Often we might notice that we are struggling with similar dynamics in relationships or patterns in our lives over time. It can be hard to make sense of why we are struggling with the same issues over and over.
Many psychotherapeutic approaches use the idea of parts of self to understand the way we interpret and respond to our lives. Our early experiences shape the way that we understand ourselves and the world around us, these are sometimes referred to as parts, trances or schemes. An extreme version of these states is when someone has experienced a traumatic event. Something in the person’s environment triggers the memory of the trauma and they are flooded with the thoughts, feelings, sounds, smells and bodily sensations of that event as if it were happening in the here and now.
A similar thing happens on a less intense level when something in our environment triggers the thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations of our early childhood experiences and we begin interacting with the world from that part. Essentially, a situation occurs which is similar to a pre-learned situation (although we often won’t consciously recognize it), the appropriate part is triggered which brings forth a whole set of emotions, thoughts, beliefs and bodily sensations ready to deal with the situation. This is why we might notice ourselves rehashing that same difficult dynamic with our partners or friends. We are stepping into the same part over and over when in conflict with another.
We might also notice these parts in patterns that play out in our lives. We might find ourselves in relationships where we take on a caretaking role and become resentful of our loved ones for not caring about us as much as we care about them. Or we might often take the role of the leader and find ourselves feeling tired and unsupported. We might find ourselves taking a back seat in relationships and feeling like our needs are being disregarded. If we are noticing these patterns it is a sure sign that we are operating from one of our parts of ourselves.
The process of psychotherapy supports us to connect with our true Self that can understand and support all these other parts in a compassionate way. We begin to identify each of our parts, de-identify with them so that we become less reactive or driven by these insecure parts and live our lives from a more grounded and compassionate place.
An easy way to begin to separate and connect with your Self is through language and the way that we speak about our experience. Rather than staying “I am angry” we can say “A part of me is angry”. Or if that is feeling like too much of a stretch we might say “I am feeling angry” instead of “I am angry”. Incorporating the language of parts is a great way to begin to cultivate an awareness of our many parts and to begin to strengthen and connect with our true Self.