Friday, July 26, 2019

THE DIVERSITY ARENA: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS AND DECISIONS TO BE MADE


Belonging can also be thought of as a longing to be” - Peter Block

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of not belonging” -  Mother Teresa


Diversity Developments. What’s the Buzz?


Why, in this data-overloaded world full of new technologies and techniques, does knowledge take so long to spread? Literally since the last century (!) I have been exhorting leaders to harness the richness of diversity and benefit from a massive impact on organisational performance. Diversity unleashes creativity, increases engagement, leads to better sense-making, problem solving and decisions.

Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD André Laurent discovered a fascinating phenomenon. In brief, “the best teams rely on the difference and uniqueness of their members to create something better than can be produced by a mono-cultural team”. He was one of the first to show how “differences can become a source of synergy and competitive advantage when they are recognised, understood and appreciated”. (Laurent, A. 2019)

Subsequent research has verified his discovery. And we now see that:

·         workplaces around the world are becoming more diverse
·         societal tensions around matters of difference put pressure on organisations to act deftly and with urgency
·         the jury is in: diversity holds the potential to impact positively on organisational performance. It should be seen as an opportunity to be grasped and not as an issue to be ‘managed’
·         many commentators now speak of developing workplace diversity beyond inclusion, to belonging
·         a large number of approaches and methods are being advocated (Bookstore shelves creak under the weight of diversity and inclusion books - many about ‘what’ to do, and far fewer on ‘how’ to do it)

Leaders are faced with a decision on the extent to which they wish to “push” internal diversity, and to what end:




Their choice will determine the ‘intervention’ programme that they opt for. In considering their options, organisational leaders need to fully understand:


·         what is meant by the notions of diversity and belonging
·         how they may go about putting their decided, desired position in place

After you have considered the following notes on diversity and belonging and thought about the position you feel is right for your own situation; we offer a menu of approaches and activities that will help you engage with the thinking, feeling and doing that may hold merit for your organisation.
  

Diversity

Diversity of viewpoints and approaches strengthens decision-making, sustainability and performance. It is essential to the well-being of our communities, including workplace communities. “Observing nature, we see that diversity is essential to balance, wholeness, and resilience. Ecosystems thrive when a variety of species of plants and animals nourish each other. Diverse environments are much stronger and less susceptible to pests and disease than mono-crop fields. The world is a relational system full of complex inter-dependence among very different creatures. If we want

sustainable communities, we must always welcome the “other” and learn to see our neighbor as ourselves. Without it, we do not have community at all, but just egoic enclaves”.  (Rohr, R. 2016)    

Diversity comes in many guises. It is not confined to the usual categories that we focus on the most: ethnicity, religion, age, gender.  The types of diversity are legion. As an example, take one of the lesser known experiential and behavioural differences between people, captured by construal level theory. (Hamilton, R. 2015)
In essence, the theory holds that psychological-distance gaps between people arise from dimensions of the:

·         temporal distance (past present or future focus)
·         social distance (connection push or pull)
·         spatial distance (physical location from face to face, next door, faraway places, ‘boardroom and garden’ situations)
·         experiential distance (reality, perception, sensation, imagination, dreams, reverie)

How people perceive, behave, decide, connect – are functions of these dimensions, and clashes occur when there is ‘distance’ or difference between them. (Williams, G with Rosenstein, D. 2016)

Overcoming these gaps and enabling belonging requires us to become what evolutionary psychologist Peter Gilbert terms being “prosocial”.

Belonging



People don’t always see eye to eye.  Each person’s experiences, exposure to various influencers, and their conditioning, lead them to their own protective filters, stereotyping, perceptions, cognitive understanding, prejudices and biases (conscious and unconscious) and determine how they relate to others – especially those from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, belief systems, social classes, genders, sexual preferences, ages, personalities, education levels, language, lifestyles, thinking styles, physical and mental abilities, areas of special giftedness, roles... and so on.

“…we every one of us have our peculiar den, which refracts and corrupts the light of nature, because of the differences of impressions as they happen in a mind prejudiced or prepossessed”. (Francis Bacon)

More than we are consciously aware, this conditioning, socialisation and acculturation steers how we make selections for jobs and teams, rate performance, make promotion decisions, who we choose to befriend, how we live our lives.  And yet we can bridge differences for our greater and mutual benefit. To paraphrase Rumi:  Out beyond ideas of religious and other codes, rules, ideas and belief or disbelief in these practices, there is a field of unconditional and transcendent compassion and love, where we are fully connected, are as one. I'll meet you there.

