The Committee

We are all capable of being different people in different times and places. We take on roles to suit our current needs, and the needs of the situation. The student. The teacher. The husband. The gamer. The cook. The teacher. The couch potato. At anytime each of us can be any of these, and dozens more. We can even be more than one at once, if needed.

Voice Dialogue is a type of psychoanalytic therapy pioneered by Hal & Sindra Stone that actively calls out these distinct roles and examines their world views with an aim toward integration and mental health.

Genpo Roshi adopted Voice Dialogue to Zen practice as the Big Mind process, with great results. Some are even calling the Big Mind process the fourth turning of the Wheel of Dharma in Buddhism.

You can experience this yourself, immediately, by simply taking time to consciously check in with one of your roles. One of Genpo Roshi’s analogies is that we are each actually a company filled with employees and each has a particular job to perform. You can imagine yourself as the Controller, or CEO, calling another employee into your office for a meeting. Call in whomever you would like to, and have a check in. If you do this out loud, or in writing, you might be surprised as each voice you use in the two sides of the conversation takes on a unique phraseology, personality, set of goals, and opinions. Genpo Roshi suggests that most of us run this company in a very haphazard way with most of the employees not really being clear on what their job is, what their title is, and what duties they are to perform. By talking to the voices with intentionality, and naming their roles specifically, they each (a part of you) get a better handle on what they are supposed to do. Perhaps they even get a feeling of confidence and empowerment from having their actions acknowledged, directed and accepted.

Recent events in my life have expanded on this idea for me.

I was recently laid off from my job. That has turned out to be a great thing, but at the time there was not a small amount of ruminating about what my life would become. This real life event helped me to realize a big distinction between real life companies, and our internal companies of our distinct voices/roles.

In the real world you can cut back on the numbers of employees if the fiscal environment requires. (This is what happened in my case.) You can also fire an employee causing a negative impact on the operation of the company.

You internal company can do neither of those. In the company of You, you are stuck with all of your employees, for better or worse. No matter how dire the sparsity or resources, nor how harmful to the interests of the company an employee becomes, you simply cannot be rid of them. They can’t go anywhere. You can certainly tell them they are fired, but at best they just skulk off to the basement, or some dark corner, and inevitably reappear at improper times. Often these returns from the shadows will be surprising, scary, or explosive simply because you allowed yourself to believe they were gone. It doesn’t work. You are stuck with your set of employees. All of them.

In my pursuit of spirituality, discipline, and my hodgepodge of religion; my trying to be a better person, I have often “fired” an unwanted employee. Greed. Fear. Anger. Sloth. Lust. Jealousy. No matter how many times I fired them, or how loudly and resolutely I yelled when doing so, the buggers always returned, and nearly always at the worst possible moments.

It doesn’t work.

So, I am opting for a new policy. I hear by declare an end to all firings, lay-offs, and suspensions in the company of Me. Henceforth my employees, when they do their jobs at inappropriate times, and in unskilled ways, will not be let go. Instead they will be named, acknowledged, and explained their proper realms of authority, and will be assigned to teams as needed.

Take Anger, for example. My employee, Anger, is really good at his job. Really, really, really good. Top notch. No doubt. I seriously don’t think there is a better Anger anywhere else, and frankly I am lucky to have him. A truly valued employee. However, he does sometimes (often) jump to the job when he is not actually needed. I recognize this now as an eagerness to do his job, and not a lack of skill. In fact the failure is not his. It’s mine (the Master of the company). He simply had not been explained his list of duties, and who he needs to check with before going into action, who gives him his assignments. So, I spoke with Anger, and made sure he knew how much I enjoyed his work and how good he is at it. I also explained that he was to check with at least one of a list of other employees before springing into action: Fear, the Protector, Righteousness; Justice, Liberty, Fairness, the Controller, or me. Whenever Anger feels like he should go into action, he is to check with one of those first, and if he gets an order to act from one of those he is to do so full bore, and with no reservation. So far he seems to like the arrangement, and he is getting the hang of it. There are still times we he gets over zealous, and acts without approval, but he’s learning. Doing a bang up job.

The same type of arrangement, differing only in particulars, can be made with any of the employees as needed. And, each voice, no matter how refined or privileged is to always remember that, at the end of the day, they are all employees equal on the value scale. None gets paid more than any other.

So, that’s the new deal. This company is moving forward, and it’s taking every single one of its employees along. No exceptions.

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