Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

Q&A about Your
 Personality Subselves

Get to know your inner family

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

HRbrass.gif (3108 bytes)

The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/IF/faq.htm

  Updated  01-20-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Plain links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This brief video overviews Q&A about personality subselves. The video refers to eight self-study lessons in this Web site - I've simplified that to seven.

      This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in this Web site - (a) free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and (b) reduce significant psychological wounds. All six other self-improvement Lessons here are founded on this one.

      A key premise in this nonprofit Web site is that the personality of normal adults and kids is composed of a group of semi-independent subselves or parts, like talented players in an orchestra or sports team. Thus locally and over time, your personality can range from harmonious to chaotic, depending on who's leading your subselves - your true Self or ''someone else.''

      This concept is new to most people (like you?), and raises some common questions. This article offers brief answers and links to more information. If you're skeptical or curious about normal personality subselves, read this and try this safe, interesting exercise after finishing this article.

      These Q&A items assume you're familiar with...

       Common Questions About Subselves

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What are my personality subselves like?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  If I have all these parts,  who am "I, myself" - who's ME?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What's my true Self (natural-leader part) like?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  How do I know if my true Self is in charge?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  Where did my subselves come from?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  How can I "meet" my subselves?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What do my subselves want?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  Do your subselves and mine interact?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  How do typical subselves behave? Will they change?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  Is there any danger in meeting my inner team?

q-mark.gif (70 bytes) What do people think about this subself concept? (a poll)

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What Are My Personality Subselves Like?

           Our subselves or personality parts are unique within us, and yet they seem to have common traits between people. From the reports of hundreds of people who have done parts work (inner-family harmonizing), our subselves all seem to...

  • be discrete regions of our brain. As such, they can't be killed, fired, or exiled.

  • be benign: from its own perspective, every subself means us well;

  • be well-developed or not, depending on inner and outer events and environments;

  • be active or inactive (quiet), depending on perceived current inner and outer life conditions. And each subself...

  • has unique talents and abilities, and a primary job (function). Typical subselves can be paralyzed, overruled, and retrained. They're often eager to replace outdated or harmful old roles (functions) for healthier ones, once they trust this is safe and promotes the host-person's welfare.

      And typical personality subselves...

  • have their own thoughts, ideas, feelings, and perceptions of the inner and outer worlds, which can be based on childhood perceptions and biases, and may be very distorted;

  • are able to quickly change to new inner goals and roles, when they appear safe, useful, and viable;

  • need inner and outer recognition, respect, and appreciation for their efforts, and respond to these "just like people do";

  • are very protective of themselves and their host person, though paradoxically, their skewed ideas of protection may cause the person (you) pain and injury.

          And each typical subself appears to:

  • be of equal value to us. As in any true team, there is no one "best" subself overall. Each one  excels in certain situations, and can add to overall group effectiveness and success if it lives in the present time and trusts your true Self to lead;

  • live in the present or the past. Those dwelling in the (usually traumatic) past, when feeling safe enough, can come to live in the present. Until they do, they cause us chronic "trouble"; and our subselves...

  • communicate with each other and with "us" via thoughts ("inner voices"), hunches, feelings, images, visions, memories, day and night dreams, and physical sensations (e.g. "tight" stomachs and throats, neck and back pains, cramps, headaches, tinglings or numbness, "floating anxiety", "panic attacks", warm or cool skins, thumping hearts, "crawling" and "light" feelings, and many others);

  • be male, female, or neither, regardless of the gender of the body they live in;

          And our subselves…

  • may not know some (or all) other subselves; form loyal alliances with some, or they may misunderstand, fear, distrust, ignore, and compete with each other;

  • can disguise themselves and/or hide from "us" and each other, if feeling confused or unsafe;

  • have preferred names, developmental ages (the same or different than our body's actual age), and (sometimes) favorite locations in our bodies, which can change;

  • perceive that they have their own body parts (i.e. face, limbs, torso, etc), which may be "lost" via real-life trauma and regained via inner-family therapy;

  • are able to return to remembered real-life traumas, and - with planning and new inner-family awareness, leadership, and alliances - "re-do" these events to experience better outcomes and reduce or end old fears and compulsions;

  • are able to cause us, and relieve us of, some physical and emotional symptoms; and our subselves can...

  • can (eventually) function as a co-operative team, led by our true Self (capital "S") or a trusted delegate in any situation.

