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This brief video overviews Q&A about personality subselves:
This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 of 7 in
this Web site - (a) free your
to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and (b)
significant false-self wounds.
All seven other course Lessons are founded on this one.
A key premise in this nonprofit wound-prevention 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 ''some-one else.''
This concept is new to most people (like you?), and raises some
common questions. This article offers brief answers and links to more
If you're skeptical or curiousabout normal personality subselves,
read my letter to you, and
try this safe, interesting exercise after
finishing this article.
These Q&A items assume you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Web site
and the premises underlying
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 allseem to...
be energies that are naturally
built into our mind/body systems. As such,
they can notbe killed, fired,
be benign: from its own
every subself means us
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...
have individually-unique talents and abilities, and a
primary job or mission that uses these. Typical subselves can be paralyzed,
overruled, and retrained. They're often eager to
replace outdated or harmful old roles (purposes) for healthier ones,
once they trust this is safe and promotes the host-person's welfare.
And typical subselves...
have their own thoughts, ideas, feelings, and perceptions
of the inner and outer world, which can be based on childhood
perceptions and biases, and may be very distorted;
are able to quickly change to new inner goals,
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 extremely 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
be of equal value to us. As in any true team, there is
no one "best" subself overall. Each one ex-cels in certain situations,
and adds to overall group effectiveness and success;
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";
communicate with each other and with "us"
via thoughts ("inner voices"), hunches, feelings, ima-ges, 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 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
be able to return to remembered real traumas, and -
with planning and new inner-family aware-ness, leadership, and alliances -
these events to experience better outcomes and reduce or end old fears and
be able to
cause us, and relieve us of,
some physical and
emotional symptoms; and subselves can...
productively as a true
team, led by our
(capital "S") or a trusted delegate in anysituation.
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
racing" or "churning," "confusion," and "not staying focused" are symptoms
of several subselves trying to commu-nicate 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 dis-trustful
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
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 -
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 parts are probably brain-regions,
not the inner images they present
- so if
a subself "looks" or sounds like your Father, it's not him!
Timeframe: Some of your inner members live in
the present, while others may be stuck in the past. The latter are usually
young Inner Kids
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.
who "can't let go" of an old
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. 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, peo-ple usually
report feeling noticeably more "together" and better. Does
"get it (your 'act') together" take on a new meaning here?
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.
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 sub-selves...
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.
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 womans Self and some
negotiation and retraining, the Saboteur said she would rather become a spiritual director
for all the other parts. With their agreement, she tried that out. The woman
reported feeling "different" about herself, and that her life changed "for
A controversial implication of this
idea is thatthere are no intrinsically "evil" or "bad" people.
There are deeply wounded people
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 lat-ter.
19 years' study and experience, I now believe (a) there is an ongoing dynamic interaction be-tween our several minds
(conscious, unconscious, and pre-conscious) and
our body; and
that (b) emo-tional 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
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 hurt us
and others. When they occur we feel torn, confused, "uneasy," and perhaps
buffeted by conflicting feelings about a person, idea, or event.
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
reac-tion 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
Dr. Richard Schwartz
and 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
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
Guardian subself) may never realize this is happening.
S/He may have never experienced the serenity and power of having their
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
Parts work (inner-family harmonizing) helps people see their frequentinner
conflicts in a new way, and helps their Self and/or a competent, trusted delegate to
lead. This skilled team-leader subself con-siders the advice of other
subselves and people involved, adds it's own wisdom, and calmly makes de-cisions that best fit short and long-term
neweds 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
Before doing meaningful parts work,
the average dis/harmony
among your subselves usually mi-mics the psychological environment
you experienced as a young child. A dominant false-self will create and/or seek similar conditions in
family and work environments, even if that's stressful. Until in meaningful
recovery, our ruling subselves often reproduce our real early-family
nurturance level despite conscious vows not to...