There is no denying the strong basic human yearning to belong, to find our ‘home’.  On Abraham Maslow’s famous needs hierarchy, being loved and belonging is followed by finding our self-esteem on the path to self-actualisation. Belonging is a primary intrinsic motivation.  Published in 1845, Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling is referred to by Clarissa Pinkola Estés as “a psychological and spiritual root story ... one that contains a truth so fundamental to human development that without integration of this fact, further progression is shaky ...”   She illuminates, … when an individual’s particular kind of soulfulness, which is both instinctual and a spiritual identity, is surrounded by psychic acknowledgement and acceptance, that person feels life and power as never before. Ascertaining one’s own psychic family brings a person vitality and belongingness”. (Estés, C. P. 2008) 

So we search in our homes, relationships, churches, synagogues, mosques, sanghas, sorbets, clubs, schools, communities and institutions, workplaces, even gangs - for safe places where we feel that we belong, are loved, can live meaningful lives, experience well-being, find our identity. (Wilson, R.E. Jr. 2018)
At work, we look for:

  • the spirit of this workplace
  • a sense that people love their work
  • recognition, acceptance and being treated as a real, unique person
  • genuine, authentic community
  • knowledge that what we do is worthy of the long hours spent and the commitment made
·         a place where we can exercise our special areas of giftedness





Some will use the example of a machine gunner and ammunition-belt-feeder together in a foxhole, facing a common enemy. They don’t have to be friends to get the job done. They need to be competent, and appreciate and respect the other’s competence.
However, wherever possible, most opt for friendship, the discovery of kindred souls, a space where members ‘have each other’s backs’, and see each other through - rather than see through each other. A place where they feel at home. So I prefer Piero Ferrucci’s story of a man allowed to visit heaven and hell while alive. In hell people sat at tables where the most marvellous feast was laid out. But they were miserable, emaciated. Their eating utensils were too long, so they couldn’t feed themselves. In heaven he found exactly the same situation except here people were happy and healthy. They fed each other. (Ferrucci, P.2004)

Like wild geese or carrier pigeons we have a homing instinct. But, a cautionary word: this ‘homing instinct’ can sometimes lead to a fitting-in bias, which results in a few to behaving in safe, politically correct and conforming ways – even at the expense of honest self-expression, suppressing the creative tension of difference, and transparency. A ‘muzzling’ of their true feelings and opinions (and ability to ‘shine’) occurs. This causes them and the team to operate well below full potential. (Gino, F. & Staats, B. 2015). However much desired by organisations, belonging cannot be forced, and must be authentic. It requires a psychologically safe environment where people are free to take off their masks, be real and vulnerable, reach out to and support each other, grow together.


What to implement and How to go about it?

At the end of this article is a menu of implementation options covering doing, thinking and feeling actions a leader can instigate. Hands, head and heart.

This menu is offered as a basis for your organisation (whatever its size, nature and maturity level) to embark on some serious conversations, to form views and ideas away from expert - vendor pressure, to avoid ‘me too-ism’ (as we’ve seen happen in so many cases of competitive positioning and strategy formation, the rush to learning organisations, undertaking vision, values, culture, higher purpose exercises), and to allow the people who do the work and populate the organisation to authentically craft a place where diversity-inclusion-belonging is not cynically hijacked for ulterior corporate motive. Rather, basic yearnings are genuinely catered for. A diverse place characterised by trust, friendship, fellowship, belonging and love.  And members are able to share what has formed them, troubles them, inspires them.

A primary principle here is that “a lack of team psychological safety may inhibit experimenting, admitting mistakes, or questioning current practices in teams.”  (Tofte, G. 2016, citing Edmondson, A.C. 1999)

The menu is designed to help you implement your decision on where you wish to be in the diversity stakes, and to inform your people development and supporting programmes, policies, processes, practices.

