posttitle = Internal Trust Dancing case study 2: scheduling & cancelling dates titleClass =title-long len =71

Internal Trust Dancing case study 2: scheduling & cancelling dates

A long-time reader of my blog reached out to me after reading Internal Trust Dancing case study: EA & relaxation and asked if I’d do a session, and I said sure! I’m mostly not taking new coaching clients at the moment, but I want to refine and share this technique so I have some small availability for one-off sessions on this. Let me know if you’re also interested!

This case study, shared with permission of course, is a bit longer, since it’s a transcript of an hour’s conversation. I’ve removed a couple tangents but almost all of it is important and it could be misleading to leave out almost any of the lines, so instead this is just a 6000 word post. Read it if you want! It gets juicier about halfway through, for what it’s worth. I do also have more commentary which I can share with folks who are interested.

I’ve annotated the transcript in the same style as the Therapeutic Reconsolidation Process case studies in Unlocking the Emotional Brain, with 7 steps (ABC123V), while trying to not get too shoehorn-y about it. Doing this annotation helped me get clear on what I was actually doing—the level I’m working on wasn’t actually obvious to me until I wrote it out. The steps, for reference, are:

  • accessing sequence
    • Step A: symptom identification
    • Step B: retrieval of symptom-necessitating emotional schema
    • Step C: identification of accessible contradictory knowledge
  • transformation sequence
    • Step 1: reactivation of symptom-necessitating emotional schema
    • Step 2: juxtaposed, vivid experience of contradictory knowledge
    • Step 3: repetition of the juxtaposition experience
  • Step V: verification of change by observation of critical markers

And of course M is me and C is my coaching client.

Internal differentiation—each part taking its own perspective

As discussed in the previous case study, in order to have conversations internally, it’s necessary for the parts to see that they’re parts. Here they each get the chance to speak to their perspective briefly. We don’t go too deeply or intensely into either part’s viewpoint, because we want them both in the room together, and they may not trust each other enough to go deeper. This

C: So there’s one specific problem I want to look at… I ended a relationship 6-8 months ago. And we’re still friends, that’s okay there. A couple months ago I decided to start dating again, so I’ve been scheduling dates, etc. But then, when I get to the point of meeting someone, I don’t want to. And I end up cancelling. This has happened 6 times in the last 2 months. And then I have a date coming up this Saturday but I’ll probably cancel it on Friday.

[This conversation was on Wednesday—there’s an email at the end of this post with an update. This simple articulation of an oscillation from compartmentalization is essentially Step A: symptom identification. This was a conveniently precise and concrete oscillation. However, note that we’re going to focus on the compartmentalization itself, not on the content of the conflict. So for what follows, Step B: retrieval of symptom-necessitating emotional schema, we’re not asking “why is it necessary to cancel the date?” we’re asking “why can’t these two perspectives talk to each other?” The fact that his parts are stuck in a tug of war rather than co-creatively finding a solution to this conflict is the symptom. This is, in general, the focus of internal trust-dancing.]

M: So it seems like the part of you that you have more conscious identification and connection with right now is the part that is saying “yeah, I want to go on the date”. But you have some awareness that there’s some other part that is going to like pull the rug out from under you. How do you feel—like, from your current perspective, how do you feel about that?

C: Frustrating, because I know that I predict that it’s going to happen, and I know that on Sunday, I will regret not going on the previous night. And then I will need to start all over again and message someone else. So frustrating.

M: Yeah. Do you remember what it what it was like, the last time that you cancelled the date? What it felt like to be in that mode? When you were in the headspace where it made sense to you to cancel the last date. [Deliberate use of coherence empathy language, not talking about the behavior of cancelling but about how it made sense from that perspective. This serves both to invite that part to be present and to frame the whole scene in that lens.]

C: I was anxious, and sad, I was sad, like, anxious because I had a weird feeling that I need to cancel this. I have to cancel this. And sad, not because I was cancelling but… I don’t know why it was sad, you know, but I remember I was sad.

