Self Dialogue

Working With Your Many Selves


Self Dialogue - Working With Your Many Selves. Graphic

Introducing Self Dialogue

The key to effective self dialogue is to have tools, techniques and resources that work with all levels of your mind.

This simple self-facilitated technique that I am going to share with you here will enable you to do two things:

  1. To access your unconscious and "hard to reach" parts to enable you to break and change habits and to overcome your inner resistance to personal change.
  2. To access, experience and communicate directly with your higher or transcendent self to give you the power to actually follow through and make these changes and have them stick.


The Many Selves

When you refer to "myself" you are not referring to one singular entity but a very complex amalgam of many different aspects of your self  sometimes referred to as the internal family of selves -also known as "sub-personalities".

Your selves are often in conflict with reach other, and this is the underlying reason why you can’t keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and why you are largely immune or resistant to personal change.

This is why the so-called "self help" industry is so large and why so many of us spend so much money and time on all this but generally don’t change.


The Background To Self Dialogue

The term Self Dialogue can be used in a general sense to describe an internal conversation within yourself between different elements or perspectives within your mind.

The process that I use, and that I refer to as Self Dialogue, is adapted from Voice Dialogue
a Jungian therapeutic technique developed by Drs Hal and Sidra Stone, and the Big Mind process developed by US Zen Master Genpo Roshi to integrate the insights and processes of Voice Dialogue with the Zen tradition.

From a therapeutic perspective the Stones came to see that an over-identification with some selves and rejection of other selves creates imbalances that are often reflected in our resistance to certain situations and certain people and especially to change.

Having worked with the Stones over a number of years, Genpo Roshi came to realise that their process of accessing and giving voice to the selves (especially the denied or disowned selves) could be adapted to allow non Zen practitioners access to transcendent states and to do so more on less on demand.

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist nor am I a counselor or trained in anyway to offer training or advice on these or any related therapies or techniques. This article is a sharing of my understanding and experiences for your interest only.







Self Dialogue - The Key Players


The Family Of Selves


Controlling Self

  • This is the voice of your ego, this is the you that wants to control every aspect of your your life.
  • This is the you that mistakenly thinks it is all of you.
  • This you is noisy and loud and is very closely aligned with your basic emotions to do with your flight / fight response and your pleasure instincts all coming from your inner chimp.
  • This is the you that speaks about myself, my life, my doctor, my career, my this, my that, my everything.
  • This is the part of you that orchestrates and stage manages all of your other selves
  • This is the part of you that has to give up control - the key to your being able to move forward mentally, emotionally and spiritually.


Observing Self

  • This is the witnessing or observing you.
  • This is a calm, peaceful and neutral you.
  • This is the you that watches your thoughts and emotions as they arise and dissipate.
  • This is the you that behaves like a scout and is scanning your internal mental and emotional landscape.
  • This is the you that is present in mindfulness practice.
  • This is the part of you that so often gets fused with the thinking you, your monkey mind.


Aware-Facilitator Self

  • This is the you that is self aware.
  • This is the you that has emotional intelligence and maturity.
  • This is the you that wants the best for you.
  • This is the you of your "better nature" and that makes positive, creative, helpful suggestions e.g. lose weight, stop smoking, start exercising, take up a hobby, start meditating etc.
  • This is you that facilitates direction, purpose and change in your life.
  • This is the you that so often comes into conflict with your other selves that do not share its agenda.
  • This is the you that is so often under-resourced and therefore not strong enough to implement all its good ideas.


Higher Self

  • This is the big you, the transcendent you, the you that is often referred to as your higher consciousness or higher self.
  • This is the you that acts as your conscious mind's portal to the universe, everything conventionally thought of as outside of you.
  • This is the you that is connected to every thing and everyone else.
  • This is the non-dualistic you that does not see distinction between "this and that" and experiences "everything" as unity.
  • This is the you and exists in the dimension of spirituality.
  • This is the you that is beyond your thinking mind.
  • This you can not be thought and can only be experienced.
  • This is the you that is beyond time and space.
  • This is the all powerful you.
  • In the Christian expression this is the God or Divine you.
  • In the Buddhist expression this is the Buddha mind, the enlightened mind or the "Big Mind".
  • This is the you upon which you expend so much time, effort and energy while you are stuck in seeking.
  • This is you that is always here - now, in the present moment.
  • The critical question is: "How difficult is it to put aside the controlling self and find the Higher Self?"  The answer is that it can take years, or with the right preparation, a few minutes.


Opposite Selves

There two key points here:

[1] There are multiple selves - literally hundreds or thousands of selves, probably unlimited selves.

  • Each self represents an aspect, a perspective, an emotion or a motive - all part of the totality of you.
  • There are various models used to describe this  - but regardless of the model used the key point is that there are multiple you!

[2] For each and every self there is an opposite self.

  • Think of this, in simple terms, as twins.
  • There is the "good" twin and the "bad" twin.
  • So for example: I know that I have a smoking self and a non-smoking self. I have a "wanting to be thin self" and I have an "I love food and I just want to keep on eating self". I have an "exercising self" and "lazy self".
  • We are frequently unaware of all of our "good" selves and we are usually even less aware of our "bad" selves.
  • We are more complex than we may realise!






Self Dialogue - The Rules Of Engagement

The Rules Of Engagement In Self Dialogue


Do not over think any of this.

  • Please run with this process as given.
  • This process only works when you just go for it – just do it – with no conscious thinking about it.
  • Just go with whatever comes up and say it without any filtering, analysis or internal commentary.
  • When you speak as the voice of a self – you (temporarily) become that self.

Treat your selves as real people not inanimate objects.

