S01E07 – The Power of Voice Dialogue for Inner Balance with Monica Elden

Psychotherapist and coach Monica Elden shares a practice that fosters communication between our inner care-giver and care-taker to transform our health and careers.

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Jan: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this session to this podcast episode where I’m really pleased to meet and introduce two fantastic guests today and will reveal in a second why, too. So, first of all, I’d like to welcome Monica Elden.

Monica: Thank you, Jan. Thank you so much for having me here today.

Jan: It’s a great honor and for anyone who doesn’t know Monica. Monica is a coach, a psychotherapist, and corporate trainer. Monica has over 25 years supporting thousands of people in self-discovery and professional growth, mind, body, spirit integration and her work synthesizes science back practices grounded in mindfulness and neuroscience for a sustained resilience and well-being.

She is an expert in designing experiential learning where people take away high value in a short timeframe and companies that she’s worked with include large companies actually, the Bank of America, Henderson Consulting, Biogen, Kaiser Permanente, Oracle, Visa, Wells Fargo, and so on. So it has a certainly a huge experience in working in mind-body medicine and in working with the inner balance of healthcare professionals and as we’ve seen also in many other professional domains. So thanks a lot for joining us today!

And we will today focus on this wealth of experience, zoom in to a very specific practice that you appreciate and that you’ve applied successfully and taught and trained in many different environments and this is about voice dialogue, but before we go into this I just want to introduce Jacqueline Chan. Dr. Chan is with us today and she is a board-certified holistic medicine physician and very much involved in energy medicine and so in many ways, she’s a member of the Functional Medicine Institute and a member of the academy of or faculty of the Academy of Intuitive Medicine and also a professor at the Energy Medicine University and I think Dr. Chan if you allow we will keep this a little secret of why you were called for a little bit later into the call.

Thanks again for joining! I really appreciate that you’re both there and Monica help us understand just to get started and to help his funneling in, help us understand maybe just label for us, what is voice dialogue? What is your take on that?

Monica: Yes, so voice dialogue is a heart therapy meaning that we actually are not comprised of just one person inside of us but a multitude of selves inside and let me give you a real-life example with a physician I worked with years ago to kind of give you a context so you can hear the possibility of the difference this kind of work could make for your listeners in their lives. So it’s about 7 years ago I did a workshop on voice dialogue and the psychology of selves with about 100 people and there were a number of physicians in there that I started to work with and one of them was an ER doctor in New Zealand and Australia who really had a passion to combine his passion of being a physician with his love of being a pilot and yet, to leave his secure job to become this traveling medic, he didn’t have a path for that yet, but it was through the practice of voice dialogue that he found the ability to separate from that part of him that needed the secure future to take the risk to follow his dreams and what he said out of the work was that “I became the captain of my life.”

And more of his story is on my website, Well-Being Embodied if you want to look it up but I just wanted to share that because really the possibility of this work for healthcare providers is from either preventing burnout or moving from burnout to a place of rejuvenation. Moving from a place of being stuck in your career to a place of freedom so thanks for letting me share that example and I just wanted to maybe go into a couple of key points about voice dialogue.

Jan: That’s intriguing, now I really want to know!

Monica: Haha! So voice dialogue was developed by two mentors of mine who were husband and wife psychotherapist team, they developed it out of their relationship and starting around 1970, 1972 actually. I came to learn this practice in 1989 and it really changed my career. I was on the way to being an organization development consultant and I felt this work had such potency for my own life that I shifted my career to get a degree in psychotherapy and then also weave that into organizational work. So one of the most potent aspects of voice dialogue is what I mentioned earlier that if you think of yourself as an inner cast of characters and each part of you that has a different value system, different beliefs, different perceptions, a different way of seeing the world. So if you’ve ever been in conflict about something, how to proceed in a decision to make and you’re feeling unsure or stuck, those are two parts of you in conflict battling it out.

Jan: I’m all too familiar with this!

