From a young age I explored many avenues to find answers regarding my mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual well-being. Knocking on many doors, I sought help from a wide range of people offering varied approaches. While others took a more traditional route, it was my nature to look outside of the main stream, to find solutions to life’s many quandaries.
On one of these numerous occasions, I found myself being asked a seemingly simple question.
“So Phil how do you feel?”
“Well a part of me feels……………” After giving my answer I realised that it was only part of how I felt.
“On the other hand another part of me feels…………” Once again this comment was true but far from the complete picture.
“There again another part does not care and I’m not sure that I even want to be here.”
“Yes Phil but how do YOU feel?” I was asked again.
I had no definitive answer and at that point realised this approach was not for me. At the end of the session I left the room, angry that I had not been heard.
When I got home, I began pondering the experience that I had just had. Curious about what I had said in the session, I started to map out those different expressions and feelings on paper. As I wrote, even more aspects of me seemed to show up, quite different from the one before but easily identifiable as a fundamental part of who I had become.
Some weeks later while having coffee with a friend, I started to share my new findings and theory. It seemed to me that we are made up of many aspects, many facets. In the past I would often find myself in the midst of an internal battle, stuck between opposing feelings, opinions or desires concerning the same situation, all vying for acceptance and to be my chosen plan of action, now I knew why.
It brought to mind the lyrics of a song I had penned as a fifteen year old. Words that tried to give voice to the torment that the adolescent who had no other way to express.
“Please will the real Mr Me please stand up.
Could it possibly be that both of you are me.
I wonder who I am and where I’m to be found.
I feel I’m in the middle, of a somewhat confused land.”
Grabbing a paper napkin and pen I started to map out and label each of these aspects best I could.
“Carl Jung says the same thing” my friend said, when I had almost finished, “He calls them sub-personalities”. To me this title sounded too theoretical, too clinical. From what I had experienced these were in fact real parts of me, not some theoretical model. Continuing to draw out my map I tried to separate my findings from her comparison, by pointing out that there was in fact seven parts of me. At this point my friend confirmed that Jung had stated the same. Her comparison was now starting to help me, allowing me to feel that maybe my insights were not so crazy as I had thought and hearing this helped validate my experience.
With this newfound awareness, I was able to start to learn more about myself. Awareness and acceptance seem to go hand in hand and the more I was aware, the more I had to cultivate acceptance. Conversely the more acceptance I had the easier it became to take a closer look at myself and not fear what I may find. Inviting each part that surfaced, to find a voice and a healthy integrated place in my life. I came to learn that there were some threads that ran throughout all aspects of self while others were unique to a particular aspect. All needing acknowledgement and acceptance but not all needed external expression.
When sharing this idea with my clients I often create an image of a boardroom. Seven seats around a big table and I invite all parts of who I’m supporting to turn up and take their seat, giving each an opportunity to openly voice how they feel. Some say that they think about this stuff a lot, so what good would it do to say it out loud? It might seem strange, but only when we actually hear ourselves say it, does the true impact get received by all other aspects of self.
I realise now years later that maybe in a “Healthy Balanced Human Being” there may be no separate aspects of self, all are one and one is all. They seamlessly transition from one aspect of themselves to another. For many though, trauma of one sort or another, emotional or physical, can cause a person to freeze and fracture. Each part starts to become isolated, no longer fluid. Like the ice cube in the glass of water, part but not integrated. One of the life skills needed for a trauma survivor before finding this way to integrate, seems to be making sure that the appropriate aspect is in the driving seat depending on the particular journey of life one is taking. How often have you been faced with a person having a temper tantrum more fitting for a two year old that the forty two year old facing you? Or the sulking rebellious teenager talking through your middle aged colleague? Prime examples where the wrong aspect is in the driver’s seat.
Many people over the years told me they had a happy childhood without trauma, but the issues they bring seem to tell a very different story. When we look back from the adult we are now, many things don’t seem that traumatic but for the young child that we were the perspective can be very different.
As a young child I often came face to face with vicious dogs and was always visibly frightened. I would be told not to be frightened that it won’t hurt you. It was easy for them to say that, way up there at a safe distance, but from down here with this dog baring his teeth right into my face, it was a very different story.
In starting to dialogue with each part of myself I realised many things. When out walking with a bunch of children you can only go as fast as the smallest child. In the same way the “inner child” needs to be taken care of first. Many people try to find someone else to look after that “inner child” but this can never be a healthy solution. I once heard a mother say “I have five children, unfortunately one of them happens to be my husband”. For whatever reason her husband never got the parenting he needed to allow him to grow up integrated. So like many he adopted his wife as his mother and for some, it is easier to be his mother than just his wife. Although a woman is more than capable to be both mother and wife it’s never good to be both to the same person.
When one is able to define, name and invite each aspect to be included, integration can begin. Voicing their feelings, needs, desires and aspirations allows each to be heard and given the opportunity to unite. The process of resolving and healing the pain and trauma of the past allows each ice cube to slowly melt and become integrated into the whole.
If we could learn to live harmoniously and intergrated on the inside we might find it easier to help facilitate those around us.
How can we hope for world peace, when there is a lack of peace within?