Accept your advisor as it appears, as long as it seems wise, kind, and compassionate . . . you will be able to sense its caring for you and its wisdom . . . invite it to be comfortable there with you, and ask it its name . . . accept what comes . . . when you are ready, tell it about your problem . . . ask any questions you have concerning this situation . . . take all the time you need to do this....
Now listen carefully to your advisor's response . . . as you would to a wise and respected teacher . . . you may imagine your advisor talking with you or you may simply have a direct sense of its message in some other way . . . allow it to communicate with you in whatever way seems natural.... If you are uncertain about the meaning of its advice or if there are other questions you want to ask, continue the conversation until you feel you have learned all you can at this time . . . ask questions, be open to the responses that come back, and consider them carefully....
As you consider what your advisor has told you, imagine what your life would be like if you took the advice you have received and put it into action . . . do you see any problems or obstacles standing in the way of doing this? . . . If so, what are they, and how might you deal with them in a healthy, constructive way? . . . If you need some help here, ask your advisor, who is still there with you.... When it seems right, thank your advisor for meeting with you, and ask it to tell you the easiest, surest method for getting back in touch with it . . . realize that you can call another meeting with your advisor whenever you feel the need....
Say goodbye for now in whatever way seems appropriate, and allow yourself to come back to waking consciousness by walking up the stairs and counting upwards from one to ten, as you have before. When you reach ten, come wide-awake, refreshed and alert, and remembering what was significant or important to you about this meeting....
Evaluating Your Experience
When you open your eyes, take some time to write down or record whatever happened in your experience. If you met an inner advisor, describe it in detail. Did you have a visual image or a sense of its presence, or did answers come to your questions without any particular image forming?
What did you ask your advisor, and what was your advisor's response? Do you understand its response? Are there other questions you would like to ask next time you have this dialogue that would help clarify its advice for you?
Did you learn anything useful from this experience? Is there any action you will take as a result of this inner conversation, or is there something else that needs to happen first?
Did you become aware of any obstacles to following your advisor's advice? If so, were you able to imagine constructive ways to deal with them?
Are there specific people who would be affected if you followed your advisor's recommendations? If so, how could you best address their concerns?
If you didn't meet an inner advisor, if your advisor was critical or hostile, or if you met more than one advisor, read the section of the next chapter that addresses your experience before taking the next step.
Discrimination and Inner Guidance
Evaluating the advice you receive is a critical aspect of working with an inner advisor. The advisor is one of many aspects of your unconscious mind, and it is possible for you to receive information from other inner sources. Weighing the potential benefits and risks of what's been suggested allows you to analyze what you've learned and discriminate between potentially useful and potentially risky actions.
Sometimes, however, the choices that offer the most benefits also involve the most risk. In medicine we use the concept of a risk/benefit ratio to help us decide among different treatments for an illness. The ideal treatment is, of course, completely safe and always effective, but unfortunately it has yet to be discovered. So we look for the ones that have the best ratio of safety to effectiveness, whether they be medicines, surgery, acupuncture, or psychotherapy. If a treatment is very safe and very effective, we use it more easily than one that is more dangerous and less effective. Or even more easily than one which is more dangerous yet more effective. This balance is a critical factor in evaluating treatment choices, one that you can apply in making your own choices.
Did your advisor suggest something that seems safe and offers potential benefit? Although you can't always tell in advance whether what's being suggested will be effective, you can usually evaluate its safety, and if it's safe, you can easily try it out to see if it works. For instance, your advisor might suggest that you relax more, or perhaps visualize something healing while you're relaxing. Here you are only risking fifteen to forty-five minutes a day for a few weeks to judge whether or not there is some positive effect.
There may be times, however, when the advisor suggests you do something more risky--like confronting someone or making a significant life change. You then need to weigh the potential benefit carefully before taking action. Assess your true beliefs about what is important to you, and make your choice from the most honest assessment you can make. You might also explore additional options through imagery and have further discussions with your inner advisor about the best and safest way to do what needs doing.
One of the most common fears people have is expressing themselves honestly to other people. We fear loss of love or respect, and we can easily ignore our own needs because of this fear. If the needs are important enough, they may find a means of expression in illness or symptoms.
Mary, twenty-four years old, had developed a sinus infection and was afraid that it would spread and get worse. She had had several similar infections earlier and always became extremely ill with them. Her treatment was complicated by her allergic reactions to every antibiotic usually prescribed for sinus infections. When encouraged to use imagery to explore the illness, she went to her quiet place and called on her inner advisor--a strong, loving older woman named Rose, who reminded her of the grandmother who raised her.
Mary asked about her illness and quickly became aware of the tension she'd been feeling between her and her husband during the previous two weeks. They were living under considerable financial pressure, and he had been working hard to organize a new business. He was tense, uncharacteristically edgy, and critical of her. He'd recently begun to have a couple of drinks after work, and this seemed to change his personality from an easygoing, loving one to a critical and angry one. Mary was frightened to talk to him about it for fear of making him even angrier. She valued her marriage highly and was afraid to do anything that might strain it. She realized all this in a flash. She had bottled up her own anger and fear, and Rose told her that was why she was sick. Mary asked Rose what to do, and Rose advised her to talk with her husband, quietly and lovingly, letting him know about her concerns when he wasn't tense and irritable.
After the imagery session, Mary was greatly relieved, both emotionally and physically. Subsequently, she had a good talk with her husband during a quiet evening and found him supportive and responsive. They were able to share their concerns and hopes again, and her recovery was complete within two days.
Mary's inner advisor helped her become aware of the feelings she was holding inside, the fear that kept them locked up, and a practical, loving way to express them and get the response she desired. By paying attention to her symptoms in this unusual way, she was able not only to recover from an illness, but to solve an even more serious problem in her life.
In the next chapter, I will address some of the common problems that occur as people begin to work with the inner advisor technique. If you had no problem with the inner advisor, you can now go to Chapter Nine, where you will learn another method of inner dialogue that can help you deepen your understanding of the meaning and purpose of your symptoms.