Aug 27 2009
In the past I have been appalled by the embarrassing antics of my ego. I’ve felt like a mortified mother in a supermarket with a little monster who was acting out. To that little monster, the mortified mother was “the Momster”, trying to control and subdue it with criticism and shaming. I used to wonder, “How is anyone ever going to love me when I have all THAT going on inside me?” I tried to hide and get rid of these parts of myself, but that was futile – it was like pushing down a Jack-in-the-box; when tension built, POP goes the weasel, and all hell would break lose, again! I wondered what to do about this motley, menacing menagerie within me.
Fortunately, along the way, I discovered the miracle of mindfulness. In 1990 I participated in a two-year Hakomi training where we were taught to develop a compassionate witness – an inner Jane Goodall who sits in the expansive field of awareness, observing the monkeys in our mind, and all their shenanigans, with non-judgmental curiosity. Through the magic of mindfulness these manic monkeys calm down. Instead of seeing them as malevolent beasts, I learned to see them with compassion, to befriend them, and understand that they came into being to help us cope, be safe and survive in this jungle called life.
Several years later I discovered Gay and Katie Hendricks’ Conscious Loving Foundation workshop. There we were encouraged to not only befriend our ego defenses and life strategies (Personas), but to play with them and give them names. I met my husband Tom in an advanced Hendricks training. We danced together during the breaks, playfully moving like wild chimps, making monkey faces and noises at each other. We were having fun letting the other see our most contorted, ugly faces. Instead of being uninvited guests, we welcomed our defenses to the party. When defenses aren’t invited to the party, they crash it. So we might as well welcome them, play with them, and put the fun into fundamentally flawed!
Gay and Katie created an ingenious tool for getting to know these parts of ourselves, called the Persona Interview. You tell an interviewer the name of the persona you want interviewed. (Some of Tom’s persona names are Professor Reason A Bull, Mona Lott, and Mr. Oh Oh – some of mine are Goody Two Shoes, Chopped Liver, and The Incredible Sulk). The interviewer invites you to get into the posture and character of that persona, and then ask the persona the following questions: (I’ll use The Incredible Sulk as an example):
(Picture my Incredible Sulk persona standing with arms folded, head down, lower lip protruding).
Welcome, Incredible Sulk. What’s the most important thing to you?
I want people to pay attention to me.
Incredible Sulk, what are you most proud of?
I Do get peoples attention.
Incredible Sulk, when did you make your first appearance?
When I was a little girl, maybe 3 or 4.
Incredible Sulk, who did you learn your style from?
Incredible Sulk, what are you most afraid of?
I’m afraid that no one cares about me and how I feel.
Incredible Sulk, what do you most want?
I want to matter and be important to someone.
Thank you, Incredible Sulk.
This is a great way to gain insight into our personas, to feel compassion and understanding for them and discover the essence qualities at the heart of them.
After the workshop Tom and I spent the week together, mostly at my house on the Santa Barbara Riviera. During that week, every day, all day, there was a slow, steady, metronomic sound in the distance, a pound, pound, pounding of pilings being installed for the foundation of a new building downtown. That was the perfect background sound for the beginning of our relationship – we were building a strong foundation by being fully present and authentic with each other, revealing all our personas, defenses and life strategies, creating a space of acceptance, a vast playground where everything could show up. I would ask myself, “Can I reveal THAT to him?” Yes, I could. I’ve always felt a deep desire to be All of myself, to be real, to take the girdle off and let it all hang out. I longed to find someone who would hang out with me in that space of ungirded openness, curiosity and exploration.
Ten years later Tom and I still live and play on that playground. We are allies in mindfully witnessing and sharing our ego defenses, revealing our inner tribe of chimps. From the perspective of the big open field of awareness, our egos are very funny – our egos are our funny amigos. Tom and I are partners in wholeness, welcoming and learning from all of our ego amigos. We are actually much more than partners…we are wholeners…becoming whole together by loving and accepting the whole menagerie of inner selves! One day I asked Tom, “Do you love all of me’s?” He smiled and said, “One of me’s does.”
Do you love all of you’s? Or are there some who mortify you and make you cringe? Invite them to the party and give them a party hat! When we welcome all parts of us, the party transforms into a wholely experience.