We are a multitude of parts, with a central core self.
Understanding these psychological parts, and which ones are in charge in different situations, leads to greater psychological freedom.
I studied Subpersonalities or Parts work during my Psychosynthesis counselling training and working with them was at the foundation of my work as a counsellor.
Parts work is an incredible tool for self-development and personal growth. By understanding the activated parts within us and their underlying motivations, we gain greater freedom and awareness.
I share some personal moments where I’ve been challenged in conflicts and outline what was going on for me on a parts level at that time.
As we understand our psychological parts better we are able to work more skillfully with our automatic reactions, slow down these reactions, and even choose to respond differently. Within each part is a need and a gem of a quality, and by bringing greater awareness to these aspects of self we are able to unleash our own inner superpowers!
Listen in as I share my own experience with parts work and how to get in touch with your own psychological parts.
Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to the podcast. This week we are looking at psychological parts or within the Psychosynthesis framework, which is what I studied in, they are called subpersonalities and sub-personalities are basically parts within us, and they’re very often centered around a need.
A really straightforward example of a psychological part within us is the inner inner critic who many of us know so well, who pops up unbidden at very, very inconvenient times and starts telling us all of the stuff that we’re doing wrong. Another part might be the perfectionist or the bitch or, and we have young parts within us as well, and sometimes these parts have formed because of traumas.
Traumas with big Ts so they’re very big, significant traumas or more of the everyday traumas with the small t’s as it’s described very often, which all of us experience throughout our lives. Gaps in attachment or nurture, misunderstandings, feelings that arose out of shame or guilt. And so what’s really fascinating in terms of psychological parts or subpersonalities, is that
prior to thinking about this as a concept or learning to work with them, we might think of ourselves as one being moving through life, but when we think about these psychological parts, what we can start to notice is that sometimes different parts might be more in the driver’s seat, or they might be more to the fore.
And I remember exploring this in one of the very first trainings I did within the PSYCHOSYNTHESIS framework at the start of my counseling training. And we were on a. week retreat and part of the work was to explore psychological parts. And so the idea at the time is to, you know, think of a part within yourself that you identify with very readily.
And one of the parts that came up for me was the bitch. And so, you know, why was she important? Why did she show up? What was she there to serve? How was she there to help me? To serve me? Right? And. For that aspect of myself, that part, the bitch was there as a protective mechanism. So she really protected the more vulnerable, the younger aspects of myself.
She could say no. She could tell someone to F off. She had no problem being forthright, being called a bitch, being very assertive, and even sometimes, Verbally mildly aggressive. Yeah. Because that was her way of encountering the world and protecting other aspects of myself. And so sometimes this part would come to the fore if I was in a vulnerable position or if I’d been maybe challenged or boundaries had been crossed.
And when I first started thinking about that part, and you might have a similar part that you can kind of relate to, my initial reaction was, oh, that’s negative. I shouldn’t have that aspect. That’s just the horrible part of me that actually people don’t like and don’t accept. But as I got to know that part, I got to uncover, you know, why was she here?
Why was that psychological aspect of me present? Why did she come to the fore? In what situations and what was. What was her purpose in terms of helping me? And so that was a really helpful discovery for me because I got to understand, oh, you know, times when I’m feeling vulnerable, when I don’t have a voice.
Maybe my nervous system has gone into freeze. Then this part of me, this bitch aspect or psychological part, she could take over the reins. And it’s very, very normal that we all have these different aspects of ourselves. And another, another aspect of you that you might identify with readily is the in a child.
And if you just think for a moment right now, how old is your inner child, what comes to the fore very quickly for you? And I think, you know, immediately on top for me is probably a seven or eight year old. But if I go a little deeper into my process, I can sort of feel into maybe a four year old, maybe a little older as well.
That 11 year old that hadn’t quite hit puberty yet, that was all about life and adventure and activity. And so we have all these different aspects and layers of ourself, and when we come to realize that at different times in our experience, we are identifying with these different parts can be very helpful to understand it.
Because if you now understand when you have that very inner critical voice show up, that may be name calling, that may be telling you that you did that really badly, that sometimes it tells us that we’re not a good person. Then if you can understand and separate out, oh, that’s my inner critic, and we don’t need to get too deep into why that part is there, because most of us have an aspect of ourselves that’s an inner critic.
We can identify, oh, that’s the inner critic. We can tell her to be quiet. Give it some space and, and just a simple understanding that I have this inner inner critic voice arise in me, but it is not who I am in my totality. It is one very small aspect of me then that can give me a lot of freedom, a lot of psychological freedom with unwanted thoughts that arise within inner criticisms that arise inside of me.
