Try out the idea that each personality trait is caused by a talented subself who specializes in that
ability or quality, like a player in an
orchestra or a sports team. To expand your awareness, take a few minutes and
study this list of
Each person has a unique mix of some of
these subselves, not all of them.
Note that one group of subselves is
They're very reactive, and
"specialize" in bringing you primary emotions like curiosity, awe, anxiety, silliness,
sadness, rage, guilt, love, fear, confusion, loneliness, and shame.
If you're curious about your
subselves, read this and return here.
Now imagine choosing one of these subselves to interview, like meeting a
distant relative for the first time. Pick a "neutral" or helpful subself,
not one which causes you significant problems. Pause and reflect: how do you usually behave when you meet
someone for the first time? Meeting a subself is just the same.
Have you ever been in a class, team, committee, or group which had a really
effective leader? Recall why you felt s/he was "effective." Now try out the
idea that one of your subselves is a naturally talented, motivated, wise
A premise here is that every adult and child has such
a skilled subself - their
(capital "S"). In this inner dialog exercise,
your Self will interview another of your subselves.
If you're curious about your Self,
read this and return.
Another premise is that subselves
communicate with us and each other all the time. For perspective on
"talking" with a subself, review
this and return.
Questions to Ask
inner interview, clarify what you want to learn about this subself.
Here are some useful questions. Keep in mind that each subself has its own
unique values, goals, attitudes, and perceptions. These may differ a little
or a lot from your Self's view of the world.
"Is there a name you'd like to be
called?" Some parts feel very strongly about this and others are
"How old are you?" Each
subself has its own developmental age, which often differs from the age
of your body.
"Where do you live?" Some
subselves may believe they're living in one of your past dwellings. For
now, just accept that.
"Who do you live with"?
Subselves may live with people you know or knew, animals, strangers, or
"Do you know who I (your true
Self) am?" Some
subselves don't know your true Self exists - or they do, but aren't clear what
the Self's leadership role is in your inner family (personality).
"What year is it?" It's
common for young and Guardian subselves to believe it's some year in your past.
Trust the first thing that comes into your mind. If you get some past
year, postpone trying to teach them the truth in
this first dialog - just learn.
"What is your job - what do you
do?" Every subself has a main function or role, which they may
or may not be able to articulate.
"How do you like your job?" Be
open to any answer...
"What would happen if you stopped
doing your job?" Typical subselves feel some catastrophe will occur
including social rejection, poverty, injury, loss, or death. If so,
dispute that or reassure them for now.
"Is there anything or anyone
that makes your job specially fun? Specially hard?"
"Do you know you're part of a
family or team (of subselves)?" Some subselves believe they are all
alone. Others know vaguely or clearly of (some) other subselves, but
don't feel included among them. A long-range goal is to have all your
subselves appreciate each other as a group of specialists with a common
"What caused you to appear?"
Often the answer is some trauma or stressful period in your childhood.
Be open to anything - a thought stream, a memory, an image, or something
else. Avoid pre-assuming.
"How do you feel about me asking
you these questions?" Expect an answer ranging from "I don't know,"
to "I don't care" to "I've waited so long to talk to somebody!"
"Do you worry about anything in
particular?" Some subselves may never have thought about this.
Others may not want to disclose yet.
"Is there anything you want me
(your true Self) to
know about you or your job?"
If you're interviewing a young
subself, you can ask "Do you know where (your) Mom / Dad is now?" It's
common for subselves to have a distorted answer.
"Is there some change you'd really
like?" If you get an answer, affirm it, and ask the question again.
"Would you be willing to talk with
me again?" Once subselves believe such dialogs are safe, they
usually say "yes."
Note the respectful theme of these questions, and ask
any others that occur to you. Keep the questions simple - i.e. one
sentence or less - without explanations.
What to Expect
Before your interview, prepare for any of these common outcomes:
1) The subself you choose is
willing to respond (give you thoughts, senses, and/or images) without conditions or interference from other
subselves. This is the best case!
2) Your subself will talk,
but sets conditions ("OK, but I'm not going to talk about _____.") If
this happens, honor the conditions for now. A main objective here is for
your subself to feel heard, respected, and safe.
3) Your mind "goes
blank" when you try to focus on your chosen subself. This usually
indicates a protective subself doesn't trust this alien new
experience, and is blocking it. If this happens breathe well -
inhibit normal breathing to minimize scary emotions.
shift your focus
to interviewing your protective Blocker subself without judgment. ["Is there
someone who doesn't want me to talk to (the subself you chose)?"]. If the
Blocker will talk, ask her or him respectfully to describe what s/he thinks
might happen if you had the original dialog. Your goal here is to listen
not to argue, debate, demand, or persuade.
Another possible inner-dialog experience you may have is...
4) You keep
(can't concentrate) as you try to interview your
subself. This may indicate that several subselves are activated by what
they think you're doing, and are all "talking at once." Options: ask them
all to get quiet, and speak one at a time.
Ask each subself to identify
itself by name, an image, and age; and to say what s/he needs, thinks and/or
- make no promises, explanations, or requests. Then if it feels right, you
may ask them to be quiet so you can conduct the original interview. Either
way, you experience communicating with your subselves.
With any of these outcomes, you
may experience subtle or obvious physical reactions like shifts in
your heartbeat, breathing, skin temperature, and muscle twinges or tensions. If
so, they may or may not be caused by the subself you're interviewing or
another subself who's "listening in."
