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Newsletter 21

                              1st February 2016

Beyond The Selves

Metaphors are tricky. By saying that one thing is the same as another, they offer us new and sometimes radical insights and understandings. The danger is that we may take them too literally. Bearing this in mind (and at the risk of mixing my metaphors!) I'd like to share three that put my current experience of Selves into a larger context.

The first metaphor is that Selves are the many colours produced by pure light refracted through a prism. Each colour represents a different vibration, giving a distinctive hue to anything it illuminates. Just so, when we view the world through the eyes of a particular Self our perception is coloured by its approach to life. For example, a Pusher Self will colour our experience one way; a Chilled Self another way. The more colours we have available in our palette of Selves, the richer and more vibrant our experience of life will be.

The second metaphor is that Selves are characters in a movie appearing on a TV or computer screen. They each have their own traits and qualities and a unique perspective on what is happening as the drama of our life unfolds. They interact in specific ways, each with its own set of values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Sometimes a character will hold centre stage and take the lead role, sometimes it may take no part at all in the action.

The third metaphor is that Selves are the waves dancing on the surface of the ocean. Each wave has a different shape and size and is formed both by the currents below and the climate above. In the same way, our Selves are created in response to our life circumstances - our genetic predisposition and the prevailing social norms and culture. They shift and change according to our environmental conditions.

Voice Dialogue enables us to parse the multiplicity of Selves that constitute our personalities, and so gain insight into how they inform and influence our lives. But as we become more familiar with them, deeper questions emerge:
  • In what do the selves arise?
  • With what are they known?
  • Of what are they made?
As we contemplate these questions our focus naturally shifts from the rainbow of colours, the cast of movie characters and the diversity of waves to that which lies at the background of all experience and is ever-present and unchanging. The metaphors invite us to experience something beyond the Selves: the pure light out of which the colours arise; the screen without which the characters in the movie cannot not be known; and the ocean of which the waves are made.

In exploring such "spiritual" questions, however, it's imperative that we don't reject the Selves that enable us to maintain our material existence in the world. Rather, this is an inclusive approach where we live in awareness of both the relative, multifaceted realm of the body-mind and the all-encompassing, infinite field in which they have their being.

Of course, language can only take us so far in answering the above questions. A final caution about metaphors comes from the Buddhist tradition: "Don't mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself"!

In his article Inner Selves and Outer Democracy, Andy Paice describes his personal journey from Buddhist monk to social activist, the pitfalls of over-identifying with either one or the other, and how Voice Dialogue has been a useful tool in helping him find a more balanced approach to life.

Warm wishes,

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Inner Selves and Outer Democracy
Andy Paice

One of the early stirrings of the Activist in me came in 1989 at the tender age of 16. I was watching BBC news and seeing the Chinese student democracy protesters being brutally crushed by the autocratic forces of the Red Army in Tiananmen Square. It awoke in me a strong desire for social justice and for the empowerment of the underrepresented so that they could speak up, be heard and make their contribution.

Later when I was 21 and studying at university I discovered meditation. One evening as I was experimenting with various meditative practices I had an experience of vast, spacious, mind-blowing transparency. It impelled me to question everything I had previously understood about life, and sparked an insatiable spiritual quest in me. That journey progressively led me to turn away from "worldly concerns", including my activist leanings, and by the age of 25 I found myself living happily in a Tibetan Buddhist community in central France. I immersed myself fully in the spiritual life, taking vows and the monastic robes, learning Tibetan texts and complex liturgies, and eventually undertaking a traditional 3-year meditation retreat. 

I was doing my best to adhere fully to the Buddhist principle of non-attachment - or at least my understanding of it. My practice focussed on transcendence and I had come to view "ordinary" concerns such as a career, relationships, sex and politics as somehow lower and less meaningful than the monastic life. However, once I had finished my 3-year retreat I found that this way of thinking became increasingly unsustainable. Family matters meant I had to leave the monastery and return to London, the celibate life and absence of physical affection became problematic, and I felt a lack of overall vitality. I started to deviate from reading books only about Buddhism and to delve into the world of western psychotherapy. At the same time there was a big scandal in my community when it was discovered that one of the head monks had for years been involved in sexually abusive and manipulative relationships. 

Yet as so often is the case, these crises also carried opportunity. My life gradually moved away from monasticism and at the same time my new found interest in psychotherapy led me to discovering Voice Dialogue, a tool that has underpinned the way I view life ever since.

