What Are You And How Many?
In this article, you will learn about the psychic composition of the human mind.
Those were the words I heard on an ordinary afternoon while sitting on top of Table Mountain in the winter of 2018.
The internal voices were followed by a sudden and uncontrolled rush of tension in my legs – they were getting ready to catapult myself into the abyss.
This was not the first time this had happened to me, and I knew what to do.
I immediately grabbed the handrail, took a few deep breaths, cramped my hand up and did not let go of it until my shadow possession was over.
“…Fck off Tristan, not today“ I mumbled to myself.
I looked around to see if anybody noticed.
One of the friends I travelled with did, “You good bro?“
“Of course, I will catch up with you guys in a minute.“
As I took a couple of deep breaths, my muscles eased up, and I started to walk slowly again.
The voices were getting quieter and quieter until they finally faded out:
“You are not enough, and you never will be”.
”Your family will be better off without you”.
” You are making a fool out of yourself”.
”You are unlovable”.
”Nobody wants you”.
Possessed By Sadness
Luckily for me, I discovered many years before that incident in Capetown that I was not one thing but many.
”Tristan the loud one” was the name I choose for the depressed entity within myself.
The name Tristan, contrary to ordinary belief has nothing to do with the French word triste, which means sadness. The name Tristan was originally derived from the Celtic language, and it means ”noise”.
I figured that this name was appropriate because this fragment of my soul kept whispering little toxic lies to myself over a great many years.
While I hated every single visit of my inner critic, I have learned to live with him and to understand what I can to do keep this ”part” of myself in check.
Now, you might ask yourself: What the hell Daniel, are you suggesting that we all have multiple personality disorder?
Precisely, follow me into the rabbit hole…
The Composition Of The Psyche
What are you?
To answer this question, I would like to introduce you to today’s teacher:
Sigismund Schlomo Freud (1856-1939), arguably the most famous person in the history of psychology.
Freud’s discovery of the unconscious, the theory that states that our behaviour is driven by biological forces of which we are mostly unaware of are nowadays deeply entrenched in the world of psychiatry, at his time, it was a revolutionary idea.
Before Freud came along, people thought about the mind in predominantly philosophical terms.
The idea was that a human being is what they are aware of (think of Descartes quote – I think therefore I am).
It was furthermore assumed that we have control over ourselves.
Freud questioned those ideas.
Rather than seeing the mind as one thing, he acknowledged that there are invisible forces under the surface of the mind that govern our behavior.1
The idea that we possess a significantly smaller amount of self-regulation than we would like to have is indeed scary, but I believe that deep down we all know this to be true.
You have encountered this principle before; do you remember seeing the famous snickers commercial ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’?
In those commercials, you have a series of masculine men whom all transform into histrionic women because they are possessed by their hunger.
This idea that your hunger, your lust, your sadness, and your anger are autonomous entities who reside within you and who have the power to overrule you to get what they want is a Freudian idea.2
Did you ever have a moment where somebody you cared about violated your boundaries, and you found yourself possessed by anger and you said or did something for which later, once you regained control you had to apologise?
Let me tell you how I learned about anger…
Possessed By Anger
The first time I noticed that in certain social settings, invisible behavioural drivers could be awakened was when one of my classmates tried to kill me.
I was in the sixth grade of a bad school in a bad neighbourhood.
After I had been bullied for quite some time, and I learned that becoming a bully is indeed much better than being bullied.
Since I wanted to be left in peace by other aggressive kids in my class, I occasionally had to ”prove” myself to establish my standing in the school dominance hierarchy – meaning that I had to pick on somebody else.
My choice was clear- Steven, a kid who I was sure I could pick on without immediate consequences.
After a couple of word fights between Steven and me, it got physical.
He threw a swinger at me but missed; I did not miss with mine.
After my punch successfully landed on his nose, I managed to put him in a headlock and choked him until we were separated by a teacher.
What then followed was something that I am never going to forget in my life.
I expected the scuffle to end.
I assumed that Steven would accept his defeat and I figured that since everybody witnessed my ”victory”, the other tough kids would think twice before picking on me.
I was as wrong.
Steven just stood there, staring at his hand that was covered with his own nose blood.
