The Self: Our Refuge and Strength
For the last few weeks, I have been talking about the many different parts we all have and how they functioned to help us survive when we were children. These same parts interfere with our growth and functioning as adults.
The good news is that there is more to us than those fragmented parts. We have a core self. The self is our center; it is who we are. It is calm, relaxed, open and accepting of ourselves. It is left-brain centered and stays focused on carrying on with everyday life. It may be covered by a false self, or lost in the never-ending conflict inside ourselves, but it is still within each of us. It may be locked in a constant state of ambivalence with an inability to make decisions or to know one’s own mind . Even so, it is there and can be found when we create enough space inside to see what is present.
In people who had good enough parenting and no trauma, the self works in conjunction with all the parts we have.. For those who had less than good enough parenting, trauma or abuse, the parts are fragmented. They are divided and work against one another. In its mildest form, it is like a kindergarten class that is out of
control. In its more intense forms, it is like a gang of competing teenagers or warring armies.
The self contains the innate qualities that we all have. No matter how much neglect, abuse or trauma we have suffered, the self resides undamaged. As such, it holds the key to healing the wounds of the past. Each of us have a core piece that is our self or center. This is a wise adult part that the young parts can turn to in times of need, pain, stress and intense emotional experiences. It is through the
actions of the self that healing occurs.
Internal Family Systems has identified eight qualities of the self that are an antidote to the painful experiences of the past.
Sympathy, kindness, love and concern for those who have been hurt and are in pain. It is a genuine caring about how others feel which leads to supporting them through difficult times. Being able to access your “self” will help you feel compassion for your wounded and smaller parts. It is the most important action needed to understand, hold, support, nurture, and heal yourself. It provides an antidote to the painful experience of the past.
Open, nonjudgmental curiosity leads you to acquire to knowledge about the world, others and yourself. Curiosity is necessary to learn about your internal parts, what their intentions are, from what they want to protect you and how they set about doing it. It is a desire to understand the inner workings of others and yourself. It is essential to the process of learning about your parts.
Humans need relationships with others. Babies cannot survive and grow without caretakers. Our need for connection with others lasts our entire lives. Without good enough parenting, we become fragmented and disconnected inside. We need to have a connection to and with all of our parts.
It is necessary to be grounded and centered to be able to know yourself and how you fit together. It is from a calm center that you are able to hear the emotions
that rage inside. Calm creates an atmosphere of safety and support, which builds trust so that you can get to know yourself.
Whatever difficulties you faced as a child, it took courage to navigate them. In many instances as adults, we feel weak because we have parts that are hurt and afraid. It is important to see that it took courage and strength to grow into adults. To heal, we need to know and accept that courage and use it for your healing journey.
Deep inside all of us is a caring for others and their welfare. It may be hidden beneath a life time of fear and pain. We need to uncover it so that it can be used
in the service of the young, wounded parts of us.
Underneath the confusion and conflicting messages inside, there is a knowing part of us that can lead us to right decisions and actions. The confusion caused by the conflict needs to be settled so that we can act in our own best interest.
It is amazing to see the many ways people survive intolerable situations. It is through creativity that we find our way in difficult times. It is through creativity that we find new avenues to grow and develop. This is also how we find entertainment, joy and pleasure.
The healing journey is a multifaceted process of finding the self, accepting our wounded and young parts, building our strengths, expanding our internal tolerance and creating new outcomes for our life. It is this strong self that the wounded parts of us can turn to for comfort and safety. It is an internal odyssey to be taken with helpful companions.