Issue 32 – Febuary 2008
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE AWARE EGO
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
With the theory of bonding patterns in place and the re-defining of consciousness providing us with a model that seemed effective over time, we began to think about actually changing the title of our work to the Psychology of the Aware Ego. We realized more and more that the core work was not about talking to selves. This was important but not as much as the development of an Aware Ego process. This was really the key to the kind of changes we were looking for.
We saw that people could work forever with selves but until there was a true separation and dis-identification from the primary self, changes were easily lost. We saw that, without an Aware Ego process, the primary self would automatically regain control. This Aware Ego process evolves between any pair of opposites. Some common opposite sets of selves are power and vulnerability, pusher and beach bum, thinking and feeling, control and release.
There are many sets of opposites and the Aware Ego process emerges from one set at a time. Clarity in one area does not mean clarity in all areas. For instance, we find the someone develops an Aware Ego process that is capable of holding the tension of opposites between the mental and the feeling selves but – at the same time – has no Aware Ego process when it comes to spirituality. This same individual who does such a good job of embracing both feelings and thinking, still might be totally identified with spirituality and reject selves that are ordinary or instinctual.
For a spiritually identified person to develop an Aware Ego process in relationship to spirituality, he or she would have to do work that separates him/her from the spiritual self so that there is an Aware Ego process that can see it and experience it but not be identified with it. This separation can be very difficult but we have discovered a truly fascinating self we call the “spiritual pusher” that runs the life of many a spiritual seeker. After the separation from this spiritual self (or the spiritual seeker) there would be the challenge to discover and integrate the spiritual sloth, the “ordinary” self, and the instinctual.
Conversely, someone who rejects spirituality from a primary self that is rational and mental must learn to unhook from the rational mind so that the Aware Ego can begin to see the rational mind as a separate self/energy system. This makes a space for the spiritual selves to emerge and be properly embraced. At this point, we have an Aware Ego standing between the more earthbound rules and experiences of the mind and the numinous realms and experiences of the world of the spirit.
At times it has felt to us as though we were running a divorce court. In this framework we help people to learn how to get a divorce from their primary selves. Once a person is divorced from a primary self, the Aware Ego can learn how to use that energy in a conscious way. Nothing is lost. The primary self simply begins to operate under the aegis of an Aware Ego that has all the information and input from that primary self but, in addition to this, has the complementary information and input from the opposite self or selves.
We have tried to give you a feeling of the ongoing process we have been in as our work has developed. The focus on the Aware Ego changes the nature of the Voice Dialogue process and we know that the expression “Aware Ego” or “Aware Ego Process” might be too awkward for some.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE AWARE EGO PROCESS
Our hope is that all the facilitators and teachers will have a basic understanding of the Aware Ego Process. If this understanding is there, then the applications of the Psychology of Selves and the actual use of Voice Dialogue will be much more effective. Deliberately activating a self or energy system is a very exciting use of the Psychology of Selves. But we do not see this as Voice Dialogue. For us, Voice Dialogue – in addition to the direct work with selves – includes an experience of opposites and an Aware Ego process.
We finally decided not to officially change the name of the work to the Psychology of the Aware Ego a number of years ago. Voice Dialogue, Relationship and the Psychology of Selves has achieved such a strong name recognition that we decided to let it rest there. Our sense is that there is a gradual increased use of the terms “Aware Ego Process or Psychology of the Aware Ego” amongst practitioners and teachers and eventually this shift in name may well take place.
THE AWARE EGO AND SPIRITUALITY
We are often asked: “What is the relationship of the Aware Ego to spirituality?” or “How does the Voice Dialogue process address the issue of spirituality?” We would like to take this opportunity to address these questions.
For us, it is important to understand that spirituality has two different components that have to be considered separately. One component of spirituality has to do with the rules. The second component has to do with transcendent experiences – the experience of God, of the Higher Intelligence, of the Transpersonal or whatever name best expresses an experience that goes beyond ordinary consciousness and the words that can describe it.
Generally in the development of religious institutions there is first the transcendent experience and then a body of rules develops to support this experience and bring it to others. These rules usually become more numerous and powerful as time passes and eventually they may well cover over the original experience.
For us, the transcendent experience is a very real and glorious gift. Who in us receives this gift and what is done with this gift can vary. When a self receives this gift – let us assume that it is a spiritual self – then that self usually develops a series of rules and expectations about this experience. And that self judges other selves that are different and polarizes against anything or anyone that does not fit in with its expectations and follow its rules.
We see this as the way in which many spiritual or religious institutions evolve. The original experience is taken up by a primary self (or the primary self of the group) that guards it and keeps out anything that might destroy it. Only the energy of that particular self is considered good and it is to that self and its rules that one must surrender. We know that much can be gained by this kind of surrender; this is the basic premise of the Guru/disciple relationship. The disciple surrenders to the Guru and – in doing so – can receive the gift of the transcendent experience.
In contrast, the Aware Ego surrenders to all energies or selves. This is quite different from surrendering only to the spiritual energies. This means very simply that the Aware Ego is committed to hearing, seeing and feeling all the different selves. It excludes none. When one self starts to dominate, it is the job of the Aware Ego to find the opposites on the other side and to consider their input as well. In this sense the Aware Ego is like an orchestra conductor who welcomes all the instruments and then uses their individual contributions to sing the song of the soul.
Learning to surrender to all of the selves requires constant work with our negative judgments towards people (and things) to help the Aware Ego in its constant evolution towards clarity. Whenever we feel judgments towards someone or something, we know that we are in a primary self because the judgments come from the selves, not the Aware Ego.