After regaining his breath, he tilted his head in my direction, and his stare hit me.
There was something about Stevens’s eyes that changed after he saw his own blood.
After what felt like an eternity Steven smirked and opened his mouth,
”I’m going to kill you”.
Steven proceeded by pushing our teacher out of the way as if she was made out of cotton.
She fell on the floor.
He walked right over her and grabbed the big scissors that were placed on her desk.
There he was, a chubby kid with glasses, pulsating skin, fletching teeth, eyes focused on me and only with one mission in mind: Stab him.
I ran as fast as I ever did in my life.
I did not return to school for a week.
I had nightmares for months, where I would see Steven’s facial expression over and over again.
My young and naive brain just could not contemplate what it had seen.
At that time, my mother always told me that human beings are good and pure at their core, but that look, those eyes, that smile, those weird movements did not fit into my understanding of the human condition.
What I saw was not Steven, that was not my classmate.
But if it was not him, who was it?
Freud and other psychoanalytical thinkers believed that rather than being one thing, we are a house in which many spirits live, and he made the terrifying notion that we are not the undisputed ruler of that house.
The ego is not master in its own house”.― Sigmund Freud
The thing that I could not understand about Steven’s transformation was that it did not fit my understanding of how emotions were supposed to work.
Growing up, I was taught that we have emotions, but in Steven’s case, it was different, it seemed to me that his emotions had him.
He was not angry; he was anger.
Steven was not transformed at that moment; it seemed to me as if something else within him, something that was already there got activated and overruled him.
That “Steven“ had a different body posture, he had different values, after all, he was not one bit concerned with his well-being in the long run, what he cared about was eliminating the source of the threat, and he willingly accepted the possibility of ruining his life for that satisfaction.
Two years ago, I had lunch with a mentor of mine Peter, a systematic family therapist and his son Till, a business psychologist who also happens to be my best friend.
While eating oysters and drinking red wine, Peter eventually opened up about his counselling philosophy
When I start interviewing a client, I like to learn about their behavioural orchestra.
Most counselling approaches focus on the individual and the individual alone; a family therapist who is worth his gold will not ignore the fact that human beings are systematic creatures.
Learning about the different forces that shape the behaviour of the client helps me to draw better conclusions about the situation that is at hand.
With children, I often use an orchestra analogy.
What are the children’s parents like? What kind of friends does the kid have? Is the child surrounded by high-quality teachers?
By learning about the external drivers of the client, I can counsel them emphatically because I can vaguely understand what it is like to be in their shoes”.
I loved the metaphor of the behavioural orchestra, but I believed it was missing something, don’t we all have an internal orchestra as well?
I could not put it in words on that day, but to me, it seemed that we are a subset of different modes of beings. This ecosystem consists of external and internal drivers who all affect us behaviourally, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.
Modern consciousness researches have concluded that rather than being one thing, the human psyche seems to be composed of various “ego-states”.
The concept of the ego was first written about between AD 397 and 400 by Augustine of Hippo in his masterpiece “Confessions“.
Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are”. ― Augustine of Hippo
The word ego is Greek, and it simply means – “self“.
Many modern therapists confirm the theory that rather than having a unitary personality, we are a house with many rooms, and in those rooms live different “selves“.
Each of those “selves“ is distinct in its character and is equipped with a full range of emotions, desires, habits, values, beliefs, and even genders, sexual orientations or talents.3
From that idea we can make a terrifying derivation: We are conflicted by nature.
What if two sub-modalities want something different at the same time?
We go to war with ourselves…
Possessed By Pleasure
In 2019, my friends and I travelled for a month through Europe in a van.
After almost five thousand kilometres on the road we received the exciting news that another friend of ours, Richard, an actor, wanted to join us on our adventure, all we had to do was to drive to Venice and pick him up.
In our euphoria about the imminent arrival of our dear friend, we somehow managed to arrive an entire day too early in Venice.
But it was not any other day; it was a Saturday.
Once we arrived in the city, we immediately armed ourselves with enough wine bottles to take out a wild Rhino.
After some drunk strolling through the most beautiful city in the world, we finally found a relatively undisturbed little bridge where we could marvel at the stars and philosophise about life.