      Here's a little more detail on some of these traits...l

    Common Subself Traits

lttl-i.gif (70 bytes)  Communication: our subselves vent, demand, whine, plead, question, request, listen, interrupt, dis/ agree, hint, persuade, threaten, etc. with each other all the time. Our conscious mind and our body pro-vide two ways to "hear" their rich, dynamic interchanges. The common conditions of "mind racing" or "churning," "confusion," and "not staying focused" are symptoms of several subselves trying to communicate at once without the skillful moderation of the resident true Self ("HEY - one at a time!") 

      Subselves will often give us "voices" (thought streams) and/or "images" of themselves on request: clear and accurate, or symbolic or disguised. They (usually) want to be noticed and heard! Some distrustful personality parts may hide until they feel it's safe to be known by other parts or outer people. One protective subself may block another from identifying itself. Some "non-visual" people have different inner "voices," while other people have images, feelings, or a combination.

       The inner "images" subselves use can be of real or imaginary children or adults; cartoon or fiction characters; males, females, or neither; plants, animals, or objects in Nature; geometric or abstract shapes - just about anything. One client's subself chose the image of "a pile of black dirt." Another used "a pack of ferrets."

      Subselves can change their images as they feel more trusting, or use alternating images, depending on how they feel. Your subselves are probably brain-regions, not the inner images they present - so if a subself "looks" or sounds like your Father, it's not him!

lttl-i.gif (70 bytes)  Timeframe: Some of your inner-family members live in the present, while others may be stuck in the past. The latter are usually young Inner Kids and/or their Guardians who literally don't know or believe that the world is different than when they started to develop. That may have in your mother's womb, or when you were four days, or three, seven, or 13 years old. 

      They pursue their goals based on beliefs that are no longer true, but they minimize or don't know that. People who "can't let go" of an old habit, attitude, or event (like the loss of a prized relationship or dream) often have one or more dominant subselves stuck in the past.

      Subselves may know they're in the past, but can fear shifting to the present, or not know how to do so. In parts work, such parts can tour your present life with your Self, and can ultimately come here to live with the rest of the inner team when that feels safe to everyone. When parts come to live in the present, people usually report feeling noticeably more "together" and better. Does "get it (your 'act') together" take on a new meaning here?

lttl-i.gif (70 bytes)  Talents and gifts: each subself brings you one or several special abilities, like compassion, wisdom, joy, humor, concentration, playfulness, curiosity, creativity, patience, bravery, and so on. Building inner-family awareness and cooperation lets these gifts be used in combinations that best fit any moment. These gifts and the energies that power them can be directed to harm or help you in any situation. When your Self is in charge, the latter is much more likely.

lttl-i.gif (70 bytes)  Flexibility: Our devoted subselves can learn, and change their minds about themselves, each other, and the real world. They can switch goals and strategies within us quickly, and work cooperatively and peacefully with each other. Like most team members who feel useful, challenged, and appreciated, they really prefer this, once they believe it's possible. This cooperation can build over time, with loving patience and intentional inner-family education, negotiation, and problem-solving.

       What are you thinking and feeling now? Who's "speaking"? More common traits of personality subselves...

lttl-i.gif (70 bytes)  Intentions: Though some subselves may seem "bad" or "evil," they all truly mean to help inner kids and the host person in their unique way. Subselves believe that some catastrophe will happen to you if they stop what they're doing, even if it causes pain or harm.

      Guardians who distrust or don't know of your Self and other Manager subselves see no acceptable alternatives to their way of keeping you safe. They also greatly fear losing their "job." When they learn of believable alternatives, there's often another inner-family role that they'd much rather do.

       For example, a woman plagued by repeated "uncontrollable" failures at work eventually found a Saboteur (Guardian) part that was responsible. It feared that if the woman was as successful as she was capable of being, she would "get a swelled head," reap scorn and ridicule - and be rejected again (as in the woman's real childhood). The Saboteur used the inner image of a curly-haired five-year-old girl.

      She acknowledged that by making the woman "forget" things, procrastinate, and not propose innovative ideas she was stressing her, but she saw no options to protecting her from certain rejection. After meeting the woman’s Self and some negotiation and retraining, the Saboteur said she would rather be-come a spiritual director for all the other subselves. With their agreement, she tried that out. The woman reported feeling "different" about herself, and that her life changed "for the better..."

