Get Rid of Your Internal Conflicts: The Deep Wisdom Process 0

phoenix-bird-image-edit2.gif“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” – The Gospel of Thomas

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We’ve all heard the term “internal conflict” and we hear people say that they are “of two minds,” but few of us actually look at what that means.  Internal conflicts can not only keep us confused and stuck, put can sabotage our efforts, be a source of great stress, and suck all our energy.  One of the best tools for dealing with internal resistance is the Deep Wisdom Process, where we split out different parts of the personality, where we actually assume there are two minds, or even more than two minds at work.  We can label these parts of our personality, such as The Critic and The Victim, and engage them in dialogue.  Now you might be thinking, “Wait a minute.  Are you talking about schizophrenia here?  That’s crazy!”  No.  Actually, I’m talking about something that sane people can do to get rid of internal conflicts.  This is about stepping out of your drama, and stepping into authentic power and wisdom.

The Deep Wisdom Process has roots in Jung’s Active Imagination and goes by many names: Shadow Work, Psychodrama, Four Quarters Coaching, and Voice Dialogue.  These are variations on what I’m calling the Deep Wisdom Process.  The work can go in many directions, but most often it proceeds as follows:

  1. Identify parts that are in conflict, label them, and get them talking with each other.
  2. Get into the role of an independent observer and notice what’s going on and what needs to happen.
  3. Introduce an additional role of a spiritual/loving part and have it bestow blessings on the conflicting parts.
  4. Get the conflicting parts to agree to a compromise and a shifting of roles, so that all the parts are moving in the same direction as a team.

Here’s a visual representation of the split-out parts:

splitsIn describing the process, I’m going to use an example of John, an artist who’s blocked creatively.  This is a much condensed version of what would actually happen.

1. Identify parts that are in conflict, label them, and get them talking to each other.

We start by identify the part that is loudest or most obvious.  John says “I don’t know what to do.  I can’t think of anything worth painting.”  He tentatively labels this part “I don’t know” and finds a spot in the room for that part.  He writes “I don’t know” in big letters on a piece of paper and places this on the floor.  He’ll continue to make these signs for each new part.  John listens for other messages from this spot and gets, “It’s not going to be good enough.”  He says it in a low voice and seems to want to hide.

He identifies a second voice that also says “It’s not going to be good enough,” but with more force and bitterness.  He finds where that is in the room, stands in that spot, and listens for more messages.  The new part also says, “Don’t bother.  No one wants what you’ve got.”  He labels this part the Critic.  He goes back and forth between these parts a couple of times to see if the parts have anything more to say.

2. Get into the role of an independent observer and notice what’s going on and what needs to happen.

John steps back into an objective observer role, making a conscious decision to leave the two parts out in front of him.  The Observer is like your internal life coach.  He asks, “What’s really going on here?” and “Does this remind me of anything from my past?”  The Critic reminds him of his father’s reaction to his art.  He notices that the Critic has a lot more power and seems angry.  The “I don’t know” part seems sad and depressed and very small, the way John felt when his father dismissed his efforts to create art.  As the Observer, he asks, “What has to happen in this situation?”  John decides that the Critic needs to back off and that the “I don’t know” part needs protection and encouragement.

3. Introduce an additional role of a spiritual/loving part and have it bestow blessings on the conflicting parts.

John now comes up with a new part that is wise and that loves from a secure place, a part that can offer the protection and encouragement he needs.  This part might be a good parent, an elder, a good king or queen, or a spiritual figure.  For John, this is the Dalai Lama, and he finds a place for him in the room.  Still in the place of the Observer, he notices other qualities of this Dalai Lama part: peace, centeredness, compassion, and humor.

John steps into the role of the Dalai Lama and looks at the conflicting parts again.  From here, he notices that the Critic is just as scared as the “I don’t know” part.  He sees the Critic as wounded and also sees the love the Critic has for “I don’t know.”  The Critic wants to protect “I don’t know” from the rejections of the public.  John also realizes that “I don’t know” wants to play safely and freely.  He gives “I don’t know” a new name: the Muse.

