Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Managing the Inner Saboteur

Do you ever feel split? Like there are different, conflicting parts of you operating? Maybe part of you wants to work hard and succeed in your career, while another part is lazy or afraid of success. Maybe your lifelong dream is to be lean and fit, while another part of you just wants to slump on the couch, eating potato chips and twinkies, and watching old reruns of Melrose Place. Or maybe you really, really, really want to get married and start a family, but you reject any man who shows interest in you (and are attracted to those who are unavailable or rejecting).

Gentle reader, you're not alone. We humans all have complex psyches with conflicting goals and values (and some of us are more complicated than others!) Lately, I've been doing "parts" work, which means sitting down with a pen and paper, and conversing with various psychological parts. Even though the psyche acts, more-or-less, as a unified whole, it's actually made up of subpersonalities that serve different functions. Some typical ones include: critic, protector, controller, wounded child, people pleaser, and rebel. And each part has a very good reason for existing, or at least it did at one time in your life.

What does this mean? Let's say you're eight years old and your parents are still micromanaging your life as if you are four. On the surface, this is frustrating and embarrassing, but deep down inside your psyche knows it's preventing you from achieving the sort of independence you need to develop, so it establishes an inner rebel or freedom fighter----a part of you that will make independent decisions, no matter what. You might start openly challenging your parents' authority, or, if that feels too threatening, you'll do what you want behind their backs. From an external perspective, this might look like something's gone wrong, but on the inside you will have succeeded in establishing a bit of independence.

Another example is the yo-yo dieter. A pattern of habitual overeating may have begun the first time you went on a restrictive diet (or, if you were a college student, spent your week's food budget on beer), and your body/mind interpreted it as a starvation situation (which it sort of was). Right then and there, a new part may have been born in you that was responsible for keeping you alive by encouraging you to eat whenever food was available (after all, the next famine might be just around the corner!) So after that, every time you went on a diet, the survivalist part of you would kick in and make sure you got plenty to eat.

Or maybe you're alone, even though you deeply crave a relationship. You probably have a part that is trying to keep you safe from getting hurt (again), or being controlled (again), or risking a painful divorce (like your parents). Somewhere inside of you is a part that is trying to help you in the only way it knows how.

The great thing about these parts is that they are really trying to serve you, never trying to hurt you. Or as author and Purpose Consultant Tim Kelley would say, "There is no such thing as a bad part. There are bad relationships to parts and parts behaving badly, but no bad parts."

This is fascinating stuff that will improve your relationship with yourself, so please join me here next week as we discuss how to work with the parts of you that might be getting in the way of your happiness or success. See you then.

(And just so we're clear, the picture of the lady with the curlers and assorted pastries is not me----although I must admit she bears a striking resemblance!)