Working with facilitated exercises and sessions was a revelation. I found that my psyche consists of a multitude of autonomous selves, each with their own unique perspective and embodied expression. I discovered the possibility of experiencing a range of different worldviews that all existed within me. But perhaps most poignantly for me at that time, Voice Dialogue showed me that the form my spirituality had taken was merely one aspect of who I was. In spite of my focus on non-attachment I was in fact attached! I was identified with a spiritual persona that had become a "Primary Self" in me. I saw how this Spiritual Self had become autocratic and all consuming in my life. This new awareness helped me to let go of the hold that this part had over me and I started to become reacquainted with aspects of myself that had been left behind by my monasticism. 

Voice Dialogue became a kind of bridge that helped me cross back into fully embracing the world and worldliness once again. I eagerly attended a number of John's courses, learned to facilitate the process and brought into the light of consciousness all kinds of Selves. The Protector, Pleaser, Tiger, Jewish Elder, Fairy, Rebel Teenager and Accountant were all there and able to reveal themselves when given sufficient space and attention. 

As I engaged with this process and became acquainted with the importance of listening to all of these voices, an important realisation dawned on me: it was exactly the same in the outer world as with the inner - all the voices out there had at least some truth and wisdom and needed to be heard and embraced  for society to be healthy and functional. This understanding coincided with a rekindling of my Activist Self that had emerged earlier in my youth. Creating fora of inclusion where as many diverse voices as possible could be heard and taken into consideration became something very dear to my heart. Upgrading democracy to be more intimate, participative and inclusive rather than merely a representative system that ultimately serves narrow interests of a few became a passion.

Today my explorations into greater democracy in politics and the workplace extend into the domain of self-management, which gives individuals the democratic right within a certain structure to even be autocratic! An innovative governance system known as "holacracy" enables individuals in an organisation or system to take on roles as autonomous agents whilst remaining connected to and in communication with others. I'm also involved in an initiative for crowdsourcing a new national constitution that is open to a wide range of social inputs.

As I pursue these interests I am aware of similar paradoxes at play as when I was attached to the Buddhist view of non-attachment. For example, an exclusive identification with democratic processes that are all-inclusive and oriented towards consensus decision making can and do get bogged down in a way of thinking often referred to as the "tyranny of structurelessness"!

My practice of Voice Dialogue has taught me that whether we're dealing with the voices of our inner world or the outer systems of our society, it's imperative that we strive for greater awareness and acceptance of the many and varied Selves that inform and influence our lives. In this way we will avoid becoming stuck, and so continue to evolve - both as individuals and as a community. 

Andy Paice is a London based Facilitator, Coach and Mindfulness trainer.

For more information about his work, go to: www.andypaice.net

Voice Dialogue Facilitator Training


This training is for therapists, counsellors, coaches, health care practitioners and anyone working in the area of personal growth and development. It provides a comprehensive grounding in the theory and practice of Voice Dialogue, The Psychology of Selves and the Aware Ego Process. At the end of the training participants will have a powerful new tool that will complement their practice and enhance their ability to help clients achieve more balance in their lives.



The training includes 4 workshops spaced over 9 months (total 10 days). Each workshop will focus on the theory and practice of Voice Dialogue and its application to a range of client issues.


In addition, over the course of the training, participants will have a total of 6 personal 90-minute facilitations from the trainer (face to face or via skype), and will be expected to complete and document ongoing practice sessions with other members of the group.


Participants will receive a comprehensive self-study pack of readings, videos and exercises covering every aspect of the work.


Certificates of attendance are available for CPD.


Maximum group size 4 participants


The next course begins the weekend of 9th - 10th April 2016


For more information click here.



Master Class in working with couples

Senior Voice Dialogue facilitator and trainer
Ana Barner will be our guest in London in June.

She will be offering a one-day Master Class on how to use Voice Dialogue when facilitating couples; and how to teach couples to use Voice Dialogue with each other.

Ana will also be available for private sessions.

Dates:  Master Class Saturday 11th June, 10am - 5.30pm 
             Private sessions available Sunday 12th June

For more information contact John
In This Issue
Trainings & Events

This e-learning program is now available for you to study at any time to suit you.
8 May
11 March
11 June


Private Sessions
Face-to-face or via skype

email: John


or call:

+44 (0)7941141377
by John Kent

Book cover

How different parts of us inform and influence our daily lives.

Foreword by Drs Hal and Sidra Stone

Now available as an ebook!!