. . . to finish writing this article, while another part of me really wants to go skiing.
Welcome to a conversation about mixed emotions. This is the second in a year-long series about the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-did.”
#1 ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”
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Whether or not you’ve ever met Mork from Mork and Mindy (an American sit-com which ran from 1978-1982 about a space alien, played by Robin Williams, who’d been dispatched from his planet Ork to observe human behavior) you might appreciate what a great job Mork does of observing his own inner chaos. See if you can relate ~
Mork’s a mess and we love him for it. No matter what organized, calm, more-Mindy-like demeanor we might present on the outside, our insides can be quite different. In there, we’re a slowly simmering soup of sentiment – and that’s on good days. On bad days when we blow it, or someone blows it with us, that low simmer steams into a rolling boil and the inner chaos spills out all over.
You’ve seen it, right?
- You’ve done what you consider to be good work and then someone gives you “feedback.” Suddenly your confidence vaporizes and you feel as capable as a mole on a unicycle.
- Your teenager is late home. Your catastrophizing worrywart is about to call the hospital when you hear the car pull into the garage. In an instant your worry is engulfed by a volcano of rage and despite that slight whisper you hear back-stage to “Listen first!” you explode through the door like a banshee.
- Your heart is full of love and ready to share. Candles. Mood music. Surprise dinner-for-two in the oven. Your phone bleeps for an incoming text: “Running late. Don’t wait up.” Poof! Your secure lover is sucker-punched and replaced by a green-eyed jealous, suspicious gut-chewing-monster.
- And how about those inner tug-o-wars between the Part of you who craves cake after dinner and that Part who champions height-weight proportionality? Or between your straight-laced Banker who advises putting 10% of your income away each month and your Zesty “Carpe Diem” who’s just put a deposit down on that Hot Air balloon ride?
- Or, much harder, the Part who wants to leave the marriage and never come back and that other Part, who is afraid of being alone and worries there’s no one better out there?
~ There’s not just one YOU ~
Have you noticed that your personality is more multicolored than monochrome?
That nothing is as simple as it seems?
Even when, to expand upon an example from the above list, you may feel confident about a piece of work, that confidence was probably a negotiated alliance between your ~
- WORDY PART who wrote and wrote and over wrote
- EDITOR who sliced through the word count
- RESEARCHER who can’t stand unsubstantiated claims
- POET who delivered gorgeous prose
- TEAM PLAYER who sought buy-in from all the necessary stake-holders
and that sense of incapacity following the “feedback” was probably not just one flavor but a blend of your inner ~
- CRITIC who warned you all along this was rubbish
- PERFECTIONIST who actually agreed with the feedback you received
- INSECURE teen who craves the positive attention of others
- NAY SAYER who always warns you against risk-taking.
As I said, we’re often a mess on the inside. But the truth is, this is actually very good news! This is news-we-can-use, if we’d only learn how.
I’ve come to understand myself more clearly than ever before thanks to the work of Dr. Richard Schwartz and the model he developed called Internal Family Systems (IFS). As a brief intro I’m quoting from a short, accessible book* called There’s A Part of Me by Jon Schwartz (the founder’s brother) and Bill Brennen.
Normally, our parts work extremely well together. They coordinate, calculate, weigh in, and contribute to every decision we make, and they help us navigate a complex and sophisticated world. When they don’t work together, we experience conflict. As we will examine in this book, ironically it is mainly the parts of ourselves that want to protect us from potential harm that tend to cause emotional upset in our lives. We will look at situations in which our parts are in conflict, learn how we can recognize when this happens, and understand what we can do about it. (page 8)
Now this is useful stuff. Here’s a model which normalizes the chaos and offers a way into it, and then through it, that makes sense to me.
They go on to share their 3 main ideas about Parts:
- We are all made up of different “parts” that together form our basic nature and personality.
- What we call “thinking” is often conversations among these different parts, each with its own point of view. Many of the emotions we feel come from these parts of ourselves.
- All parts of us want what is best for us, and all of them contain valuable qualities and resources. But even though they want what’s best for us, sometimes our parts have bad ideas about how to achieve this.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
- Click here for an overview of IFS.
- Click here for articles, books and other media about IFS.
- * Jon and Bill’s book excerpted above comes as a downloadable eBook for $10, or a paper bound book for $15. Both can be found at the IFS store..
WANT TO TRY SOMETHING?
Tune in to yourself. Can you identify a conversation you’re having in your head and notice the different perspectives? Or, have you noticed that you show up one way with this person, and another way with that? What Parts are those? Is there already a familiar set of thoughts and beliefs that tend to pop up, unbidden? A critical voice, a fearful gut, a vulnerable heart, or a Part who whisks you into some nice numbing behaviors like mindless eating, smoking, drinking, spending? Just be present with awareness, rather than judgment.
January 21st – building upon a great question from a reader’s comment to me in an email about the idea of Parts. Thanks SS.
The “angry you,” the “mean you,” the “gentle, loving you.” Where do they come from? From experiences we have had, from people and situations we’ve been in – to an unholy degree, from our parents and the “attachment” experience of our early years: What?
Featured Image (above)
Robin Williams as Mork. Still missing his fire on the planet.