Navigate the Social Landscape of your Brain (Part 1)

by Jan Sky

Maximise your performance by uncovering the barriers that get in the way of your high performance.

How good it would be if you knew exactly what those barriers were? Imagine if you could identify these barriers locked away in your brain. How easy it would be for you to take the right steps to overcome these barriers?

What are these barriers and where exactly do they exist? Continue reading and you will discover a whole new concept of your brain – an easy working model that you can use on a daily basis.

Barriers that get in the way of your success are simply called inhibitive states. Fortunately, you also have supportive states that create a balance of function. These states are associated with behaviours or habits embedded in the neural pathways of your brain. They form part of your brain’s social landscape which represent the many different parts of you.

Ego state theorists call these parts ‘ego states’, while I will refer to them as ‘parts of you’ or ‘states’. There are states that support or inhibit you when working towards achieving a goal.

Let’s start at the beginning and understand where these neural pathways began and how they formed. From the moment you were born and maybe even prior to that, you began to learn how behaviour elicited reactions from others. As a baby you cried and your needs were met. As you grew and developed, you learned to apply the same principles to meet your needs. Neural pathways are developed through repetition of particular behaviours until they become intrinsic within the brain.

Let’s say a young boy named Paul decides to perform in front of his parents and his parents applaud and praise him. Paul will quickly learn by repetition of that behaviour, that it’s OK to do that performance or behaviour, and more importantly that he is OK. A ‘performance’ neural pathway in his brain is formed.

Now, Nick down the street, decides to behave in the same way. His parents tell him not to be silly and to go to his room and do his homework. Nick quickly learns that being a performer is not what he needs to do (certainly not at this point in his life) and he doesn’t form the ‘performance’ neural pathway like his friend Paul. Nick may develop a ‘study’ pathway that could enhance his performance throughout his life.

Neural pathways are embedded with behaviours and contain a dialogue that supports our actions. These pathways are referred to as states and their identification is key when wewant a change in behaviour to occur and particularly if that change is necessary in order to achieve a goal.

It is repetition of a behaviour that embeds a new pathway in the brain hence creating the social landscape of your brain.

Neural pathways form most rapidly during early developmental years, throughout our teens and early 20’s, and less as we grow older. Neural pathways can be developed in our mature years as we learn new behaviours, such as learning a musical instrument in our 40’s. To understand the pathways of your brain isn’t important as we mostly accept our ‘way of behaving’ as part of who we are. Our friends and family accept us and our lives continue.

So, when would it be advantageous to understand your brain’s social structure? I’d suggest when behaviours are inhibiting your performance or sabotaging your journey towards achieving a goal, it is time to understand your brain’s social structure.

Recently a client presented with the issue of ‘having a sweet tooth’ as she described it. She is a young mum with three small children juggling family life, healthy lifestyle and a career. Rationally she knows to and does, eat healthy food and exercise regularly. Grabbing three chocolate biscuits as she rushes for the car satisfies her hunger as well as her ‘sweet tooth’. I suggested it was habit behaviour embedded at a younger age that was inhibiting her from achieving her goal of reducing the additional kilos she was carrying. (Sugar consumed by the body is not burnt off through exercise hence turning to fat.)

Her goal – to reduce 10 kilos

Next step for my client was to identify the states that supported achieving her goal, along with the states inhibiting or deterring her progress. To do this, I used a mapping tool I’ve developed called ESI™ – Executive State Identification. States are embedded with behaviours and internal dialogue that, when executive or dominant, consume our thinking and control our behaviour. Sometimes these behaviours support us, while at other times these behaviours are inappropriate and inhibit us in our daily actions.

My client’s map contained three states that supported her goal and one state that inhibited her. The states were named and identified entrenched behaviours were documented on the map. The one inhibitive state was a ‘little girl’ state that was formed in her mind many years ago. This state ate food without her mother knowing; it enabled her to take and hide biscuits from the cupboard. This state that she identified and named ‘Child’, was timid, naughty and appropriate when she was young; yet inappropriate now she is an adult.

Do you have states that sometimes become executive, acting like the boss running the show and dictating behaviours inappropriate in certain situations?

After identifying all the states on the ESI™ map for my client, it became easy to understand the associated behaviours and dialogue that was taking place. It was also easy to action a plan forward. My client became very aware of her identified behaviour and internal dialogue used and was also prepared to practice operating from only the states that supported her. Sounds very simple, yet without the ESI™ map, we would never have discovered this child state. The child state needed acknowledgement and also needed the opportunity to make an agreement not to inhabit the executive position.

