Often it can reassure distrusting
subselves if you gently invite them to visit
the present with you first
taking anything the want with them they need to link them with
"home." After theyíve explored your safe haven, and perhaps met
some of your other subselves, their anxieties will usually subside.
Inner Kids may
not understand the concept of "time" or "years." Before
a rescue, it may help them realize whatís happening if you show them a
calendar, and explain that each Earth trip around the sun is a
"year." Be patient as they grapple with the concept of coming to
live in a different time. One client found it helpful before a rescue to
show his lost part the cemetery where his mother was presently buried.
physically visited her grave. His young subself who lived in the past had been convinced that
his mother was still alive and couldnít be abandoned. Frequently, exiled
parts feel a strong sense of duty to younger siblings or infirm relatives
who "live with them". They need to build trust that those
dependent beings will be OK if they leave.
logic and common sense do not pertain
Before migrating, ask your
target subself whether s/he wants to say goodbye to anyone or anything in their present
home-place. Patiently and respectfully help them to do that. See if s/he wants to bring
anything special. Reassure the part that s/he can come back to visit
any time s/he wants. Demonstrate that, if it helps to build the part's
trust and courage.
Treat each of these rescue steps as a valuable investment in a
satisfying outcome, and take your time.
Be alert for your
rush the process.
Some rescues are planned or
spontaneous single events. Others unfold in stages. One sexually-abused
clientís Inner Child revealed itself living under a bed in the womanís
past. It had no body trunk - just arms, legs, and a head. The first rescue
step was to find her body, and reunite it with her limbs and head. The next
was to peek into the kitchen (of the house in the past), to see that her
feared Grandmother wasnít there.
Next, my clientís Self took her young
subself into the backyard garden, which had only been seen through the bedroom
window before - never visited. Then her anxious part hesitantly
agreed to try a "vacation trip" into the present.
She toured the
client's present home with wonder, met some other subselves (and a pet cat),
agreed to come to live there. The whole multi-step rescue took several weeks
(1-hour sessions each week, with solo work in between).
Self-leadership, patience, faith, and
optimism are keys.
Rescues become easier with
practice. My experience is that adults who were greatly traumatized as
kids often have several parts living in the past. One such client courageously did more
over time. Other people have one or several parts living in the traumatizing
Iíve never experienced an lost subself that wasnít young (infant through
teen). Kids' typical Guardians seem to know the past and the present, and move back and forth
between them. Those
that do need no rescuing.
We just reviewed another powerful
parts-work technique - rescuing, or time travel. Notice your
self-talk now. Do your dominant subselves feel this technique is reasonable
and useful? Are you motivated to try this powerful technique and
benefit from it? If not - who is in the way, and what does s/he (or they)
Personality subselves are probably discrete regions of your brain. As such,
they can acquire (learn), store, and process information. This means that
subselves who are using outdated or inaccurate information to protect you
can be "reprogrammed" - i.e. they can learn new information, and new ways to
use it to perform their role effectively.
A major part of parts work is
educating (retraining) your Inner Kids - i.e. correcting old
information and beliefs, and giving them new ideas and attitudes. A classic
example is helping your Shamed Child replace the myth "I'm no good and
unlovable!" with "I'm unique, valuable, and lovable, and always have been!"
Retraining Guardian subselves is
education and persuasion. For example: your Inner Critic exists to
protect Inner Kids by ceaselessly reminding you of your failures and
mistakes. By doing so, it tries t guard against you "getting a swelled head"
and/or making further shameful[ mistakes.
Retraining the Critic involves several steps
Identifying in advance what specific changes you want this subself to make.
_ befriending it
and _ learning what it's trying to do, and _ which Inner Kids it's trying to
_ If necessary,
bringing it to live full-time in the present
patiently to grow the Critic's trust in your true Self's wisdom, judgment,
and ability to lead;
respectfully pointing out that the way this devoted subself
has been trying to help unintentionally increases the burdens of the
Shamed and Guilty Inner Kids;
_ inviting the
Critic to protect the Inner Kids by:
changing its language (e.g.
_ avoiding sarcasm and
disparagement ("You're so stupid!");
_ offering positive
suggestions and encouragement instead of scorn and blaming;
_ providing input once,
instead of endlessly repeating; and...
_ leaving the true Self free
to lead, vs. disabling it
Following up, to reinforce and acknowledge these important changes.
revising this subself's title - e.g.. call it "My Consultant or
Cheerleader," vs. "My Critic".
These steps can be adapted to retrain any misguided or misinformed Guardian
or Manager subself using internal dialogs with your Self.
"Thinking" can be viewed as various subselves expressing themselves
("talking") to each other. The ceaseless inner dialogs, arguments, and
screaming matches going on in kids' and adults' heads is indisputable
evidence that personality subselves' exist. Do you have these inner
communications? For example, you think...
