silent witness state which is sought after by many students of meditation, to be in the experience and at the same time see it from a totally non-attached and non-active perspective.
Energy patterns or selves: ‘sub-personalities’
These are connected with internal states of being which can be of a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual nature, and can vary from a vague feeling to a strong emotion or a fully developed subpersonality.
The selves that are familiar to us can vary from feelings of jealousy to connection with a deep spiritual experience. Nothing is excluded: bodily feelings, emotions, mental states, spiritual dimensions… our perception and experience of the world takes place in a wider holistic spectrum of energies made up of many different parts each of which has its own reality and own rules, like a complete ego system in itself.
This group or ‘cluster’ of selves which feels familiar and is keeping us safe forms an important part of our personality. This is what we usually mean when we say ‘This is who I am”.
So very often this sense of ‘who I am’ in fact refers to our survival mechanisms, in Voice Dialogue terms, our ‘primary selves’.
The parts that we have never developed or that we ‘disown’ consist of energy patterns or selves that we never, or hardly ever, allow to come into the light of day. We are sometimes conscious of these disowned parts, often not.
The extent to which we are conscious of these other parts, and also the extent to which we have got to know the selves, determines whether we have an ‘operating’ ego or an ‘aware’ ego.
The ego is the third level, or state of consciousness. It is the aspect of our consciousness which actually performs or carries out the tasks of the psyche. In the Voice Dialogue model the ego receives its information from the other two states of consciousness, ie from the awareness, and from the experienced energy patterns or selves.
The more our ego develops, the more aware it will become. And the more ‘aware’ the ego has become, the better it will be able to make choices.
But often we are identified with certain energy patterns or parts of ourselves without being aware of this fact. Our habitual ‘I’ or ‘me’ which is in fact a group of primary selves, will process the information we receive and will steer our lives in a certain direction. We work until we drop, we retreat from emotional commitment, we rebel against authority, we blame ourselves, we blame others, we desperately try to keep the peace, we spend our time partying….. whatever our habits we tend to stick to them and we think that we are choosing how we behave whereas in fact we are unconsciously time and again just following the well-known rules.
If the ego allows us to take a different perspective on things then our choices become more aware, but at the same time much more complex!
To conclude it is important to realise how far-reaching the consequences are of the hypothesis postulated by this model.
In daily reality most people try to get rid of aspects or tendencies in themselves, to drive them out of their consciousness, and the result is usually that these tendencies grow stronger. By fighting them you in fact strengthen them and give them free space in your unconscious to get out of control and even take on demonic forms.
If we accept the hypothesis, if we stop fighting and accept all of our parts, there is suddenly no longer any reason to feel bad or guilty about who we are, or how we are. Each part of us will be completely honoured, and our consciousness simply witnesses what is happening without judgement. (So we can also even witness our tendency to judge others or ourselves, again without judgement!) We can then start to choose, to really choose, which parts of ourselves we wish to ‘live’: we contact and develop our own intuitive sense of ‘conscience’, our own truth, acting from a place of acceptance and not from a place of fear.
The evolution of consciousness in this model is thus:
a) a continual expansion of awareness,
b) an ever-increasing awareness of the ego and its identifications, and
c) an ever-increasing amount of energypatterns or parts that are available to be experienced.
An on-going process of transformation is in this way continually taking place in our consciousness and thus as a result in our lives.