Many of us who are recovering from traumatic experiences and/or C-PTSD find parts work useful in therapy. It can also be useful to help us reach our goals. Instead of using “I am” statements to refer to moods or thoughts, I like to say, “A part of me feels this. A part of me wants that.”
It keeps me from totally identifying with something that truly isn’t the totality of me.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a counselor, so what I share here is not intended to diagnose or treat mental health. It’s simply my experience. Use what works. Discard what doesn’t. Honor who you are and follow your own process. Ok, now that I’ve said that I’m going to speak freely.
If you’ve ever found yourself “stuck” in life, whether personally or professionally, you could be dealing with inner conflict. Maybe one part of us wants to move forward while another part of us wants to stay where we are. Both parts have valid reasons for their perspectives. They both can offer valuable information and help us understand what’s going on inside so that we can move forward.
In doing some of this work, I realized that I had a LOT of parts inside. Each of them has their own form of expression, and each of them wants to love me in their own way. Sometimes “their way” doesn’t line up with wellbeing or healthy living, and that’s usually because they’re doing their best to help me not feel pain. While a strategy may have been helpful in the past, it might be harmful now. It’s up to me to unravel what’s going on and decide on a strategy that lines up with our highest good.
An analogy formed to help me understand how to work with all of these parts. . . I hope you’ll find this helpful.
I have an orchestra inside with a variety of musicians called “parts.” Each masterfully plays an instrument - their specific role in the orchestra. And each of them enjoys being a part of the whole.
Some of these parts are playing music (roles) that aren’t theirs to play. A flutist cannot to play from a cellist’s sheet music (even if it’s the same song) and expect the result she would get if she played the flutist’s part. It’s hard to make beautiful music when you’re playing the wrong part. In the inner world, this is like a little girl who loves to play with makeup and dresses trying to solve her family’s financial problems. She’s trying to do something that isn’t hers to do (but it is someone else’s). That’s the first hiccup.
Each part is also playing from a different sheet of music. The first violin is playing “In da Club” while the bassoon is playing “Hey look ma I made it.” Multiply that by 50 to 100 instruments and songs, you’ve got a whole lotta noise and very little music. And that makes for a very loud, confused, and unclear inner world. There is no clarity or harmony. That’s the second hiccup.
And the part that knows what to do - the conductor - doesn’t want to show up because no one is listening. In the inner world, this is your Inner Wisdom or Soul or True Self…and it’s not going to fight to be heard over the chaos, so it just sits down and waits until someone who’s conscious asks for its input. That’s the third hiccup.
Does anything I’ve said make sense so far? If so… you might be asking…
How do you work with the parts so that they make beautiful music together?
Each part has a valuable role. The orchestra would be incomplete without each musician. If you eliminate any of the parts, the concert won’t be the same. This is an incredibly important point, because many of us don’t like parts of ourselves. We seek to shun them or silence them. That eliminates full access to who we are, the range of our thoughts and emotions, and diminishes our energy. So step one is to make space for and welcome all the parts.
Once everyone is welcome, it’s time to give the conductor his or her or its rightful place: leadership. Your Soul knows exactly what to do. None of the parts have to be in charge anymore, and this is probably a relief for a few of them. Your Soul can take the lead and direct the music - when to play louder, when to move more slowly, when to speed up, and when to change songs. Your Soul is in Real Time, and it knows how to respond intelligently to the situations before you. The parts can watch and wait. I’m sure you can feel parts of you relax as you read this. So step two is to put your Soul in charge.
Inevitably, your parts are going to have emotions that require regulation. It’s helpful to learn to build resilience capacity and self-regulation skills. Body work like yoga, techniques from HeartMath, and mindfulness practice can support expanding your capability to contain and process emotion. This is a critical step that will help each part not become so overwhelmed or flooded when it feels like the energy is too much for it to handle. So step three is to build resilience and self-regulation.
I’ve done my best within the limits of language to describe the human experience in a way that might make sense of your inner conflict and help you start to create a little more harmony. I know from experience that by getting to know each of my parts and their unique needs and desires, I’ve gotten to know more of me. That’s allowed me to accept myself more fully and to know in my mind-body-spirit that I am not broken. And neither are you.