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Voice Dialogue


Disowned Selves and Our Relationships

Hal and Sidra STONE, Ph. D. (see

excerpted from "Embracing Each Other”, 1989,
Delos, Inc., Albion, California 95410-0604, U.S.A.

If we have grown up more identified with those selves in us that are associated with personal power, it would be most natural that we would disown the selves associated with vulnerability and neediness.

Our acting ego would be identified with power. This means that in the course of growing up we have learned that vulnerability is something bad, something to be mastered. The power side judges vulnerability as something negative and, with time, an automatic shut-off valve comes into operation whenever vulnerability is experienced. When we meet someone who is more identified with vulnerability, our power side (which is our acting ego) tends to critically judge or react negatively to that person although at the same time we might feel a strong attraction to the person.

Some basic principles of functioning of the inner selves, especially regarding the disowned ones :

1. For every primary self with which we are identified, there are one or more disowned selves of equal and opposite energy.

2. Each disowned self is projected onto some person or thing. 

3. The people whom we hate, judge, or have strong negative reactions toward are direct representations of our disowned selves. Conversely, the people whom we overvalue emotionally are also direct representations of our disowned selves.

4. As a corollary to the third principle: each person we judge, hate, reject, or each person we overvalue, is a potential teacher for us, if we can step back and see how the basis of our reaction is a disowned self of our own.

5. So long as a self is disowned within us, we will continue to repeatedly attract that particular energy in our life. Thus, the universe will bring us the people we judge, hate, and resent over and over again until we finally get the message that they are reflections of that which is disowned in us. Conversely, the universe will keep bringing us people whom we find marvelous and irresistible, and who make us feel inadequate, inferior and unworthy, until we realize that these people are showing us aspects of ourselves that we have disowned. 

These principles have immense consequences in the realm of human relationships. Let us look at four examples from our Voice Dialogue therapy practice to see how they operate.

JANE: Jane has grown up in a family where her natural sensuality had to be disowned. When she was a little girl, her mother was extremely critical of her whenever she danced in a sensual way, and especially when she acted sensually in relationship to her father, with whom she had a particularly strong bond. Jane eventually married, but she had no awareness of the degree to which her own sensual nature was locked away. One evening she and her husband went to a party. There she saw a woman close to her own age who was a pure "Aphrodite" type. This woman had had several drinks and was flirting outrageously with several men, who were happily flirting back.  Jane was revolted by this display and said to her husband: "That is the most disgusting sight I have ever seen!" What had happened? Watching this woman activated those selves in Jane that are related to her sensuality. Once those impulses began to emerge from within Jane, another self, based on her mother's rejection of sensuality, came into operation to suppress them.
The name we give to this inner voice of the mother is the "introjected mother."
The introjected mother blocks these impulses within by judging or attacking the person outside who carries the impulses.   
The more powerful the affective reaction we have toward the other person, the stronger is the power of the disowned self. In this example, Jane's strong reaction indicated the presence of a powerful disowned sensual self. If Jane understood the basis of her strong negative reaction, what a marvelous opportunity she would have to reclaim this very basic part of herself.

SHERRY: Sherry works in an office, and she hates her boss. She describes her as domineering, power hungry, and unfeeling. Sherry had a mother who fit this same description. Very early in life, Sherry vowed she would never be this way, and she began disowning the part of herself that had to do with power and domination. In their place as primary selves appeared her very caring and loving nature. Now, whenever she was around anyone who carried her disowned attributes, Sherry became unbearably irritable and critical. If Sherry understood the issue of disowned selves, she could have realized she was reacting, not to a person, but to a part of herself buried deep within; she could have used the opportunity presented by her boss as a challenge for her own personal development.  

GEORGE: George saw himself as a scrupulously honest businessman, but he had a strong dishonest streak in him that he had always denied. This disowned dishonesty led him to become involved in a business venture with a man who was fundamentally dishonest and cheated George out of a good deal of money. His denial of his own “inner psychopath” (and we all possess such selves) made it very difficult to acknowledge the reality of this behavior in his business partner. Even after it happened, George had a difficult time accepting the reality that he had been cheated. This disowning of one's own dishonest self is one of the reasons why so many people get cheated so easily.

: Steve was a lawyer who was committed to being a loving human being at all times.  He totally rejected the idea that any form of darkness existed in the world. In his business life, he got involved with strong criminal elements that almost destroyed his career.

The denial of the dishonest and criminal parts of themselves led both Steve and George into destructive situations.

That is the paradox of disowned selves: we are drawn to the very people who carry these "unacceptable" qualities for us. This holds true whether the "unacceptable" qualities are good or bad; it applies to the persons we overvalue as well as those we despise. Life will constantly bring us face to face with people who represent our disowned selves, until we begin to reclaim them.




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