Just before Christmas this year my beloved cat, Sphinxie, died. He had been diagnosed the previous year (on Christmas Day no less) with lymphoma and I brought him home fully expecting him to die within the week but after about 2 weeks, against all odds, he recovered his strength and lived for almost a year with the disease to which he finally succumbed. I knew he had been on borrowed time and that I would have to let go of him at some point but when that moment came I was completely shattered, heartbroken and bereft. He had been my constant and loving companion for 15 years and we had developed a strong and beautiful bond of trust, love and appreciation.
For a month I felt totally raw, vulnerable and hypersensitive, as if missing several skins, and just about able to function in my everyday life. Waves of grief would overwhelm me at times and it was a struggle just to perform my duties and get through each day. After this intense period, my feelings quietened down somewhat and I noticed various "voices" within me. One was saying: "God, you're such a drama queen, time to snap out of it, he was only a cat FFS! You are indulging yourself, let go and move on."
Side by side with the above "voice" I noticed another one which had a slightly different tone, not so aggressive and yet subtly superior. This said to me: "You would be able to transcend your grief if you were more of an adept. After all you know that you are the one who is responsible for creating your feelings and reality. You are responsible for your own suffering."
Underneath this voice I detected another smaller, quieter voice which said: "You are both making me feel so bad. On top of the grief I am feeling from losing Sphinxie, I now feel I am not measuring up to either of your standards, I am failing. This is making me feel even worse than I already feel."
These "voices" we could identify in the following way:
First voice – Inner Critic.
Second voice – "Spiritual" part
Third voice – Vulnerable child
What I find fascinating about this process of self –inquiry called Voice Dialogue is to witness these various parts coming and going and some of them can really start getting you down if you fail to see that they are all just aspects of yourself. Like actors coming on and off stage. And furthermore, all of them, (even if you find some of them really critical and rather repellent) are on your side. They see it as their job to help you and protect you and give you good advice so that you can survive well in this world.
Inner Critic wants me to be successful in life. He fears that if I let go too much into grief I might become totally dysfunctional and go on a terrible downward spiral. Who knows, I might end up a bag lady. So he saw it as his job to buck me up.
Spiritual part is the part that doesn't want me to suffer unnecessarily. They want to protect me from emotional pain by teaching me to detach and transcend my feelings.
Vulnerable Child. Within us all is a small vulnerable child. This one is very very sensitive, fragile and easily hurt. All the other parts see it as their function to protect this part from further wounding.
The vulnerable child is the part of us which is closest to our inner being. We spend a lot of time trying to avoid this part, because it is associated with woundedness. However, when life pierces us in some way, e.g. through the death of a beloved – then one is plunged into experiencing the vulnerability to an intense degree. There is no escape! If we can truly accept this part of ourselves and be willing to embrace it, it is in this place where we can experience our deepest humanity, our ability to truly empathise with another because we too have been there and we know and understand. It becomes our bridge to the other.
After witnessing these various aspects of myself I then decided to turn to my Guardian. My Guardian first made his/her appearance at my first training session in Voice Dialogue. She/he appeared as a beautiful angel whose wings could enfold me totally in a warm and protective embrace. I asked for guidance from this part and received a warm and understanding response, letting me know that I was constantly protected and safe and that everything was as it should be.
All of this process led me to consider the function of Grief in our lives. Grief is a deep process and, if we submit to it with a more conscious intent, it can lead us to unexpected places, old wounds, the oldest wound of all perhaps, that of the fear of separation, either from mother or from Source itself and by experiencing this utter devastating state of separation paradoxically this becomes a potential doorway to the experience of Wholeness/Oneness.