Calming the Storm Within
Next time you’re in a sour mood about something, notice how hard it is to “snap out of it.” It’s not that simple. Or have you ever done one thing but believe you should be doing another? The reason for our mood swings and inconsistencies is often a mystery that eludes us. You may even “hear” one part of you debate the reason for or against a certain action. One person told me “It’s like there’s a constant storm within me…parts of me that collide and battle and make me feel anxious.”
You might be surprised to hear that it doesn’t mean you are going crazy. It is possible to orchestrate what may seem like overwhelming forces within and create the “I” in the storm; a centered place of peace in the middle of a swirl of energy. You can tap all of the energy formerly used to fight yourself and pour it into something you love, becoming more satisfied, peaceful, productive and clear.
How is this possible? First we have to re-define what is normal. A New Normal: Natural Multiplicity of the Mind
I want to introduce you to something called natural multiplicity of the mind that redefines what is normal and can radically change your perception of yourself. Since I’m sometimes prone to be a skeptic, I was initially dubious of natural multiplicity because not only does it teach that it’s normal to have voices in your head, it encourages you to talk back to them.
Gulp! Talking to the voices? You got it right. But it’s not what you think. It’s not the delusional voices of mental illness that I’m talking about, although those fit in to this in ways I’ll explain some other time.
Most of us instinctively try to tamp down any signs of multiplicity inside of us, since we are socialized to fit in and be “of one mind” to others. As a result, we often ignore the wide diversity of our inner “voices.” These voices come in the form of thoughts patterns, sensations, or emotions. What we call “thinking” is often our inner dialogues with different parts of us. Self Leadership: Creating the “I” of the Storm
Techniques I use called Voice Dialogue and Self Leadership facilitate interactions with your inner life to make you more conscious of it. Voice Dialogue, as the name implies, helps you gain comfort identifying and defining the various voices (parts) of you. Self leadership teaches you how to interact with your parts so that you lead your parts rather than your parts leading you. You become the “I” in the storm around which moves the varying and sometimes conflicting parts. Facilitation is practiced in therapy sessions and you are encouraged to use the exercises on your own. Clothing the Invisible Forces Within
Each approach asks you to use some creativity and imagination in order to speak the language of multiplicity. Active imagination becomes the media upon which is rendered a representation of real phenomena occurring inside of you. (As I was experimenting with this approach initially, my rational part of me—that often thinks imagination equals nonsense—actually pointed out that the field of mathematics is highly imaginative and yet is an obvious tool that empowers us to achieve otherwise unthinkable results in the real world.)
To imagine that we have ongoing, complex relationships with our many different parts as though they are relationships with actual people is to put clothes on the previously invisible forces within us. Once clothed, these forces take on definition in ways previously unforeseen. We can learn to take a front row seat and observe these now graphically visible figures within us. In fact, we eventually learn that we are the observer, the stage, the writer, the director and the actors. Our complex brain is capable of amazing flexibility that can be used to benefit the work of psychotherapy.
As we get comfortable interacting with our many selves more directly, our parts learn to interact with us—to trust us. When this happens, people report feeling a tremendous sense of peace and calm very similar to that experienced from meditation. But unlike meditation, which seeks to empty the mind and induce a state of calm, self leadership allows you to experience calmness while being very mentally active. All of the energy inside of you that previously had no labels and no avenue for expression begins to have an organized and reliable way to communicate with you to resolve the conflicts it creates. The Rewarding View at the Center
Each person is different in how long it takes before these improved “self-relationships” begin to affect the particular area of your life with which you want help. Many of us have natural hesitation about focusing within ourselves, and these concerns are carefully addressed. But I have found that with persistence and patience it is simply a question of when, not if, you will start to feel better. People report very similar kinds of effects from psychotherapy based on the model of multiplicity (also called Internal Family Systems). You are likely to:
• Experience clarity of thoughts for decisions
• Get peace of mind more often and feel more calmness in your body
• Become confident in what you want
• Be more available and attuned to the needs of your family or others important to you
• Develop appreciation for what is happening that is good (have a better attitude); become more able to do “the best you can” even if it’s not perfect
• Be more able to be patient if your partner is frustrated and figure out how to resolve the frustration without feeling overwhelmed or defensive
• Become curious and interested to learn new things and expand your horizons
• Find ways around obstacles that prevent what is best for you
• Let yourself dream again about what you really want Read the full length article here: Psychotherapy Washington DC Couples Counseling.
Keith Miller, LICSW, is a psychotherapist and relationship specialist in downtown Washington, DC.