Most people generalize when they become aware that they have treated someone poorly or behaved in a way that is less than ideal. The one 'transgression' that the person notices gets generalized to internal character assassination. An alternative approach that creates much more spaciousness, self-compassion, and acceptance revolves around identifying the internal character or self-style that took control and did damage.
Sagan’s idea of self-styles is an effective approach to localize rather than generalize. Consider this: If I have identified a cast of characters inside myself, then I can identify one character, an aspect of myself, that is responsible for the insensitive behavior. When I’ve identified which internal character got out of hand, then I can begin to explore this character using the path from awareness to acceptance.
When I first learned about self-styles, I 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. To create your own round table, we will use the idea of self-styles as follows:
Begin by downloading and printing out the Round Table Worksheet.
Get in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Have your blank round table, blank paper, and a writing utensil nearby so you can use them as thoughts, feelings, and images bubble up.
Think about yourself in a variety of situations. As you become aware of different states that you get into, jot down a phrase that best describes your attitude or behavior, such as whining, distracted, ebullient, silly, etc. Without judging them, simply write a few words or phrases.
Write at least 10. Make sure some reflect positive attitudes and behaviors you have as well as those characteristics with which you (and/or others) have difficulty.
After completing the process above and writing your responses for each, now reflect on each. How does your body feel when that attitude or behavior takes over? How does your voice sound? What kinds of things do you say or think? How do you walk or move when this state inhabits you?
Again, jot down some descriptors that go with these images. Then, allow yourself to create descriptive names for each character. For instance, whining might turn into Whiny Wendy or Whiny Walter; distracted might turn into Flighty Fellow; ebullient might turn into Bubbles, etc. Make sure the name evokes that character in you.
Write the name of your character in one of the circles in your Round Table Worksheet.
If there are some qualities, attitudes, and behaviors that don’t fit into a character, for now, put them into your back stage closet.
If you are like most people, you will have many characters that are critical, judgmental, wimpy, or negative in some way. If you are not able to distinguish many positive characters, simply use one spot at the table for an angel character. Later this month, we'll get into more detail about developing the angel self-styles.
Enjoy and write in as you work with this.