Excerpt from Chapter 11, "Enter the Risk Manager"

I stood there, looking down at the cloth doll. I knew I needed to start speaking, but something was holding me back. My mouth was dry. I didn’t know it yet, but a risk was emerging, a risk so big that it would not even let me speak.
      What was at risk for me, the facilitators asked, to really own this Editor in myself?
      The answer I heard inside was, I don’t know. But I couldn’t get my mouth to say it.
      Was there a part of me, they asked, that found it hard to trust that this process would work for me?
      My gut said yes, and I nodded my head. Normally I would have felt guilty about admitting that I didn’t completely trust what was happening. That would be like saying I didn’t trust the facilitators, who were my friends. To my surprise, I felt relieved to admit it to myself, and to them.
      They asked me to choose someone to play the part of me that found it hard to trust, so it could be present and take part in the process. I asked a woman named Dorothy, and she walked over to stand next to me.
      The facilitators asked if they could talk to this part of me directly. I nodded, and I switched places with Dorothy. I handed her the black fabric, and she swung it over her shoulders. She took the Editor’s place by the chair and pointed her finger down at the cloth doll. I moved to where she had been standing, assuming the role of the part of me that found it hard to trust, and then turned to face the facilitators.

Honoring My Risk Manager

“Hi!” they said. “So you’re the part of Alyce that finds it hard to trust that this process will work for her, is that right?”
      I nodded. This is novel, I thought to myself, playing not Alyce but a part of Alyce. It was kind of exciting.
      “Welcome!” they went on, sounding as if they meant it. They said they saw me as a part of Alyce that had been watching out for her for a long time and saving her from doing things that were too risky.
      Inside, I felt a huge relief.
      “Yes,” I said. I was finally speaking.
      They said I had probably saved Alyce from many risky situations in her life. They said I might even have saved her life.
      Tears came to my eyes. I knew in my heart that there had indeed been times when my life had been in danger, and I was the part that had saved the day. It felt really good to be acknowledged for that.
      They said they were really glad that Alyce had a part like me, watching out for her and protecting her from harm. They said they wanted to consult with me about what was happening, because they wanted Alyce to be really safe while she reclaimed her creative life. They said they figured I knew Alyce better than they ever could, and they wanted my advice on how to keep her safe. They called me “a wise voice” inside of Alyce that could advise her on how to stay safe.
      No one had ever called me wise before. I had never dared think that any part of me might be considered wise.
      They said they often called a part like me a Risk Manager, though I might have a different name for myself. I liked the word “Manager,” it had an authoritative sound. I had rarely felt authoritative about anything. They asked me what was at risk for Alyce to own that she had an Editor inside and get her creative writer’s life.
      I told them about Dad and the way he had criticized Alyce and her siblings. I told them Alyce had felt so stung by his criticism that she had decided at an early age never, ever to be like him. The risk in admitting she had an Editor inside was that she might believe she was evil inside and had no way to control the evil. If she had believed that, she would have been unable to trust anything about herself, anything she thought or said or did, because it might be evil.
      When I finished, they said that from what they knew of my background, it made sense that it would be very risky for Alyce to admit she had an Editor inside. They said they were glad I had been there all these years to protect Alyce from taking a risk like that. My eyes filled with tears again.

Contracting

They asked me whether there was anything they needed to do to make it safer for Alyce to get her creative life today.
      “No,” I said immediately. They had listened to me and honored and thanked me for protecting Alyce. I felt completely safe about continuing.
      They said that if another risk came up, they would want to ask me about it directly. They asked if I would be willing to stay present in the room and keep an eye out for risks. That way, if they needed to talk to me directly, they could do so. I agreed. They promised to check in with me at the end of the process to make sure everything had gone okay. I had never felt so much in charge before.
      They asked if there was anything I, as Risk Manager, wanted to say directly to Alyce before they switched me back into her. I nodded. I turned toward Dorothy, who was still playing me in my role as the Editor.
      “I know how much you want the life of a creative writer,” I said. “You’ve wanted it for years. And I want you to go for it. You deserve it.”
      Then I switched places with Dorothy again. She handed me back the black fabric, and I put it on, resuming the role of Editor.
      Dorothy repeated the words I had just said. She said she knew how much I wanted the life of a creative writer and wanted me to go for it. She told me I deserved it.
      Tears came to my eyes again. I had a new ally.
      The facilitators asked if there was a color for my Risk Manager. It was yellow, I said. As they gave Dorothy a yellow piece of fabric to put around her shoulders, I thought that it made sense, since yellow is the color for caution.

Working the Risk

Wrapped in black, I looked down once again at the cloth doll on the chair.
      The facilitators said they had just been talking with my Risk Manager, who considered this process safe enough for me to proceed. They recapped what the Risk Manager had said. Then they said they believed it was my decision, as Alyce, whether or not to proceed. Now that I was playing Alyce again, they wanted to be sure I was the one making the final choice.
      I said yes, I wanted to proceed.
      Lastly, now they knew I felt safe enough to proceed, they wanted to ask me about a risk my Risk Manager had mentioned: the risk of believing I had evil inside and feeling I couldn’t trust anything about myself because it might be evil.
      It was definitely a risk. I had arranged a life for myself that did not include the creativity I longed for, in order to avoid the risk of believing I had evil inside and feeling I couldn’t trust anything about myself.
      That certainly made sense. I had distrusted myself in groups for years and thought of myself as a bad person, and I knew how painful that was. But once again, I faced an unpleasant truth: I already trusted nothing about myself. I didn’t trust myself to play a game with my daughter or write a poem without doing it wrong. I didn’t trust myself to mark up a coworker’s English paper without tearing it to shreds. Not having a creative writer’s life wasn’t keeping me from distrusting myself—I distrusted myself anyway.
      Since I was already living the worst case scenario, I decided I might as well take the risk. As one of the facilitators put it, I had already paid for the ticket, and I might as well take the ride.

 

Copyright © 2007-2012 Alyce Barry. All rights reserved.