Guardian subselves form in your childhood, because your true Self and other
emerging Managers haven't had a chance to learn about the world. Before
recovery, this usually means the host person
is governed by well-meaning false selves who haven't learned to trust your
adult Self as a wise, reliable leader.
Here's a general way to get such subselves to trust your true Self and stop
taking her or him over (blending). What follows is based on my experience
with scores of distrustful Guardians and Inner Kids.
In initial interviews, ask what year the subself thinks it is. Accept the
first thing that comes into your mind. If s/he's not living in the present,
invite the part to come live with you
in the current time. Teach the part your current age, and stress you (your
Self) know a LOT more than when you were young.
Ask if the distrustful subself knows s/he's part of a family or group (of
subselves). If s/he says "yes," ask "Who's in charge of the group?" Often
the part will say "I am." Don't challenge or argue!
Ask what the part's job is, and what would happen if s/he didn't do that
job. Usually the Guardian will describe some unrealistic calamity. For
example one such part - who was keeping the host person awake at night -
said "If I didn't keep you awake to plan the next day, you wouldn't be
prepared for work. You'd be fired, and you and your daughter would be
homeless beggers!" The subself really believed that!
Option: learn which Inner Child/ren the Guardian is protecting, and
work with each such Child to bring it safely
into the present under the expert care of your Nurturer. Then help your
distrustful subself accept that each Inner Child s/he's concerned about is
safe and well cared for by your Manager subselves.
Avoid trying to use logic or
reasoning to persuade the part that s/he's wrong. about the
catastrophe. Instead, use empathic listening and ask if the part would be
willing to relax for some period of time (10 minutes, three hours, a week, )
and let (your Self)demonstrate that s/he and your other
Managers can reliably avoid the feared catastrophe. Be patient, and over
time, show the Guardian and
any other doubtful subselves like your Worrier or Catastrophizer that you're
a wise and competent leader!
As the part becomes willing to follow your lead, ask her or him to (1)
advise you on potential dangers (i.e. to become a valued consultant), and
(2) stop taking you over, Alternatively, consider
reassigning this valuable part of
you to a different inner-family role.
As your subselves come together in the present time and learn to trust in
the leadership of your Self and other Managers..
Another useful parts-work technique to learn is...
handle complex personal problems or major decisions well (e.g. "Shall we
conceive a baby?"), some experienced parts workers call inner committee
meetings. Have you ever taken part in a productive group meeting?
Shelves of books have been written on what makes an effective meeting. Here
are some key ideas:
Sites: All personality
subselves agree on comfortable, safe outer (real) and inner places to meet.
Your real site should be quiet, physically comfortable, and as undistracting
as possible. Clients who have tried inner-family councils often evolve a
preferred real location to hold their inner meetings, though such gatherings
can take place anywhere.
Some people will have their parts convene in a richly appointed (inner)
Board room. Others will be more comfortable at an imaginary custom-designed retreat
center by the water, or by a sacred rock on a mountain or shore.
What kind of a setting would help your parts meet most productively?
calls each meeting, and is clearly
of it. S/He may delegate portions of the meeting to another subself,
and/or ask small groups to do some of the tasks at hand. Recall the premise
that your Self is a naturally-talented group leader. For perspective on
effective leadership, study this after you
Clarity and Focus:
Your Self decides who attends.
S/He helps all attending subselves understand what the specific current
objectives are, and keeps them on track throughout the meeting. Some
councils can be to brainstorm or fact-find ("does anyone know about...?").
Others can focus on evolving plans, rebalancing subselves’ responsibilities
or role changes, or evaluating complex life-decisions and options.
Respectful Order, and Rules:
Through experiment and experience, your subselves will learn that
they each have contributions to make, and have a right to be
respectfully heard by all. Your Self will have each part speak without
interruption, and balance who gets "air time" (e.g. calmly
any subself who hogs the meeting). S/He will invite the opinions of quiet
subselves, and genuinely care about all subselves'’ ideas, anxieties, and needs.
with any gathering, some rules of order need to be observed for the group to
get anything done. One key rule is that only one part talk at a time, and
that all others really listen. Other rules are to respect all different
viewpoints, and stay focused on the issues at hand, rather than on
or criticizing parts’ traits and character.
Each subself brings the potential for a
Clear Decisions and Outcomes:
Using brainstorming, empathic
skills, your Self and other
will lead the council to clear short and long-term decisions. If assignments and specific responsibilities
are needed, all subselves will understand and agree enough with them.
Inner councils help all parts to know and appreciate each other, and to
build trust in the leadership skills of your Self and other Managers.
Periodic meetings nourish inner-family morale and cohesion, and ensure that
all subselves feel informed, important, and appreciated. Can you
imagine a successful sports team, acting troupe, church, or business enterprise that
didn’t have regular well-led staff meetings?
Parts’ councils can provide
unexpected opportunities. One of my clients would lie on her couch in
the evening dark for 20" - 40" to conduct inner meetings. Soon afterwards,
she wrote meeting minutes, and later read them to me in our work together.
These became a kind of diary for her. Besides being of great mutual help in
our ongoing work, her series of council meetings provided an important new
role for a young part ("Little Curly") who had previously been a vexing
her inner team's coherence grew, this
part agreed (with relief) to refocus her energy. The woman’s inner council
decided that they needed a Prayer Director to bless each gathering.
Little Curly enthusiastically took the job. The woman later reported that
things were going "better" at work and in her social life. .
Build Inner-family Teamwork
Have you ever experienced being part of a group of people who shared a
common purpose and had an effective leader? Can you describe the differences
between an effective (high-nurturance) team and a dysfunctional team?
Recall that parts work aims to...
These happen naturally as you
build teamwork, respect, and cooperation among your subselves via internal
dialogs and negotiations. How can you judge the degree of teamwork among
your personality parts? Use this checklist to
identify and affirm your inner-family strengths
and areas to improve:
__ 1) _ each subself knows all
the other subselves, and _ is living in the present time (vs. the past);
__ 2) all subselves maintain a
clear vision of, and genuinely desire, common goals (e.g. those above);
__ 3) each subself stays clear on
its own and others’ skills and roles.
them and between the team and the "outside world" are
consistently clear enough to all;
__ 4) each Inner Child, Guardian,
and Manager subself feels
steadily recognized, respected, trusted, and valued "enough" by
all other subselves;
__ 5) each personality part is clear
enough on, and willingly abides by,
the team’s key rules;
__ 6) all subselves communicate
effectively with each other;
__ 7)each subself steadily
_ respects the true Self and other Managers, and _ trusts them to
provide clear focus,
vision, goals and explanations; guidance; believable optimism; and steady
inspiration and encouragements;
resolve major conflicts,
and adapt creatively to unexpected life conditions;
recognize achievements, and
get effective help and
protection when needed;
wisely and fairly;
set and adjust paces,
balances, boundaries and limits, when needed; and...
stay fully committed to the
team, the job, and the objectives, no matter what.
__ 8) each subself stays clear on
their group’s identity ("We are Juanita's inner family"), and feels satisfaction and
pride in belonging.
Reflect and edit this list to fit your experience and beliefs. Does your
teamwork-trait list fairly characterize the "ideal" team you thought of before? Does it describe your present
physical family? The family you
grew up in? The schools and churches you went to? Your work situation?
your thoughts and feelings. Does this checklist honestly
describe your inner team now? If not (yet), can you envision all your
subselves closely fitting this list "sometime"? What would have to
happen? Who’s responsible to see that it does? (I propose: your unhindered Self).
What if your inner family never becomes a truly effective
What if it does?
teamwork traits seem attractive, what priority do you
assign to achieving them? What do you typically do each day instead of
working towards these personal objectives? By the way: which subselves
set your daily
priorities and goals these days?
As a natural leader, your true Self is skilled at guiding the communication among your
subselves into effective discussions and problem-solving. S/He can also
improve this skill, and teach it to other subselves. Doing so is a key to
successful inner teambuilding, for many
subselves were never taught to
Evidence: our times of inner confusion and chaos.
I suspect you've experienced what happens when two or more people
ruled by conflicted false selves try to problem-solve.
in this Web site focuses on effective communication skills.
See Dr. M. Scott Peck’s book
The Different Drumfor thought-provoking
stories and ideas on the process of building a truly harmonious group. Though
his book focuses on groups of people, I feel that
most of his ideas apply to inner communities too. See what you think.
Pause and reflect - how do you feel about committing to develop teamwork
and harmony among your talented subselves over time? Option - try
it to see what you experience...
Expect from Parts Work
This brief YouTube video previews what you'll read here:
Typical inner-family work ("recovery") is organic. It evolves at it’s own pace, and
like grieving and embryo development, it can’t be rushed.
Inner-family harmonizing can be divided into a beginning, middle, and end.
You’ll develop your own profile of these. Here are some common stages I’ve
seen my clients experience:
These phases usually start in mid-life, and span several to many years -
have a protective
false self reject it as
"stupid," "ridiculous," "too weird," "dangerous New Age silliness," or
"for other people"; or...
Start exploring and experimenting slowly, skeptically, and
Start quickly, with intuitive, complete acceptance of the inner crew,
Start somewhere in between.
few women or men with overly
"male brains" may not get into parts work
because they’re too logical and intellectual to feel or sense their
subselves' communications and reactions. They probably dominated by
protective, rigid Analyzer/Thinker and Skeptic/Doubter subselves. Other kinds of personal-growth work
can be effective for them.
Typical people who are motivated for personal growth have accumulated
years of frustrations, confusions, and pain. They have often experienced
and may have found conventional counseling or therapy to be of little
For some people, parts work provides a
credible new way to understand their chronic
unhappiness, and provides initial hope for real relief and a
life. That may include hope for improving chronic marital stress, and/or for
understanding and grieving relationship failures. Parents can see parts-work
as a viable way to help guard their descendents against
psychological wounds. Here's what
one parent wrote about experiencing the
early phase of parts work.
There is no clear boundary between
the beginning and middle phases of this self-healing process. After
some weeks or months of experimenting
with subself dialogs and growing self-awareness, these are typical recovery
"Catch on," and put moderate to
intense energy into exploring and meeting your subselves. Begin
to experience individual inner energies and/or voices (i.e. parts) as
real. Start to "see" and intuit the personal implications and
possibilities of this work. Tell other people of the concept, and get
One or more "Aha!" or "Wow!"
experiences occur along the early way. In them, people experience
clear physical, emotional, and/or behavioral changes unmistakably
related to their parts work. Ambivalence shrinks or vanishes. Inner
family enthusiasm may surge, then settle back. People at this stage may
try enthusiastically "selling" others on parts work (go easy on this!);
Begin to notice evidences of
people's subselves at work in the media and real life. Become
aware of how often our English language refers directly or indirectly to
normal subselves (e.g. "Marta tends to be two-faced.").
Experience and skill grow
conflict resolution, and
learning to recognize
disabled Self-states. Initial enthusiasm and wonder mellows, and
the work becomes more methodical. Expectations become increasingly
realistic. Patience, self-awareness, and compassion grow.
Depending on their goals and experience,
people may elect (i.e. their Self chooses) other forms of therapy
instead of, or along with, inner-family work. These might include
massage or group therapy, chiropractic treatments, meditation and
retreats, exercise and/or dietary programs, changing or joining a
church, and attending a support group.
And typical mid-phase recoverers experience...
Periods of inner calm, balance,
and productive serenity gradually increase. Other-focused people
codependents) become more equally self-focused without crippling guilt. Habitual self
neglect, and reflexive
blending become conscious and noticeably fade. Physical and emotional symptoms
related to these may decrease. Calm, naturalassertiveness and boundary-setting and enforcing grow.
replace life-long attitudes of shame and self- neglect. Old anxieties
subside to normal, and personal peacefulness grows in many settings and
relationships. Stressful obsessions and compulsions (e.g. "OCD") gradually dwindle.
Parts-workers may grow towards
calm vocal or written
confrontations with people who’s actions were traumatic recently or earlier in
life. The outcome of such events is (usually) a marked release of old
frustrations, and an increasing focus on the present, vs. obsessing about - or
avoiding - the past. Ripples from these confrontations may extend to other
Genuine compassion and
forgiveness of yourself and
others grows. Some of these relationships improve, others decline.
scorn, or bigotry toward some people (e.g. harsh, critical,
disinterested, or neglectful parents)
shift toward genuine acceptance
and empathy. ("Now I see how
wounded and unaware Chris is.")
Other people may comment on "the new
you," "something’s different about you,"
or question "what’s gotten into you?" Patterns of impulsive conflicts with or avoidances of certain other people shift. Sleep, eating, worship, meditation, and/or
dream patterns may change subtly or obviously as your work progresses.
Parts-work slows and integrates
comfortably into a larger personal-growth process. Parts-work
habits, rituals, and reflexes develop. Language may shift (e.g. saying
"we (subselves)" increases, and "I" shifts toward "a part of me...";
The word "Self" takes on
new meaning. Inner-family terminology weaves naturally into normal
thinking and conversation ("I took several excited subselves with me on
vacation, and left the anxious ones at home.") For many people,
spirituality (the awareness, appreciation, and attention to one or more
spiritual parts and a
deepens as inner harmony grows;
behaviors and traits shift naturally, as
true-Self personality guidance increases. If wound-recoverers put in
equal effort on practicing
communication skills, their thinking and communication effectiveness - and daily satisfactions
- improve significantly.
social relationships alter gradually or suddenly,
as recovering people meet others who share their interest in (or are powerfully
threatened by) this work. Informal or formal parts work sharing-groups
may form for a while. Key relationships often become more or less
stressful, as awareness of the dynamic interplay between "my parts and
relationships often improve if both partners are self-motivated to (vs.
"have to") try out their own inner-family explorations. Family
relationships can be enhanced, if kids are encouraged to meet their
inner families, and members become comfortable talking about everyone’s
subselves. Some recoverers experience a new capacity to empathize with
and love other
These middle-phase inner and outer changes manifest gradually and
simultaneously over time. To validate them. it's useful to ask periodically
"How is the quality of my life now compared to ___ months ago?"
