Wednesday, August 26, 2020

My Parts

A long time ago, perhaps 25 or 26 years ago, we were in Pennsylvania staying right on the fringe of the Amish community. I had long held a fascination with their lifestyle and had booked a cabin as close to the community as I could. It turns out that I had rented the cabin from a psychiatrist and among the many books in the cabin was one about family therapy. I was drawn to this book and read as much of it as I could in the time available. I knew that somewhere in the pages of that book was something important for me to know, but I wasn't ready to understand the message.

For about a year, I have been watching clips online of Richard Schwartz talking about this model of therapy wherein he gets in touch with the parts of people. Somewhere on my shelves is the book I bought Internal Family Systems. I read it and no doubt underlined key ideas  but I only took it in in a theoretical sense. I wasn't making the headway I had hoped for.

A few weeks ago I signed up for the Trauma Summit online run by Sounds True. If you don't know Sounds True, I highly recommend it to you. I forgot about this Summit and only in the last few days of the free summit I noticed an email link and began to listen to sessions. You may know that many of these free summits are only free for a short time and can be quite expensive to purchase so I drenched myself in various sessions for a day to try to catch up on what I felt was the best of the sessions offered.

In Day 6 of the summit, Richard Schwartz had given a presentation, going through the process he has for his trauma patients, and I decided to follow along, as if I were the patient. The following is what I discovered.

Just briefly, Schwartz maintains, and has established over a career of 35 years, that we are made up of parts some of which try to protect us. In this process of protecting parts of ourselves become alienated. We can heal ourselves with a little direction if we can respectfully and kindly approach a Manager and get to know it. If we can do this skillfully, openly and honestly, we can release our Self with all the components that allow us to flourish. These components are called the 7 Cs - curiosity, confidence, calm, compassion, courage, connectedness and creativity.

First of all, Schwartz explained that all our parts have talents and resources, but due to trauma and attachment issues, some parts are taken out of operation. There are parts, which are referred to as Managers, who feel the need to protect the alienated parts. You might call such a Manager an inner critic but the voice, or part, that I located was one that was not so much an Inner Critic as a very deep and intense protector; insistently demanding that I stay low; silent; acquiescent; agreeable.

I should explain that this is all happened just now, and the reason I think I was able to locate it and listen to it was that I had an experience a few days ago where I very clearly heard my Protector giving me very specific instructions.

Schwartz is clear that permission must be sought to approach a part and I did ask it if I could get close with a respectful curiosity. I sat with it, trying to understand its motives.

Here's what I learned:

The part of me that is authentic, playful, open and looking to bond was injured very early on in my life. The words that authentic part heard was 'You're not one of us.' 'Run away' 'Don't take chances.' 'I don't have time for you.' 'You need to be independent.' So, by necessity, or so it seemed to the Protector, this playful part with needs, needs to be connected and bonded, childlike, but with opinions, had to be exiled.

A Manager stepped in, a Protector, another part that spoke to me, all the time, I realize now. It said, 'Don't say anything.' 'Keep quiet.' 'You can mange by yourself.' 'It's dangerous to speak up. Whatever you do, don't speak up, it will only be much worse if you do.'

That's the voice I located the other day, a voice so familiar to me that I hadn't even realized how often it spoke to me. The voice had become a part of me.

Schwartz directed us to ask the part, 'What would you like to do, if you didn't have to do this job?' I waited for the answer and it said to me, 'I would like to enjoy watching you being authentic. I would like for that hurt part of you to stop hurting, to feel whole and loved; loveable. I would like to see you have fun; be joyful not just with yourself but with others. I would love it if you could speak your truth so I didn't have to protect you any more and I could just watch you be whole.'

Schwartz asked to see if we could turn this part - an Enemy of sorts - into a friend and thank it for having done this job. He asked us to ask this part how old it thought we were. I couldn't discern an age but the protector had been with me for as long as I could remember, so I guess it thought I was still a child.

Of the 8 Cs that can emerge, perhaps all of them, I definitely detected Courage coming forth. I had approached this material honestly and I felt a courage, a calm coming forth.

I detect the Protector's voice unsure and unwilling to let go of the job as yet. I feel a warm connection to the part. I think it has been with me for so long that it's hard to imagine it not being there. But, at least we are talking.

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