How can you begin to make the changes you want to increase your full potential if you don’t have an understanding of what your mental landscape is like?

The recent discovery and amazing advances in neural science has opened a world of optimism and faith that says that changes to our brain patterningcan occur at any time of our life. In other words, we’re not ‘wired’ to perform a particular way because of past experiences or behaviour patterning.

It is important to understand that patterns of behaviour within the pathways of your brain (states) can change and/or new pathways can be created. States that have been inactive for some time never leave your brain; they become part of your social landscape. Such states are referred to as either non-executive or underlying states. Perhaps the ‘performance’ state in the young child Paul may no longer need to perform now he is an adult. If the ‘performance’ state no longer has a need to be dominant, it will become underlying to Paul’s behaviour repertoire.

However, in the case of my client, her ‘child’ state was dominant or executive and causing behaviour that was inappropriate. The ‘child’ state needed to be acknowledged and sent to the underlying position. This was done by using the ESI™ mapping tool to first identify the states and secondly to design an appropriate plan of action.

Part 2, we will explore the social landscape of your brain in relation to the workplace.


Jan Sky is the developer of the ESI® Mapping Tool and author of the book “The Many Parts of You”. Jan is a Corporate Trainer, Coach, and Psychotherapist.

She is in the business of creating a difference to the workplace! With over 30 years of experience, she specializes in the area of leadership and team development to those organisations who want to create an environment of high performing people.

Jan works in Australia and internationally and has spoken in Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Indonesia as well as extensively throughout Australia.

Inner Theater – a Tool for Developing Drama Intelligence


In following text I mirror the ideas of David Keir Wright (The Pedagogy of Experience and Drama Intelligence) to my own experiences about Inner theater. I have developed Inner Theater from Ego state therapy. It is a self help tool for transformational therapeutic learning using primarly creative reading and journaling in a ”drama imaginarium” of mind. It is an improvised play of our ego states . (Italic type of text by David Keir Wright).


Drama intelligence is a feeling intelligence developed in processes of self-exploration, self-transformation and meaning making through individual creative imaginative action and cultural-aesthetic practice in a collective context. It is an intelligence all humans beings have the capacity to develop – an intelligence that is empathic, intuitive, spontaneous and imaginative. Its basis is man’s ”theatrical instinct”. The ability to play personal is essential.


I have been using ego states as a tool for transformational learning for some years. The process started during my hypnotherapy studies (2004-2007) . I  started to use ego states as a personal tool for self-exploration during my hard period of life (burnout and breast cancer). I have published this personal journaling process as a book (Mielentilojen treenikirja 2007 – The training book of Ego states). It is a kind of self-analysis book using ego states as a reflexion tool for self- knowledge and ”new me” actualization.

I wrote a drama using my emerging sixteen ego states to get new insight of myself. The book is not a pearl of literature. Actually the purpose of journaling is not that, allthough some of my students have written really beautiful poetry.  Instead drama journaling is used in Inner Theater  for increasing self-knowledge and for finding better harmony inside of you and in relation to your community. I created in my personal Inner Theater for example a depressed ego state Mrs. Wrinkle, ecological state Mielikki, an inner Scientist, an inner hypnotherapist Anna, sceptic Thomas, and two inner children etc.


Through personal play and the use of his imagination, the man transforms himself and transcends into another reality. A reality where he can be different, do something different, be somewhere different than in everyday life and see things in a different perspective.


After that I started experimentally use ego state with journaling groups. About use of ego states in journaling and  experiences about groups I have written another book (in English something like Inner Theater – journaling as cultivating self-awareness). I and many of my students have been able to reach this ”another reality” Wright mentions.  As a hypnotherapist, I would call it creative trance or self-hypnosis. By the way, it is interesting that in hypnosis history automatic writing is well-known. In this trance state of consciousness you can for some moments let your rational ego states to give open imaginal space to deeper ego states emerging from unconcious mind. By this way you can enrich your Inner Theater.


The development of drama intelligence can be achieved through the practice of playing, play acting and acting, of being characters real or symbolic created by the individual herself alone and in conjunction with others – through practicing living. In drama, as in life, the individual is both the creator and the medium. The material to be transformed is herself. As an artist and human being she is both the subject creating and the object created.