  • They are real people within your whole self. They have identity and should be treated with respect.
  • They want to be allowed to speak and express themselves.
  • They want [and need] to be listened to.
  • They may need and ask for your permission and support  to fulfill their role in your life.
  • They may ask to be empowered. The secret sauce here is your Higher Self as I will illustrate in the example below of how I stopped smoking.

Facilitator Self is going to run this process

  • Speaking as Facilitator Self  ask your Controlling Self [ego] for permission to run this Self Dialogue process. [Ask it politely and respectfully as a person.]
  • Then ask Controlling Self to fulfill an important task during this process and ask it bring forward each of the selves who would like to speak, line them up in an orderly queue and only allow one to speak at a time.
  • In the voice of your Controlling Self give the requested permission to Facilitator Self and accept the requested task.
  • This element of the process works because we are not by-passing the ego or dropping the ego we are involving it with an important task.
  • Put simply it is better to engage the Controlling Self rather than fighting it.

Facilitator Self asks each self that wants to speak the following questions:


  • What is your name? [e.g. I am anxious self.]
  • What is your role in YOUR NAME's life? [My role is to worry about YOUR NAME.]
  • What are you feeling and what would you like to say? [ Anxious self expresses itself and says what ever it want to say.
  • [When the self has finished speaking] Facilitator Self asks if the anxious self is OK now and feels heard - or does anxious self need help from another self?
  • Usually being heard is sufficient, but in some situations the self will need empowerment.
  • This where Facilitator Self asks Higher Self to provide the power and energy that the self needs. See the giving up smoking example below


Facilitator Self is running this process exactly as it would if it was dealing with a group of physical people enacting these roles.







Self Dialogue In Practice

[1] How I reduced extreme stress using the Self Dialogue process



The Higher Self

About 10 years ago I went through a very difficult time.

I was experiencing a lot of uncertainty, stress and confusion in my life related to some business and financial issues.

Here is how I applied the Self Dialogue process:

  • I went out for a walk; somewhere quiet where I could talk out-loud and no one would hear me.
  • Speaking in the voice of the Facilitator of the process I asked to speak to my ego – my Controlling Self – and I asked its permission to address my different selves. I also asked it if it would undertake a task for me and ensure that my different selves would all “line up in orderly queue” and speak one at a time.

[Side note – asking the ego’s permission and then giving it a task to do works well as it basically gets the ego out of the way.]

  • Speaking in the voice of my ego, I granted my Facilitator self permission as requested.
  • I then asked who was present.
  • Angry self presented himself, so I asked him to identify himself, and what his role was in Stephen’s life. Then I asked him what he was feeling and what he wanted to say.
  • I took on the voice of Angry self and said that my role in Stephen’s life was to protect him and to express his anger. I continued to say how angry I felt and why.

[Side note – this only process works when we just go for it – just do it – with no conscious thinking about it – we just go with whatever comes up and say it without any filtering, analysis or internal commentary. When we speak as that voice – we (temporarily) become that voice.]

  • As Facilitator self I let Angry Self keep talking until he had nothing left to say.
  • Then as Facilitator self I asked who else was present and wanted to speak – and next in the queue was Anxious Self – and I repeated the process.
  • I continued with this until all the selves who were present (which was about 10) at that time had identified themselves and spoken.
  • This process took about 25-30 minutes.
  • Then as Facilitator self I asked to speak to Higher Self or Enlightened self… and for a while I enjoyed the tranquillity, peace and spaciousness of that self.
  • I was calm, de-stressed and completely free of the effects of my mind and in a state of one-ness and non-duality all referred to as enlightenment.
  • After that initial “trial run” I used the Self Dialogue process a number of times as a very powerful way of achieving integration, peace and freedom from my mind.








[2] How I instantly stopped smoking using the Self Dialogue process



Stopping smoking

  • A few years ago I wanted and needed to give up smoking. I decided to try out the Self Dialogue process. What I discovered was very powerful and quite frightening and then very effective.
  • I went through the process and asked to speak to Smoking Self who had his say – about how he enjoyed smoking. I asked Smoking Self if he knew that smoking was bad for Stephen and he said yes he did, but – he was in the grip of addicted self.
  • Oh boy, when Addicted Self spoke he was utterly ruthless, didn’t care about Stephen’s well-being or health, his sole focus was power and control and more, more, more endless smoking “because that’s what I do”.
  • I know this is going to sound a bit spooky – a bit like the film "The Exorcist" – but metaphorically it was like listening to a ruthless demon speaking. As Facilitator self I was actually quite shocked and horrified at the attitude and tone of Addicted self’s voice – it was quite scary. And, I had never accessed this self before.
  • As Facilitator I then asked to speak to Non-smoking self.

[Side note – for every self there is always an opposite self.]

  • Non-smoking self then said the sort of things that you would expect him to say – but (and this is very important) he said that he was weak and dis-empowered and dominated by Addicted Self and he needed power, support and a major boost.
  • So as Facilitator self I asked ego self who, from now on, he chose to identify with and who he wanted as the dominant self in this situation.
  • Ego self chose Non-smoking self.
  • Facilitator self then asked Higher Self to come to the assistance of Non-Smoking self and give him the power, energy and resource he needed to be the dominant self in relation to this area of my life.
  • Facilitator self then asked Non-smoking self to accept that help – which he did – and then told Non-smoking self that he was now empowered to be the dominant self over Smoking self and Addicted self.

[Side note – this is important – we never seek to deny or suppress a negative or "unhelpful" self we simply "power up" it’s positive opposite self. So in this case I will always have a smoking self and an addicted self but they are now far less powerful than my non-smoking self.]

  • As from that moment, I instantly and successfully stopped smoking.





Further Reading:







Next Article: The Transformative Power of Acceptance

Return from "Self Dialogue" to: Walking The Talk

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