Venice has a special meaning for me; years ago I travelled here with my girlfriend at the time.
It was the first cities where I told a girl that I loved her and meant it.
So, it is fair to say that my heart was in turmoil on that day.
After another bottle of red wine, my friends had to take a leak.
That conversational break was welcomed by me, I had a short moment for myself to dwell into memories and mourn… or at least this is what I thought.
My melancholia was interrupted by a loud “SPLASH“.
My friend Chrissi had slipped and fallen into the canal.
I am not sure if I had ever laughed this hard in my life.
While holding my belly, I saw that it was not only the disgusting water of Venice that was dripping down my friend’s hand; it was also blood.
My friend Till and I were instantly sobered up by that scene, so it was time to head back to the bar street of Venice because our friend clearly needed some first aid and more importantly, we needed to get ourselves drunk again.
Cup by cup, I became less and less Daniel and transformed slowly but surely into a two-meter tall ravaging drunk.
I talked to every person, made all of the jokes, danced on every table, and ordered all of the drinks.
As the last bar kicked us out, my friend Till suggested that it is time to go home.
I was not too fond of the idea, I somehow managed to befriend a local Italian cocaine dealer, and he proposed to me the idea that we should not go home but to go with him to an underground party where we could continue to intoxicate ourselves.
I tried to convince Till that this plan is indeed far superior to going home, but my pitch remained unsuccessful.
After five minutes of debating, I just decided to go with my “new friend“ to the rave.
Till saw this and jumped in front of me and told me with a parental voice “Jaques it’s time to go home“.
Jaques was the nickname my friends picked years earlier for my intoxicated persona.
While “Daniel“ is in love with books, people, and his future, “Jaques“ can only be described as a playful idiot who worships the moment and chooses endless excess no matter the cost.
It was not only my friend who stood in front of me, but it was also reason itself, and “Jaques“ did not want to have any part of it, he simply did not want his mania to end just yet.
My friend, however, would not budge down, so he pushed me and said again fiercely “Jaques time to go home“.
Another thing “Jaques“ is not a fan of is someone telling him what to do, so “he“ took a swing at my friend.
My friend went down.
He got back up, walked right past me and whispered: “go and have your misery, you stupid son of a bitch“.
The fight sobered me up and scared my new Italian “friend“ away, and I found myself alone at night in the middle of Venice.
My regained senses could not help themselves but be endlessly intrigued by the depths of my own shadow.
I remember mumbling to myself “Did I just punch my best friend because he wanted to protect myself from drugs and bad people?“.
My mania had ended… time to go home.
Or so I thought…
I have little to no orientation skills even when I am sober, but finding my way drunk out of Venice was a lost cause from the start.
After wandering around aimlessly for hours, I surrendered to the maze of the old town.
Luckily, I met what seemed to be the last person awake in Venice, an old tattooed Vaporetto captain.
After some desperate negotiation, he agreed to give me a ride home in his boat.
Just as the sun started to kiss Venice awake, I found myself in the backseat of a luxurious- mahogany-speed-boatish-water taxi heading with god speed towards the camping ground where our van was parked.
The very first thing I did the next morning was to write in my journal and rip the entire page out and handed it to Till, the letter said:
Good friends go to war with you.
Best friends go to war against you, if necessary.
I am sorry.
He forgave me at that moment, we hugged, and I shed a tear of gratitude because I realised that my friend wants the best for the best part in me.
The next day came, our friend Richard arrived, but nobody partied that night, we all had enough…
In the video above, you will see my hungover friends and myself finally catching up with our friend Richard. See the bandage on my friend’s right hand? Yes, he really fell in the canal the day before and injured himself mildly while doing so…and I will forever roasting him for it…
Do You Hear Voices? Yes, Me Too
Dr Richard Schwartz, one of the most eminent thinkers in the field of Internal Family Systems Therapy, noticed something strange in the early 1980s while working with clients who had severe eating disorders.
During that time, many family therapists believed that the origins of psychological disorders were caused by dysfunctional structures in the family. This means that if you want to change the behaviour of the client, you must change the organisation of the family itself.
