Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Voice Dialog

I never heard of Voice Dialog until a few weeks ago. I've heard of dissociation and multiple personalities, each with their own voice, but those are disorders usually resulting from extreme emotional and/or physical trauma. (An amazing true story along these lines is "When Rabbit Howls" by Truddi Chase.)

Voice Dialog, as it was explained to me, is a therapeutic technique that recognizes distinct parts in all of us and gives a voice to each of those parts. A distinction in disorders is the accompanying memory loss that occurs between personalities. We have these parts normally, and we remember them.

For example, I have a confident side of me that is out in front most of the time. But certain situations cause a more insecure part of me to come out, such as being in the midst of large crowds of unknown people. Instead of trying to 'fix' the insecure part, or worse, ignore it, I give it a voice. That is, I can accept it and let it speak. The dialog may start something like this:

"So, how did you feel today when you were waiting for your friends at the stadium?"

"I felt 'antsy'. I kept wondering what I should do. Should I sit, stand, buy something, walk in circles, pretend like I see someone I know in the distance? I was afraid of being perceived as a loner. I almost wanted to go back to my car, wait a few minutes, then come back in again, hoping they would be waiting for me. My mind was also racing with ideas of possible causes for their tardiness. That was ridiculous because they were hardly 'tardy', maybe 5 or 10 minutes."

That is only a start, but I hope you get the idea. Ultimately, I may want to learn to acknowledge this part of me, even embrace and love it, in order to help me to be and feel whole in that situation. Please share.

Have you ever engaged in any kind of Voice Dialog even if you called it something else or never gave it a name? What comes to mind when you hear the word 'therapy'? In your opinion, when and what kind of therapy is applicable for whom, if at all? What should be the goal of therapy?

I look forward to your comments regarding any of these questions or your own experiences.


Rebecca said...

Another book on multiple personalities that I read many years ago and found fascinating is The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes. If I remember correctly, there were something on the order of 26 personalities present!!

I have never tried or even heard of the Voice Dialog approach, but I can see how it might be therapeutic. Seems it would be a more empowering way to handle less secure aspects of one's personality than the more traditional and shaming ways of ignoring or berating that part of the psyche.

Dwight said...

Thanks rp,

I forgot to mention that the book, "When Rabbit Howls," was actually written by Truddi Chase and her many personalities, whom she calls 'The Troops'. Reportedly, there are over 80 such personalities (I heard 96 from one source). Many of the personalities were not even aware they shared the same body with other personalities. It's not a biography, but a multiple-autobiography.

There is also a TV movie called "The Voices Within: The Many Lives of Truddi Chase." Shelley Long ('Cheers') does a fantastic job of spontaneously switching from one personality to another. In the movie, she eventually goes off on her own to write, giving each personality a voice on the typed page. This book is a result of that writing.

Rebecca said...

With multiple personalities, from what I have read, most are unaware of the others, and there is one personality in charge who is aware of all of them. Such an interesting and very scary thing the psyche can do in response to tremendous stress.

Holly said...

I've occasionally given myself little pep talks before presenting myself with a particularly stressful social situation, such as public speaking. I'm not entirely sure I was as conscious of the dialog, as it is presented here though. Mine was more of a monologue.

The term therapy to me imples seeking emotional or mental help from a professional source for a life, or situation in life, that is no longer in your control. I think there are a variety of reasons to get help. I just wish more people would get the help they need, rather that taking it out violently on those around them.

Dwight said...

Thank you, Holly. I appreciate your comments very much.

I also think a lot more people need therapy than are getting it. Part of the reason is, as you said, it would be better than "taking it out violently on those around them."

For clarity, I also think there are a couple more degrees of benefits that can result from therapy. One is similar to yours in that violence may come out in non-visible forms such as emotional abuse, hurtful teasing, responsibility avoidance, denial, etc.

Another benefit is to help us get past the conformance standards of other people that hold us back. Someone once said (mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela), "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure." Therapy can help us get over that fear.

Amel said...

Hmmm...I often have these voices inside my head. Sometimes it's accusing me of something bad I've done, then another voice tells me that I'm not THAT bad, another voice telling them to shut up.

When I have problems with other people, the voices keep on barraging me. Accusing me, comforting me, questioning me, judging me, taunting me, challenging me, injecting me with positivism.

Sometimes it feels as though there were an ENTIRE courtroom in my mind (the judge, the attorney, the victim, the jury, the defendant, and everybody else in a VERY intense courtroom battle)! But I always let them talk and debate (and one of them always tells them to shut up when it's time for me to sleep or focus on other stuff).

It's kinda fun, actually. :-)))

What do I think of therapy? Why not? It's FUN to dig deeply into yourself. It's FUN to "strip yourself naked" (see your old wounds, new wounds, bleeding wounds) and find out the core of your emotions because I think only then we can truly embrace ourselves (including the still bleeding wounds).

Amel said...

OK, granted, "fun" might be the wrong adjective to use. But it's "therapeutic" to "strip yourself naked" and just be honest with yourself.

It's like when you're lonely but you try your best to refuse that thought...then you'll get edgy and nervous and anxious...but once you admit that you're lonely, the word stops scaring you off. Being lonely is a fact and it's okay. Then you can take actions to do what's necessary not to get lonely.

Now I'm rambling again ha ha ha...better sleep now.

Amel said...

Oh btw, one last thing. THX for adding my blog to your sidebar. I feel HONOURED! :-))))

Have a WONDERFUL summer, Dwight!!!

Dwight said...

Amel, I love stripping myself naked, as you put it. That is, I appreciate getting to the core of emotional and habitual (subconscious) issues in order to resolve them. Thanks for the comment. But fun? I wouldn't have used that word to describe the therapeutic process. Although the resulting freedom from these issues gives me more joy and awareness. So, in a way, that part is fun.

I can appreciate Dewey Don's response to the question in The Center for Improved Living blog that reads, "If you could blend two things together, what would those be? What would they make?"

His answer was, "I would blend my conscious and unconscious Selfs into one whole, integrated Self. It would be painful, but Jung says that's the goal of psychotherapy - the integration of the Self and complete awareness."

Notice the inclusion of the word 'painful' in his response. I would agree that the process can be painful. I think that's why most people avoid it and stay stuck in their patterns. "Oh, that's just the way I am. I'll never change." Well, sure you won't change if you don't try!

In that regard, thanks for the example of loneliness. It might not be that simple, though. Someone's loneliness may trigger a habitual response. Then the focus is on defeating the habit. When the core issue of loneliness is identified, another triggered response, such as projected anger, may occur. The triggers are what protect us from the original pain caused by loneliness. Would you agree with that?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to join this thread so late. I was doing a Google search on 'Voice Dialog' and ran across your conversation. I have been trained in voice dialog and, as a life coach, use voice dialog in my practice. It's a versatile technique that can be used in coaching as well as therapy. My experience of voice dialog is that it allows me to grow my awareness and acceptance of myself...rapidly. It really is a way to embrace all of your aspects and then to bring all of your energies into play as you create your life. If people want to learn more, I love to share what I know.