Option: ask that subself if s/he is causing the
physical reaction/s, or if
s/he knows which other subself is. If such reactions become too distracting,
end the interview respectfully. A future option is to focus on the subself
causing your body reaction and ask what s/he's trying to communicate.
Stay aware that all subselves are trying to help you in their own
unique way! See
this for more
Dialog With a Subself
Pick a Safe Meeting Place
you feel ready, notice what time it is, get physically comfortable, and
close your eyes. Vividly imagine
being in a comfortable, safe, distraction-free meeting place
indoors or in nature. It may be a place you've actually been or
imaginary. If the latter, your Self is doing the imagining. If you choose a
Nature setting, consider a
mountaintop, a forest clearing, a peaceful beach, a quiet lake or river, a
beautiful canyon, or any other serene setting. Avoid any place that has
human activity or noise.
Whatever place you choose, take a moment to look around. Notice the quality
and source/s of light, the temperature, any aromas, and any soothing
background sounds like a fountain, calm waves, gentle breeze, or quiet
music. Notice the floor or ground, and decide if you want to sit, recline,
or stand. If you're special place is indoors, enjoy choosing the furniture,
colors, decorations, and amenities (but no TV or PC!). If there are windows
or skylights, notice what you see through each of them.
Whatever meeting place you choose, know that
this is your own sacred space and
refuge. No one else can intrude here unless you invite them. Enjoy
realizing you can come here any time of the day or nite to get calm, quiet,
grounded, and reflective. You may choose to invite your Higher Power here to
welcome and guide you and any subselves you invite.
you design your meeting place, take a few moments to be there.
Breathe easily from your belly, and let the concerns of the day recede
without anxiety or guilt. Be still.....
Verify that you can form inner images by picturing your partner, favorite
child, special friend, or a cartoon figure. Focus on the subself you want to
interview, and ask if s/he will give you an inner image.
open to the first thing that appears, even if it "makes no sense."
may be of a real or imaginary person, a memory or fantasy, an animal, or cartoon figure,
an abstract shape or color, or an object. If you don't get a stable image, that's
OK. Focus on a memory that hilights the personality trait you've chosen.
Remember how it felt to be that trait.
the image or the feeling (i.e. think) "Are you willing to talk with me for a
few minutes?" Trust the first
thing that occurs, without judgment - a thought, image, sense, or feeling.
If you have an image of the subself, notice if it changes - e.g. if the
image is of a person or animal, whether it looks at you (your Self) or not.
If you sense a "yes" response, explain what you're doing, just as
you would with a physical person. That might sound like "I'd like to
learn about you, so I'd like to ask you some questions. Is that
OK?" Notice the first thought or feelings that happens, and react
is OK, then ask the questions (above) you've chosen, one at a time. After each one, be
still, and notice the first thought/s, image/s, and/or feeling/s that occur
judgment. If you get a thought like "That's weird / stupid / impossible...",
know that another subself is commenting on the first subself's response -
not your Self.
Ignore the judgment, and continue. If a response merits it,
ask a related question. For example, if you ask "What's your job?" and your
subself answers "To keep you safe," you might ask "Safe from what?" The
idea here is to act just as you would talking with a physical person.
your subself says "No, I don't want to answer any questions now,"
acknowledge that with respect. Then ask something like "Is there something I
can do to make you feel more comfortable?" or "What might happen if you did
answer?" Stay empathically aware that this initial experience may be too alien or scary
for this subself now. If so, thank the subself, and consider
focusing on another one.
you start to get responses, notice how you're feeling about this subself of
yours. If you feel any-thing but neutral interest, compassion, or
appreciation - e.g. scorn, dislike, anxiety, guilt, or distrust - another
subself has probably
blended with (taken over) your Self.
are alert, and react fast as the environment changes. If you
get judgmental feelings, pause and ask the subself that has taken you over
to "step aside" or
and let you continue the interview. See if your
attitude toward the first subself shifts. If the judgmental subself won't
step aside, shift your focus and interview him / her.
comfortably alert for your Blocker
or Numb-er (Anesthetist) activating and interrupting your interview - e.g. you get "no response" to a question, you lose the
subself's image, or your mind "goes blank." If that happens, refocus on your
Blocker, and ask what s/he needs.
trust the first thoughts or
feelings that occur, without judgment. Stay focused:
experiencing the process of
dialoging with your subselves is your primary goal here,
not getting answers to your questions.
you feel "done" or the subself indicates s/he wants to stop, ask two final
questions: "How did it feel to talk
with me?" and "Would you be
willing to talk with me again?" Option - ask "Is there
anything you want to say or ask before we end for now?" Be open to any response. As you would
with a physical person, thank your subself for the interview, and say
Reconnect with your body by flexing your fingers and toes, moving your
torso and head, opening your eyes, and breathing from your belly. Notice any thoughts
or feelings about this experience, without judgment. Option: write down what
you recall about the dialog, and any reactions you have about it.
your initial attitude about whether personality subselves are real or not,
and see if anything has shifted. Notice what time it is. Often, doing a
subself interview ("parts work") evokes a mild or deep trance (inner focus),
which may cause "time distortion" - e.g. "a short conversation" may take 15
or 20 minutes in real time.
purpose of this exercise is to help you decide whether normal
personalities - like yours - may really be composed of subselves or not. If you feel this
is credible, the next step is to decide whether the concepts of
true Self and
believable. If so, then see if false-self
make sense (a)
in general, and (b) in your life.