Monica: You’re all too familiar, ha! Well yes, we all are! So this, this practice gives you a way to, as the physician said, be the captain of your life instead of having all of these parts sort of vie for control which is what they generally do. And we all have these primary selves that we live out of and these parts are our inner protectors, there the parts that are familiar to us that we live in every day. So people in healthcare a big primary self would be the inner healer or a caretaker, right? As opposed to another part that you might not have as much familiarity in your life which might be the part of you that takes great care of yourself. So my experience with working with physicians and all people in healthcare, nurses, is that you’re much more attuned to being the care provider than for being a caretaker.

And so those are a beautiful example of two opposites, the part that takes care of yourself and the part that is focused on taking care of others, the healer versus the self-care part. And that’s really the essence of voice dialogue is that you’re learning to see, identify, the different parts of yourselves that are particular opposites. So it’s actually a practice that cultivates consciousness because you have to expand your capacity to hold the tension of these opposites. Typically what we might do is just live out of the primary selves like, you know, if you went to medical school, if you went to nursing school, you have a pretty big and confident inner pusher, inner driver, inner achiever. Right? So, an opposite to that part could be a beach bum, for example. And we need both of those parts and so much more to be full and complete human beings.

Jan: I can feel the inner conversation, yes. Haha!

Monica: Haha, yes! I know it’s night time for you right now after your long day!

Jan: That’s beautiful, really great description. So yes, in a way this is contributing to a sense of balance, right.? You’re saying it takes the consciousness to hold this and that means somehow I need to be able, this is one way to create balance. What looks like I don’t have enough of this and I don’t have enough of this and I never have enough of anything and I can’t do enough for my job and I can’t do enough for my family and my kids and therefore I’m guilty for my kids and my spouse. On the other side, I’m guilty for not being a better physician, so we’re in this tension and so here’s a way to actually see there’s two different parts that are providing perspective and both parts have a valid perspective and I’m not either of those parts but I can hold the tension between those so I’m kind of part of that circle. Is that what you’re saying?

Monica: Beautiful. Yes, Jan!

Jan: Fabulous! I’m already feeling more balanced! Haha! That is amazing. So I can see the value that this brings, this is really helpful. And you already highlighted a little bit in how this could be really useful for healthcare professionals specifically, so highlighting two parts, one is the altruistic healer and one is the self healer, healer of thyself. And that is a neglected part. So where could this practice and I know we’re going to go a little more into what this actually is and what it looks like and smells like and feels like, but voice dialogue is, where would this apply? Would you like to give us an example first?

Monica: I think this would be great. I have another example that I think will make sense really within healthcare. So I had someone come to me and he was in a lot of gi distress, a lot of pain, a lot of anxiety. He had had a chronic illness that had been long gone that had come back. And literally, this is the voice of the body speaking so technically we call this practice body dialogue and it goes along with voice dialogue. I facilitated him through the practice of listening to those symptoms, what did they have to communicate with him. He had in fact gotten so sick and he was engaged to be married and they had to call off the wedding and what emerged was that this was his second marriage and he had to complete some issues from his first marriage and communicate what he needed to his fiance and he hadn’t done that. And his body was literally stopping him from moving forward in his life until he could get to the core of what those issues were for him which I facilitated in a session and then he could take those to his fiance, have a heartfelt, honest discussion and wouldn’t you know all of his symptoms disappear again. So that’s the power that we have that we often don’t harness and can be linked to illness and what’s possible when you listen to the wisdom of your body. By the way, I think that was maybe 8 years ago, they’re still happily married.

Jan: Haha, follow-up study!

