reality testing

Deconstruct the Message Behind the Words

"A later response, and much more useful, would be to try and deconstruct the message behind the words, so when the voices warned me not to leave the house, then I would thank them for drawing my attention to how unsafe I felt -- because if I was aware of it, then I could do something positive about it -- but go on to reassure both them and myself that we were safe and didn't need to feel frightened anymore. I would set boundaries for the voices, and try to interact with them in a way that was assertive yet respectful, establishing a slow process of communication and collaboration in which we could learn to work together and support one another.

Throughout all of this, what I would ultimately realize was that each voice was closely related to aspects of myself, and that each of them carried overwhelming emotions that I'd never had an opportunity to process or resolve, memories of sexual trauma and abuse, of anger, shame, guilt, low self-worth. The voices took the place of this pain and gave words to it, and possibly one of the greatest revelations was when I realized that the most hostile and aggressive voices actually represented the parts of me that had been hurt most profoundly, and as such, it was these voices that needed to be shown the greatest compassion and care."

~ Eleanor Longden 


See also: 

Careful Attention to What is Real

Arjuna Ardagh, from Whiskey River:

Self-inquiry is simple. It does not require you to do anything, change anything, think anything, or understand anything. It only asks you to pay careful attention to what is real.

I have two sons. When they were about four, they both went through a phase of having nightmares. I would go into the room and switch on the light. Two small eyes blinked at me from the corner.

"What's the problem?" I'd ask.

"Daddy, there's a monster in the room," a timid voice would reply.

Now, I had more than one choice of how to respond. I could tell my frightened boy that it was not true, there was no monster, go back to sleep.  That response is the equivalent of reading a book that says, "We're all one, there is no problem, just be with what is."

Fine ideas, but they don't help much. I could also have offered to feed the monster cookies, talk with the monster, negotiate. That approach is like some kinds of psychotherapy. Treat the problem as real, then fix it on its own terms.

But the only real solution I ever found was to have a good look. Under the bed, in the closet, behind the curtains, we undertook an exhaustive search.

Eventually my sons would let out a deep sigh, smile at me, and fall back to sleep. The problem was not solved but dissolved. It was never real in the first place, but it took investigation to make that a reality.


See also: "The Translucent Revolution," interview with Arjuna Ardagh by Deborah Caldwell, Beliefnet.com