Tag Archives: will

Miss Victorious Meets Miss Silent

The Subpersonality Process

The Subpersonality Process

This is an edited excerpt from my article, ‘Coping with anxiety and rebuilding identity: A psychosynthesis approach to culture shock’, published in Counselling Psychology Quarterly. I am happy to announce that it has been included in an online article collection featuring the most downloaded articles published in Routledge Behavioral Sciences journals in 2014.

The collection features the top three most downloaded articles that were published and downloaded in 2014 in each Routledge Behavioral Sciences journal.

You can download my article (along with others you might find interesting) for free until the 30th June.

Special thanks to “Maria” for allowing me to use her drawings and testimony in this post.


Usually inner conflict is a result of two or more subpersonalities clashing because they each have different needs. You can begin to recognize your subpersonalities by being honest about the roles you play in your everyday life. For example, do you always need to be perfect at everything? Then you probably have a dominant Mr or Mrs Perfect subpersonality. Do you freeze when meeting new people in social settings? Then perhaps you have a Mr or Miss Freeze subpersonality. Your subpersonalities are revealed through the different roles you play in different situations with different people.

By first recognizing your different subpersonalities, you start your journey towards creating more harmony in your life. The subpersonality process includes the following stages: recognition, acceptance, coordination, integration, and synthesis. This process does not happen overnight, but takes patience and lifelong practice.

Maria’s Story

Reconcilation

Miss Victorious and Miss Silent

Let’s take a look at how Maria (not her real name) was able to work through the subpersonality process and integrate two conflicting, polar subpersonalities: Miss Victorious and Miss Silent. The more dominant Miss Victorious wanted to control all situations and be the best. She needed recognition and could operate in the rational world with great success. Miss Silent, on the other hand, was sensitive, deeply emotional, and more creative. She wanted acceptance for who she was and needed safety, space and time alone.

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Six Stages of Any Decision

We are now more than half-way through January and you may want to reflect on any New Years Resolutions you have made. Most of us choose goals like losing weight, giving up smoking, learning something new, and finding a better job or relationship. Studies show that only about 2 out of 10 of us will manage to achieve our goals. When we do succeed in achieving a set goal, we often can feel joy.

New-Year-ResolutionsAs Assagioli wrote:

“Since the outcome of successful willing is the satisfaction of one’s needs, we can see that the act of will is essentially joyous.”

If you find yourself far from feeling joyous, struggling instead with your longing to change, then maybe it’s time to take a closer look at how you make decisions. Assagioli has written extensively on decision making in his book The Act of Will. He describes six stages of the decision making process: defining purpose, deliberation, choice, affirmation, planning, and execution.

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Intuition and the Angel Highway

Most of us felt some relief saying goodbye to 2014; the news never seemed worse. Now barely two weeks into 2015, the news seems even grimmer. We can easily fall into despair about the state of the world. But recently I listened to a discussion about the physics of angels, and, to balance the horrors we see everyday in the news, I want to bring angels into the conversation.

Two Islamic angels write in the Book of Life, suggesting angels' ongoing and attentive interest in human affairs (1280 A.D., Iraq)

Two Islamic angels write in the Book of Life, suggesting angels’ ongoing and attentive interest in human affairs (1280 A.D., Iraq)

During the month of Advent, I decided to paint angels that are connected with the Christmas story. I believe they do exist and are waiting for us to listen to them. The name angel derives from the Greek angelos meaning “messenger.” Angels are agents ready to guide, creatively inspire, aid, and teach us, and they have stirred the imagination of artists, writers, mystics, and ordinary persons throughout the ages, across cultures and belief. More than 80% of Americans believe in angels.

Angels approach us through dreams, visions, and meditative states and can appear in the form of voices, human or animal shapes, as male or female or androgynous beings, or as stars or light. Beings without matter, their wings are a symbol of their great spiritual energy. We delight in their cherub cuteness, but, in reality, they can also be fierce and terrifying.

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Listen with the Ear of Your Heart

Ear of the HeartListen carefully. Obsculta is the first word of guidance written by St. Benedict, the 6th century mystic and Father of western monasticism. His Rules for Monks is still used today to direct the lives in Benedictine communities. St. Benedict immediately qualifies what kind of listening they, and we, need to do. Obsculta inclina aurem cordis tui – “Listen by inclining the ear of your heart.” What could he possibly mean? Our hearts have ears? If that is true, then how do they work?

St. Benedict’s poetic language is asking us to listen, not just with our ears, but with our hearts to all that comes our way. While we might hear the words with our actual ears, with our hearts we can deeply reflect, discern, and take action if necessary.

