I will be teaching the exercise below, Befriending Yourself, among several dozen others, at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington D.C., March 26-29, 2015.
The Catalyzing Brain Change workshop – From Incremental Learning to Quantum Leaps – helps clinicians understand the different neural activities that underlie different levels of client functioning – whether stuck in repetitive defensive patterns, struggling to stabilize a coherent sense of self, installing new more resilient behaviors, or recovering an flourishing authentic self – and thus apply different mechanisms of therapeutic change.
The 2015 Symposium offers 124 workshops by innovative therapists and thought leaders, among them: Diana Ackerman,, Bruce Ecker, Janina Fisher, Elisha Goldstein, John Gottman, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Esther Perel, Terry Real, Richard Schwartz, Dan Siegel, and Bessel van der Kolk. Plus keynotes, luncheons, bookstore, yoga and meditation, dance party – altogether an uplifting infusion of energy and joy in the sometimes difficult practice of psychotherapy. Join me at the Symposium if you can, and introduce yourself as sharing this challenging and deeply meaningful path.
Befriending Yourself – Accepting the Many Parts of Yourself
1. Settle comfortably in your seat. Allow your eyes to gently close. Focus your attention on your breathing. Rest comfortably in the awareness of simply being.
2. When you’re ready, imagine you are outside a theater. Imagine the building, the doors, the posters outside. Walk up to one of the doors, open it, and walk into the lobby. Open another door and walk into the empty theater. Walk all the way down to the first or second row and take a seat in the center of the row. An empty stage lies in front of you. All is quiet.
3. Now imagine that the first figure to come out on the stage is your wiser self, standing in the center. This figure that represents all the qualities you aspire to: wisdom, strength, courage, compassion, competence, acceptance.
4. Now imagine other characters coming on to the stage one by one. Each of these imaginary characters embodies a particular quality in yourself. These characters could be people you know, yourself at a different age, people you know from the movies or history or literature, animals, or cartoon characters.
The first character embodies a quality in yourself that you really, really like. Take a moment to let that character take the stage and remember it (perhaps make a note).
A second character comes on stage embodying another positive quality in yourself. Again let that character materialize on the stage and remember it.
A third character comes on stage embodying yet another positive quality about yourself. Let the character materialize, and remember it.
Look carefully at these three characters, which embody three different, positive qualities in yourself, standing with your wiser self. Take a moment to notice and remember them all.
Now bring a fourth character to the stage that embodies a quality in yourself that you really don’t like all that much. In fact, you wish it weren’t part of you, but you know it is. Let this character materialize and take a moment to remember it.
Bring on a fifth character that embodies another negative quality in you.
Bring on one last character embodying just one more negative quality in yourself.
Take a moment to materialize all these characters, remember them, jot them down.
5. Now you have on stage your wiser self, three characters embodying positive qualities, and three characters embodying negative qualities. Ask each character in turn what special gift they bring to you by being part of you: ask the positive ones first, then the negative ones. As you listen to their responses, notice what lessons you learn from their being a part of you. Each one has some wisdom or learning to offer.
6. Next, ask your wiser self what gifts and lessons these parts have to offer you. Listen carefully for the answers.
7. Briefly thank each character for coming to be with you. Watch as they leave the stage one by one, the wiser self last. Then imagine yourself getting up out of your seat and walking back up the aisle, through the lobby and back outside the theater. Turn around to look at the theater where all this happened. Then slowly come to awareness again of sitting quietly, and when you’re ready, open your eyes.
8. Take a moment to remember and embrace the lessons of each of these six characters, especially the negative ones: each is an integral part of you, essential to your wholeness.