He soon discovered that his “textbook family therapy techniques” of reorganising the family structure proved to be ineffective, most of his clients kept binging and purging.4
Out of frustration, Dr Schwartz began to ask what was happening inside his clients.5
His clients would then open up and tell him about the extensive conversations they had with what they called different “parts” of themselves.
At first, Dr Schwartz thought that these conversations where metaphors for their feelings, but his clients all described these “parts” as distinct personalities who made them do things.
Dr Schwartz first wondered if his clients had multiple personality disorder, but then he had a terrifying discovery:
I have those voices too”.
One of his clients, Diane, told him, for example, about a pessimistic voice that she was hearing who always told her that everything was hopeless.
Dr Schwartz approached that “part” of Diane as if it was a distinct person and much to his surprise the voice responded to him and confessed that if she prevented Diane from taking any risks, she would not get hurt.
That “part” of Diane was trying to protect her.
Dr Schwartz was ecstatic, if this inner pessimist was driven by a benign intent, then Diane might be able to negotiate a different role for it.
But Diane did not want to have anything to do with this “part” of herself; in fact, she hated her inner pessimist.
I asked her why she was so rude to the pessimist, and she went on a long dialogue, describing how that voice had made every step she took in life a major hurdle”.
Dr Schwartz realised something even more bizarre; he was not talking to Diane; he was talking to the “part” of her that was at war with the inner pessimist.
There was one “part” in her who was cracking the whip to drive her towards achievement while another “part” of herself was trying to protect Diane from the pain of failure while concurrently being sorry for her because she had to work so very hard.
Dr Schwartz stepped in and told Diane to focus on the voice that was at war with the pessimist and ask it to stop interfering in her negotiations with the inner pessimist.
To Dr Schwartz’s amazement, that “part” of Diane agreed to “step back”.
He again asked Diane how she felt about her inner pessimist:
In a calm, caring voice, Diane said she was grateful for her inner pessimist for trying to protect her and felt sorry that it had to work so hard”.
From that point, negotiations with her inner pessimists were easy, and Diane ultimately healed.
Encounters like the one with Diane led Dr Schwarz to create a new therapy approach where he acknowledges the existence of those “parts“ in his clients and even in himself.
One could say that it is really the job of the therapist to get all of these different “parts“ to talk to each other and negotiate the physical and psychological health of all of the “parts“ of the client.
This form of spiritual integration and mediation seems to be crucial for the therapeutic betterment of the client.
The opinion of other eminent thinkers confirms this assertion. Let me cite some examples:
Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by the integration of the contraries”.
― Carl Gustav Jung
“A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow”.
― Djuna Barnes
“The individual does actually carry on a double existence: one designed to serve his own purposes and another as a link in a chain, in which he serves against, or at any rate without, any volition of his own”.
― Sigmund Freud
“Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing”.
― August Wilson
Two decades after Dr Schwartz’s discovery that the human psyche is not unitary but composed of ”parts” has led him to restructure his psychotherapeutic approach entirely.
While in Diane’s case, he discovered that he could mediate the different ”parts” of his clients, he now understood that he had to mediate his own ”parts” as well to be successful in providing curative therapy.
You will see in the following case study how Dr Schwartz integrates and acknowledges both of his own ”selves” and the ”selves” of the client:
I am meeting for the first time with an anorexic client, Margie, in a residential treatment centre where I am a consultant. She has fought with her anorexia for 19 years and has found that whenever she starts feeling better about herself, she stops eating. Before the session, I focus on my internal world – to centre myself. I hear a familiar voice of fear saying that she is obviously very fragile and I should not do anything to upset her. I tell that part of me that I will be sensitive to her condition, and ask that it trust me and let my heart open again. I focus on my heart and sense the protective crust that had enveloped it as I approached the time of the session melt away. I can feel more sensation now in my chest and abdomen, with vibrating energy running through my limbs. I feel calm and confident as Margie enters the office and sits down.
She looks like a cadaver and has a feeding tube in her nose. Her movements are controlled and rigid. She eyes me warily. At once, I feel great compassion for her and respect for the parts of her that do not trust me. And may not want to work with me. I am not invested in a certain outcome for this session. I would like to help her, but I will be fine if she chooses not to let me in. I am curious about what her anorexia has been up to all these years, yet I am certain that it has good reasons for doing this to her. I feel the energy in my body, extending nonverbally through my heart toward her, and trust that at some level, she can sense it. I am confident that, if I can remain in this state, whatever is supposed to happen will – I do not have to make anything happen.