M: Mmm, interesting. So here’s I guess another important piece. So when you were in that mode of “I need to cancel this.” …how did you feel towards the part of you that booked it in the first place? [I’m alternating back and forth between the parts, to get them both aware of the other and get an initial read on how they’re relating to the situation. Again, we’re focused on the relationship between the parts, not on the actual specifics of the date.]

C: Angry. Yeah. Like, I was crazy for doing that. Yeah. I shouldn’t have done that. Yeah.

M: Why not?

C: Well, first, because now I’m in this place, you know, where I feel anxious and sad. And I blame that part. Because if I just stayed home and not talked to anyone, I would not have been feeling like that.

M: Cool. What does it feel like? Right now? From your current vantage point? Are you looking forward to the date on Saturday? Sort of in principle, even if part of you is like, I don’t want it to happen. 

C: Yeah.

M: What does it feel like, from here to imagine a version of you on Friday, who is like, kind of pissed at current-you or something like that.

C: [laughs] This… it’s not anger, but there’s some, like, avoidance, you know, I don’t even want to… I don’t want to become like that. At the same time, I kind of know, or… I predict that it’s going to happen. Yeah. At some point, I’ll do that.

Getting on the same meta-page

Getting on the same meta-page involves getting on the same page about the extent to which we’re on the same page, and ideally also getting on the same page about what’s preventing us from getting more on the same page. This is where we get to Step B: retrieval of symptom-necessitating emotional schema. Where and why do the parts expect the dialogue to break down? Where is the distrust?

M: So I guess here’s the basic piece. Does it feel true—from the perspective of the kind of current mode that’s like looking forward to a date and stuff like that—does it feel true to say, to the other part “I don’t want you to feel anxious and sad. I’m not trying to make you feel anxious and sad”?

C: No, it’s more, it’s more like, “I don’t care what you feel, or what you’re gonna feel.”

M: It seems, it seems that you’ve got a very interesting shape of conflict here then because even if the even if this part doesn’t kind of emotionally care that the other part feels a particular way, its own plans are getting thwarted by this effect. [Gently pointing out to this part that its strategy isn’t really working. We don’t want to force this part to care about the other part, but we do want to remind it that it does care about sorting this out.]

C: Yes, yup, exactly.

M: Okay, so… [sighs] …at some point I’m going to invent some fractional pronouns for this, because, like, “I” is a super confusing thing to use, when you’re a part talking to a part. It’s not “I, Malcolm” it’s “I, this part”. Anyway, we’re going to take for granted that, that almost everything we’re going to be doing in this conversation “I” is going to mean whatever voice is speaking right now. And that is not necessarily the whole!

So, with that in mind… maybe a slightly different thing that could feel true to say is—and maybe not and that would also be interesting—maybe it would feel true to say say “for what it’s worth, I’m not scheduling these dates for the purpose of making you feel sad and anxious. I’m doing it for some other reason.” [Establishing non-hostility, in the absence of being able to establish care. If that *also* didn’t feel true, we’d have to go on a whole different arc, but that would also be kind of inconsistent with it saying it doesn’t care.]

C: Yeah, that feels true.

M: So now I’m going to ask, like, if you can get in touch with the other perspective… from there: do you buy it? Like, do you do you think that that part is, is for real? Does that feel like you trust that statement? [A vital part of trust-dancing on any scale is giving space for parts’ distrust to be heard, so after a statement like this, I always check in.]

C: That I’m not scheduling this date for the purpose… yeah, that feels true. Yeah, I buy it.

M: Okay, cool. Yeah, I was expecting that would be a pretty easy thing to buy, given that, that part had already acknowledged it actually didn’t really give a shit about the feelings. So it’s sort of like… if it doesn’t care, that it just doesn’t care. And so then it’s consistent with “I’m not trying to upset you, I literally just not really kind accounting for that at all.” So, whereas, you know, if that date-scheduler part had tried saying “I don’t want you to feel anxious and sad”, but actually it was coming from a don’t-care stance, then like, the other part might have been like, “I don’t think you really care though,” like it would notice. So… cool.

