The Round Table

The complexity of an individual can be described by illuminating the internal cast of characters that come to the fore in various situations, clarifying what part each plays, and noticing how they interact with each other.

Just like Shakespeare’s verse, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” Eugene Sagan conceptualized our inner characters similarly. He introduced me to the idea that each of us has all these characters inside ourselves. Calling them self-styles, he and his wife, Juanita Sagan, opened the door to a mode of self-reflection that didn't involve getting rid of any internal characters, but rather finding out how to befriend them and make the most of them.

For those of you who have followed the PeRL, you may remember that awareness comes first, understanding follows, and then appreciation ensues. This movement, from lack of awareness to appreciation, is the essence of freedom and self-development. It is only when we are able to welcome all our self styles to the round table that we can get the value they each bring.

This is truly the path of internal inclusion and diversity.

Imagine that you have a cast of internal characters that are interacting with each other on your life stage. Just like any cast of characters in a play, some of the characters cooperate, while others quarrel and compete. Still others negotiate and mediate. Some of the characters are always positive and some are always negative. Some serious, some silly. Many are like chameleons, taking on a negative or positive role depending on the situation.

When I first learned of this approach from A.A. Leath at the University of Wisconsin, I had great difficulty admitting that I had any characters who were negative or self-sabotaging. As I worked with this approach, I was finally able to move out of shame and blame and come into a deep appreciation for what each character brings. Though self-compassion was not being researched and written about then as it is now, it was definitely an important part of my process in accepting the various characters and inviting them to have a seat at my round table.

The movement from inclusion to appreciation of the different characters is profound. It is probably the single most important step after awareness.

When I first learned of Sagan's approach of self-styles, I immediately imagined that all my internal characters were sitting around a round table. There was a backstage closet in which characters that I had not yet identified or accepted were locked. Here is an example of this:

Round Table image

This was and continues to be a simple way of organizing the various internal characters. Each character has a voice, a look, a gender, a size—really, each is an entire character.

Before learning this approach and creating the round table, there was a cacophony of voices, intertwined and yelling over each other. With this approach, I was able to separate the characters, hear what each said, and work with them all. Rather than feeling tortured and unable to make a decision, I started feeling clearer and could move forward more easily. That led to greater ease and finally, freedom, peace, and joy.

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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