Ending Phase of Parts
People end (vs. pause) parts work at any point along their path. If they
work to "completion" (a relative term), some normal occurrences are:
If a person has been using a professional parts-work coach or
they eventually phase out and continue or stop parts work on their own.
They may return for a brush-up or consultation on a special situation.
They may or may not refer special others to their guide.
Parts work becomes automatic, like tying shoe laces. It becomes
integrated into normal living patterns, and dwindles as a distinct
conscious activity. Veterans of this work become selective teachers and
facilitators for others who are ready to
free their true Self and harmonize their inner families.
Recognition of psychologically-wounded
people (GWCs) becomes automatic, and compassion for them replaces
irritation, blame, and scorn. Friendships with wholistically-healthy
people and others in true recovery deepen.
Using some version of
The Serenity Prayer
becomes automatic in sorting out and managing life problems.
People my become clearer on, and/or increase
the priority of, their
life purpose. Some recoverers change occupations and/or locations, and seek a simpler,
slower, quieter lifestyle.
Concern and conflicts over money, debts,
prestige, appearance, power, and possessions dwindle.
Serenity, appreciation and reverence of Life
and Nature, and compassion for living things, increase; and an "attitude
of gratitude" becomes automatic.
Each person will evolve their own profile of recovery traits like these.
How Long Does Parts Work Take?
Early in her parts work, one client’s young
subself kept asking anxiously "How long will this take?" She was
frustrated by my saying "Sounds like you’d feel better knowing you’d be done
with this work by a certain time. All I can say is ‘It
take as long as it takes.’" Two years later, we both smile as we
recall that Anxious One. Feeling far safer, she’s stopped asking
Some people use parts work for a particular situation, or for a few months.
Others find it helpful for several years. Generally, it seems the more
trauma people experienced as kids, the greater their inner-family chaos and
wounds as adults, the higher their
denials and protections
(distrust), and the longer their work toward
increasing inner harmony takes.
key time-factor is how motivated and successful you are in at least
stabilizing current external stressors (e.g. work, money, relationships,
and health). Until our outer life is consistently calm "enough," it’s hard to
find time and opportunity to get quiet, and do meaningful inner focusing,
calming, and healing. Growth towards inner and outer harmony seems to be
interrelated and to happen in small, irregular steps.
Measuring Your Progress
yardstick for deciding "Is parts work helping me?" is in noticeable,
change. I see clients try out parts work because some aspects of their life
don’t feel good enough, despite attempts at improvement.
These aspects range from chronic physical problems (like head or body aches,
sleep or digestive problems, and
addictions) to the gamut of emotional discomforts:
depression; anxiety; emptiness; confusion; excessive
shame; recurrent "failures;" and cyclical relationship, security, or work troubles.
Like other therapies,
parts work does not help everyone.
Some people do find (in my experience) that the stressors that caused them
to start exploring clearly do shrink (and stay shrunk), over time. Feeling
worthless shifts towards self appreciation, acceptance, and even
Primitive terror of
abandonment shifts toward peacefulness, as lonely
leave the past and hesitantly accept the glad care of
"Victim" thoughts and actions dwindle, and effective
assertions (vs. aggression or submission) and resulting satisfactions increase.
The best measure of parts-work effectiveness is in how often
experience your true Self guiding you. The symptoms are unmistakable periods of clarity, groundedness,
"lightness," relaxed energy, calmness, optimism, focus, and
peacefulness. In other words, episodes of deep serenity, contentment,
Veteran parts workers come to know immediately if their true Self is in
charge of a unified, purposeful inner family at the moment. If s/he's not,
they find ways to
and regain their "symptoms of Self."
You can do this, if you wish to...
Lesson-1 guidebookfor more perspective and wound-recovery resources. Also see
For a systematic way to assess and reduce false-self
dominance and psychological wounds, study online
Lesson 1in this nonprofit Web site..
a protective part of you remains skeptical or
about personality subselves, try this safe, interesting
experience, read my letter
to you, and mull this true example
of parts in action. Then see how you feel.
This 6-page series outlines concepts and techniques for meeting
and harmonizing your talented personality subselves - your inner
family. A vital aspect of this "parts work" is
them to gain control of your life decisions, relationships, health, and
This article is based on
23 years of professional study and clinical
experience in guiding scores of women and men (and some kids) to do "parts work." A growing number of mental-health
professionals are learning to use
Internal Family Systems
(IFS) ideas and techniques to replace and supplement traditional therapies.
IFS therapy is just emerging, as family therapy did 60 years ago.
Option - meet other people
interested in freeing their true Selves to guide them in this free
private FaceBook group.