If we think of ourselves as a ‘community’, rather than a single ‘person’ we have started down the path of self-awareness and self-understanding — and of becoming a more balanced and complete individual.
Four of the five large (empty) circles shown in Stage 1 are ‘new lands’, planets if you will that are largely outside of our awareness. We may not even know they exist. Or, if we are vaguely aware of them, they feel foreign, and are often viewed with suspicion, even aversion — the ‘no, that’s not really me’ pieces of ourselves. The small black circle, representing our consciousness, shows us living in a single space, encircled, limited. We haven’t yet looked through the telescope or knocked, with curiosity, on our next door neighbour’s door. There’s nothing unusual about it.
In Stage 2, our ‘awareness’ shifts slightly — or, more properly, expands. We continue to view things from our original ‘self’ (small black dot) — but we develop a sense of these ‘neighbouring selves’. Think back to the first time, as a child perhaps, when you left your home property to explore your ‘street’, maybe heading off to attend school. ‘Home’ continues to be your primary base of operation — but other, similar ‘houses’ now become a part of your world.
The move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 is significant. A number of changes in our conscious awareness occur.
– First, we move our primary point of view to a more central location — namely, into the centre of our ‘solar system’. Instead of the ego-centric, single-minded, ‘Earth-bound’ perspective, we allow that these ‘other worlds’ are a part of our space — and not ‘foreign bodies’ that occupy the house next door, or the neighbouring street.
– Secondly, we risk exploring these other selves. Recall first visits to a friend’s house. Instead of walking past and wondering who all occupies the dwelling, you go in, explore, and meet the other occupants — parents, siblings of a friend.
– As was likely true in childhood, the inhabitants of these ‘other spaces’ were people we already knew and liked. These were the ‘comfortable, easy places’ to visit and explore. Other ‘houses’, we came to know, were occupied by less appealing residents. Naturally, we tended to give a wide berth to those places; perhaps even developing a dislike of, deserved or not, the individuals, wishing they’d ‘move out of the neighbourhood’. Nevertheless, this second group is a part of the community and will remain so going forward.
– Our work in Stage 3 is to begin to understand and identify the parameters or aspects that define and characterize these other places in our consciousness. A useful exercise is to recall your immediate neighbourhood as a child. Who lived next door? Which houses did you frequent? Which ones did you avoid — and why? Which ones remained something of a mystery, had a particular ‘feel’ to them? Which ones became familiar destinations? Did you develop ‘short cuts’ to and from certain places? Were some ‘pathways’ well travelled, others risky and little used — and why? With this exercise, is it possible to suspend judgment of each of these ‘houses’; to think of them in neutral terms, without attaching a label, positive or negative, to them? The exercise is simply to remember, not evaluate or judge.
– Our perspective, as began with Stage 2, moves to a fully centralized posture. We effectively still ‘live our house’; but are aware of the neighbourhood. And we’ve begun to investigate.
Stage 4 is by far the most challenging shift. Now, instead of occupying one ‘place’, we allow that there are many selves. We recognize these aspects as significant pieces, parts of the whole. Our ‘core self’ will continue to be the centralized ‘bus driver’. But we begin to spend time in the other dwellings, ‘staying over’ in other houses. As with the ‘neighbourhood’ analogy, some elements will be acceptable, places where we like to hang out — the best friend’s home. Others will be more difficult to tolerate, perhaps being avoided, denied as a ‘piece of you’.
The critical work in Stage 4 includes a number of aspects:
– Recognition of not just the ‘who’ occupies a particular place, but what their ‘purpose’ might be. Why are they in the neighbourhood? What do they bring to the community? There will always be ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. Learning to allow someone to remain, despite the differences in values, beliefs, behaviours between ‘them’ and the core self can be very difficult. A simple exercise in recognition is to create a descriptive label for your various elements. Personally, my critic, my empath, my competitor, my cynic, my analyst are all part of the constellation. They have their roles, all of which contribute, many of which conflict, one with another. Could I do without some? Unlikely. Would I prefer one or two might be less present? Almost certainly.
– Acceptance that all aspects are a part of the fully formed ‘you’. Like any neighbourhood, each aspect ‘moved in’ for a reason. Stage 4 is about getting to know these ‘subs’ (sub-personalities) and cultivating a relationship with each that allows their presence.
– Learning from each aspect. If we can suspend judgment, we are more open to listening to what each of these individuals has to say, what they have to teach us. As is often the case, the more ‘difficult’ a resident is, the more important the lesson might be. Developing a sense of ‘voice’ is also critical. As with neighbours, not all ‘sound alike’. Learning to recognize ‘who is speaking’ — and giving them ‘air time’ — is a part of Stage 4. As these are all ‘pieces of us’, we have the potential equally to modify their ‘styles’. The neighbour who throws open the window and yells at us to get off the lawn is less likely to be heeded than one that uses a softer approach. Some of our aspects with be crusty, loud, inappropriate, and intolerant — benefiting from a bit of ‘socializing’.
Finally, as with neighbourhoods, occupants move in and move out. Residents may remain but will evolve, develop different relationships within the community. This is a dynamic process and one that benefits principally from openness, attention, and acceptance.