One of the major techniques used with Mindful Psychology is Mindful Voice Integration (MVI).
Mindful Voice Integration (MVI) is a powerful transformational process. It provides a direct experience that cultivates awareness, compassion and a unique perspective about oneself. Although MVI’s foundation is based in Gestalt psychology it combines aspects of mindfulness, voice dialog, and Big Mind (a Zen approach). It can be used with an individual, couple, or group.
Although the process of conducting an MVI session may appear to be simple, MVI should be administered by a trained facilitator. The facilitator will work directly with an individual, whether alone or as part of a group. The facilitator begins by “setting the stage”, explaining what the MVI process is, assuring participants that there are no “wrong” responses and establishes that the entire experience be held in a context of mindfulness.
The facilitator conveys that each of us is multifaceted, that we have many aspects to “the self.” It is explained that each of these aspects play a role in how we perceive ourselves, our world and our interactions and each influence our behavior, thoughts and feelings. It is acknowledged that much of the time we are not even aware of these aspects or the influence they have at any given moment.
The analogy of a large company is sometimes used to illustrate this point. The company is made up of a large number of employees each of whom plays a role in the functioning of the company. The company is the sum total of all its employees. Some of its employees have very significant roles and others have more minor roles. Each executive of the company may know many of the employees, but not likely all of them. In this analogy the company represents the self in its entirety and the employees represent the many aspects of the self.
After the facilitator has discussed what mindfulness is and how it plays a significant role in the MVI process (which is discussed below), the participant is invited to assume a particular aspect of the self and give “voice” to that aspect. For example, often the process is begun by talking to “the Protector” because it is the Protector’s job to protect the self at all cost. If the Protector is unwilling to participate in the process or is highly resistant to do so, the process will be stalled. The facilitator might begin by saying to the participant “May I speak to the Protector?” If the response is “yes” it is suggested that the participant shifts their body slightly to assume the identity of the Protector. This “shift” is a way to engage the body in confirming that the Protector is now present and willing to talk to the facilitator.
The facilitator may now say “Whom am I speaking with?” and awaits the response, “to the Protector”. Once this relationship is established, the facilitator and the Protector, a dialog begins in which the facilitator is no longer talking to the participant (the host) but to the participant’s Protector. The facilitator may asks the Protector many questions, such as, “What is your role” or “What function do you have”, “How do you accomplish your function”, “What is the relationship between you and your host (you would use the participants name), “How does your host feel about you”, “Does your host listen to you”, “How do you get your host’s attention”, etc., etc.
Often during the process, a distinction is made between an “immature voice” (less emotionally developed) and a “mature voice” (more aligned with emotional health). The process is designed to allow the participant to experience what a “mature voice” would do or feel in a given situation, which can then be contrasted by how the immature voice would have reacted.
The facilitator’s job is to establish a rapport with the “voice”, pose questions and make comments designed to elicit insight. Also, the facilitator makes sure that the participant stays in voice, using comments like, “Who’s speaking now?” if the response from the participant appears to be coming from the host and not the voice.
After the dialog with the Protector is finished the facilitator will thank the Protector for participating and ask the Protector permission to talk to another voice, i.e. “Thank you so much for talking with me. May I please talk to the voice of the Controller?” If the Protector agrees then the process begins again with the Controller.
This process will continue throughout the session. The number of questions the facilitator can ask is limitless and the number of “voices” that can be engaged in dialog is also limitless.
It is essential that this entire experience be held within the context of mindfulness. The facilitator needs to be familiar with the principles of mindfulness and fully convey to the participant how these principles apply to the MVI process.
- Nonjudgmental – Everything that emerges during the MVI process needs to be experienced from a nonjudgmental vantage point. Often the voice that is engaged may maintain a specific type of attitude or may say something that could easily lend itself to judgment. Holding the experience from a nonjudgmental place supports the participant’s ability to be open to the voice and better accept its role and motivation.
- Curiosity – Bringing a curiosity about each voice and its role, enhances the opportunity to explore the function and motives of the voice. The participant is encouraged to maintain a “beginners mind”, an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions.
- Acceptance -The participant is encouraged to accept what emerges regardless of what it is.
- Compassion – The entire process is held with compassion; compassion for each and every aspect of the self, compassion for the entirety of the self and compassion for how these aspects developed, and how they function now.
As previously discussed, each of us is multifaceted and each aspect of the self has a role to play in our overall functioning. During the MVI process these aspects of the self are given “voice’ so they can reveal what their role is. In this way their host has a direct experience of what they do, how they do it and perhaps what influenced them to function in the manner in which they do. The participant will often be given the opportunity to experience a mature version of the voice and how that aspect would function if “fully matured”.
The definition of “integration” is “to bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole” and that is what the MVI process is designed to do regarding the various aspects of the self. Through direct experience of each aspect of the self, insight and awareness is developed. Through this insight and awareness the participant gains an understanding how a specific part plays a role in their functioning and what the motivation is for that part. With this awareness they can relate to themselves differently and bring greater clarity to a given situation while “holding” themself with greater compassion. Being mindful of these aspects encourages a more holistic view of oneself and promotes a more integrated way of being in the world.
MVI training and individual/group sessions, led by Dr.Kobrin, are available. For more information select Contact and write “MVI” in the subject area.