And of course our parts, the parts of us are not just thoughts or emotions or that inner critic voice as an example that pops up. They, some of them are actually very small, distinct. They have personalities, and those personalities are centered around a need. And like I said before, sometimes you can get to the core of the need and when you understand that need, that core of that very small personality, that is part of our psychological parts.
Then we can understand more what shows up in us, our drives, our thoughts, our emotions from a much more empowered place. And so at the start of our journey to understanding ourself, The way it has been mapped out to me through my study is that we might move from wholly identifying with one part at one time.
So I might move from, say, my inner critic to my inner child, to my inner perfectionist, and while I’m within that psychological part, and that’s expressing through me, same within the. The perfectionist I am. Having thoughts that fit with that part, feelings, beliefs, and they will drive my behaviors and how I interact in a relationship.
So for example, the inner aper perfectionist often arises when we we’re unsure, when we, we enter into an area of our life or our work or our business where. There’s a lot that is not known. It might be new territory, and so the inner perfectionist can often arise as an example to try and mediate that, to accommodate that.
So we might spend a lot of time getting something perfectly right, overthinking it over, studying it before we let it out into the world as an example. And so as we go through our healing work, and really the first stage is awareness. You know, what are these parts that are arising in me? If I’m in a difficult situation and I’m having a strong emotion, is there an inner psychological part that has really come to the fore here?
And I, I think about it in terms of software that we use. So with our phones, we can often have many apps open. You know, if I look at my phone right now, I’ve probably got 10 apps open, right? But I’m only looking at one screen at this moment in time. So I might have a few psychological parts within my psyche, but only one of them is to the fore right now.
So that’s very often how it feels when we are starting out on our journey. As we go further into our own self-development journey, we then start to identify the self as being the central core. And you might already be doing this for sure, you probably already have a sense of the I with the capital.
Letter I, the self, that is the core of you. That is outside of all of these psychological parts, right? And so from that self, from that eye with the capital I, you can kind of look out and you can see those different parts. The bitch, the perfectionist, the inner critic, the young self, the inner child may be at different ages and you.
You have a sense of them, but you also know yourself to have space with them, to not be wholly identified with these different parts of the self. And then things can happen in our life. So we might enter into a conflict or an argument with a loved one, and when that happens, so what used to happen for me, All the time, probably every time I would enter into conflict with my partner is that the inner child would come to the fore, the young self, and so
I would notice very, very strong feelings. I would notice thoughts that maybe weren’t my everyday rational thoughts. They would come from a place of abandonment of rejection because that’s my story. That’s, you know, my traumas in my life. But I would be so identified with that in a child when I was in that conflict with my partner, that it was really hard to
talk rationally or even talk reasonably. All I would be feeling was this big wash of, of rejection or the threat of abandonment. And so as we learn to understand those parts, and for me if I’m talking about the inner inner child part,
and so it took me a long time to be able to in the moment, so I could always see it outside of that moment. Once I’d calmed down and my nervous system was settled down, right. But to be able to see it in that moment that I was really identifying with the inner inner child and be able to go through this.
It’s kind of like, say if you had an app open on your phone and that was the screen and it had this, you know, white screen, black writing inner child, and I would be able to psychologically in that moment, just put that app into the background, right, and bring to the foreground the adult secure self.
Now, she wasn’t always available. The adult secure self wasn’t always available at the start of my relationship because I was still working through supporting those traumas to heal. And that attachment stuff to heal, right? But now so much more I’m able to access the adult secure self. Doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or annoyed or pissed off or say things I probably shouldn’t say.
Yeah, I still do that because I’m a human being, but, Far, far less than what I used to do. Or if, you know, my nervous system had this perceived rejection, it would take me hours and hours, to recover. And actually, my sister and I were talking about it. We were talking about in our family of origin, instead of debating something or talking about it or seeing the conflict through and coming into
repair the connection. What would very often happen is that our parents would go into silence and shut down for days, and there would be this intense tension in the air, but there wouldn’t be communication and there would be one word answers and there would be silence and shutdown, and that’s very difficult to tolerate.
As a child, as you can imagine, and as you will know if you’ve lived through it. And so both of us just recently were reflecting how we both used to do that at the start of our relationship and, and it took me quite a long time to unwind that pattern. And of course at that time there’s still a lot going on with your nervous system, right?