You may well ask “But how do you know when you are in an Aware Ego? How do you know that it is an Aware Ego that is doing the surrendering at any moment? Might you not be fooled by the Mind that loves to act as though it were God or any other primary self for that matter?”
The answer is that we don’t. We don’t know when we are in an Aware Ego except for brief moments of time. If your responsible self has just been facilitated and you can feel your separation from it, the most you can say is that at this moment of time you have an Aware Ego process operating in relationship to responsibility; at this moment you have a certain level of understanding of this responsible self and a certain separation from it.
A second answer is that when we are convinced we are operating from an Aware Ego, we are not. We are most probably identified with a spiritual self, a rational mind or a control self. All of these have a sense of certainty to them, and they like to masquerade as the Aware Ego.
So as the Aware Ego bows down to the different gods and goddesses of the light and the dark, of heaven and earth, of good and bad, of body and spirit, of knowing and not knowing, it is embracing both of the opposites. It is the “and” rather than the “either/or”. It truly represents the Middle Way.
We see the Aware Ego as surrendered to the Intelligence of the Universe. This intelligence can manifest in many different ways. It is not personal in any sense, though for some of us it may manifest through our personal relationships. Others can see it with utmost clarity in the dream process. For still others it may manifest in meditation or spiritual practice. For many scientists it manifests in the organizing principle at work in the galaxies they study or of matter itself. Whatever the case, the Aware Ego must be surrendered to the reality of this higher intelligence and how it can be perceived operating in his or her personal universe.
For us, the Aware Ego must also be surrendered to the way this higher intelligence operates in human relationship. It must be surrendered to the idea that everyone in our life is potentially a teacher for us. We understand that peoples’ reactions to us must be taken seriously. And we learn to use our own negative judgments of people as a teaching device to discover our own disowned selves.
The Aware Ego is an expression of a psycho-spiritual consciousness process. The Aware Ego has the job of embracing the world of Spirit in all of its glory and, on the other side, the world of physical matter, of emotion, of passion, and of psychological and mental realities.
For us, it is important to not confuse spirituality with consciousness. A consciousness process encompasses spirituality. Spirituality does not necessarily encompass a consciousness process. Spirituality does not encompass matter or instinctual energies. That is why so many people in the spiritual tradition lose the connection to their bodies and their instincts. An Aware Ego process requires us to do the work of spirit and the work of relationship and the physical world. For ourselves, we must say what a delight it has been, and what a delight in continues to be, to spend our lives in these kinds of explorations.
MOVING INTO MANY WORLDS
People use Voice Dialogue and the Aware Ego process in many different settings and with many different kinds of clients. Management consultants have found a way to use the Voice Dialogue technique and the concepts of the Psychology of Selves and bonding patterns in a business setting with individuals who are not at all interested in consciousness issues. They have translated the language we use here to make it work within a different frame of reference and for a different set of primary selves.
People working as a coaches or a management consultants might, for example, speak of “traditional habits” or “familiar strategies” versus “unexplored creative potential” rather than talk of primary versus disowned selves. They might not use a term like” Aware Ego” because this kind of language might not be acceptable in a business setting. So they improvise – some quite brilliantly – and many have experienced great success.
Another teacher keeps a focus on what we call “being” energy because she feels that is extremely important. Others use this “being” energy as a vehicle for igniting the spiritual energies.
Other teachers are specializing in working with the selves involved in addiction. Still others are interested in the neurological aspects of consciousness and the selves. This work has proven extremely valuable in training actors. There is even an internationally acclaimed Tango coach who uses the energetics of this work in his training of competitive dancers. There are a myriad of ways to work with the selves and we are delighted to see the creativity and the diversity of these new developments.
BODY DIALOGUE: The Work of Judith Stone
This is a perfect place to introduce the innovations of Judith Stone, Hal’s daughter, who has added an entirely new dimension to this work. In her early twenties Judith was working at Blue Cross and very much committed to a career in business. Her plans were interrupted when she developed a debilitating medical condition that was diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. Her symptoms were so severe that she had to abandon her professional plans and devote herself to her own healing process.
Judith made a choice at that time to not follow the orthodox medical model that is generally prescribed for these kinds of arthritic conditions. She found an MD who was open to the idea of her trying different treatment modalities and this began a remarkable journey of exploration and healing that lasted five years in its more active phase but in reality has continued to this day.
Judith opened herself to ongoing psychotherapy, to many different forms of complementary medicine, and to certain aspects of traditional Western medicine. She took all of us along with her on her journey. Hal, in particular, has been delighted to work with many of the people Judith discovered in her own explorations. Without the constant health-oriented input and recommendations Judith has given to Hal through the years, it is quite possible that he would not be here today.
Very gradually, out of this profound experience that she was going through with her own healing process, Judith began to develop a very special and different kind of connection to her body. It became much more real to her than it is to most of us who don’t spend much time sensing into the body. She began to shift her overall professional identification to psychology and she used the Voice Dialogue work as one of the central healing modalities of her own healing journey. Over the years she has become one of the senior teachers of our work.
What also began to evolve was an entirely new and different aspect of the Voice Dialogue work that Judith called Body Dialogue. What she realized, from her own experience, was that the body had a voice that could speak for it. She also discovered that many of the individual parts of the body were able to speak and to give specifically targeted information and guidance.
Even more significantly, Judith began to tune in to the fact that the physical body carried an intelligence and that one could activate this “intelligence of the body” and from it receive remarkable information and guidance. The process of working with the body in this way began slowly and through the years has developed into what we consider a major contribution to Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves.