From the reading I have done on Ego State Therapy, I have learned that traditionally, ego state work is done in a therapist's office with the therapist available to help the client identify ego states and facilitate a useful and beneficial interaction between client and ego states. In fact, several articles have described the therapist as facilitating a family therapy session with the family members being the client's ego states rather than being individual human members of the client's family. Most of the time, from what I have read and from what my therapist has told me, the client is asked to imagine herself sitting a large conference table and inviting her ego states to come to the table and introduce themselves so that she and they could meet one another and begin what might become a beneficial interaction and relationship.
I didn't understand at the time my therapist introduced the modality to me and told me about the conference table why I objected so strongly to the traditional setting, why I couldn't have simply done my Ego State Therapy the way I was "supposed" to have done it. The day in April when my therapist mentioned the conference table concept, I told her there was no way meetings around a conference table would work for me. I would have no part of that! Boring, boring, boring! Nope! I was not doing that! She appeared shocked or puzzled as I left her office that day after my outburst, and I was shocked at myself. Normally, I didn't do outbursts. Normally, I did as I was told. Later, though, I realized that I associated conference tables with the meetings I had been forced to attend when I taught in the community college. They were boring and often a waste of my time. I resented being forced to attend them when I could have been grading papers or planning lessons. Yes, I knew that I had hated going to meetings, but I had not realized how intensely I hated meetings until my outburst in my therapist's office. Aha!
By the time I caught my bus to go home that day, I had thought about my situation and realized that if I were not willing to sit at a conference table and interact with my ego states, then it was up to me to find another way to accomplish the same thing. How did I want to do this? I understood the basic principle--I needed to design a way that suited me to accomplish the same thing I was asked to accomplish around a conference table. Coming up with my own substitute for the conference table would be risky, I knew. Maybe my therapist would insist I follow the usual procedure, insist to the point of refusing to work with me if I didn't cooperate. There was that possibility. Oh, well, if that happened, I supposed I'd have to find another therapist. But I was 70 years old, old enough, surely, to be allowed to do this in my own way. Thus, I began to construct my own setting for my therapy.
First off, at home I decided I needed to think of a setting for my therapy. Where would I like to have my ego states gather? Since a lot of good memories centered around the location where I had done archaeology work back in the late 1950s, I chose Jasper Canyon as my locale. Because I loved to watch dressage events, I decided to place an indoor dressage arena into this canyon. The super-deluxe indoor arena would have apartments for all my ego states, and when they needed to meet, they could meet in the show area. The space was flexible and would allow for small group meetings, large group meetings, and for meetings of all the parts together. This decided, I was ready to greet my ego states.
Who would arrive first? I waited a few days, but nobody arrived. What to do? And then I remembered my brief course of art therapy in 2002 and how that therapy had allowed me access to memories and information that seemed inaccessible through deliberate thought. So I got out my trusty oil pastels and my huge pad of newsprint, let myself go into a light trance state, and began to draw. I'm no artist, for sure!, but by drawing, I allowed myself to meet my first group of ego states.
Cowboy arrived first. Here is a picture of her: