Issue 80 –
DISOWNED SELVES – Our Lost Heritage
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
In the past couple of decades, we have heard a few horror stories about people who were given permission to identify with previously disowned selves.
One high-ranking well-mannered business executive learned to express anger and assert himself in an encounter group. When he returned to work, his formerly disowned anger dominated his behavior. He started an argument with his formerly feared boss and told him to “fuck off.” He was promptly fired and had a great deal of trouble getting another job once the circumstances of his dismissal became known.
This is a perfect example of over-identifying with first one extreme (the obedient son) and then the other (the angry father) without benefit of an intervening Aware Ego. When anger is first released, there may be an increase in overall irritability and reactivity but it is important not to over-identify with these feelings, as the executive did.
The release of primitive earth energies such as sex and aggression is followed by extremely favorable consequences when monitored by an Aware Ego. For instance, Alex, a highly spiritual man who had spent years practicing self-discipline and self-denial, was involved in a legal action with some rather unscrupulous characters. He experienced a lot of anxiety about this as a substantial sum of money was involved.
During a Voice Dialogue session his disowned primitive energies emerged in the form of a howling wolf who had been caged for years. The wolf itself was afraid to be released because it felt so destructive. The wolf explained that whenever it had previously threatened to break out of its cage, Alex would meditate or do yoga for a couple of hours and thus weaken the wolf’s power so that it was no longer a threat.
After having the opportunity to be expressed, the wolf gradually stopped howling and became a most attractive masculine energy of amazing power. Alex was finally able to step into his wolf self and utilize these wolf energies on his own behalf. When he encountered his legal opponents armed with his wolf-power, he was able to resolve the problem quickly and in his favor.
A disowned self can be very persistent. Mary’s business partner, Jack, represented a disowned self but Mary did not use him as a teacher. Their relationship ended bitterly, and for many years thereafter Mary dreamt disturbing dreams about Jack.
According to Mary, he was “a self-centered man whose primary concern was his own well-being, both financial and emotional.” In her dreams he invariably appeared irritated by her lack of self-assertion and he was always trying to tell her how to run her life. She, in turn, became defensive and angry and tried to argue with him and make him go away. She always woke up angry and frustrated, thinking of how manipulative, controlling, and selfish he was and how angry she was that she had dreamt about him again.
This is a perfect example of how a self, disowned by day, might try to get through to us at night. Night after night this subpersonality came to Mary, trying to talk to her, and night after night he was sent away. Although Mary perceived her “dream-Jack” as an intruder, he was actually trying to balance her, to show her that she need not be a helpless victim to the world around her. But such was the strength of her combined cultural and personal history of disowning that she could not listen to him.
In a Voice Dialogue session one day Mary’s hopeless-little-girl subpersonality was talking when Jack suddenly slipped in for a moment.
Jack (with irritation): Mary needs to get her life organized.
Facilitator : You sound like a totally different voice from that little girl. How about moving here and telling us what you have to say about Mary’s situation? (Mary changes chairs but looks uncomfortable. She doesn’t really want to hear this voice.) I can see that she doesn’t want you to talk, but let’s give it a try. I hear that you’ve been trying to give her advice for some time.
Jack : Yes, I have. She doesn’t like me though, and I don’t like her at all. She’s a wimp. I know what she has to do to make money. I’m very good at making money. And I’m not ashamed of it either. She’s ashamed of wanting to make money.
Facilitator : And you’re not?
Jack: You bet I’m not. I need money to enjoy life. I like nice things. I like comfort and I like power. You need money for all of that. She’s too worried about whether or not people are going to like her.
Facilitator : Don’t you worry about that?
Jack : Not at all. People like me. I’m happy with myself. I like being the center of attention and people love to be with me. I think they’re lucky to get a chance to be with me. I give them a chance to bask in my warmth and they love it. You know, like in the sun. As I said before, I think they’relucky to get to be with me, not vice versa. (Smiling, very self-satisfied.) People don’t like it when you try to please them. Besides, if I don’t go out of my way for them, I don’t resent them. So I don’t get angry with them.
