Learning to see our 'selves'
Working with parts of the psyche
The multiplicity of the psyche
When working with the psyche and our complex web of inner and outer relationships, I make use of the concept that we are all made up of sub-personalities or parts. The emerging view of the psyche is one of multiplicity: we are not in fact just 'one mind' but a collection of individual parts, energy systems, sub-personalities, complexes or inner-selves: we have inside us an inner community.
You may recall a social situation or event where you were aware that a part of you really wanted to be there and engage, but maybe there was also a part of you that was tired and actually wanted to go home. Perhaps this created some inner tension for you. You may find yourself feeling really confident and relaxed in a certain situation with close friends, but anxious and self conscious in a different context. In these two situations you are clearly the same individual, but what is happening is that you are identifying with different parts of your psyche in the two different environments, and you show up (think, feel and behave) differently.
We can frame these examples with the concept that as individuals we are made up of a combination of different parts, different energies that think, feel and behave in discreet ways and that are more present or less present in different situations and circumstances as we unconsciously identify with them to a greater or lesser extent, as we move through our lives.
Parts are the energies that are created and develop within us in response to the environments and people that impact us, especially in the early years of our lives.
Each split off part holds different memories, beliefs, feelings and physical sensations: a script, a snapshot of a way of being, often with the underlying motivation to protect us, keep us safe, or in some way or another to get our needs met. When we are exposed again later in life to a similar experience, environment, or external trigger, we may adopt that part in order to negotiate this similar experience, we unconsciously identify with it, and find ourselves responding (thinking, feeling and behaving) in a very particular way based on that previous experience.
For example, if I grew up with a critical father, my response every time he was critical might have been to feel ashamed, to shrink and feel small and to shut down and hide away. Inside me there may have been silent rage.
There will be a good chance that later on in my life, when I experience criticism I will have the same response. The way I managed to survive and manage the situation with my father led to a child part developing within me. When I experience criticism in later life, a child part within me is triggered, I unconsciously identify with it and I react from that place instead of responding from a place of Adult here and now.
Parts are created within the individual for very good reason
Parts are created within the individual for very good reason. That reason is generally around protection, survival, and a need for acceptance.
It is the unconscious nature of the behaviours or the limiting beliefs taken on by these parts in order to keep us safe that cause the problems further down the line, still playing out when the original threat is no longer there.
Working with parts allows us to look at the energies at play within us and begin to make sense of what is going on for us in our relationships and interactions in our lives. When we start to discover, name and frame these relationships it becomes clear that our reactions are coming from different parts of us that are triggered in different environments, situations or with different people.
As we explore our parts and build up an understanding of these energies within us, we become more conscious of them and begin to develop an empowering space within which to start a relationship with these parts and begin to understand and integrate them in a new way.
We can start a dialog with these inner parts, to get to know them and bring them into conscious awareness. We can begin to work with them to discover why they are there, what they needed and didn’t get, what they have been doing for us and why, and through reparative work with these parts, integrate them in a more healthy way, allowing these parts of us to serve rather than hinder our progress.
Untangling our inner relationships
As we untangle our relationships and start working with the parts of us at play we utilise that conscious space provided to step into a place of power in being able to respond rather than react in any given situation. We can relate to the part instead of unconsciously acting it out and there is a huge difference here. Going back to the example above, when I find myself dropping into a place of shame I can start talking to that part of me that is starting to feel shame and I find myself asking, what do I already know about this shame that I need right now to support me in coming out of this place of shame?
This space of awareness is completely different from being possessed by the shame in that moment: in that moment I am shame, this person is totally right, and I see the world through that collection of shameful thoughts feelings and emotions. In that moment the world is undoubtably a really uncomfortable place. If we have worked with this part, and I have this framework and this relationship with this child part of me, I am able to dis-identify from the energy of that place of shame just enough to start having a relationship with it.
Without this parts framework, there is no relationship with what is going on within.
When considering psychological integration, the more we can differentiate these internal aspects of self, honour and recognise their specific function, purpose and needs, and establish how they relate to all the other parts, the closer we step towards psychological maturity. You may not like some of these parts, but identifying them makes them less intimidating or overwhelming and is key in entering into relationship with them.
In the same way that we isolate ourselves from other people, we can often cut off, repress or deny those aspects of self that seem dangerous, or unwanted. All parts are created for a good reason. By entering into relationship with them, we can establish what these parts of us are and how we can honour and get to know them. Your life energy is bound up in the parts of you that you repress. It takes so much unconscious effort to keep them hidden, hidden because of the anger, or the rage, or the lust, or whatever it is that you have exiled and no longer understand about yourself. By exploring in safety, with no real world consequences, we are able to reclaim these lost aspect of ourselves and give them the permission to show up in a way that is healthy and integrated.
What is more, once those powerful parts of us that protect us and manage risk for us are able to step back in trust and safety, we make space for the inner leader, Self or Sovereign to emerge and take up an active leadership role in managing and relating with the rest of parts of personality. It is through this process of un-blending that a more stable perspective of Self emerges, constructive inner dialog can begin, and with that a whole range of new possibility opens up. This is the alchemy of personal development, for in alchemy the separating out is the essential first step before something greater can emerge.
There is research that recognises that just being able to name your emotions leads to better psychological health. So when we explore the parts that comprise the way we relate to ourselves and the outside world, bringing these into awareness in a healthy and integrated way, we are on a great course towards a place of healthy and balanced authentic adulthood full of choice.
I see people as whole and complex human beings, held in relationship, with great potential. I can help you explore your system of inner parts, working with your grief, anger, fear and trauma, barriers and self-limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I can help you grow your inner leader who knows how to harness your inner resources to best run your life. It is your Sovereign Self that has the power to hold all parts of your psyche in compassion, with an awareness of what is happening internally, ready to resource and lead you from the inside in a healthy, balanced and powerful way.
To move toward a healed world, we must explore different ways of being human and different answers to the primal questions, Who am I? Who are you? And, Who are we?