On an ordinary day, waiting for a phone call from a good friend, I noticed an inner battle start to brew.
Stepping back further into observation mode, I noticed a few peculiar inner voices arise. On one side, there was a bratty little voice. She was entitled. She wanted things fixed and done immediately. On the other side, there was a voice I later identified as my martyr. She told me, “You get what you get and you can’t feel upset.”
If I hadn’t already been sitting down I probably would have taken a full step back. I could not believe my ears! All of this commentary was over whether or not to call back the plumber to fix the dripping sink he had “repaired” the day before. Who gets internal battles over this slight of an event? Apparently, I do!
With my newfound awareness, I realized this conflict has been going on “quietly” for years. Now I could finally see why I feel so wishy-washy making decisions and taking action. I finally had the key to understanding a new aspect of my psyche. My inner entitled brat, who motivates me to make choices for only myself, had been repeatedly beat-down by my inner martyr who gives and gives, even at her own expense and well-being.
While I have continuously been working towards understanding my inner world through introspection and meditation, it wasn’t until I read about “active imagination” that my realization really set in. I learned this technique in the book, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert A. Johnson, a Jungian psychologist. The gist of the practice is to sit down with pen and paper (or preferred electronic device) and imagine having an inner dialogue with a certain aspect of yourself who wants to be heard.
Active imagination helped me understand my own unmet needs. Before finding awareness of my brat versus martyr battle, I had not spoken with either aspect directly. Instead, I chatted with “the sleepless one,” who wakes me up at 3:00 a.m. with all sorts of nagging details. Another aspect is “starving for attention,” an overweight and dramatic personality who feels ignored by me and much of society. She loudly gives voice to the parts of me I have repeatedly denied.
Typically to connect with these inner aspects I consciously enter a meditative state and call forth the voice I want to converse with. It surprised me that I was able to objectively hear the argument between the brat and martyr in an ordinary state! To me, this speaks to the power and benefit of practicing introspection.
Now I know we all have inner aspects that are dying to be heard. We expend great amounts of energy to keep their voices suppressed, and at the end of the day, it makes us miserable. It can be a real challenge to understand what they are trying to tell us because we’ve never learned how to genuinely connect with them. Active imagination is a fantastic way to get in touch with our inner realms for a deeper understanding of where we are coming from and, eventually, know where we are going.
May we all welcome all of our inner selves to speak, and continue taking steps towards the lifelong journey within!
Author: Tiffany Bertolacci
Image: Jason Rosewell/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell