Peace Begins with Inner-Work: Integrating Unconsious Elements into Consciousness

Jaime L. Prieto, Jr.

· NVC,Conscious Living,Wild Heart

I attended a “Peace Vigil” Wednesday night at the Temple Buddhist Center (TBC) in Kansas City. We were invited to focus our attention on various dimensions of peace, including people we find challenging, helping us to inch a little closer to embodying it. The practices themselves are the means by which the change actually takes place — though in this forum/blog, we are summarizing only the thinking dimension of what the practices are inviting us to actualize within. I was reminded how our collective peace begins inside of ourselves; it would be impossible to have a collective peace without enough individuals having practices for inner-peace.

Several encouraging quotes were read at the vigil. This essay contains some of the thoughts that were stimulated for me during the vigil that point us in the direction of peace, including some of the inner-work that is required for collective and individual peace.



Many of our respected elders speak to the journey toward peace (paraphrases don’t have quotes):

“Peace begins with a smile.” — Mother Teresa


“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” ― Siddhārtha Gautama


“Peace in ourselves, peace in the world.” — Thich Nhat Hanh


You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it. — Einstein


The wars of the world are a manifestation of the collective unconscious. — Carl Jung


“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” — Mahatma Gandhi


“Be the change you’d like to see in the world.” — Arleen Lorrance


“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


As I laid a couple of purple flowers in the circle of peace at TBC, I was reminded of a poem by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. that embodies some of the principles for peace. I like it most because it gives more detail on what it takes to be the change that I’d like to see in the world, and it starts with a journey within. Marshall cleverly wrote the poem in the first person, highlighting the one person I am primarily responsible for in the journey toward peace.

Here’s Rosenberg’s poem "From Now On":

From now on, I choose to dream my own dreams so that I can fully taste the mystical excitement of being human.


From now on, I choose to empathically connect with others so that I can fully respect the unique and holy experience to be found in each person every moment.


From now on, I choose to have my actions flow from connection with nature and to direct my attention where it supports this flow.


From now on, I choose to be aware of the unchosen, dehumanizing thoughts my culture planted within me, and to prevent them from leading me into robot-like, violent actions.


From now on, I choose to openly reveal what is alive within me, even though others may not appreciate the gift.


From now on, when wearing a title of authority, I choose to be aware that reaching frontiers before others never justifies punitive means to influence them to join me.


From now on, I choose to believe that the failure of our needs to be fulfilled results from insufficient dialogue and creativity rather than scarcity.

Peace is what we get on the other side of a journey toward emotional liberation, when we are able to take full responsibility for our inner experience without blaming others for it.

My 20+ years of walking toward emotional liberation through the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has led me to acknowledge two important mental states: the conscious, and the unconscious states of awareness.



We're in the conscious state when we are aware of our environment, our inner thoughts/emotions, the beings around us, and are able to make choices for how to behave -- i.e. our ego is in charge. Mindfulness practices help us to hone our awareness skills in the realm of consciousness. My foundational practice of Compassionate Communication, started by Marshall Rosenberg (aka. Nonviolent Communication, NVC) describes NVC as “a way to focus our attention to support compassionate giving and receiving.”

NVC is a powerful practice that assists us in transforming our thoughts, judgments and beliefs into the heart energy in us. Through the acknowledgment of the inner truth of our experience, our feelings magically shift toward contentment, hope, and sometimes even joy.

At this point in the practice, I often think of a Jesus quote I grew up with: “if you follow my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. [1]” That because of my willingness to acknowledge and accept the truth of my inner experience, an unexplained shift in my feelings takes place. Somehow, the clouds part, and a ray of sunshine warms my heart — new insights/intuitions mysteriously appear.

A key problem is that most violence originates from the unconsious -- we are not aware of a part of us that is running the show and acting out.



When we are in an unconscious state of awareness, our aware ego is not engaged, and some other part or subpersonality is in charge -- usually reacting to some trigger while engaging in strategies for survival.