When we are an embryo, the sound perceiving mechanism of the ear is the first organ we develop. During the same time, our heart also starts to develop (5 weeks after conception). Imagine! At 18 weeks in the womb, one of our first sensations of life is the inner sound of our own and our mother’s heartbeat. Studies have shown that a baby will become agitated if its mother’s heartbeat beats faster than normal, suggesting its mother is under stress. We also begin life listening to the rise and fall of our mother’s breath, our parents’ muffled voices, the world outside.

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Starve Your Fear!

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini at drawntocolor.com.

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini at drawntocolor.com

Let’s talk about fear. Inner fear. How elusive and arbitrary it can be. We sometimes struggle with fear over the simplest things – talking to our boss, having a routine visit to the doctor’s, or taking an exam. We might be fearful for our health, bank accounts, jobs, or kids. Of course, we can feel legitimate fear, but usually what we fear is not based on our outer reality but rather coming from within ourselves. Assagioli calls this fear a widely diffused psychological poison.

In order to deal with fear effectively, Assagioli urges us to eliminate or minimalize the fear within ourselves. He also warns us of a vicious circle that can occur – the fear within us can open the door to the influence of external fear, and external fear feeds the inner one.

To break this vicious circle, we need to use our skillful will to withdraw our attention deliberately from the psychological poison of fear. The energy that is holding and nurturing the fear will then be released. We can then redirect this new-found energy to do the most good in our lives.

Last year, Susan came to see me because she wasn’t able to become pregnant. She and her husband were both 30 years old and had been trying for one year without success. Susan had a doctorate in biochemistry and knew exactly all the ways the body functioned – and didn’t function. After two of her friends had died of cancer, she was terrified of the disease. She had spent hours visiting various doctors asking for multiple aggressive and invasive tests just to ensure herself that she did not have cancer.

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Celebrate Early!

Happy-Kids Celebrate 2I paint in a sea of Spanish. For the past two years, every Wednesday morning I enter the inspiring atelier of my teacher Luz Jiménez Díaz. She is from Colombia and has lived in The Netherlands for the past 20 years. Most of my fellow students are also Spanish speaking, coming from Mexico, Columbia, and Argentina. They easily slide from Spanish to Dutch to English, sometimes laughing and chatting as they paint.

The large room is full of light. Outside a flower garden, tended by Luz’s Dutch husband Johan surrounds us. You enter the garden by way of a large mosaic terrace Luz designed based on Egyptian images and gods. In late autumn, the garden is still vibrant. White and purple cornflowers flourish while the sunflowers hang forlorn and creamy dahlias struggle against the cold.

A small group of us attempt to bring our imagination to life under Luz’s patient and encouraging eye. When I first started, Luz would often appear before my atrocious splashes of color and say, “Your work is full of feeling.” She would then take a brush and tenderly demonstrate a technique that she wanted me to learn. “Why don’t you try this?” she would ask, and I was completely swept away. Only later did I realize that when she said, “Your work is full of feeling,” it probably needed a lot more technique!

Last week I decided to bring German cakes to share with my fellow aspiring artists. We usually stop mid-way for rich Colombian coffee or herbal tea, accompanied this time with slices of tart, both thickly-layered, one of apple and another of raspberry cream.

“What are we celebrating?” everyone asked.

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Your Significance Reaches Beyond Your Imagination

Our acts of kindness are like seeds in the wind. Surrender them to be transformed into miracles.

Our acts of kindness are like seeds in the wind. Surrender them to be transformed into miracles.

How often do you despair at your apparent insignificance? Between ISIS, Ebola, and the devastation of the world’s climate, what possible difference can we make? Such problems can feel overwhelming and our own meager lives seem so small. Even when we do rise above such feelings of inadequacy, we then might struggle to choose the most appropriate response. What actions can we possibly take at a personal level to affect what is emerging globally?

First of all, you and your actions do matter. My experience is that our significance reaches far beyond our imagination. Even the smallest acts of kindness directed towards rectifying the world’s injustices make a difference. But perhaps most surprisingly and wonderfully, even obscure acts that we may not consider meaningful can make a difference.

Let me offer you an example from my life. Sometimes I write poetry and often I wonder why. What purpose do these poems serve? I scribble them down in a notebook, sometimes share them, most of the time not. But then one day, I received a mysterious letter. The only address on the envelope was:

Catherine Ann Lombard
Giove, Italy

At the time I was living in The Netherlands. This letter, without any street address or zip code, had been forwarded to my new Dutch address from the Italian post office 1300 km (800 miles) away.

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