One of the key elements of the parts work therapy that I do is understanding that all parts have my best interests at heart. Each part, no matter how extreme, is working out of a deep-seated desire to help me be my best self. And that’s a bit of a struggle to accept at times, because at times the parts get really hyped up and start taking on approaches that range from hurtful to downright combative. When something is beating up on you, it’s hard to feel like it’s all coming from a place of support and vision.
Parts that are afraid throw up roadblocks at the outset – “This is a terrible idea,” parts that are anxious and nervous chime in – “I don’t know if you can make this work,” and the inner critic just says, “Well, you’re pretty worthless anyway, so we might as well stop trying.” Because it knows that there’s great danger in trying. There’s failure. There’s success. There’s change either way. Risky, risky, risky.
I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing my parts, talking them through their fears and calming the wild-eyed-ness inside.
“Hey baby. What’s up with you? Yes, I see you there. I know you’re having a hard time today. That’s okay. I love you. Will you tell me what’s wrong? I promise to be here for you, to listen to what you have to say, to not get angry. We’re in this together. I’ve got you.”
Yes, I talk to my parts like they are small children, anxiously eyeing their parents and wondering how much trouble they might get into if they admit the truth. Nobody’s in trouble here. I’m here to listen.
But recently, I’ve noticed something new. When my parts lash out – those statements don’t belong to the part. The part itself can choose from a wide variety of tactics and they often choose the most dramatic, attention-seeking ones. They’re very afraid of being ignored. But now that I’m good about listening in, I’ve also learned to distinguish between what is the part and what is the weapon.
For example, when I’m afraid that I won’t find a new job soon, the part that is worried will come in with these kinds of messages.
This sabbatical was a terrible idea.
You’re not really good enough to work in a serious job – that’s why no one is hiring you.
You’re going to die destitute and alone.
Actually, a lot of them seem to end up landing on that last one if I let them spin out long enough.
But what the part really feels when I dig down to it is I want you to have a good life and be free of financial worries. I want you to have a job in which you feel like you’re contributing and your efforts matter.
So now I’ve instituted a new rule: “All parts are welcome; leave your weapons at the door.” It’s very useful when communicating with my inner self because any time this negative, hopeless self-talk gets thrown at me I can just say, “Uh-uh. That’s a weapon. Put it outside and come back and talk to me.” The part can be afraid all it wants; it just can’t come in and throw attack barbs as a preemptive defense mechanism. Because those are actually not helpful to me and don’t enable any progress toward the goal the part wants accomplished.
I never had a really good response for the first litany of messages before – usually they make me just want to go hide somewhere. You know, like Facebook or TV or <insert favorite distraction here>. Even laundry can be a distraction if you do it right.
When I can finally boil it down to those last two sentences above, I think, “Yeah, part! I want that, too. Let’s work on it together. I’m going to give you some time today to pursue those goals.”
And the less time I spend fighting off weapons, the more time I can spend on chasing the life my parts and I both want me to have.