      A controversial implication of this idea is that there are no intrinsically "evil" or "bad" people. There are deeply wounded people from exceptionally traumatic low-nurturance childhoods, whose dis-integrated subselves live perpetually in a distorted, terrifying, shameful inner past. These fragmented, tormented souls do cause real pain and suffering to themselves and others.

       Other people have genetic or acquired neuro-chemical imbalances and deficits. They do "bad" things too, but (I believe) are not immoral or "evil" by nature. Parts-work offers genuine hope of positive change to the former people, while new psychotropic drugs and medical procedures can relieve some of the latter. 

      After 20 years' study and experience, I now believe (a) there is an ongoing dynamic interaction between our several minds (conscious, unconscious, and pre-conscious) and our body; and that (b) emotional traumas and wounds can trigger or amplify physiological body changes, and vice versa. See, for example, "Fertile Minds" in Time magazine (6/24/01); and this sobering research summary

      Recall - we're reviewing common characteristic of normal personality subselves.

lttl-i.gif (70 bytes)  Control: When enraged, terrified, or deeply hurt or ashamed, our subselves can try to "take us over." Like physical people, subselves fight with each other regularly, each believing it's right, and wanting its way with and for you. Without internal trust and leadership, these inner battles often stress us and others. When they occur we feel torn, confused, "uneasy," and perhaps buffeted by conflicting feelings about a person, idea, or event.

       These incidents are just like having a group of passengers wrestling over control of a van or bus: one subself wants to go faster, another to hit the brakes, a third holds their head and screams, while a fourth pulls on the wheel and yells "We've got to turn, right now!" Ever feel anything like this? Who "wins"?

       Because our true Self is distrusted and disabled at such times, we lose our ability to react calmly, make wise, balanced decisions, and coordinate and use our subselves' talents wisely. A common reaction at such times is "I don't know what got into me (or you)!" Parts who take "emergency" control may only appear at times of great stress or threat.  

      Dr. Richard Schwartz and some inner-family colleagues call these takeovers blendings. He believes (as I do) that one or more overexcited parts can fuse with our Self. We (the person) then feel and think just as these controlling subselves do. It's not really us (our true Self and Managers), but one or several overexcited subselves. If asked "Who's scared in you?" we reflexively answer "I am!," vs. "Jinx, my abandoned, overwhelmed four-year-old inner child."

       Someone living in fear all the time (i.e. constantly blended with a terrified Inner Child and/or Guardian subself) may never realize this is happening. S/He may have never experienced the serenity and power of having their talented true Self trusted and charge! Without inner-family awareness, such people live life as terrified and deeply unhappy children, guiltily masquerading as adults their entire lives.

      Parts work (inner-family harmonizing) helps people see their frequent inner conflicts in a new way, and helps their Self and/or a competent, trusted delegate to lead. This skilled team-leader subself considers the advice of other subselves and people involved, adds it's own wisdom, and calmly makes decisions that best fit short and long-term needs and goals. The more this happens, the more the other subselves trust the Self's ability to value and listen to them, guide them, and keep everyone safe.

       Before doing meaningful parts work, the average dis/harmony among your subselves usually mimics the psychological environment you experienced as a young child. A dominant false self will create and/or seek similar conditions in your physical family and work environments, even if that's stressful. Until in meaningful inner-wound recovery, our ruling subselves often reproduce our real early-family nurturance level despite conscious vows not to...

<< question index >>

question mark  Where Did My Subselves Come From?

      Often these traumas are so shocking and painful [e.g. abandonments (neglect) and sexual abuse] that protective subselves cause us to "forget" they happened. The personality fragments (parts) that appear after these events seem to never forget, tirelessly guarding us against similar wounding and harm long after any real threat is gone. When feeling safe, subselves will usually tell or show what "started" them, and when, via thoughts, memories, and/or flashbacks.

       Often, Inner Kids are the same age as we were as real children when some great pain, shame, or terror occurred. Gently educating them and their steadfast Guardians and moving subselves to the present when all subselves feel safe enough, can permanently end harmful obsessions, compulsions, and other habits.

       For example: how does a child cope with the searing pains of feeling repeatedly ignored, ridiculed, or beaten by an essential caregiver? S/He can unconsciously develop a subself which aims to guard her from ever really trusting and relying on, and being shamed or hurt by, any adult male or female. Other subselves may oppose this, and strive for healthy relationships with safe adults.