Okay, there’s a few different tones that this conversation could take, a few sort of different conversational moves that can be made here. I’m going to just like, kind of share a couple different ones. One would be the part that’s been cancelling the dates, could say “Well, look, you’re gonna need to care. Because if you want to go on these dates, you’re going to need to somehow sort out what’s upsetting me, even if I don’t know what it is.”

I think probably, before making that move, though, I’m actually realising it would be good though to do a different same-sidedness & same-pagedness move from that other part’s perspective. So if you get in touch with the part—and I know this might be a bit harder to do—but if you get in touch with the with the part that has been cancelling the dates… does it feel true to say to the other part, something like: “I’m not thwarting you just for spite. There’s something important to what I’m caring for here. But like, I want whatever you’re trying to do with these dates to be satisfied. It just it’s got to be somehow different.”

C: …Mmm. Mm. Yeah, yeah, that feels true. Mm. Yeah. [So in this case we have active samesidedness being expressed by the date-canceller towards the date-scheduler, not just non-hostility.]

M: Cool. And then coming back to the part of you that, you know, is scheduling and anticipating the dates. Does that part kind of trust that sentiment coming from the date-canceller, or does it feel still feel kind of like, “I don’t know, though, maybe you’re just trying to fuck with me”? [Again, we check. And lo, this time…]

C: Huh. Yeah no, it doesn’t trust it. It’s the same feeling. It’s the feeling of that doesn’t matter, you know? Yeah, like, that’s bullshit, what you want. That’s, that’s the feeling. So, what you’re saying, yeah. So there’s no feeling of trust there.

M: So I’m going to invite the date-scheduler part to say to the other part something like: “I don’t trust that your that your reasons matter”—something like that…

[Client pauses and goes inwards]

[In getting the date-scheduler to address the date-canceller, I deliberately rephrase this from the objective “that doesn’t matter” or “that’s bullshit” to “I don’t/can’t trust that that matters”. This reframing creates space for the date-canceller to receive and honor what the date-scheduler is saying, as we’ll see below. If “I don’t trust” still feels too aggressive, I might offer something softer, like “there’s a thing it would feel like if I felt an easeful trust that your reasons matter, and I would like to feel that, but I don’t have what I need to feel that.”]

M: …and I can offer a few other more verbose phases here if you want, but it sounds like something’s already kind of happening.

C: Yeah! Something’s happening. It seems when I say that or when the thought says that… it’s like that’s why we have this you know—that’s the thing, that’s the conflict. It seems very real. From the part that’s cancelling, it’s like “That’s the feeling like, that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I stopped you.”—in a sense. [“That’s the conflict” is a bout as clear of a same meta-page statement as one can get. So this is a huge piece of Step B: retrieval of symptom-necessitating emotional schema. The next few paragraphs are deepening & refining that.]

M: Right, right. So that and that comes back to this, the phrase I sort of gestured at earlier but then said we actually don’t say that just yet. So let’s see, where are we? I guess there’s two kinds of things you might mean by that’s why I stopped you. One be something like “that’s why I stopped you because you don’t you don’t care and you should care”, in some more in some kind of general sense. But a different reason could be something like “I stopped you because there’s factors that you’re not accounting for.”

C: No, it seems it seems more simple like, “I stopped you because you don’t care.”

M: Okay! So we’ve gotten to kind of the crux of the conflict. So that’s interesting, right? Because a few minutes ago, I offered you a thing to try saying from the date-canceller, to the date-scheduler or whatever. I offered a phrase of, “I’m not trying to thwart you for spite, there’s just something important about how this needs to go. I want that satisfied, it just has to be different” And it doesn’t seem to me like that perfectly contradicts the “I stopped you because you don’t care”. But it seems very close, so it makes sense of why the other party doesn’t trust this this part. 

C: Yup. Yes, yeah. Yeah. 