In deciding what actions to trigger, don’t underestimate the power on our lives of what we are so often unaware of: those unconscious forces pushing, pulling or constraining us; our built in, hidden impulses and drivers, often undetected. An illustration:

Dr Gabor Maté, interviewed by Tami Simon of Sounds True on Tues Mar 21, 2017, told of being in Budapest a day after the WWII German occupation, when he was 2 months old. His mother called their paediatrician: "Would you please come see my son?    Because he's crying all the time". And the paediatrician says, "Of course I will come, but I should tell you (this) all my Jewish babies are crying". And so that anecdote told by my mother speaks to the very essence of childhood experience, which is to say that what happens to the parents happens to the child.

Unconscious bias may stay dormant for a long time. Years ago I was posted to London by my then employer, having spent my prior career in South Africa. I prided myself on being liberal, actively anti-apartheid and pretty much ‘together’ as a person. I felt very much at home in England. Not long after arriving I felt deep compassion at the plight of homeless people living under bridges, sleeping on cardboard, begging, angry, resentful, apathetic, cowed by life. I had never felt such intense compassion before.
After a while I was able to work out that, back home, all the homeless people I came across there were black. It took ages to face this unconscious conditioning and bias of mine, to come to terms with the shame that surfaced, and move forward with a changed perspective.    


 End Thoughts about Diversity at its best
When it comes to demonstrating the power of diversity, South Africa is no shining light. Why should I have the audacity to write for readers beyond our shores?!  Surely there is more to be learned at a place like Auroville in Southern India.  (“Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity” - founder Mirra Alfassa.   https://www.auroville.org/)

Nelson Mandela’s vision and ideals held much promise for a diverse, non-racial, ‘rainbow nation’ of equals. But 25 years later we are crippled by government corruption, incompetence, divisiveness, state creep and state capture.
Yet we still have something we can turn to, the social value of Ubuntu, which if taken up and applied, has much healing potential. 
The Ubuntu concept, experience and practice of (expressed in Xhosa) umntu ngumntu
ngabanye abantu, recognises that people are people through other people (deeply interconnected), where the community-good holds sway, and where personal transformation takes place in a caring, compassionate, respectful, participative space. All belong.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is on record as saying, “You might have much of the world’s riches, and you might hold a portion of authority, but if you have no Ubuntu, you do not amount to much”. Applying Ubuntu allows people to move beyond their conditioned beliefs and values, stereotyping and prejudices - to find common ground and their shared humanity.

We can also offer the idea of isivivane.  Isivivane is a Zulu / Nguni word, although the concept is also found in other African cultures including the Khoikhoi.  It is a ‘collective’ sharing of a powerful higher purpose, the belief that all things and people are interconnected and bound together.  In this ‘collective’ everyone’s role and effort is equally important, equally appreciated. The Zulu proverb Ukuphosa itshe esivivaneni means to make a personal contribution to a great and worthy task. Everyone who walks past an isivivane (pile of stones, place of importance) puts their stone on the pile that is a collective, co-operative, and growing monument. (Kokopelli Partners Limited. 2016).  ‘In doing this, every traveler becomes part of the common purpose and identifies with a certain good cause”.  (Lessem, R. & Nussbaum, B. 1996)

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging are three distinctly different concepts that deserve to come together. In a diverse workplace (where there are lots of differences), employees who feel included (recognised for their unique (sometimes potential) contribution and thus appreciated) get engaged and help boost performance, and if this can lead to a culture of real belonging (where people feel at home, see each other through) then something magical happens. To sum up, a lovely Shona proverb recounted by Lovemore Mbigi and Jenny Maree: chra chimive hachitswane inda : A thumb working on its own is worthless. It has to work collectively with the other fingers to get strength and be able to achieve. (Mbigi, L. & Maree, J. 1995)

























The menu we have presented here is intended to be indicative and illustrative rather than comprehensive.

The boundaries between the hands, head and heart activities listed above are blurred and should not be seen to be fixed. On the other hand, it is possible to be trapped into one particular category – for example a tendency to place emphasis on ‘head’ activities (people analytics, neuroscience and behavioural economics) to the exclusion of hands and heart needs.

