We like to think that we're consciously in control of everything we do, but the reality is that the emotions, beliefs and memories buried deep in our subconscious are running the show most of the time. And while the subconscious baggage we accumulate may have served a purpose in the past, sometimes it isn't so helpful in our present day lives. Getting in touch with our subconscious to change what's lurking down there so that it works for us rather than against us is hard because our conscious thinking gets in the way and we can end up just over-analysing ourselves.
A few years back I decided that some self-awareness was what I was missing. I just didn't see myself as positively and as capable as I seemed to be in other people's eyes. So I found a group working on self-awareness by doing inner child work. They used a simple technique called Voice Dialogue, which involves role-plays where a facilitator talks directly to each of the many different characters which make up our personalities. Our Inner Child is just one of many such characters, and the facilitator led me through a process of inviting each of these characters to come out and have their say about what they contribute to my life. Doing these role plays enabled me to bypass my usual conscious tendency to analyse everything, and allowed me to get in touch with and release some of my deeply buried emotions. You see, I didn't really feel like a grown-up; it seemed as though everything I did was dominated by some scared inner child that was totally running my life, and didn't seem happy.
The technique also included some guided visualisations involving my inner characters. In one visualisation, I created a “safe place” for Little Graham. It's on a hillside near the sea, and it's protected by a Star-Trek-like force field/shield that only I can enter. Inside, I'm protected from everything and everyone out in the world. There's a hut there where Little Graham can go when he's scared, which is so full of love that it's like jelly inside. He can wade through it without even touching the floor. And there's Lego there to play with so Little Graham doesn't get bored. There are also five animals: a giraffe who can see a long way and knows whatever is coming; a lion who offers protection; a dolphin who is fun to play with and ride; an elephant that isn't swayed or pushed around by anything; and a fox who is smart and cunning. Whenever Little Graham isn't feeling good, he can go to the safe place. He doesn't have to worry any more about trying to fix things; he can just relax and be a kid, while the grown-ups do the work of living in the adult world.
Now if that all sounds a bit weird to you, keep in mind that the aim of the technique is to bypass your conscious analytical thinking in order to get in touch with your subconscious. I needed to put aside my preconceptions, and ignore that voice in my head that kept telling me that I was being ridiculous during all these exercises. Interestingly enough, that voice sounded a lot like my mother's voice, which told me I must have been getting close to some buried stuff which it didn't want me to access. Even when a change is in our best interests, often one of our characters will resist it. I had to go with the flow in order for the technique to work, and it was amazing what emotions and different characters came up for me by doing it.
I found this technique really helpful, but I'm not an expert on it by any means; I know someone who is though, and that's John Nutting. If you want to know more, check out his website on Voice Dialogue – Inner Self Awareness.