Facilitator : But what about people not liking you? Mary worries about that.
Jack : As I said, I just don’t care. She thinks I’m selfish but I don’t care. And because I don’t really care, I can be very persuasive and charming, too. I’m not worried about being genuine, you see. She is. And as far as I’m concerned, that kind of worry doesn’t work. I like to figure out what works and then I go ahead and do it. I don’t waste time worrying about other things.
Facilitator : Speaking of figuring out what works, what would you suggest to Mary in terms of her business?
“Jack” then proceeded to give detailed suggestions, some of which he had already given in dreams, but now Mary, along with the facilitator, was able to listen to them. When Mary returned to her aware ego she had a great deal more color in her face and strength in her voice. She was excited about these ideas and eager to try them out. Mary radiated a totally new sense of self-containment and self-sufficiency.
When a disowned self breaks through like this, other selves may object and try to push it back down. In Mary’s case, this objection came from a witch-like subpersonality who emerged briefly two days later and destroyed the sense of self-sufficiency that “Jack” had provided for Mary. Mary was aware of the loss of the “Jack” energies and the re-emergence of the despondent child, but the witch was so fast in her attack on the previously disowned “Jack” energies that she remained almost invisible. It is very important, when uncovering disowned subpersonalities, to talk to the other subpersonalities, such as this witch or the protector/controller, who want them to stay disowned.
Witch (with venom): I have to teach her (Mary) the Awful Truth. I had to put her back in her place. She was taking too much attention for herself. She needed to be punished for that! To be pushed back there and over there (gesturing to a corner).
Facilitator : Why?
Witch : Because that’s where she belongs! In the background, not up front. I get very irritated when she pushes her way out in front like that!!
This is a fascinating introject! We can imagine how Mary’s mother might have felt when she had to teach Mary to disown her power and her desire for attention. We can surmise that when Mary’s “Jack” subpersonality came through in Mary as a child, it resonated with her mother’s disowned “Jack” voice, which craved attention. Mary’s mother most likely punished this voice with all the bitterness and judgment that we feel when we see our disowned self in another. Thus, the subpersonality in Mary that echoed her mother’s admonishments to be a second-class citizen was like a destructive witch who carried with her many generations of hatred.
With this hypothesis in mind, the facilitator continued the questioning.
Facilitator : Why does she belong in the background like that?
Witch : I don’t know. Just because she does.
Facilitator : Tell me, do you feel the same way about Mary’s brother?
Witch : No.
Facilitator : Would you feel the same way if Mary were a man?
Witch (hesitating): I’m not sure. (Gaining power again.) I don’t care. All I know is I have to remind her about the Awful Truth, to slap her down and keep her back there (pointing), out of the way. And I don’t like it when she doesn’t stay there!
Facilitator : But why do you have to slap her down and keep her there?
Witch : Because if I don’t, her father will kill her! It’s better that I push her out of the way.
The last was such a surprise that the witch disappeared and Mary’s aware ego took over again. As we have said before, there has usually been a very good reason to disown a subpersonality. By working with the subpersonality that enforces the disowning, the aware ego discovers this reason and can then deal with the disowned subpersonality in a conscious and constructive fashion. We might expect that the witch will no longer have unquestioned authority and will no longer be able to push the “Jack” subpersonality down automatically without any resistance from Mary. The aware ego will know what is happening and, we hope, will intervene.
It is important to understand the concept of disowned selves and to actively accept the challenge of the multitude of life situations that bring our disowned selves to us. The challenge to embrace these selves in a creative fashion is, perhaps, the most difficult task in the evolution of consciousness.
Previously we spoke of the roar of awakening, the first realization that you are more than you think you are. In this chapter we have introduced you to the concept that many selves live in the shadows, far away from the primary selves that usually dominate our lives. In the next chapter we will discuss the Voice Dialogue method and how to use it to become acquainted with all the selves-the familiar and the unfamiliar-that make up the sum total of who you are.