*In the Jewish tradition, there is the idea of Midrash. Midrash involves fleshing out a story we only have the barest details for – the bones of the story. Re-telling a story, filling in the gaps in order to expand, putting oneself into another character and supplying details that are not recorded. This allows for different interpretations of meaning and personal revelations and insights. Often a different picture brings deeper understanding

                                            https://culturescan.biz/the-magic-of-perspective-the-culturescan-process/

*** Blend bees and butterflies. To imbed and connect projects to the rest of the organisation, ensure that projects are not ‘secret’ and hidden, are widely owned. Project team members are bees - devoted to the hive of activity happening within the project. Wherever possible, they actively encourage visits by, progress sharing with and process inputs from affected internal departments, external stakeholders and HR and IT (to the extent that these functions are not sufficiently embodied in the project membership) - butterflies. This is an open, accepting, inclusive technique. (Williams, G. 2019)



© Graham Williams, 2019    centserv@iafrica.com

                                    

REFERENCES

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi  (2009)   The danger of a single story.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg
Audia, Pino  (2012)  G. Train Your People to Take Others’ Perspectives. http://hbr.org/2012/11/train-your-people-to-take-others-perspectives/ar/1?referral=00056&cm_mmc=hbd-_-
syndication-_-HBSExecEd-_-2010&spMailingID=4481538&spUserID=MjQxOTA0NzY
3OTMS1&spJobID=132714011&spReportId=MTMyNzE0MDExS0
Block, Peter (2018) Community: the structure of belonging    Abundant Community, July 16, 2018
Edmondson, A. C. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350–383. Retrieved from https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/53613/Team-psychological-safety-as-a-moderator-in-the-relationship-between-team-leadership-and-team-learning-in-management-teams.pdf
Estés, Clarissa Pinkola (2008) Woman Who Run with the Wolves: contacting the power of the wild woman Rider  
Ferrucci, Piero (2004) What we may be: techniques for psychological and spiritual growth through psychosynthesis  Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Penguin, New York
Gino, Francesca Prof (Harvard Business School) and Staats, Bradley, Assoc
Prof (Kenan-Flager Business School) (2015) Why Organisations Don’t Learn Harvard Business Review November, 2015
Hamilton, Rebecca (2015) Bridging Psychological distance March 2015 HBR
Kethledge, Raymond M & Erwin, Michael S. (2017)   Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude  Bloomsbury, 2017
Kokopelli Partners Limited - Advised by Eugenie Banhegyi, Steve Banhegyi, Jim Heaney Cougar and Ralf Sibande  (2016) Isivivane for change and cooperation: leave no stone unturned  
Lessem, R & Nussbaum, B (1996) Sawubona Africa: Embracing four worlds in South African management Zebra Press
Mbigi, Lovemore & Maree, Jenny (1995) Ubuntu: The Spirit of African Transformation Management Knowledge Resources, Randburg, 
Rohr, Richard (2016) Daily Meditation: Community: Diversity in Community Centre for Action & Contemplation Friday 22nd April, 2016
Tofte, Guro (2016). Team psychological safety as a moderator in the relationship between team leadership and team learning in management teams. Master Thesis: Work and Organizational Psychology Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, 2016. (involving 135 Norwegian and 81 Danish leadership teams)
Williams, Graham (2019) How to Use Project Teams to Foster a Benevolent Leadership Culture Culture  University Mar 12, 2019
Williams, Graham with Rosenstein, David (2016) From the Inside Out: the human dynamics of sustainability
Williams, Graham (2016) Ancient Wisdom for Modern Workplaces
Williams, Graham; Fox, Peter & Haarhoff, Dorian (2015) The Virtuosa Organisation: the importance of virtues for a successful business Knowledge Resources
Wilson, Robert Evans Jr. (2018) Longing for Belonging: acceptance by a group is a fundamental human need.
Psychology Today Jul 16, 2018
https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-main-ingredient/201807/longing-belonging













Conversing with Characters within Oneself


A Form of Therapeutic Role-playing and an Aspect of Storytelling Therapy

by Eric Miller (PhD in Folklore, MSc in Psychology), Chennai, July 2019. Founder, Storytelling Therapy Association of India.1





This essay concerns one type of role-playing: Conversing with characters within oneself. While the essay focuses on the therapeutic value of such role-playing, this activity can also be done for other objectives, such as personal self-discovery and growth, and developing one's creativity and imagination. Role-playing is used in numerous therapeutic processes, including:

·         Active Imagination (Carl Jung)
·         Psychodrama (Jacob Moreno), and various other forms of Drama Therapy
·         Gestalt Therapy (Fritz Perls)
·         Neuro-linguistic Programming (Richard Bandler and John Grinder)
·         Storytelling Therapy. Conversing with characters within oneself is Step 5 in the 7-Step Storytelling Therapy method I am using and helping to develop).2


During therapeutic role-playing processes, the therapist always needs to monitor the client to be sure things are staying on the level of imagination, and are being done by the client with attitudes of play and pretend. If the client comes to feel the characters within the client are "real," this could be considered a hallucination, and could be a dangerous and/or unhealthy situation for the client.