I have used in my writing groups in first sessions as a tool ESI® (Excecutive State indentification). It is simple but genius tool for maping some of your superficial ego states. The method is developed by Australian Jan Sky. The underlying ego states are harder to reach – to get in touch with them you must use your self-hypnosis skills, imagination. Some of your ego states can be archetypal like Inner Child and Inner Wisdom but basically ego states are who they are. They are your personal unique structures of your mind.

In the process you can sometimes notice that you may have introjections, too, internalized peers for example. In my Inner Theater journaling method,  you can in addition make consciously new introjections. For example you can create in the journaling process a new strong adult ego state, which you have made from a trusted, emphatic adult role model from real life or literature.

The director of your theater has to have in social situations a mature and well-formed sense of reality.  Adult mature ego states and reading for example scientifical articles help to develop it.  You have to develop an eye for distinctions of more realistic and imaginal worlds.  The writer knows that she is all the time working in journaling in metaphorical worlds. When you move to China for example, you can study its’ culture and create a Chinese girl as a new introjection. She utilizes different metaphoric forms of reality for increasing self-knowledge and understanding.


It is important in journaling not to associate in ego states carrying painful experiences. Instead you write as an observer or director of your play.  The more painful experience, the more fictional story. You can for example write a fairy tale of orphan little girl. The goal is to prison the emotional experience in soft,  symbolic form.  You can enrich the fairy tale by using strong adult ego states for repairing experiences.


Playing is life. Playing at living contributes the acquirement of self-knowledge, knowledge of humankind in general and awareness of the creative power of the imagination. An awareness that provides insight, strength and the will to change reality. Through his imagination man has the capacity to transform ”the given circumstances” and be in ” a continual state of becoming”.


In successful ego state journaling process you can really feel how you are in ”a continual state of becoming”. Your life becomes a process of continuing moving and changing. You kind of get your energy and information molecules in motion. Daniel Siegel talks about mindsight. Gordon Emerson writes about Happy Parts, Happy Self. Inner Theater is in my opinion a method for developing mindsight by drama intelligence. You can learn to perceive your mind better, and that helps you to see others more precisely, too.

In addition to ego state journaling, some people have used their ego state as personae of comics. The whole idea of the process is to get to know your parts in ever flowing drama atmosphere including resepct, humor and compassion.


Life is not life if there is no moving and changing. Drama intelligence is about life and living. It is the individual’s capacity to relate imaginatively, intuitively, emphathetically and consciously to other human beings and oneself as a human being. Drama intelligence is man’s ability to make symbolic universal meaning out of symbolic particular meaning and vice versa.


I encourage my students to be spontaneous. I actually encourage them to merge mindfulness and other contemplation activities in their self-awareness practices. Although mindfulness and hypnosis have different historical backgrounds, they have a lot of common ground. For many people, journaling process is a spiritual process, too. Journaling can be one kind of contemplation. As in contemplation, in Inner Theater, the epistemiology of new knowledge is love.

And ofcourse, you can use ego states as in traditional actual drama play. The group members can play your parts, and the writer, the creator of these ego states,  can be a director of this play. Hypnotherapist, is a facilitator of the directing process. The athmosphare must be gentle and all the ego states must be respected.

Of course the journaling group have to be made of people who trust each other. The ego states can be unethically used for bullying. When you make your parts known, it is a very intimate process and everybody are not ready for revealing themselves to foreigners or even to close team members. That can be sometimes a wise decision.

My intention is always to encourage participants, students etc. to be spontaneuos. I want them to trust their intuition and believe in their feelings and emotional states while searhchig for their aesthetic impulse. I want them to be engaged in identity making projects.

 The play in the potential space where they are given the opportunity of attain personal knowledge in the area of cultural experience between ”me” and ”not me”. I. The writer is both the playwriter, and actor improvising her drama. New characters, ego states, tend to be created in this meaning making process.

It is my belief that individuals are more inclined to have an excess of energy and desire to work constructively with others, when they are conscious of choice and their own continual state of becoming. Self-knowledge and self-awareness cultivates the soil in which collective collaboration, democracy and solidarity can grow.


That is my idea too.   People can get to know themselves better and they can make more conscious choices and in this way grow more responsible citizens. In Inner Theater it is a question about cultivating self-awareness. The life is full of traumatazing personal and public  news. The global world is multicultural, traumataizing and full of contradictionary information. In this kind of situation, it is for most of the people liberating to know, that they are plural selves. We have in different situations possibility to choose which is the excecutive ego state in our Inner Theater. Our bodymind doesen’t have to be directed by autopilot. Ego states give you possibility to learn to grow and know your ever-flowing and changing consciousness.