M: I’m wondering if there’s a way to easily articulate how those two things go together. Like, on the one hand, I stop you because you don’t care. On the other hand, like, I’m not trying to thwart you just for spite. There is something missing.

C: No, yeah. There is a thing that, that makes sense, you know, saying that, I stopped you because you don’t care and there’s something missing. But it’s really difficult to find what is you know…

M: …to find what’s missing? 

C: Yeah. It’s a very shallow discussion right now. Like, “You don’t care. So I’m not going to tell you what’s the real thing,” then “So yeah, I don’t care. I don’t even want to know, what’s the real thing.” You know? It stops there. Yeah.

M: So the one part saying “you don’t care, so I won’t tell you the real issues”. And the other part is saying “I don’t care…”

C: “…so you don’t even need to tell me”

M: So they’re actually in agreement there!

C: [laughs] Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. 

M: But they’re not in agreement about whether you should go on a date. Like, this week, you know.

C: [still laughing] Mm hmm. Yeah.

Respecting distrust—”we are together”

[One of the main blockers of dialogue is distrust. My assumption is that the date-scheduler part’s distrust amounts to a schema, that is something like “if I try to dialogue with you, there won’t be space for what I know”. In general, it’s unwise to assume the presence of schemas, but for whatever reason, this move seems to consistently work (when the person/part has the capacity to make it, which isn’t always the case). Perhaps it’s because the structure here is so basic & general? I admit: I don’t know, at least not in terms of the Therapeutic Reconsolidation Process. Something about this is very obvious from an NNTD-informed perspective though.

At any rate, with that general sort of schema in mind, we can see how this part proceeds with Step C: identification of accessible contradictory knowledge, by having the date-canceller explicitly validate & respect the date-scheduler’s distrust. This immediately moves us from the accessing sequence into the transformation sequence, through Step 1: reactivation of symptom-necessitating emotional schema (it’s active because the other part is directly speaking to it and validating it) and Step 2: juxtaposed, vivid experience of contradictory knowledge (the validation is the contradictory knowledge).

Another piece of why this is so powerful might that with a simple perspective-shift it becomes self-evident that it’s absurd to say/mean “you should trust something you can’t trust” and so the truth of the statement becomes obvious to the part/person as they say it.]

M: Here’s one of the really magic moves—or can be. From the part that has been cancelling the dates, can you find a place from which to say something like—and it’s less about saying and more about embodying, but the saying is really important to like the act of communication—can you find a place from which to say: “I respect that you can’t trust that my reasons matter (C: …yeah) …and I’m not going to ask you to trust that they matter if you don’t have what you would need to trust that.”

C: Yeah. …when I say that—when I feel that—there is some kind of relief.

M: Yeah, say more about that relief.

C: [slowly and with wonder] Wow. It’s even difficult to talk about that. It really feels like… an agreement, that doesn’t make logical sense. But it feels like, yeah: when you respect that, we are together. [Perhaps the basic juxtaposition here has something to do with separateness and togetherness!]

M: I teared up slightly when you said that. As you said, it’s hard to put words to it. It’s so basic. It’s just like, “wait, I can have my reality, though? Like, I’m free to have my reality?”

C: Yeah, exactly.

C: [breathing deeply] I mean, that was really magical. When you when you said the sentence, it seemed like a compromise, you know, but when I tried to embody the sentence and that feeling and that part… then, it was different, you know, really doing that. It was different than just hearing the sentence. It wasn’t a compromise, it was a real agreement. You know? I don’t know If I’m explaining correctly the difference.

M: The words are hard and you’re doing a great job putting any words to a thing that is really subtle and really important. Yeah, I love it. 

C: Thank you.

Parallax of perspectives, obviousness

[In this part I get a bit more into theory and then invite further perspective-taking between these parts and validation. Now that the parts are listening to each other, the actual content about the date surfaces spontaneously and as something that is obvious.]

M: One analogy I sometimes use for this is, if you think about your eyes, it’s like if you hold your finger up, sort of between you and the camera. And then… which side of my finger is the camera on? And the answer is of course “both”—depending on which eye asked. And so it’s like, well, the eyes actually disagree, it turns out, but the fact that they disagree is a source of tremendous information. That’s how you get depth perception! Your eyes disagree, and instead of having them argue, your brain goes: “Great! I’ll use your perspective for this and your perspective for that. And when I put them together, boom!”

I got this analogy from Nick Sousanis’ amazing book Unflattening

M: And, so it’s like, you’ve got one perspective from from which it is obvious that you should go on a date.

C: Yeah.

M: You’ve got another perspective from which it’s obvious that you should not go on a date.

C: Exactly. Yeah.

M: And what’s the 3D view? But before you can even ask what’s the 3D view, you need to get out of an argument. [In other words, you need both parts to be able to have and respect their different perspectives, while being together.]

C: Mmm, mhm. Yeah.

M: I’m interested in knowing, like, you know, you’ve done this kind of as we both described it, this magical move kind of in the one direction of having the date-cancelling part respect the distrust of the the date-scheduling part. I’m wondering if we can find a way to do that in the other direction. And I’ve got some words that might might get us there, so I’m going to offer those.

What I’m imagining the date-cancelling part might say is something like: “I don’t trust that you are taking everything into account when you are scheduling these dates.” Basically. Something like that, that feels true to that part. [Again, this is intentionally phrased as “I don’t trust that…”]

C: Yeah. Well, now, the other part is listening—it cares now. Yeah! Now, I can see what the real thing is, that the cancelling part is worried about—and it’s obvious.

M: it always was! [both laugh] …in a sense. From certain vantage point, it always was obvious and that’s why the dates need to be cancelled, if you see what I mean.

[Now that the date-scheduler part is listening, the content of the original conflict surfaces naturally. The client actually kind of skipped past the move I was trying to do, but this is fine. They’re experiencing the two parts continuing to respect each other and take each others’ perspectives while orienting to the situation, which seems like on some level Step 3: repetition of the juxtaposition experience, while they also explore the actual conflict itself.]

C: Haha sure, yeah. You know, it’s like, “you just care care about scheduling these things, but how we’re going to feel after you know, afterwards, like after the date?” The date-canceller is not even worried about that, it just wants to the other part to take that into account—like “when you schedule that, consider that. How are we going to feel after the date? Are going to enjoy it? Or?” Yeah, yeah. But that was completely like, invisible before. It’s not bad, like, it’s not afraid of that. It just wants to take that into account. Yeah, that’s it. 

M: If I would make a guess… given that you opened this whole conversation by mentioning having had a breakup eight months ago. My guess is that there’s something about how you expect to feel that somehow in relation to that.

C: Yes. Yeah. That makes sense, that feels true. There is this feeling of when you when you do that, that’s really the end. You know, that’s the final…

M: Oh, wow! Wow.

C: …and again, at least this part doesn’t think that’s a problem, it just wants that acknowledged… 

M: Oh, it’s maybe something like… you’ve been scheduling dates without accounting for how that will feel in relation to the breakup.

C: Yeah, yeah. And again, that seems obvious now, but yeah. [both laughing]

M: Well, it sounds like, maybe this move is gonna look a bit different and is in some sense, less needed, but I think it would still be beautiful and worthwhile to make some form of it that does make sense from here. Which is basically, you know, the date-canceller part was like: “I don’t trust that you’re taking everything into account when scheduling these dates.”

And you said “So, oh, now the other part is listening”. And implicit in the fact that it was listening was like, it respects that this other part is saying “I don’t trust that”. There’s some some regard for that, as opposed to the “I don’t care. Your reasons don’t matter” that was there before. But yeah, just wanting wanting to make sure that the date-canceller part has the chance to experience that same relief of having its perspective validated—the “I can have my reality.”

C: [pauses, breathes] Yeah, yes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, every time that I can get to the point that I can have my reality, there is a relief. [This is further repetition of juxtaposition, from the other direction.]

