Voice dialogue is a healing system originated by Hal Stone and Sidra Winkelman Stone - a husband and wife team that began their careers in the 1970's as Jungian psychologists. They originally came from the belief that we all have multiple sub-personalities within our psyche and that each has a role in our overall survival and strategy for getting our needs met. They have written a number of books about Voice Dialogue, including Embracing Ourselves, and Embracing Each Other, which I often recommend.
I reference their work a lot in my practice because I've learned over the years that when homeopathic remedies surface different parts of our psyche, we make more progress by accepting and embracing those parts then by trying to suppress them and push them back down.
Here are some examples of archetypal voices that exist within the psyche:
- silent invisible child
- needy, desperate child
- conscientious taskmaster
- disillusioned, bitter part (protects us from being repeatedly boondoggled)
- optimistic, hopeful problem solver
- stoic, stay-strong hero
- take charge dictator
- compliant people pleaser
Each part has its own beliefs, its own perceptions, its own strategy for being in the world, its own demeanor, its own feelings, its own facial expression, posture, tone of voice, etc.
When we give "voice" to a particular part, we allow our mind-body system to fully move into the energy of that sub-personality. This allows our nervous system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, immune system, etc. to move into a state of expression and this facilitates the discharge of shadow emotions.
Shadow emotions are emotions (thoughts, feelings) that we have historically suppressed because we were ashamed of them or they interfered with our survival strategy. In the past, our ownership and expression of them might have made us vulnerable to some type of trauma (e.g. abandonment, abuse, negation, loss of a job or relationship, etc.)
In the present tense, as we own and express shadow emotions (to our self, within the privacy of our own space/healing process) we liberate this material from our mind-body system. This maps to the release of body-armor and disease profiles. When the mind-body system releases body armor, it naturally re-patterns itself to a higher level of health.
Common shadow emotions include: depression, anxiety, fear, panic, confusion, hatred, vindictiveness, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, suicidal feelings, insanity, powerlessness, and neediness.
Typically when shadow emotions exist within the mind-body system, the individual has a history of being shamed or in some way traumatized by someone on the outside for owning and expressing those emotions. Most people react to this type of abuse by creating an inner critic or inner suppressor voice that ensures they don't own and express those emotions in the future.
The inner suppressor voice is valid and purposeful (because it helps the individual avoid further trauma) - and it can exist in collaboration with other parts of the psyche that facilitate the release of shadow material when it is safe for the individual to do so.
When does it become safe for the individual to own and express shadow emotions? - they have an inner parent part that can see and validate the shadow parts. This is the essence of Voice Dialogue work - developing this inner parent part that is unconditionally accepting and validating to the different parts of the psyche.
In practice, an individual can either work with a Voice Dialogue facilitator and have a Voice Dialogue session, or do their own work at home using the concepts of Voice Dialogue.
Typical Voice Dialogue Session
In a typical Voice Dialogue session, the facilitator first interacts with the person as an integrated individual. He or she explains the structure of the session and answers any questions.
Then the facilitator asks the client to move to another part of the room and move into the "protector/controller" voice. The facilitator talks with this part of the client as if it were a stand-alone part of the psyche. He or she will first ask this part to share information about the client:
From the protector/controller's perspective - How is the client doing overall? Is he/she safe? What is the protector/controller most worried about regarding the client? Are there areas of discussion that he/she does not want the facilitator to go into? Is there information that the protector/controller needs to share about the client before the facilitator can start the session? Does the protector/controller part of the psyche give it's OK for proceeding in the session?
The facilitator also tells this part of the client's psyche that is has ultimate veto power - it can choose to stop or impact the session at any time if it perceives that the safety of the client is threatened.
This gives the client's protector/controller part the message that its voice is valid and is being heard by the facilitator.
After the facilitator has communicated with this part of the client and received its approval for continuing with the session, the facilitator asks the individual to return to the original chair (integrated individual).
