Issue 84 –
Vulnerability: Part 4
Using Voice Dialogue to
gain access to the Vulnerable Child
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
During one of our workshops we introduced the topic of vulnerability and then demonstrated the Voice Dialogue method, using the technique to speak in front of the group with someone’s vulnerable child. This served to trigger the inner child in many of the other group members.
That night Jeanne, a participant in the workshop who thought she was in touch with her own inner child, dreamt she received a message that her “grand” child was in trouble:
When I heard where he was, I went to the woman’s house to get him. The woman showed me a big fat baby covered with Band-Aids. She said to me: “We’re not worried about the child’s physical condition, but we had no idea who he belonged to. He’s been hanging around here all the time.” I replied “But I don’t understand this because he’s been with me all the time.” Then I knew that I was going to have to take him with me and find out why he was trying to get away from me. I realised that I was going to have to talk to him and that he was scared to death that he wasn’t going to be cared for.
Jeanne, realising that she needed to contact her vulnerable child, requested a Voice Dialogue session. She contacted a very touching and extremely sensitive little girl who had experienced a good deal of pain in life. It seemed that Jeanne was in touch with other aspects of her childlike nature – her magical, sweet, imaginative and playful parts – but not the part of herself that carried her vulnerability and neediness.
We will now give a brief section of the interaction with this child to show what a vulnerable child sounds like when it speaks directly.
Facilitator (to Jeanne): I’d like to speak with your little girl, the one who’s scared, not the playful one who has just been talking to us.
Jeanne, who has had Voice Dialogue sessions before, moves to another chair and turns her back to the other people who are watching her.
Child: (looks up at the facilitator and does not speak.)
Facilitator: It’s kind of hard to talk isn’t it?
Child: (nods her head and says nothing but maintains eye contact.)
Facilitator: Well, you don’t have to say anything; I’ll just sit here and keep you company. Do you want me to keep talking to you?
Child: (nods again.)
Facilitator: O.K. you look pretty little to me. Jeanne is pretty grown-up and she always knows what to say and how to make people feel good. But you’re different, aren’t you? (Child nods again.) you look pretty quiet to me.
Child: I am quiet. Noise scares me. Big people scare me. You’re okay; you talk very softly. But I can’t look at the other people. They scare me.
Facilitator: (Nods and remains silent because the child is talking.)
Child: My Mom scared me a lot. I used to be scared a lot when I was little because it was noisy a lot. I like quiet. My ears hurt when it’s noisy. My heart jumps around a lot too.
At this point, the facilitator goes into an exploration of Jeanne’s childhood. There is great emotional intensity to the interaction. At first the vulnerable child is quite tense and holds onto her knees tightly, looking intently into the facilitator’s eyes for any sign of disapproval or inattention.
She is extremely sensitive to any distraction. Gradually her grip loosens as she tells about the things that had frightened her during Jeanne’s childhood. The experience is quite moving, as buried, emotional memories surface. Then, after quite some time, they turn to more current issues.
Facilitator: (Begins to question what aspects of Jeanne’s current life bother the child.) So, you don’t like it when there’s a lot of noise and you’re really sensitive when people are angry or rough. What else don’t you like in Jeanne’s life right now?
Child: I like to be in my own room with the door closed, and I like to open it to let my friends in one at a time. She never closes the door. I don’t like it when she leaves the door open and the others always come in. I don’t like it when I mess up her room. I don’t like having children in her room. I only like grown-ups there because they’re quiet and they don’t mess things.
Facilitator: I see. So you don’t want other kids around a lot.
Child: No I don’t. I like her grandchild, but I don’t like all the other kids she takes care of. I only want her to take care of me. I’m tired of her taking care of everybody else. She promised me that when her own kids were grown up, we would have fun together and she would stop worrying about everybody else. Now it’s time. I want her to spend time with me and buy me pretty things and brush my hair and let me just sit by myself and look out the window at the trees and dream and not do anything. And I want to sing.
I like her daughter. I want to go for a walk with her and just hang out, and not run errands and not talk about important things. And I don’t like it when people leave her their children to take care of and they go off and have fun. And I get scared when they get annoyed with her if she’s too busy to take care of the children.
I don’t feel good when people don’t like her. It makes me feel terrible. I want everybody to like her. But I want to tell them to take care of their own children anyway! Even if they do get mad at her. She’s not their Mum.
The facilitator continues to talk with Jeanne’s child for about two hours, and the child relaxes more and more. She literally blossoms like a flower. Jean becomes quite fond of this child, as does everyone else who was observing this particular Voice Dialogue session. That night, Jeanne has a second dream:
First I dreamt that my “grand” child was lying down all wrapped up tightly. The next moment I saw her lying there unwrapped and beautiful, with her blonde hair lying on the pillow. I loved this child dearly and I wanted her to be as happy as she is beautiful. I awoke feeling very happy.
Jeanne’s discovery of her vulnerable child meant a great deal to her. She felt much love for it and welcomed it as a beautiful addition to her life, as her dream demonstrates. She began to pay attention to the child immediately and to meet its needs, rather than to automatically meet the needs of the people around her and neglect her own, as she had in the past.