Monica: So one thing I want to highlight about what he did and what everybody would do in this process is it cultivates an inner mindfulness, a state of being that is not any of these parts but is like a witness consciousness that is able to hold all of these parts without favoring one part of the other. Just like the way in a director of the board would make sure that all of the needs of the organization were being intended to and making a decision. Or another metaphor you could use is learning to be a symphony conductor and that all of your parts are like the instruments coming together in this harmony of gorgeous sound, right? But in order to do that, you have to listen in a curious and an appreciative way to all of the different parts without judgment and that’s what we call an aware ego process. And it’s called a process because you know that time of being witness consciousness, we’re not in that most of the time. We learn how to step in, it’s very key to disidentify from these primary parts so we can cultivate the parts that we’re not as familiar with where actually our undiscovered creativity lies.

Jan: Very beautiful. I can really see this so when you know, let’s go to the hospital canteen for a minute. When we go to the hospital canteen, what do we hear? So there’s a lot of what we hear is like, “oh, I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with this situation.”, “well, why didn’t you do it this way?”, like ah, yeah maybe I should. Or well you know, I do this always like this, we get different roles among the physicians. And on different days in the hospital canteen we take different roles, sometimes we’re the knowers, sometimes we’re the knowers. So in the group, we kind of switch these roles frequently, and then we talk about, “how’s it going” and “ah, I’m really tired today, it was really difficult the kids they didn’t sleep all night and then it’s 5 in bed and ugh!”

So we get private stories interfering with professional lives so suddenly then the role as a father is interfering with the role as a physician for example. Or we have actually different interests, particularly for residents, right or when you’re early in your career and you’re like “oh, I could totally see myself going into interesting surgery but at the same time actually psychology is so interesting.” So we have different kinds of interests and different parts and elements of healing or maybe you know, this is so interesting what I learned in medical school what I would really like to see also is there anything available currently in medicine, for example? So we have all these different parts and it’s very difficult to not switch roles and kind of speak from that role and not see the other roles. It’s kind of very difficult from one role just to see the other roles.

Monica: Yes, yes! Exactly, you know this so well, Jan!

Jan: So this is interesting, so when you are talking about this, this is actually, this observer has a capacity to hold that balance and to be the conduct person. That makes a lot of sense, thank you. Wow.

Monica: Yes, very key, very key and then this one other aspect about voice dialogue that really distinguishes itself from other parts’ work and I think you know, soon we’ll be letting the secret out of the bag why Dr. Chan is here is that the possibility of this work is that you stuck right directly into these parts and experience them firsthand instead of talk about them. So instead of talking about, this father, this inner self, I facilitate that you becoming that part, speaking directly and therefore you get all of this firsthand information somatically, what does it feel like? How does the energy of that part feel different than your beach bum self for example?

Jan: Thank you, so let’s reveal why Dr. Chan is on the call and so you have actually been coaching together so you were coaching Dr. Chan as a medical professional and I would be really curious to hear and thank you Dr. Chan that you’re willing to share. Your experience I think is really pivotal for our community to learn and to receive what this does and how impactful it can be. So maybe if you could share with us what the issues are and kind of what happened during coaching and what the results were for you.

Jacqueline: Sure, thank you so much Jan. So, essentially Monica and I met a couple of months ago and three parts that were, that I was working with for number one the protector, number two the physician, and then number three the, it was like a kaleidoscope of the creative, intuitive, poet, dancer, teacher, healer, you know? And Monica asked me to physically get up from one position that I was in and move to a different chair or couch or different position between each part so I would actually fully be in one part and then get up when we were done with that and be in a different physical location and what I found is that you know, the protector, I started with the protector who basically wanted to set up a safe space and the room for us and was pretty kind of neutral. Like I didn’t have much of an opinion, it just felt like I’m here to protect the space as a therapy, you know, a therapy-client relationship. And then the second one, the physician, was very practical, very assertive, felt heavy. I heard, to be honest, I heard a lot the sound the voice of my mom who was the kind of very disciplinarian, my mom was the disciplinarian in the family. My father was more of the “let’s play”, but my mom was like “did you get your homework done, did you clean up your room, did you clean up the dishes”.