I introduce myself and tell her that I am good at helping people with the parts of them that make them not eat. I ask Margie where she finds that voice of anorexia in her body and how she feels toward it. She closes her eyes and says it is in her stomach, and she is angry at it. She says that it tells her that it is going to kill her and that there is nothing she can do about it. I feel a jolt of fear clenching my gut and hear a familiar inner voice saying, “it’s determined to kill her and is succeeding. What if you say something that makes it even more determined!” Again, I quickly reassure the fear with words like, “Trust me. Remember that if I stay present something good always happens”. My abdomen immediately relaxes, and the soft, flowing energy returns to my body.
In a calm, confident voice, I tell Margie, “It makes sense that you’re angry with the eating disorder part because its avowed purpose is to screw up your life or even kill you. But right now, we just want to get to know it a little better, and it’s hard to do that when you’re so angry with it. We’re not going to give it more power by doing that – just get to know more about why it wants to kill you. So see if the part of you that’s so angry with it is willing to trust you and me for a few minutes. See if it’s willing to relax to watch maybe as we try to get to know the eating disorder part”. She says okay, and when I ask how she feels toward the eating disorder now, she says she’s tired of battling with it. I have her ask that part to relax and step back too, and then another part that was very confused by the disorder. Remarkably for someone in her condition, each time she asks a part to step back, it does. Finally, in response to my question of “how do you feel toward the eating disorder now?” she says in a compassionate voice, “Like, I want to help it”.
— Dr Richard Schwartz
No matter how often I read the story above, every time I get to the point where Margie shows some form of emphatic understanding and love for the anorexic ”part” in herself I get goosebumps and teary eyes.
Margie’s superego, the punishing sub-modality within herself expanded to a point where it told her that she does not deserve to eat anymore. To show some kind of compassion for that “part“ of herself that nearly punished her out of existence deeply moved me.
The Dissociative Table
While I have never been anorexic and thank god for that, I decided to go full soul striptease mode in this article to show you that I know what it is like to be tormented by my spirits. I think that if you are honest with yourself, you also have some “parts” within you that you are at war with.
One of the reasons why I was depressed for years was because I was living in a constant state of playing tug of war with my inner ”parts”.
Rather than accepting, negotiating, and integrating my different ”parts” I hated everything about me that was not virtuous.
The moment I stopped my attempts to eradicate my ”weak” or ”ugly” ”parts” and instead started to converse with them was when I started to heal and stopped living in a tyrannical relationship with myself.
Jay Early, a psychotherapist, put it best when he said:
The human mind is not a unitary thing that sometimes has irrational feelings. It is a complex system of interacting parts, each with a mind of its own. It is like an internal family — with wounded children, impulsive teenagers, rigid adults, hypercritical parents, caring friends, nurturing relatives, and so on”.6
Each ”part” of yourself, even the ”parts” that you do not like, were once born to protect you, and most of them have a time and place where they still can be useful to you.
Some of your ”parts” are friendly and perfectly socially acceptable, while others were born to protect you against yourself or external threats.
What I am trying to say is: Being a human being is an internal team sport.
If you are not everything you could be, it could be helpful to call an ”internal team meeting”.
The technique consists of inviting all of your ”inner people”, ”parts”, ” alter” or ”ego-selves”, or whatever you like to call them, to gather around an internal table and sit down and talk.
The goal of that technique is to get to know your different “parts” and discuss what an optimal pathway through life could look like for you.
The purpose of this exercise is to move away from internal conflict and towards psychological fusion.
There are three ways you can mediate this internal gathering:
- You do this with a therapist.
- You close your eyes and meditate with this exercise.
- You write about this internal conversation.
For me personally, I prefer to use writing and meditation for this technique because I was not successful so far in finding a therapist who is familiar with ego states.
Here is how I used Fraser’s dissociative table technique for myself:
- Do some deep breathing exercises or something that helps you to relax (no alcohol allowed).