[The next few paragraphs are me talking with the client about why this works, and why it gets blocked. I think conveying these perspectives to people while they’ve just had a juxtaposition experience around what’s possible with internal dialogue is likely to deepen things, because each of the parts gains an understanding and a sense that each other understands it.]

M: Yeah. People have no idea the extent to which so much of human conversation is conducted in a way that is saying: “No, you don’t get to have your reality.” Internally and interpersonally, it is near constant and it’s such a basic thing, that it doesn’t even occur to us usually, how important it is to say: “You can have your reality. It’s different than mine, and you can have it.” And that’s in part because we don’t trust that others are gonna let us have our reality, but then, one of the most self-grounding moves can actually be saying: “I’ve got a different reality, but also I respect that you’ve got yours.”

C: Yup.

M: And I’m still learning to do that myself both internally and with other people. Literally just yesterday, somebody said a thing to me and I shot back, “Well that’s not how I see it.” And just 10 seconds later, I was like [sigh] “What was that?” But that comes from the fear that I’m going to have to negate my reality. Like somebody else is just saying: “Concern X about thing Y” And I’m like, I don’t have that concern—because I’m afraid that I’m going to be asked to treat that concern as one that I have… I’m afraid that, you know, my right eye is gonna have my left eye convince it that the finger really on the right of the camera and so it blurts out: “No, it’s on the left!” and it’s like “Whoa, whoa! Can we get space to have different perspectives?”

And this is part of why I’m seriously wondering if it’s worth having a fractional pronoun—I’m not certain that this is necessary, let alone good, but I’m thinking about it. Because it is a matter of great insanity that any part can grab the mouth and just start speaking as the whole. That’s totally absurd. You know, “my views may not represent the views of my employer”.

C: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.

There is still a conversation—the two parts haven’t merged

[This section involves more transformation via [Step 3: Repetition of Juxtaposition] of the two perspectives, as well as some initial [Step V: Verification] by seeing how the parts are relating to the situation now. This also deepens the experience of the new reality: that we can talk about this.]

M: So! You’ve got a date scheduled for this Saturday…

C: Yes. 

M: How does that sit now? 

C: You know, it’s natural that… that’s how it feels. At the same time, there is, you know, the part that was previously cancelling the thing is like “okay, just don’t forget me—consider how this is going to… what is going to mean to your previous relationship?” There is that. And, again, the other part’s not saying now “I don’t care”—it’s saying “yeah, okay, let’s do that. Let’s see how it goes.” Which is interesting, you know? I mean, it seems to me that there is still a conversation. I still have that worry, you know, I still think about that, consider that. 

M: The two parts haven’t merged—they are still bringing different perspectives.

C: Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to say. Yeah, exactly. But unlike before, there’s no, “I’m going to stop that. Because you’re not considering that, I’m going to stop you.”

M: Both now, and in that moment, coming up to the date—which I’m sure will still feel like something; there’s a reason why that part usually has been quiet until it’s the day before. There’s something about entering into the state before the date. So one thing you could do is: right now, ask yourself—and I say ask your whole self, because it might even not be this part that has the particular need. It actually sounds to me, like it might be that this part is actually standing up for some other part. I kind of vaguely get that impression that this part, like, because it’s been saying: “I don’t even care that much. I just don’t want you to be missing this piece.” There’s a kind of mediator quality.  So I’m saying ask your whole system what do we need to do to be ready for this date? Like emotionally.

Like is there more letting go that needs to happen with the former partner or something, you know. And I could imagine somebody going to a bridge where they had a date with the previous partner and maybe dropping an object into the water that represents that relationship. That’s just one example. Saying to your whole system: whatever is wanted here, let’s do it.

And maybe we can’t do that thing before this Saturday—maybe you do need to cancel Saturday’s date—but like, now you’re oriented to a process rather than just an oscillation. And the other thing that you could do is, you could invite the part that was previously cancelling the date, “instead of cancelling, can you speak up a little bit first and just say: ‘Hey, can we talk about this?’ rather than just like, freaking out and cancelling the date?” Which I think implicitly, it’ll be more likely to do already anyway.