And so, the physician was a heavier, denser feeling in my body and kind of very logical and I would have to say a more masculine, quite masculine focused energy, very practical. And then when I moved into the healer, poet, dancer, creative, teacher, I felt immediately a kind of lightness in my body, just more expansive, more joyous, kind of like the energy of when you’re skipping. You know? Skipping versus hiking, you know just joyous. And the problem that I presented to Monica is I said, you know, I’ve been practicing medicine for just over 20 years and it’s starting to feel dried up for me. Like dry and heavy even though I don’t want to quit medicine, I love being a physician. I have so much time, I feel like mastering my craft. And yet there is just this heaviness about it that sometimes I get sharp with people who are important in my life, my friends, family. I’ll text them you know, in a rude sort of way and it’s always when I’m at work and I’m under pressure and I feel overburdened and I’m not having fun. I’m just kind of not having fun and what I really wanted was to have more creativity and lightness and bring the creative person in me, the more joyous person, allow her and she was distinctly feminine, allow her to be in my medical practice and I had no idea how that was going to happen. And so, what happened is, simply by, I think the physical movement of my body from one location to another and really being in that role turned up the volume on those three different roles and it allowed me to listen to certainly the intuitive, creative, teacher, kaleidoscope one way more than I ever had before.

And the results were pretty profound and I don’t even really know how they happened. It felt almost like, kind of like magic but as a result what happened is, within about two weeks, the type of patients that I started seeing shifted and I started having a few hour-long patient visits instead of a half an hour or shorter. And I didn’t know how to promote that part of my practice, but I started getting a lot more of these hour-long appointments which I actually thoroughly enjoyed. I found myself laughing at work and then I decided to offer a class to some of my patients and it took me one day for it to fill and sign up was like no problem at all. My patients were totally on board and I was exposing a more creative side of myself which was in energy medicine. And then the amazing thing that happened as I was teaching this class and I was teaching about the different chakras and the throat chakra which is about communication, I had a six-year-long somewhat stressful with my boss at work where I didn’t really feel, I felt a little overly controlled, micromanaged, and I know his job is very hard and he was doing a good job with it on the whole but I didn’t feel really seen for my gifts and I felt kind of overly blamed and he apologized to me, out of the blue. Like completely out of the blue and started sending me patients and referring me people and I’d never… I mean and that alone freed up so much energy because I was really battling with this like I can’t really be myself working for him and it was like I don’t know what I’m going to do and it just kind of resolved. You know, so it was really pretty amazing.

Jan: Oh, that’s really deep. That’s really profound. It allowed you to cope, it’s more than a kind of mind map. This is not just a mind map and figuring out the pros and the cons of one way versus the other but it’s really going kind of deep and sourcing really deeply from within you what your direction is and as soon as you were more on your own balance you could actually express more authentically than you could ever do before.

Wow, that is beautiful, thank you.

Jacqueline: Yes, thank you, Monica!

Monica: And you know, not everybody always sees results. quite as quickly. Jacqueline and I had some session prior to that over the last couple of years and also she’s just extraordinary with her capacity so it’s really an honor to work with you as well. And I remember that you told me also about something about like within a month 70-80 percent of your patients were the kind of patients you wanted to be working with.

Jacqueline: Yeah, absolutely.

Monica: Extraordinary. And also in your personal life that something opened up as well.

Jacqueline: Well I was so kind of, I would say overwhelmed and dried up that I just couldn’t see how I even really had space for the type of intimate relationship that I really wanted in my life and that actually unfolded for me. It was somebody that I’ve known for about 13 years so that was pretty amazing, that just kind of happened and so you know, I feel like my, I would call it my joy gauge has increased dramatically. So, yeah I’m grateful.

Jan: So beautiful. When we’re sourcing, what happens. So this is a beautiful, very powerful example for what this voice dialogue can actually do.

Jacqueline: Thank you.