      This creates a draining inner tension s/he may not be consciously aware of. It can cause the growing child to "endlessly" feel exhausted, irritable, depressed, and to have dissatisfying "approach-avoid" roller-coaster relationships "over and over"...

       Meeting all subselves respectfully and patiently, bringing any "stuck" parts safely into the present, and making peace between conflicted subselves to let the wise resident Self (capital "S") guide them offers potential healing for such painful, depressing, unconscious struggles.

<< question index  >>

question mark  What Do My Subselves Want?

       Every subself seems devoted to keeping themselves and their host person safe from pain and harm - as they define "safe." They strive fiercely to keep their roles or "jobs" intact, and to be free to use their gifts productively. Typical inner-family members long to be recognized, trusted, respected, and appreciated for what they're trying to do for us. In early parts work, some subselves typically fear that other parts or an external person will misunderstand and dislike them, and want to "fire," kill, or banish them.

       Such anxious parts can resist your meeting or disclosing your inner teams (inner voices: "What stupidity! A real waste of time! Don't be a jerk! You're weird! This'll never work! Stop! You'll uncover a horror you can't handle! You'll flip out!") Or they can try to hide themselves by blocking any thoughts, sensations, images, or inwardly saying "I won’t talk to you or let you 'see' me!" These are normal defenses, which subside as subselves come to trust that they and you are really safe.

       Protective subselves can also be terrified that if you explore your inner world you'll find and "free" a paralyzed part they see as very dangerous to you or them. Patience, empathy, and safe risk-takings change this. Other inner-team members, specially young ones, will welcome you ("I've waited SO long to be noticed and cared for! Please don't leave me!")

<< question index  >>

question mark  If I Have All These Subselves, Who am "I, Myself" - Who's ME?

       At first, inner-family terms can be confusing. Me, my self (little "s"), and I each can mean all your physical, emotional, and spiritual parts together: the whole person called by your name. Those titles may also mean (a) your Self (capital "S" - your resident inner-family leader); or (b) the subselves who have locally blended with (taken over) your Self.

      Recall: when anxious, distrustful subselves overwhelm or merge with your Self, you may experience their  feelings, thoughts, and goals as "me." They are not you as a whole. If another subself controls your Self, "I" and "Me" refer to the controlling subself, not your Self or you as a whole person. Confusions subside when your Self is free, trusted by all other parts, and consistently in charge

       Incidentally, Manager subselves can take over your Self just like Inner Kids and their Guardians. Know anyone who's "always in their head"? Their true Self is probably controlled by their distrustful Analyzer,  and a protective Numb-er (Guardian) who may fear that allowing emotions would be disastrous to the whole person. Can you think of someone constantly obsessed with others' opinions and being "right"? Their Self may be "always" controlled by an alliance of their hyper-anxious Critic, Perfectionist, and Shamed Child.

<< question index  >>

question mark  What's My True Self Like?

    finger and bow Recall: your self (little "s") refers to [ all your subselves + body + spirit or soul ] together.

       Like all personality parts, your Self (capital "S") has special abilities. S/He is not more powerful or worthy than any other subself. Your Self's main natural talent and desire is to be an effective leader for all your subselves, in most situations. As such, her or his gifts and goals are to...

  • Perceive current situations realistically in light of your knowledge, major abilities, limitations, and short and long-term goals,

  • Seek and evaluate the counsel of inner and outer advisors as time and circumstances permit, and...

  • Calmly...

    • delegate and coordinate other subselves in making clear, wise decisions from a wide-angle, long-term perspective; and then...

    • acting on the decisions, and...

    • responding effectively to the environment's reactions.

       Your Self is like a naturally talented musical conductor, drama director, jet pilot, congregational leader, or athletic-team coach. S/He decodes sensory information - perhaps with help from other subselves, skillfully clarifies and communicates goals, resolves impasses, delegates responsibilities, and builds morale and teamwork.

      Your Self can give recognition and praise, coach, and make artistic, complex, and tough judgments well, in most situations. When trusted by all other parts and free to lead, s/he can reliably counsel, encourage, and empower other confused or overexcited parts in all kinds of life situations. As s/he does these, s/he feels the full range of human emotions like all other subselves.

       Can you imagine having such a leader in charge of your Life? Can you feel when s/he is in charge? At any moment, your Self may be...

  • free to lead and coordinate, or...

  • strongly influenced by (blended with), or...

  • overwhelmed or paralyzed by other distrustful or over-excited subselves.

       Unlike a talented coach, CEO, or musical conductor, your true Self s/he can't fire or sanction rebellious team members. S/He can't stop other parts from interfering or taking control. There is no board of directors or police s/he can appeal to. S/He needs trust and willing co-operation from your other parts to be really effective for them and you. 

      Other subselves can come to believe in the judgment and leadership of your Self only from experience. They then want to follow her or him from respect and trust rather than fear, resignation, or duty.

       As an eye can't behold itself without a mirror, your Self can't "see" itself in an inner image. S/He is the see-er. So if you work with your inner family and image "your Self," know that it's another subself. If your (unblended) Self says "I," it may refer to your whole person or your Self alone. This gets clearer as you do more inner-family harmonizing.

       Some theorize that we have an inner family or "cast of characters" without a leading Self. Our momentary thoughts, feelings, and actions are a blend of all our parts, who get along by group consensus as some communes and organizations do. Leader Self or inner-family consensus - which concept fits better for you? From doing inner-family therapy since 1992, I believe that we each do have a skillful and dedicated executive Self. Once aware of the concept, most of my clients have agreed intuitively, and later from inner-family experience.

<< question index  >>

question mark  How Do I Know When My true Self Is In Charge?

       Have you ever belonged to a harmonious team of people with a common purpose and a leader you all liked, respected, and really trusted? How did you feel in that group? When this happens in their inner family or team, people spontaneously say they feel some mix of calm or serene, centered, grounded, light, "up," clear, firm, alive, alert, aware, compassionate, strong, resilient, focused, open, sure, decisive, positive, and purposeful - even in a crisis. These feelings are sure signs your Self is trusted and free to lead.

       Do you have periods of feeling some of these? How often do you get them? Would you like them more often? Many psychologically-wounded people have rarely or never experienced a clear-minded period of time when their true Self was solidly in charge. Understandably, such people may not relate to, or defensively scoff at the idea that such inner harmony is an actual option for them or anyone.

      Another way to judge who's leading your or another person's personality is to look for telltale attitudes and behaviors like these. For more detail on behavioral symptoms of the six psychological conditions that indicate false-self dominance, see these Lesson-1 checklists.

<< question index  >>

    question mark  How Do Parts Behave?

       A true story: A  30-something single Mom with a very responsible, stressful managerial job began to develop severe back pains that woke her up in the middle of most nights. As she tried to fall asleep again, she usually experienced "mind racing," obsessing on the chaos at work, and the difficult situations she faced both there and personally. Her doctor and a chiropractor could find nothing physically wrong. Meditation, aspirin, and prayer didn't help.

       She was becoming more and more exhausted, irritable, and distracted both at work and with her early-teen daughter and friends. Respectful inner-family inquiries revealed a subself who said clearly it was responsible for the back pain and mind-racing.

      It gave her the image of a hulking teenage boy. He said he knew he was causing the woman dis-tress and pain, but saw no other way to ensure that she had enough time to carefully think through the next day's activities.

       "Hulk" only vaguely knew of her Self, and had no trust that it or any other subself could reliably protect her against "failing" and being humiliated and shamed at work. It developed that the woman had a very young part that believed she was "no good," and the "Hulk" was devoted to protecting that Shamed Child.

      When respectfully acknowledged, "the Hulk" was willing to meet with the woman's Self and other competent Manager subselves. Over time, Hulk said he was willing to try to let them prepare adequately for the day's work. Her back pains stopped immediately, and stayed gone.

      For more perspective, review these common subself traits.

<< question index  >>

question mark  Is There Any Danger In Meeting My Inner Family?

       No! At first, your Guardians and Inner Kids may feel alarmed and distrustful, and strongly resist. As they gradually come to trust that your intent is to learn about, appreciate, and help each subself use its gifts fully and effectively, and to reduce inner and outer conflict and stress, their resistances shift to enthusiastic co-operation. In ignorance, our (wounded) culture links "personality fragmenting" (protective subself formation) with "mental illness," "sickness," and "craziness." Wrong! - Reality distortions and unawareness at work...

       People who show extreme false-self chaos ("Multiple Personality Disorder") are usually misunderstood and feared. The idea that we all have a group of "subselves within" is not yet commonly considered, much less accepted.

      When first hearing the idea, many people are naturally skeptical, scornful, or amused by the idea (how about you?). This may be one or more of their scared parts doing their defensive job well. It also may be that such people truly "have it (their inner family) together (harmonious)."