A process of personal investigation always reveals something old and new. The philosophy and methodology enables individuals to see themselves as both fixed and not fixed. It gives them the opportunity of discovering and trying out other possibilities and the freedom, power and confidence to perceive themselves, other and the world in a new way. A process of discovery and meaing making that is anchored to their creation of a character and a drama and using both as a transitional object. The purpose is to give participants adequate time and space to work reflexively and the possiblility of ”losing themselves” in the characters and the aesthetic experience in order to expand and deepen their self-knowledge, knowledge of human beings and the world through inner dialogues, contemplation in solitude and reflexive conversation.


It is imperative that each participants in this drama methodology creates her own representational form that comes out of her level of knowledge and experience, the present everyday themes and together given circumstances in the specific context. The participants are responsible for their own production of knowledge. They produce and transform cultural knowledge, which is their own knowledge, expressed in aesthetic form. This implies a theory of knowledge that links sensuous experience to theoretical reflection.


As a hypnotherapist I emphasize that ego states are not just emotional states, they are physiological states, too. The purpose of inner drama is to get your inner energy and information molecules in flow, which for sure have a positive effect in your holistic well being. Hypnotherapy can be a holistic, integrative method for healing. Mindfulness and hypnosis share a lot of common ground.

For me GMM (guided mindfulness meditation) is hypnosis, allthough they have different paradigmatic backgrounds. I think that is why I, as a hypnotherapist, feel myself confortable in the world of mindfulness. In my work I stress western contemplation, spiritual, philosophical and hypnosis traditions. Ego states give us tool to integrate different wisdom traditions. My favorite philosopher is Danish Soren Kierkegaard, whose whole philosophy was written by his colourful and wonderful alter states. I believe Kierkegaard would have had some benefits of knowing the principles of Ego state therapy. For me,  this genius  was quite merciless towards himself and traditional authoritian priests. His parts were not very happy.


Playing” is different from, but just as important as, presention of meaning and knowledge ” a play”. A differens stands between theatre as communication and a drama created as an investigative and experiential practice not dependent on an external audience. A ”third” space for sharing and communication is to be found in the more intimate and secure cultural community, the space that theories on ritual call ”communion”. The ”third” space has its own valuable contextual aesthetic, between everyday social life and the artistic public sphere. This ”third” space was an essential arena in the methodology of the Pedagogy of Experience.


Thank you for your ideas, David Keir Wright. They matched perfectly with my ideas of Inner Theater of ego states! I think our views complement wonderfully each other.

Inner Theater in facebook.

PS. Sorry about my English mistakes…. I should find a speller.


Neural integration is the heart of health

Self-reflective integration is the heart of health, says Daniel J. Siegel.

Not suprise for me!  I have teached reflective journaling and written about it (by using ego states) for years.   I  call reflective awareness by name ”Inner theater” in this journaling method.  We can formulate the ego states from our inner feelings, sensations and emotions. They are the parts of us which we create through out our personal history.

Ego states are learned, habitual, ways to react in certain situations. Ego states are reflections of our culture they are constructed in our relationships. The ego states can be physical body sensations, too. To know them and to direct them wisely is one way to integrate yourself!  Introjections, internalized other people, are especially interesting parts of us.

We are able to create new ego states thourgh our whole life. That increases our resilience. To know our ego states means that we open ourselves to our inner and outer dialogue. We can be in mindfully in dialogue with our bodymind and with our culture and people around of us.  We don’t let us to be  directed just by an autopilot.

The ego states represent different life styles and world views in ourselves. We can use imagination for integrating ourselves in a state which I call ”psychodramatic trance”. Creative reflective journaling with ego states can be a wonderful mindsight practice for self knowledge!

The inner theater is a psychoanalytical tool which uses creative state of mind for self-reflection. We can use our unconscious mind constructively for increasing self-knowledge and awareness. The skilled metaphor work and getting to know our projections is in the basis of creative work in which we  widen our self-awereness!

We can unload the burdens of our ego states and open their barriers between them so that the barriers between the states will be more and more permeable. A healing self is a free flowing ego state process.

By knowing our ego states, we little by little free ourselves from sticking to our ego and it’s states:  We can release ourself to our true beeing, free from any kind of ego states.