John as the Dalai Lama then moves to talk with the two conflicting parts.  He tells the Critic that he needs to back off, and also lets him know that he sees his fear.  He expresses his appreciation for the protection he offers and asks the Critic to move into a role of protecting the Muse from the public so that the Muse can explore freely.  The Critic becomes the Protector.  John then turns to the Muse and lets him know that he won’t have to worry about getting hurt, and that it’s safe for him to explore and play.  John expresses his appreciation for the creativity and playfulness of the Muse.

4. Get the conflicting parts to agree to a compromise and a shifting of roles, so that all the parts are moving in the same direction as a team. 

John moves back to the other roles to see what their responses are, to make sure that they have buy-in to the process.  He finds that these parts have some resistance, and need more assurances.  They’re both feeling unsafe and not ready to trust.  He might need to say to the Muse, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.  You deserved better.”  John goes back and forth for a while, and finds some small risks they both feel safe trying out.

He ends by closing his eyes and imagining all three parts coming back together in one spot.  He reminds himself that he can call on the Dalai Lama or the Protector when he needs it.  He end with a “Namaste,” a gesture of gratitude to the universe.

This process can go in a lot of directions, with this example describing the most common variation.

Some additional points to consider:

Warnings: If at any time you feel overwhelmed or unsafe, stop the process.  You should not attempt to facilitate another person in this work unless you’ve had training.  This work is not recommended for the mentally ill or people with a history of abuse.  Expressing anger can be helpful for someone who has trouble expressing anger, but be careful about overusing anger.

Writing and moving around: This work is best done in a private space where you can move around, stepping into different roles and speaking the voices out loud.  Some people find it helpful to take note of observations and dialogue during the process, while others find it takes them out of the process.  Figure out what works best for you.  If privacy is in short supply, you can also do the work on paper as if you were writing a play between the parts.

The Parts: Some parts that might show up: The Critic, The Victim, Inner Child, Scared Part, Angry Part, Creative Part, your family members, archetypes, a spiritual being, etc.  Almost anything can be a part, even inanimate objects like The Land and The Government.  You can ask a part, “What do we call you?” and “What’s your role?”  Limit yourself to two or three parts when first starting out.  The work can be done with lots of parts, but that can get confusing.

Small Scoops are Fine: You don’t have to get into the Spiritual Being or get the parts to agree to anything in order to benefit from the process.  Allowing parts to be heard, and getting perspective on what’s going on are two huge gets that can lead to forward momentum later.

Questions for the Observer or the Spiritual Being:

  • What does this remind me of from my past?
  • What’s really going on here?
  • How does each part serve me?  What is each protecting me from?
  • What boundaries need setting?
  • What needs are not being fulfilled?
  • What am I not seeing?   What’s missing from this?
  • What’s the question that needs to be asked in this situation?
  • What assumptions need to be challenged in this situation?
  • Is what they (the parts) are saying true?  What else could be true?
  • Look at the one to three statements identified in bullets four and five.  One at a time, imagine the exact opposite thought.  How could this opposite thought be true?
  • What am I able to influence in this situation?
  • What can I accept in this situation?
  • What do I need to let go of?
  • What am I supposed to be learning from this?
  • What about me might need to change to move forward / get what I want?
  • What’s the more compassionate way of looking at this?
  • What has to happen in this situation?
  • What does my gut tell me to do next?
  • This is my old story.  What’s my new story?
  • Who needs a blessing here?  Provide the blessings.

Let’s return to John once more.  John’s getting ready for an art show, and he finds himself anxious and withdrawn.  He remembers the Deep Wisdom Process work he did, and he quickly recalls the Dalai Lama part, who speaks some assurances to him.  He feels more confident and alive.  He decides to wear a Buddhist talisman to the art show and touches it often, reminding himself that he’s safe, even if someone doesn’t like his art.  The Protector takes the job of dismissing the art critics.  He has a good time at the show, and sells several pieces.

At first, stepping out of your drama will be something done just when you have time to yourself.  The more you practice, the more its practices will show up in the midst of drama.  Experiencing a strong negative emotion will be your trigger to mentally step into the Observer and the Spiritual part.

Let me know if you’d like me to facilitate a process for you.  Please post your questions and comments, and pass on to friends if you like it.