       Some people (i.e. their Child and Guardian subselves) fear that doing parts work will unleash some awful "force," "demons," indefinable, destructive "things," or overwhelming feelings. In 20 years of doing inner-family therapy with scores of men and women and some kids, I have never seen this happen or heard reports of it from clinical colleagues.

      When your subselves clearly believe your Self is strong, wise, and trustworthy enough, repressed experiences and the memories and feelings attached to them can be safely experienced and released. Such recall often signals breaking old, protective emotional denials, and thawing long-frozen grief.

       These are tolerably uncomfortable healing instances. From 23 years' experience, I believe that over time, such releases can free many people from unconscious bondage to some (not all) physical conditions like chronic pain, asthma, headaches, and insomnia; emotional states like panic or rage attacks, depressions, "hyperactivity," "seasonal affective" and '"bipolar" disorders, or "numbness"; or destructive habits like some obsessions, compulsive pessimism or idealism, addictions, over-isolation, and self-sabotage. Some of these do involve organic factors and genetic predispositions - and there is clear evidence that subselves interact with our body's organs, cells, and functioning.

      Doing inner-family ("parts") work is fail-safe: you (your parts) control it. You do only what you wish, when you wish, and how you wish it. This work is not magic or a cure-all. It is often an effective way for Self-motivated people to grow more serenity, confidence, productivity, and enjoyment in their life, over time.

      Parts-work can often help explain and reduce some vexing relationship problems, including codependence, marital conflicts, and parent-child struggles, when both partners use it cooperatively and respectfully. Partners who help each other harmonize their respective inner teams can have an exceptionally strong, rich relationship. So can co-parents and kids!

<<  question index  >>

question mark  Do Your and My Personality Parts Interact?

       All the time! My young subselves and their Guardians are regularly activated by perceived threats of attack or rejection by "you" (your subselves), and vice versa. People with a history of relationship struggles may have seldom or never experienced a steady pairing of (my Self is in charge) and (your Self is in charge) with a friend, lover/partner, or ex mate.

       In their useful paperback Embracing Each Other, psychologists and inner "voice-dialog" pioneers Hal and Sidra Stone explore this topic in depth. After many  years of clinical study, they propose that people with disowned (repressed or denied) parts are compulsively drawn to successive partners who have a very active similar part. 

      These repressed inner-family members are often self-judged as unlikable or repulsive, selfish, profane, brazen, dishonest, preachy, lazy, or the like. By consciously meeting and compassionately accepting our disowned parts and not letting them dominate our Self, our relationship compulsions (e.g. approach-avoid cycles, codependence, and over-controlling) fade.

      From an inner-family perspective, all local and chronic relationship problems have three parts: (a) conflicts among my subselves (inner-family conflicts), (b) disputes among your subselves, and (c) clashes between your subselves and mine.

      Imagine you and other people cooperating to resolve all three concurrent struggles using...

  • true-Self leadership and

  • mutual respect, and...

  • inner-family awareness and acceptance, and...

  • the seven communication skills in Lesson 2. 

Notice your self-talk (thoughts and feelings) now...         

      Many of the stressful "automatic" communication patterns we have with special kids and adults become clear and can improve when seen via parts work. For instance: Jack is attracted to Anita emotionally (Adult Man, Needy Boy, and Good Father parts) and sexually (Lusting older-teen part). Anita responds unconsciously to each of these with four complementary parts: her Adult Woman, Good Mom, Lonely Girl, and Sensual female parts.

       If Jack seems to pull away, Anita's Lonely Girl gets scared and sad (based on early real emotional abandonment by her father). One or several distrustful Guardians quickly activate in response. They blend with her Self, and "make" Anita be shaming, seductive, rejecting, abusive, controlling, and/or pitiful.

       Jack can respond to these behaviors in many ways. If Anita's Protector-part is a Guilt Tripper, Jack's sensitive Shamed Boy  will feel awful. His People-Pleaser  Guardian will spring to life, and has Jack apologize to Anita and become attentive again. Her Scared Girl is reassured, so the Guilt Tripper stands down, freeing Anita's Self. His Shamed Boy gradually feels better, and his Pleaser gives way to his Adult Man and true Self.

       This whole sequence might take five minutes or two weeks. Without awareness of their parts' complex interactions and their respective Selves being disabled, Jack and Anita's relationship goes on until the next version of this (or another) avoid-approach cycle repeats. Seen this way, there is no "Jack and Anita."

