“Resolution of painful past events cannot truly be achieved
without our reclaiming the lost child and disowned parts of ourselves”
The goal of therapy is to come to a place in your life where you can feel safe in the here and now. You want to be able to reassure yourself that your racing thoughts, your racing heart and the critical voices you hear, are responses to an old memory, rather than to a sign of current danger.
Mary was walking in a large city alone. She felt that a loitering man was looking at her in an invasive way. She was frightened and outraged. She could not be comforted or calm herself. She was still upset and talking about it days later. The man had not approached her or said anything to her.
For Mary, the goal of therapy is to be able to see that the shame, anger and grief that can be overwhelming comes from a childhood filled with humiliation, where there was no comfort and we were too young to comfort ourselves.
Edward was giving a presentation at work, and used an incorrect word to describe his product. When it was pointed out to him after the talk, he felt he was stupid and incompetent. He told himself he did not deserve to be successful.
For Edward, the goal of therapy is to be able to turn to a strong internal self that can protect, comfort and help the parts of ourselves that get lost in the past feelings, thoughts and beliefs that bring so much pain, confusion, indecision and isolation in our present life.
Reclaiming Disowned Parts
Healing is accomplished by reclaiming the disowned parts of ourselves. These are often young, wounded, angry, frightened, and lost parts of who we are. It is extending them a helping hand, creating a place inside of us where it is safe and where they feel wanted, needed and valued. We form a loving attachment to the parts of ourselves so that we no longer feel ashamed of ourselves. This transforms our internal world into a warm, loving and self-protective place. It is in this
safe place that you can get to know and experience all of who you are and find the hidden parts of yourself.
At 56, Andrew discovered a love of gardening. Growing up in the city, he had no exposure to the hobby because there was no place to plant a garden. With this discovery he became curious about what else might be hidden inside. Who was he? He became curious about himself and wanted to pay attention to his thoughts, his desires and where his attention wandered. He realized, if he listened to his thoughts in an interested way, he discovered new information about himself. He was becoming free to know himself rather than the person others told him he was.
Author Dan Siegel believes that to be able to know ourselves and become an integrated human being, we need to differentiate the parts of ourselves and to develop a connection between the parts. There are three steps to this process.
1. Make Distinctions Between the Parts:
Our parts have a purpose and need to communicate. In the beginning, it sounds like a crowd of indistinct messages and unexplainable reactions, when in fact, there is important information to be heard and addressed. The purpose of these reactions is to help us address the wounds of the past. All this noise inside are communications to help us know who we are.
2. Name the Parts:
As you are able to differentiate the parts, give each one a name that describes what it is like and what its function is. Each name should let that individual part know that you are aware of its existence, understand it, and care about it. A name that helps you know what that part needs and how to help it.
3. Make Connections Between the Parts and the Whole:
We are one person in one body but we have many parts that live inside of us. Disowning parts and over-identifying with other parts creates confusion and
leaves us susceptible to the misinterpretation of situations. It leaves us vulnerable and defenseless. As we connect the parts with the whole we are able to find new responses to stimuli that trigger us and are able to regulate our emotions and responses.
Change Your Relationship With Yourself
Taking these three steps will change our relationship with ourselves from one of shame, dread, fear and powerlessness, to one of self-knowledge and self-respect. It will help us be able to stay present to the here and now and keep ourselves safe.
Take the example of Mary, the woman walking down the city street. She had a strong survival part that could detect danger from men. We will call that part “Radar.” Radar kept her safe from her older brothers who bullied her. She
could tell by the look on their faces when they were going to pick on her. This enabled her to run for cover when they came her way.
As an adult, she had a part we will call “Scout” that could assess her situation and see that although the man had an expression similar to her brothers, he was not coming her way, he was only looking. This part knew that if she moved on with her head held high, she would be safe and he would soon look at someone else. Unfortunately, in that moment she was unable to connect Radar with Scout. She was frightened with no way to comfort herself.
When we are able to make a connection with our young parts, it helps us deal with the shame we feel about ourselves. Eventually, our internal world is transformed
into a warm, loving and self-protective place. It becomes a place where you can be free to get to know and experience all of who you are, and develop the hidden
parts of yourself.
Healing begins with learning about these internal parts and our internal conflicts. The relationships we have inside reflect the conflicts we had to deal with as a child. This can revolutionize how you deal with yourself.