[Inviting the parts to orient towards future conversations helps with both juxtaposition and verification, because it allows me and the client both to gauge the extent to which the parts are just temporarily warm but still expecting there to be future untalkaboutable issues, or whether the general impression is that things will be more open going forward. And in my experience it’s very common to have some future oscillations even when things do feel good now, so we see if we can find a way to orient such that those experiences aren’t perceived as betrayals of the whole thing.]

C: Yeah, okay. Cool. Yeah.

M: Do you want to try just like asking it? And it might it might be like: “I don’t know, man, I might still freak out and cancel it if I don’t trust that” …and then you know, if so, well, that’s what happens. Or it might say: “Hey, I’ll totally talk to you” and you might be like: “I don’t know if I buy it”. The parts don’t automatically say things and mean them. [Again normalizing the idea that it would be okay for the parts to not totally trust each other, which is the key to building trust.]

C: [pauses, feels into it] Well, yep, it’s the same thing like… there is this need for talking again, you know, having the conversation again, like, listen to me again or like “before we cancel, tell me.” Yeah, there’s a sense that let’s talk again. And it’s different because before, like, in the beginning, the part that was scheduling the dates didn’t care. Like it didn’t. 

M: It wasn’t open to conversation about this: “No. I’m just gonna do this”

C: Yeah, and now it seems that it understands that: “Okay, maybe you want to cancel this again, but that’s that’s fine, but at least let’s have this conversation. What’s the thing?

M: Nice.

C: And as you said, at the same time, it respects if maybe it’s not the time for the other part and it wants to cancel again.

M: Wow. 

C: Yeah, there’s a huge shift. Yeah.

Reflecting on the process as a case study

[This isn’t part of the internal trust-dancing process itself, but it’s entirely relevant to case studying it so I’ve included it. There’s also a short story of one time I self-facilitated ITD with a friend holding space.]

M: Well, that’s pretty cool. I’ve used this technique with other people, like three or four times now and every time it works way better than I’m expecting. It’s so weird, I’m like, am I cheating… is this real? Only time will tell.

[I think to some degree the efficacy of this may be downstream of this being something I created, so similar to Dick Schwartz being more grounded than the typical IFS facilitator, or Doug Tataryn with BioEmotive, I’m very in touch with the generator of this process and confident in the core validity of it. This allows me to bring more unflappable presence, in addition to the creativity allowed by doing something from a deep generator not from rote. Part of what allowed this session to go particularly well was that the client was comfortable with long pauses where I could sense into what move to make, since I don’t have a lot of it cached.]

C: …it was unbelievable, for me. It feels really, you know, magical, as you said… and I’ve had some experience, with partswork and that kind of stuff. It was never so impactful and so fast, and so direct as that. It was really, yeah, magical.

M: Cool. Yeah. Well, if you’re down, I would love to transcribe this recording and use it for a 2nd Internal Trust Dancing case study.

C: Yeah, yeah, that’s fine. 

M: Because, you know, the previous one clearly had an impact on you, even before you came in. You know, wanted to work with me on it. And, you know, I suspect that probably the fact that you reached out based on this, you know, this sense that this is what you needed and you had a really clear thing coming in like, feels like it probably helped.

Oh, one question I would have actually also is… I think you said you tried to do this on your own on this specific issue. I am curious where you got stuck!

C: Well, I got stuck at the beginning really. Like I could sense the two parts, but I couldn’t even make them talk to each other. Like when we started, that’s where I was stuck.

M: Yeah. It seems to me like, ironically, despite being, you know, a process that in principle, you should be able to self-facilitate internally, it does seem like it benefits a lot from having somebody else. The main specific time that I remember doing this technique very like explicitly with myself as opposed to just more nebulously, someone was upset at me and I had a fear come up where, part of me was like, “I don’t know if I’m doing a good job” (in a kind of global sense) and another part was like: “No, I know I’m doing a good job”.