The 7 steps of the Conversing with characters within oneself process that are explored in this essay are:

1) Identifying characters within oneself: memories, personifications of personality traits, etc. 2) Speaking to the characters.
3) Speaking as the characters.
4) Thinking about the characters, including regarding where they are coming from.
5) Remembering real-life experiences related to the characters.
6) Catharsis (experiencing, expressing, releasing, and understanding emotion).
7) Going forward: Interacting with the characters over time.

1)      Identifying characters within oneself: memories, personifications of personality traits, etc. A client's feelings, actions, and behaviours may sometimes seem to the client to be swirling, fleeting, confusing, ungraspable, and unmanageable. The client may feel the client is going around in circles and is not getting anywhere, and that the client's positive ideas and actions are not registering, accumulating, or building. 2 In such cases, it can be helpful for the client to become more aware of familiar "spirits," voices, attitudes, and feelings within the client, and for the client to consider, in the client's memories and daydreams, some of the figures that often pop up and confront, guide, advise, encourage and/or discourage the client's conscious self; the figures the client often consults; the members of the client's "internal team"; the animals, elements of nature, emotions, and inclinations (all of which can be personified), and memories of people, which often come to the client's conscious mind. The client could personify the client's personality traits, for example, as a way of getting a grasp on them. Getting a handle on them. Making a fleeting quality addressable, and thus possibly manageable.

Expressing inner thoughts and feelings in symbolic concrete forms can be a productive part of the therapeutic process. One can access and express certain aspects of one's unconscious through this kind of pretending, which could be considered a form of artistic play.

Even though a character may be a memory of an actual person, that memory has come to exist in the one's imagination. For that matter, all memory -- and all that one perceives -- can only be known to one through one's imagination.

A therapist could suggest to a client,

You might take stock, take inventory, of the characters of whom you often think, and with whom (in your imagination) you often communicate (with or without language). You might seek to get a clearer sense of your inner landscape, your inner cast of characters.

That is, in your imagination: With whom do you consult? With whom do you talk? Whom do you listen to? With whom do you share your life? Who is on your mind?

In addition to memories of people you know (or knew), what other entities tend to be on your mind?

Are there ghosts or spirits (whether or not one feels they are "real")?

What recurring emotions, thoughts, and dreams (or dream images) do you experience?

A client may experience 20 or so regularly-present internal characters. In the client's imagination, some of these characters may at times talk with each other.

One’s personality traits (kindness, stubbornness, impatience, etc.), tendencies, inclinations, and emotions (immediate reactions to specific stimuli) can all be personified.

A client may benefit from seeking out and becoming "friends" with the numerous aspects of the client's personality. Once a voice/character/aspect of a client's self is discovered, once a relationship with it is established, the client's conscious ego might seek help from this aspect of the client's unconscious. Being able to access aspects of the client's unconscious can make a client a more resourceful person.

The client being able to access aspects of the client's unconscious is a central aspect of therapy. Only by accessing such aspects can a client begin to integrate the aspects of the client's self, to create a whole, unified self. Jung referred to this integration process as "Individuation".

A good way for a client to explore aspects of the client's unconscious is to produce images and voices, and thereby cause aspects of the client's soul to surface. Then the client could observe, interact with, incorporate, and utilise these hidden aspects of the client's personality.

One way for a client to work and play with material from the client's unconscious is to personify it -- that is, to pretend the aspect has human-type personality and language ability. Such a personification is a metaphor for a part of the client's self.

Examples of inner characters -- In the process of my work as a Psychological Counsellor, I have invited clients to converse with:

1) The client's angry self, and short temper -- What can be done with this "Short Temper"? What triggers it? Should he/she/it be locked up in a jail, a room, a container of some sort? Should "Short Temper" be exiled? What has caused "Short Temper" to grow?