"I should go visit my brother in
the hospital now!"
Another voice (subself) quickly says...
"But I need to
cut the lawn, balance my check-book, and I really want to watch the
playoffs on TV. I donít have time today. Go see him later. He wonít
Perhaps a third voice (subself) joins in:
selfish wimp. Never can make your mind up, can you? Always thinking of
yourself first. Itís a wonder your brother even speaks to you. Heís in
pain, and you want to watch TV. Youíre a real scumbag, pal."
Sound familiar? Whenís the
last time you had an inner conflict like that?
How often does that happen within you? When it does, how do you feel? Is
there a pattern to the voices? Which voice (subself) usually prevails?
imagine finding a way to successfully mediate these hassles? To prevent
If allowed to,
your talented true Self can do so every time. Notice your first reaction (thoughts)
to that idea. Does your
pipe up? What would your life be like if
you could resolve many or most of these inner disputes effectively?
Rowan summarizes common types of inner conflicts. See if you relate...
loving others vs. loving ourselves;
wanting change, vs. wanting the safety of
being practical, vs. serving high ideals;
being free and independent, vs. being
close, intimate, and committed;
being reasoned, thoughtful and
"sensible" vs. being impulsive, playful, and spontaneous;
being honest, vs. being safe;
Can you add to this list?
Internal Problem Solving
Recall a time you and another person reached an acceptable compromise to a
dispute together. How did you do that?
Hereís an overview of the way
Self-led compromise can work with battling subselves. If you know someone who is adept at
mediating conflicted people, keep them in mind as a role model and
mentor. Review how they behave, starting with their
Authorize yourself (your Self) to take
enough time to mediate, and find an undistracted place to do so.
Remind yourself that...
needs are emotional, physical, and
"problems" and "conflicts" are unmet and
clashing needs, and...
surface needs are usually symptoms of
is seeking to fill everyone's primary needs well
Adopt the attitude that each
of your subselves has equal dignity and legitimate needs, and deserves respectful attention. Recall: you have no
intrinsically "bad" parts. They each want to protect you in some way.
Check to see that your Self is currently
If not, try the unblending
technique (p. 4). As you do, be alert for a protective, distrustful
Trust your (unblended)
true Self to find a
workable compromise to any inner hassle, given time and opportunity.
conflicted subselves. Tell them you (your Self) are there to help
each of them get what they need safely, without taking sides.
If things are too heated, ask
the disputants to separate for now, and
work with them one at a
subself what s/he needs, specifically - and listen! Repeat
back concisely, without judgment, questions, or comments, what you hear. Like people,
frustrated subselves will start to calm down when they feel someone accepts and
respects them, and wants to hear them nonjudgmentally.
Be alert for your subselves'
"beneath" their stated
Discern primary needs by asking something like "What do you feel will happen if
you donít get (the surface need) filled right now?" The
subself above might say...
"Well, thatís obvious. If you donít
go see your brother, people will think youíre selfish and insensitive -
specially Jackie. If youíre ever in the hospital, they wonít come to see
you, and youíd be all alone. I donít want that to happen."
part might say
"Youíd really feel good going to see him. You know how much it would
mean to him. And you really do care about your brother..."
might add anxiously "But Iím afraid if you donít cut the grass this
afternoon itíll get out of hand and take three times as long, later. And you
know what happens when you put off balancing the checkbook - checks start to
bounce, and you get in BIG trouble. So get going!"
fourth voice might
belonging to a teenaged inner
"But you're always busy! Címon - relax and have a little fun for a change. Watch
the game! Nedíll understand..."
"OK, how Ďbout this: The checkbook
should only take about 10-15", so weíll do that now. Then Iíll go to
the hospital for an hour or two. Maybe Ned and I can watch the game together
there. Iíll get back here by four-ish, and at least get the front lawn mowed.
Iíll do the back yard tomorrow after work, if I have to. Can you all live
As your subselves experience the ability of your Self to learn and accept
their current primary needs, and calmly balance them fairly with other
partsí needs, their trust in your Self's leadership will rise. And as a
bonus, as you develop this inner conflict-resolution process, youíll
probably find yourself mediating conflicts with people around you (including
kids) in the same effective win-win way.
Pause, breathe, and reflect.
Do you think these internal resolution steps will work for you? Are you willing to try them? If not, who (inside) is reluctant? What might get in your way?
Inner-conflict Resolution Tips
battles arenít as neat as the example above. Here are a few guidelines
to help your Self mediate successfully:
Stay focused on the current conflict. Avoid getting snarled in
other current or past disputes. One problem at a time!
for one or more conflicted subselves living in the past. They're
apt to underestimate the wisdom of your Manager subselves, and have
outdated fears and expectations. If time allows, defer compromising and
bring any such parts into the present time (p. 4) first.