At the middle of his poem, in the fourth stanza of seven, Marshall Rosenberg alludes to a large problem in the journey of emotional liberation:

The “unchosen, dehumanizing thoughts my culture planted within me” leads us into “robot-like, violent actions” — which is a reference to the personal and collective unconscious discovered by Carl Jung, Ph.D.

Most of the violence of the world stems from the unconscious, when our “subpersonalities” hijack us into "robot-like violent actions" behaving in ways that are not congruent with the values and principles we hold when we are conscious.

Nature-based depth psychologist Bill Plotkin writes: “when our Ego is identified with a subpersonality, we tend to be undeterred by the perspectives we hold at other times [2].”

You might have heard of other terms used in place of “subpersonalities”, such as “parts” from Gestalt psychology and Internal Family Systems (IFS) , “internal objects” from objects relations theory, or “selves” from Voice Dialogue.



What I love about Bill Plotkin’s work, like Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC, is that it emphasizes the desired outcome of living fully as opposed to focusing on problems/pathologies. Through the practices of cultivating wholeness [3], we re-awaken the innate resources of nature within us so that our psyche’s have a place to call home after acknowledging and integrating our subpersonalities (aka. "subs).

Working with subs is similar to the story of WW2 Japanese soldiers that lived on remote islands, unaware that the war had ended -- they continued living in a state of war. Once they were found, Japanese society welcomed those soldiers home, thanked them for their service, told them the war was over, and found ways to integrate them into society. Similarly, we're invited to welcome our subpersonalities, thank them for their service, and invite them to participate in the healthy life that we’ve created for them through our wholeness practices.

So, instead of spending a lifetime in therapy, endlessly healing our wounds, transforming stories, etc., we focus on more directly practicing healthy and wholistic living by cultivating wholeness. And whenever a subpersonality triggers new stories along with unpleasant feelings, we acknowledge the truth of our inner-experience through NVC self-empathy practices.

Plotkin says “when we eliminate symptoms without cultivating wholeness, we still have an unwell, unwhole, or fragmented psyche that will soon enough sprout new symptoms that express, in yet another way, the lack of wholeness.” [4]



The good news is that we have the resources within us to find wholeness within ourselves. The culture, our survival strategies, and the confused powers of the ego-centric commercialism consumer mentality have hidden the gold of our natural selves. Much of this work is about returning to our natural mother to reawaken the sleeping truths within us, allowing the self-healing to be productive and lasting.

Plotkin adds: “by uncovering and reclaiming these innate resources, shared by all of us by simple virtue of our human nature, we can more easily understand and resolve our intrapsychic and interpersonal difficulties as they arise.”

He continues: “they are also essential to the flowering of our greatest potentials, to the actualization of our true selves, and to the embodiment of the life of our very souls.” [5]



World peace is a longing that most people share. While many factors play into creating an environment that could support a lasting peace, a foundational element is to have enough adults who have cultivated wholeness to experience emotional liberation leading to inner-peace. This inner-work requires acknowledging and working with the unconscious elements of the psyche, along with practices that support conscious self-empathy. The inner-work offerings below are a step that you can take toward contributing to peace.





[1] I wrote a book that describes in more detail how I interpret these words from the book of John 8:31 in the context of a journey of emotional liberation: Jaime L. Prieto, The Joy of Compassionate Connecting - The Way of Christ Through Nonviolent Communication (Compassionate Connecting, Aliso Viejo, California 2010), pp. 135-138.

[2] Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind - A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (New World Library, Novato, California 2013), p. 15.

[3] In a previous post, I defined wholeness as the capacity of living fully from Jung’s four cognitive functions (alongside with the components of NVC).

[4] Wild Mind, p. 5

[5] Wild Mind, p.4


© 2023 Jaime L. Prieto, Jr.,, All Rights Reserved.