Value Inner Diversity
STAR Foundation Newsletter
Value inner diversity
by Thom Rutledge, L.C.S. W.
Probably the most important thing I have to teach people is that human consciousness is multiple, not singular, in nature. Not one of us is just one person. And I have never known anyone who claimed to have unanimous agreement among inner-committee members one hundred per cent of the time. I have known some people who come pretty close to this claim that they do not experience cognitive dissonance and it is my considered opinion that these are dangerously closed-minded people. The danger may be to themselves, to others, or both.
A man feels responsible for the suicide of his ex-wife, and after several months of psychotherapy he remains unchanged in this regard. In spite of evidence to the contrary, he still believes that he is to blame for her death, and he continues to live with overwhelming remorse, regret, and shame. Resolution for this man begins only when he explores the multiple nature of his consciousness. Making good use of the inner-committee metaphor, he discovers that while the self-blaming message is certainly the loudest, most constant, and most convincing voice, there are others. He discovers a part of himself that actually respects his ex-wife’s decision to commit suicide. It’s not the same as saying I’m okay with it, he says, but this part of me really does know how much emotional pain she lived with for many, many years. Another voice on his inner-committee expressed compassion for him; it spoke like a kind parent, understanding how and why he blames himself, but clarifying that ultimately her decision was not his responsibility.
This man still lives with pain, and part of that pain continues to come from his self-blaming voice. But with his awareness and respect for the multiple nature of his consciousness, his psyche no longer works as a winner-take-all system meaning that the loudest and most constant message always becomes the party line. Now he has the ability to experience the various perspectives, opinions, and feelings within himself, without feeling like he has to choose one and stay with it.
Another man is stuck in a different way. He is extremely defensive, and tends to see everything as somebody else’s fault. Unlike the first man, he does not suffer with persistent self-blame. His problem seems to be quite the opposite, but it isn’t really. The problem for both men is the tendency to think of themselves as singular in nature. The second man is so threatened by the prospect of being wrong that his loudest, winner-take-all voice screams, It’s not my fault!
When he applies the metaphor of the inner-committee and is asked if there is any part of him that sometimes thinks he is to blame, he is able to acknowledge that there is. Accepting the multiple nature of our consciousness allows us to listen past the loudest voice.
By understanding that multiplicity is the nature of our human consciousness and by applying that understanding via the metaphor of inner-committee, we can all dismantle our winner-take-all systems, and perceive ourselves more realistically as the crowded minds we really are.
Thom Rutledge, L.C.S.W., is a psychotherapist and author of several books, including Embracing Fear (Harper San Francisco). He is also a member of the STAR Foundation Advisory Board. Thom sends out periodic E-Minders (for the therapeutically forgetful) that are always interesting and helpful; to subscribe or to write Thom: email@example.com. For more information, visit www.thomrutledge.com.