Who’s in There, Anyway?
By Sarah Biermann
The human psyche is a complex, fascinating and sometimes, confusing thing. The true Self is the natural leader of your inner world and is a very good leader. It is mature, compassionate, loving and curious. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by a crowd of hurt parts from the past, as well as the protector parts that do their best to keep you from feeling the negative emotions in the hurt part. Other parts are trying to protect you from potentially painful actions.
Example: Your father would hit you if your raised your voice. A part of you makes sure that you keep your voice low so you don’t get hit. Since the protector was created when you were a child, it is not as sophisticated as an adult and you end up being afraid to express anger with anyone.
Your unconscious mind holds beliefs and emotions that the conscious mind is not aware of or able to control or change. Most of these beliefs were developed or learned in childhood, often a hurtful, powerless time of life. Since the unconscious mind communicates through images, emotions and physical sensations, you must use that language to understand and “talk” to it. The unconscious inner parts are just like any other entity. They seek to be seen, heard and understood. To “get gotten”. Below is a fictional representation of how the inner parts operate and what you can do to help them to heal from the past traumas, function as adults and be an asset instead of a liability.
When Susie was a little girl she was harshly teased by schoolmates. Her family had moved from across the country and Susie had a distinct and different accent. The other kids would mock her every time she talked. She felt humiliated and powerless to change the situation. She developed a strategy of being generally quiet and making sure she would never “stand out”.
As an adult she occasionally needs to give a verbal presentation to a group of people as part of her job. For days in advance she is anxious to the point of distraction. During her presentation, she is panicky, in a cold sweat, stuttering and blushing. Afterward she “beats herself up” for being unable to do something “so simple”. The experiences are traumatizing AND it is negatively affecting her job. She knew she had to do something to change this.
During her session, she told me she had always been shy and anxious around people, but she didn’t remember most of two or three years of her childhood. She was also embarrassed to tell me about the problem. Her inner world was inhabited by a seven-year-old girl who was sitting on the floor, arms wrapped around her legs, face tucked down and rocking slowly. Standing over her was a scowling woman, hands on hips and intently on the look-out for strangers. It was her job to guard the girl and make sure the girl stayed quiet, especially in front of others. There was another part that was very angry with the girl and berated her, “Stand up! Talk to me. Why do you alway hide? You are so stupid… just talk!”
Susie was aware of this critical, judgmental part. The critic showed herself rather frequently. The guard part prevented Susie from accessing the girl. Susie was not even aware of the guard or the girl. Both the critic and the guard needed to be listened to and be “gotten” before they trusted Susie’s Self enough to let her approach the girl. Talking to them from a non-judgmental and truly curious place allowed them to express their opinions and how they felt. When she was given permission (never try to force this, they will just fight back harder), Susie sat down next to the girl. The girl was apprehensive about talking, but Susie’s Self was not at all judgmental or pressuring her, and was truly curious.
One thing I love about this process is that the hidden part can hold the memories of the events that caused you the problem. Once you contact the hidden part, you get the memories back. Susie was quite surprised when she suddenly remembered the lost years.
“How could I have forgotten all that?”
Susie felt a surge of love for the girl. It was the critic part that was angry at her. Susie told the girl that she loved her, that it wasn’t her fault and that she loved her accent. Both Susie and the girl cried tears of joy as Susie hugged the girl. Then came some giggles.
The last step is to bring the, now unstuck, part into the here and now. She wasn’t really in the past, but she believed that she was. Over the next few weeks, Susie spent time with the girl, reinforcing her safety and lovability.
The guard and the critic changed too.
The next time Susie had to make a presentation, she was a little nervous, but could assure the girl that her Self would protect the girl. She also had her supportive, new nanny (the transformed guard) to be with her. At one point the, much gentler, critic came out. Susie’s Self listened to her concerns without judgment, and helped her to understand that criticizing was not actually helping and was, instead, making it harder.
The presentation wasn’t “perfect”, but there wasn’t the traumatic emotional “bomb” like before and Susie was confident that it would only get easier.
The human psyche is indeed a fascinating and complex thing, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. Even though the whole process was “all in Susie’s head”, just imagination, it made a huge difference in her out world. The other benefit isß she understands her inner world and has tools to navigate therein, making it easier to transform any other inner parts if and when they show up.