Jan: Amazing, thank you. So Monica, there is, I mean we’re now talking about this and you described what it is and also Jacqueline Chan described what this is, and what it feels like and what the process looks like but describing the experience is still a bit like describing somebody what sugar tastes like if you stick your finger in it. Unless you actually do it you don’t really know what it means. It’s like with so many practices unless you just go ahead and practice you can’t really fully appreciate what it is. So to possibly hear the little kind of today’s conversation has given a little flavor for what it could be and how impactful it could be and I guess a full session if I understand you correctly Monica is at least an hour where you’re really diving deep?

Monica: Yes, because you really want to get the felt sense, the experience of those different opposite selves that you’re working with and we need to have conversations initially to set it up as a pre-session and then do the session and then go into the witness part to integrate the learning, right? And this is how it’s different from traditional talk therapy, it’s really an embodiment practice, sematic experience and this is where the power of transformation comes in. Is it’s, as you were saying, it’s really quite profound beyond the sort of intellectual understanding.

Jan: And Jacqueline, when you were thinking about this today, how do you see this in your life now? So there was a moment, sort of state A, then there was the coaching, then there was the voice dialogue work and then there was kind of the light after that if you’d like. And is this a one-time thing happened or do you actually kind of inside yourself are these dialogues still going on as a conscious process, is this like ongoing work in yourself?

Jacqueline: Well, for me really it was a one-time thing and what it gave me was my own intention and intention has tremendous power to it. So it gave me this intention of I really want to bring this other part of me that’s more joyous and light and feminine into my work which is really important because I got to see how kind of dried up and mechanical and even sometimes I came across as bitter or rude as the physician and so I really got to see that clearly and it helped me create my kind of will or determination, your intent and then your will and determination to have it be better and that got really crystallized for me, quite clear.

Jan: Excellent, beautiful. Thanks a lot. So I think if you want to find out more, what this voice dialogue is about. There is a little bit more background information about this on Monica’s page, WellBeingEmbodied.com. And also Monica has provided some pre-practices so some kind of pre-work to sessions and they’re available on the Heart-Based Medicine website in the care lab. So thanks a lot for making that available Monica, for sharing this and we will very soon have you with us in the Heartful Half Hour so we will actually go a little bit deeper and get a firsthand taste of that sweetness.

Monica: Yes and I’ll also give you just in addition to my website where people can go because I do international sessions with people, but people might want to find someone in your area so I can provide a way to find out some more about that. And just to leave people with a tidbit of one thing that you could take away and start doing today, is ask yourself when you are thinking something, step back and say, “who in me is saying that? Who’s talking?”, because that already has you step out of those primary selves and get a little distance which is what you need in order to make a change.

Jan: Wow, very sweet. Very short, very powerful. Thanks a lot on that note. Thanks a lot for joining today. Thanks for a lot for sharing your experiences, for sharing your wisdom and we’ll see you in the community attracting as teachers, as faculty, as participants, welcome.

Monica: And Dr. Jan, I just want to really thank you too because you’re just so open and willing to share your experience for the benefit of others and I think that’s really extraordinary because people can make use of it.

Jan, do we have a moment that I could make the link for how people could use this for their patients?

Jan: Sure!

Monica: Very briefly, I want to say that if you’ve got patients who are experiencing depression, anxiety. If you have chronic cases where the patient isn’t getting better, perhaps they’ve become overidentified with the part of them that’s sick and isn’t that interesting because not all of us when you go in and talk to the body not all of the parts are actually sick. So I can help people to identify with their well-being to shift out of that chronic illness sort of emotional state. So if you’ve got complex cases or you haven’t seen results or if the patient has come in and told you they’ve got a lot of change or transition going on in their life it can add to the complexity of the case. These are all great ways that voice dialogue can make a difference in your patients’ quality of life and well-being.

Jan: Thank you, thank you. That’s very beautiful, if you want to know more: WellBeingEmbodied.com. Monica Elden, thank you very much for joining us.Dr. Jacqueline Chan thank you very much for joining us today.

Jacqueline: Thank you![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]