Posts Tagged ‘subpersonalities’

I talk to myself every so often (and I do mean outloud).

I’ve caught other perfectly rational people doing the same thing, if unwittingly, in their offices, at a train stop, at the supermarket, etc. ( of course, usually sub-voce).

There is an understandable social stereotype about it as crazy behavior, but it can be so much more than an eccentricity. The beauty of our times is that as long as you have an ear piece in place, everyone attributes the talking to a cell phone exchange rather than psychosis.

When we reflect, after all, we are talking to ourselves ( at least internally) and the monologue often bears fruit. So, why not formalize it as a practice for spiritual centering.

Witkins introduced the notion of sub personalities, or the dramatis personae of the mind. By assuming the character of different “masks” of the self, we can explore our relationship to bona fide aspects of our self concept and so transcend fixation on one idea.

Having a dialogue between sub-personalities avoids obsessionally rigid attachment to one construction of the self. Instead, we are free, as are actors, to explore the full range of our imaginative personological repertoire.

The best actors are, in fact, very astute observers of other people. They cultivate a keen sense of empathy and a capacity to relate to them from the inside-out. Research shows that actors are often more insightful and empathic than psychologists.

My sense of self is a convenient fiction that I’ve built over time by virtue of successes, failures, role models, recognition, choices, experience, pleasure and pain. Recognition of our inner plurality brings us closer to the Divine Spirit within. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: ” the Kingdom of God is within you. ”

The value of having occasional dialogues with oneself has the potential virtue of also helping create a more adaptive disposition that may well lead to heightened resiliency. So, with these thoughts in mind, I embark for a brief time on a journey of interior dialogue.

As stage setting, I imagine a conversation between three sub-personalities that articulate aspects of myself, on the subject of spiritual living in the 21st century. I will name them: Alpha, a theologian; Beta, a scientist; and Gamma, a poet.

Alpha: “If our theology is to be alive and full and relevant to this age, we must refresh our metaphors and embrace the insights of the sciences. For too long, the humanities and the sciences have been viewed as diametrically opposed. They are not. We need to find shared space within which these two mindsets and lines of inquiry can collaborate.”

Gamma: “Yes, but while avoiding “physics envy” in doing so. I find that the desire for the social sciences and humanities to embrace the new physics attempts to use the language of science or superficially invoke science as a way to give merely the appearance of being more empirically rigorous. We need to approach mystery with enough humility to accept that doing so means tolerating diverse viewpoints and methods including metaphor, myth, story-telling, imagination.”

Beta: “I agree with you both. When we challenge the assumptions of mathematics and upon uncovering a contradiction, we give rise to a new mathematics ( like non- Euclidean geometries). Science opens us up to even grander mystery and our tools bring tests to our hypotheses but, at the end of the day, we stand face to face with mystery, and the more we uncover the more we don’t know. More than anything else, science teaches us to bring rigor to our thinking but also a passion for proving ourselves wrong in the interest of going ever deeper.”

Gamma: “I am struck by the power of poetic metaphor in science that supports what you are seeing. One sees an almost childlike affection for fanciful and deeply evocative language in naming phenomena that suggests the power of metaphor in often revealing truths later verified by evidence: for example, black holes, white holes, strange attractors, big bang, strings, the multiverse, the G-d particle, etc.”

Alpha: “What’s needed in this century then, if we draw together what we are saying here today, is a theophysics, that blends the imaginative and indeed poetic starting points as we build of our hypotheses and pursue research informed by the richest multi-disciplinary look at our encounter with mystery. To my way of thinking, the best measure that we are doing things right lies in the awe we feel in the face of whatever we uncover.”

Beta: “I think we will continue to find that deep truth emerges at the intersections among models, paradigms, and professions. Playing in the intersections demands humility, open-mindedness, and a passion for studying all aspects of what it is to “Be” from as many perspectives as possible.”

Gamma: “And doing that is made possible by dialogues like this.”

Alpha: “I agree.”

Beta: “Without question. So let’s bring more voices into our next exchange.”

I wish you many rich interior dialogues.

In the Garden

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