“How do we identify, acknowledge and work with difficult emotions represented by challenging voices?” 

Below are some notes from a workshop I ran at last years Intervoice meeting in Perth, Australia.

Challenging or difficult voices can be messengers about difficult emotions that we are disconnected from and the life events that relate to this.
Challenging voices can tell us clues about relationships we have had.

For example, domineering or manipulative voices may represent domineering or manipulative relationships we have experienced.  If voices are controlling this may also reflect not being able to assert one’s needs in relationships with other people. Critical voices and threatening voices often are messengers about experiences of being bullied or abused in some way. Voices that try to make us feel guilty may symbolically point to times we have blamed ourself and kept silent about injustices we have experienced (e.g. as a survival strategy).  Angry voices sometimes represent repressed feelings of anger the person has towards themselves or others (or both).  Anger is often made up of other feelings such as outrage, shame, hurt, frustration, fear and self doubt. 

Thus voices often represent complex feelings we have stored away. If we deal with the feelings represented by the voices by acknowledging them and calming them and or expressing them- then difficult voices will have less power over us.

Difficult emotions and difficult voices may be like ‘demons’ we need to understand and negotiate with. Our ‘demons’ may sometimes hold the key to turning points in our lives which we may need to revisit and change the contract we previously signed up to!  What do people think of this idea?

Is developing a nonjudgmental attitude helpful towards voices helpful– do we need to deal with our difficult feelings first?

What are the different ways we can identify and acknowledge our emotions?
How do we listen deeply to ourselves and our voices?
What are helpful ways to calm emotions (e.g. mindfulness, walking in nature, yoga, music, emotional freedom techniques etc)?
What are helpful ways to express emotions (e.g. dancing, singing, martial arts, creativity, developing a social justice mission)?
Can dissociation from emotions be helpful sometimes?
On our journeys of self understanding how can we slowly become more aware of our hidden parts and emotions and be gentle with ourselves?
Can working with our dreams help us with difficult voices (and emotions)? What are people’s experiences of this?
How do we become more compassionate towards ourselves?
How can groups be helpful in generating this understanding approach to ourselves?
How can helping others be helpful in being with and transforming our own pain (not just as a distraction from it)?
How can we work with perpetrator voices and use their difficult messages to strengthen and heal the wounded parts of ourselves?
How do we develop courage and bravery to face and process difficult emotions?
Is accepting suffering an important aspect of this work - what practices can make this beareable?
Can body work be a way to work with emotions where words are not available/helpful?