- Close your eyes.
- Picture yourself sitting in a secure and safe room with a beautiful oval table.
- One after another, you see people sitting at the table, those people are your different ”parts”.
- What do your sub-modalities look like? How many are they?
- Allow each of your ”parts” to introduce themselves to you.
- Interview them and ask them what they want and what they think is best for you.
- Some questions that I like to ask my ”parts” are:
- The name of the ”part”
- When and why the ”part” was created
- What does the ”part” look like
- What does the ”part” want
- How does the ”part” talk
- What does this ”part” feel like and when do you feel it
- How does this ”part” make you behave
- How does this ”part” make you see the world
- How can you integrate this ”part” into your life
- What pain has this ”part” caused you
- What pain has this ”part” protected you from
- What benefits will you gain if you make this ”part” an ally of yourself
- When you want to end the conversation make sure to thank all of your ”parts” for coming, remind them that you are all in this together and that all ”parts” should work together to make this adventure everything it can be.
- Open your eyes.
While meditating about your ”parts” can be curative by itself, I had the most success in writing about the different sub-modalities that reside within myself.
While my modes of being are distinctive and unique to me, schema therapists have found that people often have very similar ”parts” in themselves.8
Below, you will find a couple of ”parts” that my coaching clients have identified within themselves:
The workaholic equals their productivity with their self-worth. They love to be busy, and they willingly ignore the host’s basic human needs for play, love, balance, and recovery.
They love being admired and praised for the long hours they put in and is more concerned with their projects than with their own physical and psychological well-being.
They neglect the people around them and is often confused about the origins of their unhappiness. Their primary way of coping with pain is to drown themselves in work.
Symptoms: Exhaustion, relationship problems, isolation, feelings of meaninglessness, ignorance of human core needs, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness.
Example: “My way of showing love for my family is by putting in the work to create a better future for them, to give them opportunities I did not have”.
Yes, this means that I will not make it to my kid’s baseball games and yes this means that I cannot go to the movies with my wife, but that is my role, that is who I am, that is what being a man means. We work.
Tired? In my line of work, there is no tired; there is no sick; there are results, and results do not come from anything else but from putting in the hours. Of course, I feel lonely and unhappy, but success has a cost, and I am willing to pay for it“.
The Depressed Self
The depressed self is a mode that gets activated when one person thinks they are defeated by life. The depressed self gets activated when a person has their human core needs not met and is not operating on a sufficient level on their eight dimensions of life.
The depressed self feels that the current life path is only bringing more misery towards the host, so they feel that the proper course of action is to protect themselves from everything by freezing, hiding, and numbing the host.
The depressed self is concerned with detecting the immediate threats in the world and are ignoring any positive signs because they are focused on survival, and they do not care about happiness.
Symptoms: Lethargy, constant pain, avoidance, fighting with the partner, feeling tired, hopelessness, melancholia, numbness, behavioural paralysis, short term thinking, bad coping habits, self-mutilation, suicidal voices, anxiety.
Example: “When I’m in a depressed state, it’s hard for me to get out of bed. Showering becomes a victory. Leaving the house becomes a miracle. All I want to do is sleep.
I feel strong feelings of hate and disgust towards myself, and it is impossible to trust the people around because let us be honest, who stays with a miserable person like me.
Being around other people is a drain, I often do a bad job of hiding my misery, this is why I choose to be alone for now, so I do not pull other people down with my horsecrap.
I know I am not enough, and sometimes I worry if ever will be“.
The Drug Abuser
The drug abuser is a “part“ that is concerned with instant gratification and instant pain mitigation. They are concerned with the now and willingly throws away health and prosperity in the future for their anxiety and responsibility liberation.
They turn a blind eye to the long-term consequences of their toxic behaviour and accepts negative consequences for their physical and psychological health.
The drug abuser uses unhealthy habits to ease their existential anxiety, and they often have very intelligent ways of rationalising and even romanticising their pathological conduct.
Symptoms: Drug use, overeating, lying, rationalising, self- medication, having toxic relationships around him, procrastination, freezing, mania, unprotected sex, financial mismanagement.
