The other breakout session I attended was led by Drs. Brad Strawn and Al Dueck entitled "Pastoring Our Personal Congregations: Clinical Integration, Multiplicity of the Self, and a Peaceable Psychology." Brad is the current Chair of Integration at Fuller and Al is a former Chair.
There were two central ideas in the session, both really intriguing.
The first idea was that the self is multiple. Rather than being a single "self" we are "selves," different selves at different times in different contexts. And often different selves vying for recognition at the same time.
This isn't meant in any strange dissociative sense, like in Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder). This is simply the recognition that we can find ourselves in inner conflict and tension in relation to our selves.
For example, I can judge myself. How does this happen, where one part of the self stands in judgment over another part of the self?
We can also disagree with ourselves. How's that possible if the self is a unity?
We also say things like, "I'm not myself today." Well, who are you if you're not yourself?
Commenting on all this Brad contrasted the metaphors we use to describe the self. A common metaphor is depth. Our "true self" is the "deepest" self. Thus, to find our "true self" we look deep into the psyche to locate the self at the foundation of our personhood. Somewhere deep down is our true, authentic self. We might call this the vertical self where the self is located along a shallow to deep continuum with the more "authentic" self being located at the deep end.
In contrast, Brad suggested that we replace this vertical metaphor with a horizontal view of self. Specifically, instead of "going deeper" to find a "true self" we should instead think of the self extended temporally, as different selves emerge over time. For example, I am a certain self now, here at home, but a different self will soon emerge when I go to work. And importantly, neither of these selves are more or less "authentic" or representative of "the real me."
And even more interesting here is how I might like or dislike these selves. I might like how I am at home and dislike how I am at work. More, these selves might want different things and come into conflict.
So that's the first idea. The self is multiple and temporal. There is no true self deep in the psyche. There are simply different facets of the self that emerge over time and in certain contexts.
Which brings us to the second idea, the way the selves treat each other.
Specifically, if the self is "multiple" then psychological distress and dysfunction can be caused when the "selves" come to treat each other harshly, judgmentally and violently.
Consider self-loathing. Here some facet of the self--the judging self--is expressing judgment and revulsion toward some other self. The selves have come into conflict and psychic violence is taking place. We are internally aggressing against ourselves.
Thus the notion of a "peaceable psychology." And the peace here is a non-violence that is practiced internally, with the selves coming to treat each other kindly and gently.
Al's metaphor for all this was learning to "pastor our internal congregation."
The idea here is that, in light of the multiplicity of selves, we might think of our inner life as a "congregation" that needs "pastoral care." Psychological well-being in this instance is achieved by learning to care for ourselves. Or, rather, to care for our selves.
Just like a pastor would gently care for the people under her care in a congregation, so should we gently and peaceably care for all the selves that make up our identities, our internal congregation. And much of this will involve learning to forgive our/selves.
In sum, we should practice pacifism...toward the self.