Stay clear on what aspects of
the current situation you can affect and which
a subself fears global warming will kill you soon, respectfully
acknowledge (a) that fear and the underlying wish to protect you; and that (b) thereís really nothing you can do about that, so you choose to
worry about other current things you can affect.
creating exaggerated or future (vs. current) threats, and/or an artful
Stay focused on the present situation.
Avoid assuming past
experiences are always valid guides for the present and future. Youíve never done
work before, so inner (and outer) results may be different...
Avoid the black-and-white thinking that
subself may promote
("Do it! / Donít!"). There are
usually several possible good-enough solutions to
a conflict, not just two.
If one or more
conflicted subselves are
Inner Kids who canít understand
or need to ignore realistic
practicalities, consider having a nurturing or companion part stay with them
for reassurance while you negotiate a win-win compromise. Your young parts
need your Self to be a compassionate leader, not a buddy.
Theyíll usually feel better knowing someoneís in charge of setting and
following (enforcing) safe limits.
Consider agreeing on a
signal that anxious or distrusting subselves can use to get your Selfís (or a
delegateís) attention along the way. Examples: a facial tic or muscle
twinge, a stiff neck, a tingling, a flush, a yawn, or other non-painful
bodily reflex. Your subselves can communicate via (some) muscles and nerves!
your Inner Kids are
an impending event, consider inviting them to "go play," or
"stay home in your safe place" while your older, wiser subselves
handle the real-world situation.
your young parts trust without guilt that
they donít have to handle outer (or inner) conflicts as you may have had to
do as a real child. Their important job
is to be curious, contribute their priceless energies and gifts, and to
experience and learn, over time.
Learn the special strengths
and abilities that each subself brings you - and use them! Delegate
appropriate aspects of a current conflict solution to personality-parts with suitable
skills and abilities, rather than feeling your Self has to "do it
all." See "teamwork" below...
As you experiment with this
inner-resolution concept, develop what works.
Seek "good enough" compromises,
and meeting each partís primary needs well-enough for now. Acknowledge your hard-working
affectionately - and don't feel obliged to use her or his standards!
Pause, stretch, and let go of these details. We just reviewed a practical
framework for acknowledging conflicts among your subselves and finding
win-win compromises with your Self as a skilled mediator. Do you feel you
can make this scheme reduce stressful inner conflicts? You won't really know
until you try it several times!
The next technique is powerful and vital...
Subself Roles (Reassigning)
A middle-aged client Iíll
call Debbie discovered to her discomfort that several of her
subselves caused intense feelings of insecurity and overt
in her primary relationships. Even when her partner was consistently trustworthy, a part
doubted and accused him of deceit. This corroded the relationship, promoting
the very thing her
feared. This pattern had happened with
several men over some years, and Debbie felt
and helpless to change it.
key element of the
pattern turned out to be very young Inner Kids who carried Debbieís deep
Over time, Debbie
rescued (p. 4) her shamed child ("Gretchen"), and put her in the loving care of her Inner
and a tender
part. As some
healing months went by, Debbie began to feel better about herself. As this
happened, the Guardian subself who had brought the feelings of jealousy interfered.
parts work disclosed
that "Miss Jealousy" was really frightened that as Gretchen
improved, she (the Guardian) was out of a job and would be abandoned.
Learning this, Debbieís
Self called an inner council meeting (p. 6). She
appreciated the years of service that Miss Jealousy had put in protecting
Gretchen, and affirmed Gretchenís healing progress. Debbie asked her team
for suggestions as to how Miss Jealousyís energy could be redeployed. Some
discussion evolved the consensus that the team needed someone to take charge of
remembering important commitments.
Miss Jealousy felt that was an important
role, and enthusiastically agreed to shift her focus from protecting
young Gretchen to acting as a staff consultant in charge of "responsible
follow-throughs." Gretchen and Debbieís other subselves all felt
comfortable-enough with - and even excited about - this internal role change.
Some weeks later, Debbie
reported that her feelings of relationship anxiety seemed less (not gone).
She said that her partner had noticed, and was "relieved."
true story illustrates how subselves can shift their inner-family "job" (role), and
redeploy their talents and
energies to help all members prosper in the present. this can happen
in one parts session, or may take longer.
Reassigning is usually
useful with Guardians whose related Inner Kids are rescued and become
secure and contented in the present. It also helps with Inner Kids and even
subselves who no longer need to act
protectively because of successful partsí integration and team-building.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) mentor Dick Schwartz
said his decade of experience taught him that most Guardians were weary of
their endless protective responsibilities, and despaired of ever putting them down.
When Guardian subselves come to trust that the young parts theyíre protecting
really are safe enough, theyíre often relieved and
enthusiastic about using their talents in another way. My parts-work experience with
many clients since 1992 has consistently validated this.