And I was like: Wait a minute, guys, respect each other’s realities here. You can’t just say “I know I’m doing a good job” if another part is saying “I don’t know if I am doing a good job” …Guys, stop abusing the “I” pronoun here. But I was maybe too emotional, or something, to self-facilitate it, quite. So I just like called my friend and they said, “Hey, I’m trying to use this trust dancing material, but like, internally, it feels like it should work.” And basically, once he was on the phone—which was after an hour of me being anxious and distracted before I called him—once he was on the phone, I was able to kind of walk myself through it and it worked great. It took like, five minutes for the two parts to be like “Oh, yeah, I appreciate the role you’re playing.” Anyway, so there’s something to figure out about, like, to what extent can this be done on one’s own?

[I think this would require a fair bit of grokking the generators oneself. And might depend on how much groundedness the person has in the moment. I might recommend something more like Ideal Parent Figure protocol if someone was feeling dysregulated or emotionally overwhelmed.]

You know, could there be an app or even just a writing process that might guide you kind of through it… like a flowchart. I don’t know! I’m gonna facilitate it for probably a dozen more people and potentially you again, if you want… and then only at that point, will I even have the slightest sense of the generalization to do with it. Yeah, and then there’s a whole meta piece that would need to come in if one of the parts started to have distrust in this process itself

C: Mmm.

M: I didn’t encounter any of that with you and so that’s part of what made this so smooth and easy. And, you know, there’s various reasons why the resistance might be there in some cases and might not have been in this case, you know, anything from like, you’d read the whole blog post, and you were really excited and self directed when reaching out…  or even just… I think sometimes people use a lot of internal techniques that do actually disrespect the parts’ realities on whatever level and that leads them to a general distrust of techniques.

[That’s a subject for another post. For now you can look up [[full-fractal buy-in]] on my roamblog.]

Postscript: email from C a few days later

Yes, I did end up going on the date yesterday! It felt… easy!?

On Thursday and Friday, I had some “quick trust dancing work”. I did not do much… I just let the parts talk, say their worries. I guess the magic was already done in our session.

Saturday morning I was excited! There was no conflict, nothing. For the first time, I was looking forward to the date that evening. Again, it felt magical! 

I don’t remember if I mentioned it, but I cancelled 6 dates in the last two months! The pattern was always the same: the desire to meet someone, schedule it, feel “sad and anxious”, cancel it… start again. Very frustrating and demotivating.

I cannot thank you enough. I really think you are creating something powerful here. I hope you continue working on it to help more people.

PS: The date itself went great! We both had fun and are planning to meet again 🙂

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About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Intend, a system for improvisationally & creatively staying in touch with what's most important to you, and taking action towards it.


Sameer » 29 Aug 2021 » Reply

I found this super helpful and interesting, as someone who is exploring related modalities (internal double crux and internal NVC). Also highlighted some things for me around communication between people (rather than parts) – specifically, the “getting to have your own reality” thing feels huge.

Thank you for writing it up in such detail!

    Malcolm » 30 Aug 2021 » Reply

    Thanks Sameer! Part of the value of the generator of the ITD/NNTD is that it’s broadly welcoming towards people or parts distrusting the process. It’s like “oh, you don’t like this approach/technique/language? okay! that’s really important to know! we’ll have to find something that works for you too, clearly.”

    …which is something that some NVC practitioners have trouble with. And similarly, if someone thinks that the way to resolve all internal conflicts is internal double crux, and some part knows that with the way the person is currently understanding the technique, the part will always get missed or misunderstood by IDC, that part will tend to block attempts to even approach resolving internal conflicts. And then the person will be like “why am I so stuck?”

    And yes, the “getting to have your own reality” thing is just as relevant and important interpersonally! One of my assumptions with this trust-dancing stuff is that the core principles are the same on all scales, from parts to people to groups to countries. Obviously different techniques and specifics will apply at those scales, for lots of reasons, but yeah.

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