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May Benatar, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. Headshot

Consult Your Inner Wisdom: It Has All the Answers

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In recent years, I have experimented with a therapeutic technique that I cribbed from clinician/writer Sarah Krakauer. I found it useful both for my clients and for myself. I share it here.

The idea is simple: At bottom, no matter how fractured our identity, or sense of self, there is within us a wholeness and a wisdom that we can consult as a sort of inner gyroscope. The theory goes that there is a unity within, and if we can gain access we can find a treasure trove of wise guidance.

I have worked with individuals who were highly "fractured" due to a severe trauma history, as well as more intact individuals. The technique worked well with all kinds of people, but I found that individuals with these fractures had an easier time accessing their "inner wisdom."

The technique involves a simple visualization. One woman with whom I was working was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. This means, simply, that her identity is complex and multiple: She has very distinct and separate identities within a seemingly stable "self." Her appearance in the outside world is quite ordinary. It is mostly only within the consultation room that one can see clearly the multiple identities.

Each "part" of this individual has a discrete and often contradictory point of view on any matter you could imagine: What to buy at the supermarket, junk food or organic kale for instance. Or if on any given day, I, her therapist, am perceived as benign or as a threat. So checking across parts as to what the inner wisdom might suggest on any given topic is relevant to our enterprise.

What surprised me was that when we went through the inner wisdom, I got the same answer to the question of the day: no contradictions, no wildly fluctuating points of view, no evasions.

With this particular client I was often uncertain as to how to go forward in any given session, which part to address, how much to push for the traumatic memories that were just outside of her awareness. They could either liberate her from painful symptoms and/or de-stabilize her. Actually I was almost always struggling with these choices.

The inner wisdom always directed me to the traumatic material: Go for it, it seemed to say. Don't pay so much attention to the complaining about the pain that this causes. And the inner wisdom was right. After a period of turmoil, which was always difficult to weather, my patient was more solidly grounded, more mature and eventually more integrated.

Now this is not magic, if the client was in retreat, warding me off, defending herself from incursions, I might get nothing. But this was relatively rare.

I describe the technique so that you can try it yourself. It is probably better in the beginning to have some one read you the directions rather than just thinking it through.

Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and visualize a corridor. This is a safe place. Off the corridor are doors. The door on the left is labeled "hall of inner wisdom." Open the door into a room that resembles a small movie theatre. The seats are comfortable. Sit down and see that at your finger tips is a keyboard. Type in the question that you are addressing: "Why does my hip hurt so much today? Or what should I do about a troublesome relationship? Should I change doctors?" Look up at the screen in front of you and there will be an answer.

Here you may see pictures or writing. You may just get thoughts or images popping into your head -- memories, strong feelings. If nothing comes, just sit quietly for awhile and see what happens. It usually takes a little bit of time.

I have tried this myself, going through the same steps of visualization. It feels a little like meditation, but with a very specific goal. Sometimes I get an answer. Not as frequently as my patient, alas. Often the answer surprises me. That's what makes me think that this really is coming from a source quite different than my logical, linear and deliberative mind.

What I think is going on here is that with the right tools, and probably a bit of practice, one can have access to a part of the mind that is less rigid, less defensive, more intuitive and more astute than the reasoning mind. I find it exciting and re-assuring that there is a guidance within with which we can make contact.

There is a lot of data that the mind takes in that is not necessarily available to the conscious mind. But it is there. We just need to be creative and we can have access to it.