How to better connect with your inner voices.
So here I am chilling with a G&T in one hand, Jen Sincero’s book in the other and Mona, our dog, lying by my feet. Idyllic. I’ve had a busy productive week coaching and today is my chill out day when I can sit and contemplate in peace and quiet. And then it happens!
“You should be working not chilling.”
One of those inner voices that can create or kill your day.
Inner voices. What are these?
The easiest way to think about this might be to envisage a team.
- Some of who communicate better than others (see my article How to improve communication at the individual and organisational level).
- Some are more dominant, some more friendly, some more supportive, some more critical.
- Some try to please while some don’t care, some are sombre and reflective, some are carefree and erratic.
The job of a leader and manager is to motivate teams of disparate people to work well together to achieve a common goal. When this works well there are high levels of congruence and success. When it doesn’t there can be dissonance and conflict (see my article How to deal with conflict at work).
Now, if you transplant this notion into your own mind your inner voices are your own internal team which work well together or are in conflict. This is referred to as our sub-personalities (our inner voices).
The notion of sub-personalities developed out of a range of humanistic psychologies, such as, Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, where we are engaged in “a continual effort, conscious or not, to establish equilibrium” between the different part of us that want different things.
Or think Carl Jung and his notion of Archetypes (although references to archetypes can be traced back as far as Plato who talked about the fundamental characteristics of things imprinted on the soul). For Jung there are a number of key archetypes, such as “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden, and the anima in man and the animus in woman.”
Archetypes are the mediators between the psychic realm and reality, meaning they govern our behavior through pre-set psycho-physical patterns. These patterns drive the individual and so drive culture.
Sub-personalities should not be confused with multiple personality disorder which is a medical condition. Our sub-personalities are a natural state of affairs (albeit one that most of us have spent very little time paying attention to).
A point to bear in mind is that while these sub-personalities (inner voices) appear to be negative they are actually doing so with positive intentions. They were initially created to help you in some way when they were needed. They are not your enemy, but a part of you that needs to be understood, accepted and integrated.
Whether we think about archetypes and shadow selves, sub-personalities or inner voices there will be a number of core patterns of behaviour which revolve around the hero/warrior, sage/teacher, jester, lover, victim, rebel, caregiver, creator… to name but a few.
The key point is not to rid ourselves of our sub-personalities but to better connect to them and bring them into the light of day. We do this through identifying and ‘naming’ them (for the purpose of then being better able to dis-identify with them). This is an important and difficult point to grasp, but without dis-identification we are not able to choose which aspect of our personality is the most appropriate for a given situation.
We rarely have all our friends around at once.
We select depending on the occasion.
Bringing it all together
So if we refer back to my example of chilling in the garden my inner voice at that time could be seen as the sage, the harridan or the victim depending on how we see the relationship between our sub-personality, our environment, our current behaviour and our values. What is it we are trying to achieve?
If we expand this out to the cultural level of an organisation, referring back to Assagioli and Jung, we can really see the complexities and similarities between organisational culture and individual personality.
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