When I first learned the Creative Behavior approach from A.A. Leath and Juanita and Eugene Sagan, I did not believe that I had what they labeled “a traitor,” that is, a character or characters within me that sabotaged me. I identified with the angel part of myself only—the part that is here to do good by me. When I got over the disturbing realization that I had a traitor, that's when self-acceptance really started.

So, in today's blog post, I'll talk about various ways to recognize the angel characters that live inside each of us.

Though I identified with the angel aspect of myself, I could barely find that character's voice within me. I found that it was much easier for me to discern and verbalize the traitor voices. I had no problem whatsover hearing and writing the voices of the myriad of characters that I used to put myself down, push myself, berate myself, and just generally, criticize myself. Often, when I attempted to find the angel voice, the most I could muster was a mousy voice that told the traitor character to “stop it.”

As I practiced angel/traitor dialogues (ATDs), I found that my angel voice got stronger. Rather than a simple “stop it,” the angel voice started telling the traitor voices that “I really was a good person,” that “I didn't deserve to be criticized so harshly,” that “everyone deserves a margin of error,” and more.

The more I wrote dialogues (ATDs), the stronger my angel became and the less I felt overwhelmed and controlled by my traitor. But the miracle that allowed me to turn the corner was when I realized that these traitor characters actually thought that they were helping me. Immediately, my judgment about them stopped and I began to feel appreciation. I understood how they developed, what they were here for, and I actually started feeling a huge amount of gratitude, even pride in how clever and innovative these characters had been and are in their quest to protect me. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. This is a glimpse into next month when the focus shifts to appreciation.

For now, let's focus on discerning and labeling the inner angel characters. For me, in my early twenties, I struggled to hear an angel voice inside me. As you might recall from the previous blog that focused on traitor characters, my traitor voices were loud and oppressive. Remember, they were working hard to protect me from feeling worse about myself.

Here are a few different ways to find your inner angels:

Affirmations didn't work for me because my traitor voices would come in and say things like, “You know that isn't true, ” or “Who are you fooling,” or other dismissive remarks. I had to find the quiet voices and develop them.

  1. I found and strengthened various angel voices by writing angel/traitor dialogues (ATDs). Simply the act of forcing myself to find some response to a traitor voice activated the wisdom and power inside me.
    I had the good fortune to have parents who were loving, supportive, and fabulous in many ways though, being human, they did have their flaws. I also had some great teachers who I felt saw me and believed in me. If you have anyone in your life whom has supported you, use that person inside you to find that voice. Imagine what he or she would say in your situation. Employ that voice as your angel voice. Experiment with it and say it to yourself, changing the intonation. Even if a traitor voice responds to squelch it, find an angel voice that can say, “So and so believes this about me. Eventually, I'll believe it about myself too.”

  2. Another way I found my angel characters was through my body. I noticed that when I felt good about myself, my posture was more upright, more open, more relaxed. I walked with more of a lilt. I connected with people more easily. I made more eye contact. I laughed more. Just by changing my posture, I found that my mood shifted. By laughing, my state of mind changed. I found that I could let go of a traitor character and begin to embody an angel character by starting through my body. It didn't change immediately but I was aware that little shifts were going on.

  3. When I was in a funk, i.e. - in the grip of a traitor, I asked myself the question, “What will help me feel better?” For me, usually the answer was something like, “Getting something accomplished.” So rather than wallow in the funk, I wrote my list and started doing the smallest, easiest thing first. Lo and behold, the traitor character lost its power and an angel character came in, egging me onward. Taking action, even small action, always helped me move from a traitor attack to having an angel at the helm.

  4. Using the arts helped me find angel characters. Scribbling with children's chubby crayons worked wonders. With eyes closed, my crayon in my unaccustomed hand, with a fist grip like a young child uses, there was no chance of creating “art.” That freed me up to use the scribbling to let my feelings out in a structured, safe way. I would start where I was with a traitor character. I could get as angry as I wanted and have a temper tantrum on the paper. Then, after the traitor was expressed, I would do an angel scribble. Sometimes, it was simply scribbling the feeling of the warm, nurturing embrace of the angel. At other times, it was imagining how a nurturing angel felt, and drawing that. Or still with my eyes closed and unaccustomed hand, drawing the face of the angel. Whichever way I did it, simply by letting that energy infuse me and expressing it, shifted me into angel territory.

For any of you out there who think that you are the only one who has to struggle to find your angel voices, I can tell you that it is a human characteristic. People of every age, economic level, social class, economic status, intelligence, level of fame or power—everyone has to learn how to find and listen to their angel characters.

Enjoy as you look for your angel characters. I've just posted a new activity, Calling All Angels, which will give you some more ideas about how to go about it. Feel free to contact me or comment in the blog with aha moments, challenges, and successes.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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