      There are over 10 normal subselves interacting together to create a complex and dynamic relationship between "two people." If not controlled by other subselves, true Selves are often adept at managing all this with respect, humor, patience, and wisdom, to help each person fill their current primary needs well enough.

       Similar cycles occur in all relationships: friend-friend, clerk-customer, parent-child, boss-employee, student-teacher, and so on. Larger groups like physical families become stunningly complex, if members' Selves aren't regularly in charge. Few of us are aware of the amazing interactions that happen at lightning speed within and between us. Does this make sense to you?

<<  question index  >>

question mark  How can I "meet" my subselves?

      This article overviews how to identify. negotiate with, retrain, and harmonize your talented team of personality subselves. This exercise shows how to have a dialog between your Self (capitol "S") and a subself of your choice.

   Summing up

       The Lesson-1 Web articles propose what happens to typical kids raised in a low-nurturance environment: they automatically develop a set of semi-independent personality subselves to survive. The articles introduce the idea of an inner family of personality parts or subselves, which probably correspond to discrete interactive brain regions. 

      Other researchers call these alters, aspects, (personality) sides, ego states, moods, character flaws, minds, subpersonalities, potentials, and many more. Our inner-family dynamics strongly affect our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and often our bodily health, moment to moment and over time. These steadily shape and affect our key relationships. Most of us aren't aware of our resident family or team, often leaving it chaotic, leaderless, and very ineffective - even self-harmful.

       Each person's subselves are unique, yet they perform common functions for typical people. The functions fall into three or four groups: Managers, Inner Kids and their Guardians - and probably Spirituial Ones. All our parts mean us well, though some can be misinformed, untrusting, and fiercely rigid, until they get help. Some subselves live in the past, unaware that their original danger is long gone.

 Selected Resources

      If you're interested in safely meeting your inner crew and discovering who's coaching them, see the Lesson-1 guidebook Who's Really Running Your Life?, or this series of Web pages on inner-family therapy ("parts work").

       So far, there are relatively few lay publications on our inner family. One excellent, clear paperback is "Embracing Our Selves" by Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra Winkleman, Ph.D. (New World Library, 1989). It gives clear, thorough, absorbing descriptions of "voice dialog" work with our inner parts - and those in important other people in your life. An early classic about personality subselves is "I'm OK - You're OK," by Dr. Thomas Harris.

       Another helpful, more basic paperback is "Healing The Family Within," by Robert Subby (1990). See also the 1992 paperback "How To Love Yourself When You Don't Know How - Healing All Your Inner Children," by Jacqui Bishop and Mary Grunte.

      A powerful true chronicle of extreme false-self dominance - true multiple personality disorder - is in Truddi Chase's extraordinary paperback "When Rabbit Howls" (Jove Books, New York, 1987). Not for the faint hearted ...

      For more serious readers, I highly recommend Dr. Richard Schwartz's pioneering works "Internal Family Systems Therapy" (Guilford Press, New York, 1995); and "The Mosaic Mind - Empowering The Tormented Selves of Child Abuse Survivors" (with Regina A. Goulding - W.W. Norton, & Co., New York, 1995). Schwartz's book for lay readers is very clear and reader-friendly: "Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model;" Trailhead Publications, Oak Park, lL; 2001; See his Website for helpful publications and resources.

       John Rowan provides a compelling historical look at how many researchers and therapists, including Carl Jung, have concluded modular personalities and parts are common, in "Subpersonalities - the People Within Us." (Routledge, London and New York,1990). He also gives us "Discover Your Personalities - Our Inner World, and the People in It" (Routledge, 1993). Rowan documents 25 different clinical terms for what Schwartz calls "parts." 

      Another authoritative book is The Search for Our Real Self - Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, by James F. Masterson, MD (Free Press, reprinted 1990).

      Note that most of these books have been published since 1990.

      These and other recommended titles are listed here (for lay readers) and here (for human-service professionals).

If your true Self isn't usually guiding your Life… who IS?
How do you like the results so far?

       If you want to meet and harmonize your amazing team of subselves, invest time and energy in self-improvement Lesson 1 in this nonprofit, ad-free site . Also see these...

  Learn something about yourself with this brief anonymous poll. .

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

 This article was very helpful   somewhat helpful   not helpful    

Share/Bookmark  Prior page  /  Lesson 1


 site intro  /  course outline  /  site search  /  glossary  /  chat contact