Example: “When I drink, I’m a different person. Normally, I’m quite introverted, and there are few people whom I click with naturally when I drink, I feel that I’m funnier and people are attracted to me.
I do not have much joy in my job and do not get me started on my relationship… but when its Friday night, I am the heart of the party, and I am…like somebody else. I talk differently, dress different, and I make different decisions. Of course, there is a price, I am often hungover and in a bad state at the end of the weekend. But hey, we all have that right?”
The Ashamed Fourteen-Year-Old
We all have times where we were hurt, where we encountered malevolence, and where our perception of who we thought we were was damaged or even shattered.
Traumatic and psychological catastrophes often give birth to new “parts“ whose job it is to protect us in the future from that traumatic source of danger.
While it is helpful to create a coping persona to help us survive being mobbed in preschool or something similar, this “part“ should probably not be the primary decision maker for the rest of our life.
Symptoms: You still dream about painful experiences that are more than eighteen months old, compulsiveness, snapping at your partner, drug use, avoidance, nightmares, black and white thinking.
Example: “Just the thought about my upcoming talk scares the living daylights out of me. When I was fourteen, I was stuttering very badly, and I remember Mrs Jones, my English teacher forcing me to talk in front of the entire school. I was so so afraid that I stuttered horribly.
Dozens of kids pointed at me and laughed at my expense.
To this day, when I talk in front of a group of people, I sweat like crazy.
I avoid situations like that every time I can.
Filters Of Life
So why does all of this matter?
Why did I choose to share with you the weird composition of my psyche?
Why did I tell you about the mental makeup of my murderous classmate or the psychology of anorexic girls?
I decided to write this article because I believe that the quality of your inner dialogue either makes or breaks you.
Another reason I wrote this article: NOBODY EVER TOLD ME THIS SHIT.
I have had to learn very painfully over the years that each of my psychic “parts” has a place and a purpose.
Not knowing that there are spirits that need to be governed makes you a slave to your emotional entities because you never even realise that you are entangled in a constant war for the steering wheel of your life.
If you are currently not happy with how the world manifests itself to you, it might be the case that your brain is currently governed by one of your ”parts” who is seeing the world in a way that is unhelpful to you.
Just like we use filters for Instagram to make our pictures look a certain way, each of our ”parts” has a unique perception that allows you to see things that are relevant to the goals of that mode of being.
I am sure you have experienced this:
- When your inner critic had the steering wheel, and all you could see was what was wrong with you.
- When your inner hero had the steering wheel, and you could not help yourself but see all of your problems as possibilities for growth.
- When your inner drug abuser had the steering wheel, and all you cared about was losing yourself in the night as if there would not be a tomorrow.
Being aware of who it is that governs your behaviour can be a matter of life and death.
And, nobody knows this better than Kevin Hines, the man who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge because his inner terrorist convinced him to do so.
The moment you start to meet and view your undesired psychic parts with compassion, understanding, and curiosity is the moment when you will heal and unlock your potential.
Success is not a one-man game, align your “parts“, and work together to make your life everything it can be.
Thank you for reading,
Daniel (and all the other “parts” that reside within me)
- Mcleod, S (July 1, 2018) The Grandmaster Experiment [Blog post]. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html
- Mannoni, Octave, Freud: The Theory of the Unconscious, London: Verso 2015, p. 91.
- Richard C. Schwartz, Internal Family Systems Therapy, (New York, Guilford Press, 1995), 13.
- Richard C. Schwartz, The Larger Self [Blog post]. https://ifs-institute.com/resources/articles/larger-self
Jenn Brown, Hearing Voices? You’re Not Alone: Understanding Internal Family Systems with Dr. Richard Schwartz [Blog post] Derived from https://beherenownetwork.com/hearing-voices/
- Jay Earley, Self-Therapy, Patterns Systems Books, Larkspur, CA, 2009, page 3.
- Martin, K. M. (2012). How to use Fraser’s Dissociative Table Technique to access and work with emotional parts of the personality. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 6(4), 179-186. doi:10.1891/1933-318.104.22.168
- Lobbestael, J., van Vreeswijk, M., & Arntz, A. (2007). Shedding light on schema modes: a clarification of the mode concept and its current research status. Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 63, 76-85.