Multitemporal Thoughts about Multicentered Soulwork, Part 2

Some history about multicentered mind

Carl Jung was not the first person who noticed the power of person’s imaginational parts. And he was not the only guy who did his imagitional soul work by writing and drawing. After reading some philosophy, psychology and literature I have come to conclusion that the idea of multicentered mind is very old. As John Rowan (Discover Your Subpersonalities) reminds us, most primitive cultures, both ancient and modern, have been aware of what we have been called the continuum of dissociation, from altered states of consciousness to moods to subersonalities to spirit possesion to multiple personality. … The earliest example I have come across of somebody actually talking to a subpersonality, and being answered back, comes in an Egyptian document of approximately 2200 BC – a dialogue between a suicidal man and his soul.

Plato writes about three parts of the psyche: the rational, the appetitive and spirited one. St. Augustine in Confessions speaks with his soul and especially in night time with his pagan part. Many philosophers since Socrates use the idea of inner dialog and some of them use alteregos. My favourite one is Soren Kierkeaard who had about twenty fantasy rich alteregos. His whole philosophy was written completely by his alteregos. And other very interesting ecophilosopher is Henryk Skolimowsky: He has written metaphysical speculations about inner theater. I think that our mental states are huge resources of new understanding.

In 19th century starts the big scientific debate about multicenterness by F.W.Myers, William James, Alfred Binet and later in the 20th century this tradition is continued by for example Eugen Bleuler, Pierre Janet, Jacob Moreno (psychodrama) Carl Jung and Kurt Lewin.

In literature the phenomenon ”alterego” has been known for a long time. The major figure in these conversations about alteregos in in the beginning of literature research history was Marcel Proust. There are many other examples. The writers for ages have used their alteregos. Even one of Virgina Woolf’s charachter Bernad says ”I’ am not one person: I am many people.” Herman Hesse writes 1975 his Steppenwolf, which is a story about the bourgeois man who has a wolf-like subpersonality. But Hesse show how this story of a man and a wolf is a convenient fiction. It is a way of simplifying and making understandable what in reality is far from simple and not at all understandable. For in reality there is not a single human being, not the simplest or most primitive, who is so obvious as to be explained as the sum of two or three principal elements. Harry, he says, consists of hundred or a thousand selves, not of two. His life oscillates, as everyone does, not merely between two poles, such as the body and the sprit, the saint and the sinner, but between thousands, between innumerable poles. (John Rowan)

The tradition of multicentered mind continues: Helen and John Watkins (Egostate therapy), Hal and Sitra Stone (Voicedialog), Rita Carter, John Rowan and many, many other psychologists continue ideas about the plural self. As we all know there has been under last decades a huge interest in role playing, which is, in my opinion a method of practicing playing with the different fantasy views. The advantage of plural self is in my opinion that it goes beyond the traditional view in Western countries which overemphasizes materialistic world view. It gives a voice to oppresed people.

We live in a fragmentated multicultural world and it sets s huge demands on individual. Some therapists insist that a dissociated multicentered personality was before an exception but nowadays, if you want to cope in the multi-voiced world, you have to have different subpersonalities, alteregos or egostates. Or as psychohistorian Robert Jay Lifton puts it: You have to be a protean self. He writes (The Protean Self) for example: We are becoming fluid and many-sided. Without quite realizing it, we have been evolving a sense of self appropriate to the restlessness and flux of our time. This mode of being differs radically from that of the past, and enables us to engage in continous exploration and personal experiment. I have named it the ”protean self” after Proteus, the Greek sea od of many forms… The protean self represents and alternative to violence. Violence always has an absolute quality: behavior is reduced to a single, narrow focus; and in that sense, violence is a dead end, Proteanism, in contrast, provides a capcacity to avoid dead ends.

I think that our egostates or subpersonalities compose a “dialogical self” which goes according to Wikipedia far beyond the self-other dichotomy by infusing the external to the internal and, in reverse, to introduce the internal into the external. As functioning as a “society of mind”, the self is populated by a multiplicity of “self-positions” that have the possibility to entertain dialogical relationships with each other.

Hubert Hermans has created his own theory about Dialogical Self. He writes in his article (My Personal Inspiration: Why am I doing this?): I feel that conceiving the self as a society of mind has the potential of transcending a long-standing separation in the social sciences, between the individual and society, which would suggest that it is possible to understand the existence of an individual as standing on himself, as separated from the people with whom he lives together and with whom he lived together in the past. When the self is approached as a “society,” at the same time being an intrinsic part of the society at large, we create a conceptual bridge that enables us to link individual and society, psychology and sociology, and psychotherapy and community building. In my own words I would say the same, that we can internalize our projections and activate our archetyphes. This active imagination process links our concioussnesses to each other. With our play with different alterstates or subpersonalities, we can start to see inauthenticity of conventional environments and we can see more clearly that all the mental problems are not personal ones. I personally felt in my psychophysical crisis that I was suffocating and I had huge amounts of anger inside of me. But ever since starting journaling with my egostates I have been able to change my shadows into the narrative new forms, and the anger inside of me has changed in to hope of better multi-voiced future, where materialistic world view with it’s consumerism does not dominate.

Dissociation is an event in the center of ego state doubling phenomenon. It is a concept which is used to describe those systems of ideas that exist in connection with a ”subconscious” center of consciousness, but not connected with normal consciousness (Automatism and Secondary Centers of Consiousness, Adam Crabtree). Pierre Janet noticed that dissociated secondary personalities can have influence on ordinary consciousness without the person being aware of this happening. So what I have been trying to do in my active imagination journaling, is that I have activated processes, which has made me more and more aware of these subconcious personalities. So I think that if we want to widen our concioussness, we have to become more conciouss of our introjections (internalized peers), projections and archetypal states.

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