2) The client's "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD) self -- This is an aspect of the client's self that:
A) Gets distracted and distracts,
B) Doesn't want to do anything and doesn't want the rest of one to do anything either.
C) Wants to escape reality.
D) Feels very incomplete, unsatisfied, anxious, and agitated.
E) Can't start anything, and can't finish anything.

What might this character look like? In what ways might this character move?

The client might tell this character that the character is an interesting character, but that it would not be healthy for the client to listen to, or talk with, this character too much. That is, the client may seek to set limits regarding how much attention the client might like to give to this character. No need for the client to offend the character, but the client might (in the client's imagination) seek to be firm, self-protective, and practical in relation to this character.

I have also suggested that my clients might communicate with these characters:

3) A younger version of the client's self -- a child who feels emotionally neglected, injured, and/or not-fully-nurtured. It may be helpful for the client to promise to take care of the client's injured-child self.

4) A younger version of the client's self -- a joyful child.

And also with this archetypal character:

5) A Guide (Mentor, Senior Advisor, Guru, Teacher). Walk in a forest. See a senior man or woman standing in front of a tree. Walk up to this figure and ask, "Are you my guide?" If the figure answers, "Yes", the client could then start talking with this Guide about a matter at hand.

My experience has been that clients who are comfortable creating imaginary personifications of characters and conversing with them have this in common: An adult read or told stories to the client when the client was young. This listening experience seems to tend to create a receptive and active imagination, and a familiarity with and fondness for metaphor, symbol, and fantasy. If a person did not have this listening, sharing, and imaginative experience as a child, the person is less likely to have an interest in creating and interacting with imaginary characters.

A note regarding characters based on people, personality traits, etc., in one's own life, as opposed to archetypes: Figures from one's memory of actual people may also be colored by social-cultural stereotypes, and thus may also be expressions of archetypes (universal things, feelings, situations, and characters). In the instance of what seems to be one's memory of each major "real-life" character one carries within one, there is a place where one's memory of the actual person, and one's imagination of an archetypal figure, meet. That is, the character who lives on in one's imagination is a combination of the person who was/is, and one's imagination of an archetype.

By the way: archetypes can be defined as mental images:
·         inherited from the earliest human ancestors,
·         shared by all humans, and
·         present in the collective unconscious

2)      Speaking to the characters. The client might greet the character, and thank the character for appearing, for visiting the client's consciousness.

The client could tell something to the character, giving some information, expressing some emotion, etc. The client could also ask questions of the character, such as:

·         "Might you want anything?" If yes, "What?"
·         "Do you want to tell me, or ask me, anything?" If yes, "What?"
·         "Do you know why are you presently so prominent in my thoughts?" If yes, "Why?"

If a character might seem angry or insistent, one could point this out to the character, and ask if the character indeed feels this way. If the character might answer yes, one could ask the character, "Why?"

3)      Speaking as the characters. After the client might address a character, the client could then reverse roles and reply as the character.

After all, who would know better than the client what the character might be thinking and feeling, and what the character might say? By playing both roles, the client could increase the client's understanding of, and empathy and compassion for. all concerned.  

The therapist could also invite the client to speak the thoughts of various aspects of a character, such as the character's optimistic side and/or pessimistic side. (This is a widely-used method in Psychodrama, where it is called, "Doubling.")

If the client might give permission, the therapist could also participate in the roleplaying.

4)      Thinking about the characters, including regarding where they are coming from.

After a role-playing process, the therapist could invite the client to think and talk and/or write about how and why the character came into existence, and why this character is so prominent in the client's thoughts at this point in the client's life.

Especially if a character is recurring in the client's conscious mind, it might be helpful for the client to investigate the client's unconscious mind regarding this character.

A client might seek to remember or create a "creation story" of characters within the client. A creation story might explain how this character has come to be, and why it has such a prominent place in the client's consciousness.

A creation story could be realistic (based on the client's memory of childhood experiences). It could also be fantasy, using symbols and metaphors that may represent the client's real-life experiences.

By the way: A metaphor is a thing that represents some other thing. A symbol is a thing that represents an idea.


