When you are waiting at a bus stop at night, do you wish you had a protector with you? When you hurt, do you long for someone to comfort you? When you face a big decision, do you wish you had a wise adviser to turn to? What if you could have all those parts within yourself and available when you need them?
Several years ago, I faced a difficult situation at work. A meeting had been set in which I would face off with someone. At the time, I felt indignant and attacked for standing up for what I believed to be right. In the days leading up to the meeting, I spent my time thinking about how unfair the situation was instead of focusing on arguing my case.
The day of the meeting, I woke up and asked myself what I needed. I wished I could ask for guidance from the person I most looked up to as a champion for those without a voice—my mother. But my mother had died a few years prior.
As I prepared to leave for work, my mind wandered to the things she most often said to me that applied to the situation. I reminded myself that the outcome of the meeting did not matter. What mattered was I conducted myself in a way I could feel good about. I wanted to lay my head down that night believing that if my mother had been in the room with me, she would have been proud of me.
As I walked to the meeting, I imagined my mother walking with me. A wave of strength and calm came over me as I imagined her with me, supporting me. It was what I needed and carried me through. While I thought of my mother, the part I brought with me was The Champion.
For some of us, we are fortunate to have people in our lives who possess traits we want to tap into from time to time. For others, those people are no longer alive but the memory of them remains. Some people can identify the characteristics they need in the moment but have no one who has modeled those characteristics for them. In therapy, we can help people develop the parts they need and do not already have.
“Parts work” is a way to help people to have all the parts of the self ready to show up when needed. The Manager, The Nurturer, and The Warrior are parts of the self we need from time to time. When one is under- or overdeveloped, behavior may be out of balance.
“Parts work” is a way to help people to have all the parts of the self ready to show up when needed. The Manager, The Nurturer, and The Warrior are parts of the self we need from time to time. When one is under- or overdeveloped, behavior may be out of balance. For example, The Inner Critic may have a place but does not need to run the show.
Some people who experienced a lot of trauma early in life may feel they never had a protector. As adults, they may operate from a perpetual filter of fear. This makes it difficult for these people to be present and experience intimacy. By internalizing an image of The Protector, the person can feel safer and more confident. The Protector is there when needed and taking a back seat when not.
Parts work is one aspect of helping people with trauma or other issues that bring them to therapy. It is not a complete treatment. However, by developing the important parts of yourself you may feel were never implemented or forgotten, you may begin to feel more whole. It is a way to add more tools to your emotional toolbox. A qualified therapist can help with developing parts.
Each situation requires different parts of the self to step up and help. Whether it is your Compassionate Self, Champion, or another part, ask yourself, “Who do I need in the room with me?” Imagine those parts getting out of the back seat and being there for you, and then going back to their seats when their job is done. The outcome may not be entirely in your control, but how you conduct yourself is.
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