Then the facilitator asks the individual to move to another part of the room, sitting or standing and just be in that place for a few moments. Eventually the individual will sink into a different voice. Typically neither the facilitator or the client knows ahead of time what voice will emerge. The idea is the facilitator is letting the client's body wisdom take the session where it needs to go.
As the client sinks into the new voice, he/she adopts a particular posture and perspective. Then the facilitator starts to communicate with the voice. Whatever the voice is (child-like or hostile or contemplative), the facilitator strives to hear the voice without judgment and to respect its value in the client's psyche.
The facilitator may ask questions or mirror back what the voice is expressing. For example: "You seem to be the part of Nancy that is deeply troubled about her finances. You're worried that Nancy is not handling her finances wisely and will end up depleting her resources, and you're angry that she hasn't been listening to you."
"You've been trying to get Nancy's attention for the last few months, but you feel that Nancy is not listening to you because she thinks you're too serious, too heavy, no fun."
The voice will respond to clarify what it's trying to communicate in the session.
Sometimes the voice doesn't have words or has very few words. Sometimes it comes up to express overwhelm or anger or confusion. The facilitator's job is to tune in and understand what the voice is trying to communicate, and to give it permission to be open and honest.
Once a voice has communicated what it needs to communicate, the facilitator asks the individual to return to the original chair (integrated individual). The facilitator will then summarize what has transpired so far in the session - first we heard from the protector/controller part of the psyche that told us ….. then we heard from the financial guardian part of the psyche that told us …..
The facilitator may ask the individual to go to yet another part of the room to allow another voice to emerge. So, the session continues until the facilitator senses that the voices that were needing to emerge for that session have come forward.
At the end of the session, the facilitator asks the client to stand behind the original chair. In Voice Dialogue this is called the Witness position. The facilitator then recounts all that transpired in the session. First we heard from this voice that told us …. then we heard from that voice that told us…. then we heard from this voice that told us…. and so on.
Then the facilitator asks the client to return to the original chair (integrated individual) and to consciously breathe in the energy of each voice with the intention of integrating these voices into their overall psyche. The facilitator and client discuss whatever needs to be addressed at this time. Then the session ends.
Doing Voice Dialogue at Home
I sometimes do Voice Dialogue sessions with clients (similar to what I've described above). More often I sense that there is a voice that is needing to be heard and I model for the client the expression of that voice. I move into a different part of the room and express what a part of the client is feeling. (For phone clients, I express the content of the voice over the phone). Usually the client will give me feedback and say - oh yes, I definitely have a part of me that feels that way… and here is more information about that… or - that doesn't feel right to me… I think it's more like this….
I do this modeling for clients because I want to encourage them to develop their own ability to give voice to the different parts of their psyche. They can go home and if, after taking a remedy, they surface a part of their psyche that has a lot of charge behind it - they can use Voice Dialogue to facilitate their own session. They become both the facilitator and the client. A lot of people prefer this method because it's free and if they have shame around potentially embarrassing shadow emotions they feel safer doing the work at home on their own.
Another option with Voice Dialogue is to express different voices via journaling - sink into a particular voice and then write from that perspective.
For those clients that are doing work at home, here are some questions that you can use as the facilitator of your own session:
- Tell me how you're feeling.
- What do you think about this situation?
- Why do you feel that way?
- Tell me more.
- I see what you're saying.
- You're thoughts and feelings are valid.
- Tell me more.
- What else do you have to say?
- I see you. I think you're valid.
- You're allowed to feel that way.
- I totally accept you as you are feeling/thinking this.
- You're allowed to feel this way.
Typically once a voice within the psyche has been fully heard, it loses charge. This frees up the mind-body system to re-organize itself to a higher level of functioning. As a result, the individual will usually experience an increase in clarity (more integrated perspective), a lessening or cessation of the corresponding physical and emotional symptoms, and/or the individual moves forward in the processing of their homeopathic remedy.
(Moving forward in the processing of a homeopathic remedy means moving out of the symptom profile of the remedy, as well as the internal and external "story" of the remedy.)