Tuesday, August 9, 2011


 Last October I wrote a post on listening to your inner wisdom (Oct. 1, 2010

The post was based on experiences from my practice with a visualization technique that seemed helpful to people and furthered the ends of the psychotherapy treatment.  It often helped us cut through confusion, obfuscation, denial, and conditioned thinking and got us quickly to the heart of whatever matter we were wrestling with.

This work was especially helpful with and for individuals who relied heavily on “dissociation”  a coping mechanism we all resort to at times, but is particularly important for individuals who have experienced childhood trauma.  I have experimented with the inner wisdom technique with others whose “traumas” were less obvious or less extreme or even non-existent and found it useful in a lot of situations.  Inner wisdom is wise and I think universal.

I’m revisiting this issue, after reading an article by Martha Beck in this month’s Oprah Magazine,  (yes, Oprah) on a very similar topic which reminded me of some other issues related to implementing this practice which might be useful to comment on.

The existence of “inner wisdom” is based on the assumption that there is something in all of us that, unimpeded, will right us when we wobble.  Maybe “inner gyroscope” is more accurate.  A gyroscope will always get us back in balance if we just let it.

I think of inner wisdom as right-brained, body-based, nor necessarily verbal.  It’s that still small “voice” within which may not be a “voice” at all, but arrive in the form of images, kinesthetic sensation, or even sound. 

I sat with a client once on the same morning I had received some awful news about a dear friend.  I tried to set this aside and set to work with this client.  I thought I had. Very quickly, I got drawn into a confusing, chaotic, tumultuous session.  It wasn’t until she reported “hearing”  a loud bang that we began to get some clarity.  The bang, it turned out, was the dreadful memory of the sound of a car hitting and killing her best friend, an event that she had witnessed decades past.   Her “inner wisdom” was telling her something very similar was happening to me.  And it was.

We live in an extremely left-brained culture.  By this I mean we value words, logic, socially conditioned values.  We more often make choices based on “shoulds,” “oughts,” the evaluations of others, negative judgments.   We don’t let the gyroscope do its work.

We also live in a culture brimful of distraction. 
To “hear” your inner voice you have to get quiet, you have to learn to cultivate and tolerate silence.  The blackberry, iphone, NPR, gmail, twitter, facebook all have to go away for a little while everyday.  Processing experience comes more naturally when you are walking in the woods, taking rhythmic breaths in the pool, doing yoga without the radio on (my personal downfall).

Taking note of our dreams, by keeping a log of them,  sitting with them for at least a few minutes every day, increases clarity. There very well may be meaningful cues that are coming through our dreams that can be guiding us.  A patient reports that as she was sifting through old journals she found notes of a dream that almost exactly predicted the location and manner of detection of a malignancy in her breast, a malignancy that would be discovered many years later.

Meditating on a regular basis also increases the accessibility to cues, often within the body, that are signaling us as to which moves are prudent, and which imprudent.

Sometimes I have the experience of feeling upset without really know why.  I know my nervous system is buzzing, my body is sending signals of distress, but I haven’t a clue as to what this is about.  I have to get quiet to have any chance of getting a handle on what is really going on.  More than likely,  sitting quietly, patiently (for it may take awhile) with the question of what is it that is upsetting me,  what is calling for my attention, will yield some clarity.   The upset doesn’t disappear, but its power does diminish and I am less likely to be reactive to it, reactive in a way that will neither benefit me nor those around me.

Cultivating this inner voice yields great benefits.  I think we all instinctively know this.  I wonder what keeps us from actively listening.

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