In some instances, it may also be essential to investigate why a particular personality trait -- now playfully personified as an inner character -- exists, and why it is so prominent and powerful at this point in the client's life.

Conversing with inner characters is generally not an endpoint or solution. A conversation with a character can be a gateway to discovering any underlying distress the client may be experiencing. This underlying distress, unresolved conflict, feeling of having been abused or neglected, etc, may have contributed to a client having developed defence mechanisms and other systems of thought and behaviour which may have limiting and/or negative sides to them. In such cases, the underlying distress has to be dealt with, processed with feeling and thought, and worked through.

5)      Remembering real-life experiences related to the characters. The client could be invited to re-visit in the client's memory (that is, imagination), experiences that relate to this character. This re-visiting may bring the client to the source of the matter, helping the client to understand what happened and how the client responded.

For example, a client could seek to remember life experiences that relate to short-tempered-ness (of the client, the client's parents, etc.)

6)      Catharsis (experiencing, expressing, releasing, and understanding emotion). It is essential that a client also experiences the feelings involved (a catharsis), such as pain, anger, and perhaps eventually forgiveness of the people involved, if the client feels the client has been harmed.

Catharsis is the process of releasing strong or repressed emotions through a particular activity or experience, such as writing or even just talking.

It is a basic premise of psychotherapy that clients may benefit from discovering the emotions and experiences that helped to create the client's personality.

This process of releasing emotions:
·         helps the client to understand those emotions, and
·         provides relief from the emotions. Catharsis is a key concept in psychoanalytic theory and practice.

7)      Going forward: Interacting with the characters over time. Once a client has gone through the above-described processes, the client could go forward in life accompanied by a team of inner allies.

The client should be very cautious about permitting the client's conscious ego to judge negatively any inner "voice". Mutual respect between the client's consciousness and the elements of the client's inner world is usually called for. Each has its contributions to make to a healthy personality. The client should not seek to fully control or erase certain inner emotions and inclinations.

Regarding some destructive inner voices (characters, that is, aspects of oneself), which Jung referred to as "Shadow" characters: once their root causes have been fully investigated, and catharsis has to some degree occurred -- should be acknowledged and left "wild", untamed, as long as they do not disturb the client's consciousness too much. Such aspects could be permitted, imaginatively speaking, to roam in a forest, and be told they can not visit human habitations.

If a client attempts to suppress or repress aspects of the client's self, among the things that can happen are:
·         the "dead" might come back to life, to "haunt" the client (things might just "pop out", "erupt"),
·         the client might come to feel disorientated, dissociated (lack of connection between aspects of the client's self), discombobulated (awkwardly uncoordinated), and out-of-sync with the client's self; and experience irritability, depression, and/or loss of vitality.

Suppressing or repressing a "demon" is a temporary solution. It is usually better to seek to give voice to, understand, if possible sublimate (transform into a positive element), and contain, whatever challenging material might be coming up.

Mental health involves achieving a balance between being controlled by one's consciousness and one's unconscious. The client can compensate for limited consciousness by accessing the subterranean riches, the buried treasures, in the client's unconscious. The client's consciousness may be enlivened by the client's unconscious. This may lead to feeling renewed, revitalised, and revivified; to feeling alive; and to enjoying being alive. Material from the unconscious may also help a person to choose to proceed in a new direction.

The unconscious, and the collective unconscious, may have positive transforming influences on one's consciousness.

The entire self -- not just the conscious ego -- contains one's vitality. The conscious ego is like a rider of a horse. Results tend to be best when the rider and the horse work and play together, in partnership, with mutual respect for, and understanding of, each other.
The process of individuation involves becoming more conscious of and overcoming blockages and unresolved conflicts within oneself, and along the way becoming one's entire, whole, and mature self. The process of inner development and growth, of becoming increasingly aware of who one is, involves developing towards understanding and fulfilling one's potential, of blooming (to use a metaphor). Two aspects of the individuation process are:
·         one integrating the aspects of oneself, and
·         one integrating oneself with society and the universe.

Getting in communication with one's unconscious, by speaking with characters within oneself, may involve achieving a feeling of increased "relatedness" with aspects of one's self, and with aspects of one's environment.

NOTES:

1                  1.  Storytelling Therapy Association of India,


2. A 7-step Storytelling Therapy method is detailed at http://storytellinginstitute.org/216.html