Holding a council of selves is something I do a million times a day.
When to use a council of selves
Any time you have a decision to make with many voices talking in your head about it, most of them contradictory and most of them LOUD.
How to use a council of selves
Practice with a few low-stakes decisions: what shall I have for lunch? Do I like that screensaver? Red or blue?
Let yourself practice before you do this about your future, your child’s future, or your mortgage. (Although when you are practiced, it will help those decisions, too.)
I like to sit them in a circle. I like a circle for the reason King Arthur did: no one can be at the head.
- Give each voice a seat…
- …even the ones you think are too stupid or cruel, confused or overbearing to be allowed a say. If you can hear them at all, give them a seat. Listen carefully to be sure you’ve noticed the ones you can hear.
- If you can’t hear them, but you sense there may be more voices: give all the loud ones a seat and shush them a second to see if some quiet voices show up. You may be surprised. Allow yourself to be surprised.
- Let each one speak to you about the decision.
- Make no mistake: YOU are the room in which the circle meets. Don’t identify with any one of the voices…
- …even the ones you think are smart and mature, or compassionate and wise. You are the luminous spaciousness in which they gather.
- When you have heard them, sit quietly in the spaciousness.
- Then let the spaciousness hold the decision and observe what it is. That is all. Act on the decision and notice the result for the next time. (This is why you practice with low-stakes decisions.)
Why to use a council of selves
Most of us are surprised by making bad decisions. We sabotage ourselves but we don’t see how we do it. And we may sabotage ourselves over and over, sometimes about the very same kinds of things. It’s as though we had a blind spot. It’s more like we have a deaf spot. This practice restores hearing.
Your selves have something to contribute and is heard. We ignore these voices at our peril:
- When they go unheard, they can get very loud.
- They can get sneaky and end up making decisions for us “behind the scenes,” without our being aware of them, because we have become deaf to them.
- We make decisions we regret quite often because we have ignored information we needed that was already within us
- When we remember to be surprised, we receive new information we were deaf to.
When we remember to identify not with any one voice but with the room in which they gather, we make it hard for any one voice to manipulate, dominate, or subjugate the decision-making process.
Try it and see what you think. Remember to practice with low-stakes decisions. We would love to hear how it goes for you. And by the way, it becomes natural the more you do it.