So probably my nervous system went into fight. And flight. So sympathetic, arousal and then into a form of freeze. And what unfroze me from that was connection with my partner and realizing, seeing, talking to him and seeing him for who he is, a human being, not this kind of. Somewhat connected to my past.
Scary being that had pushed me away and disconnected from me. No, this human being that was feeling hurt just like I was. So that’s, you know, that’s one way to understand how we navigate working with our psychological parts. So what’s really helpful is to step into awareness of, oh, what part might be coming to the fore right now?
And I’m not trying to say that everything. In terms of our mental health and mental being rests on these psychological parts, they’re not causing the problems. It is a very useful map though, to be able to understand ourself and navigate understanding ourself and how we interact well or not so well in relationships.
And so sometimes we need to do that deeper work to. Help identify that part to release the energy that is within that part, or the trauma or the frozen aspect of that part. And that’s a fluid process. And clients will do that with me. I use Creatrix to support that to happen. It just happens really quickly.
Or you might. Do psychotherapy or other forms of say, internal family systems work or, I think Hakomi does similar work and even actually, even if we’re not identifying the psychological parts, but you’re doing good, connected, embodied therapy. The parts will be having their voice anyway, and they’ll be healing at those levels of self, and so then they’re much less likely to try and take over.
When our nervous system is distressed, when there’s stress in the system or conflict within our relationships, and so then we can more easily identify with the I with the capital I letter I or with the self as the central core of being, and meditation and mindfulness helps us to do that really naturally as well.
And of course, in most meditations and, and mindfulness, we’re not looking at those psychological aspects or parts because it’s not psychotherapy, right. But by sticking with that process of observing the self and observing the thoughts and observing the feelings, we are getting to understand ourselves on that level anyway.
So that’s why mindfulness and meditation is really, really helpful in terms of our internal parts work and for many other reasons. Of course, I remember this time when Took my oldest kid to football and they were, I think 11, 11 or 10 at the time. And something had happened and I’d had to try and change the date because they were trying to get a ride with their friend, you know, just the general logistics.
And I had my I had my younger child with me at the time, and they would’ve been around four. The coach of the team, I had messaged him and was trying to change things and then he surprised me when I was at the practice. And so the kids are all on the field and he surprised me with a very aggressive confrontation around that I’d messed him around and that we can’t all keep doing that.
And he was just, in my mind anyway, really, really aggressive and. Really telling me off in front of the other parents and not letting, so I’m a grown ass woman by this stage, right? I am prob, well, I would’ve been 40 at that stage and. Really giving me a balling, for one of a better word, other parents were around looking away awkwardly.
My four year old kid is by my side, I mean, yeah, not a great situation, right? And in that moment, where was my bitch when I needed her? In that moment I was clearly really triggered. I wanted to protect my kid because they were just standing there in this awful situation. He wasn’t yelling, but it was really uncalled for.
He was being really aggressive with me. He wasn’t thinking about what he was saying, and he was just really nutting off for me and. It really triggered my nervous system so I went into fight and flight, and then I started to go into a bit of freeze. And so in that moment, my inner child had come to the fore, and so our inner child shouldn’t have to deal with those circumstances, shouldn’t have to deal with those situations, but.
Most of us have had an experience of being shouted at by an adult. And so for whatever reason, was it the way he looked, his presence, I don’t know, but it triggered the inner child of me and I couldn’t speak. I shut down. And so on the one level there was freeze in my nervous system. And on the other level, it was the inner child who’d been really triggered.
And it was really, really upsetting for me. Probably more. Then the situation, well, not called for, but probably more than what was going on in the actual situation because what had happened had brought my inner child to the fore and my inner child had had trauma around that sort of verbal abuse. Call it what it is, right?
And so that took me quite a long time to unwind and then to settle back down inside myself, right? But. That’s an example in any case of how our psychological parts can get triggered in the moment and how we can lose contact with our centralized inner inner self. And then, leave a difficult exchange like that, wondering what the hell happened and where was my voice and why couldn’t I say anything to him because I figured it out afterwards that I think a lot of parents had done a lot of changing and he was really frustrated and it all got taken out on me, and that’s not okay.
I am not excusing that at all, but you know, in terms of coming back to my rational adult self, clearly that’s what had happened. And so it was my younger self that had been triggered in that moment. And, and so I was sort of in this, in this frozen state, and that is what can happen with our psychological parts.
And so I had to do some work to support that younger self inside me so that she could feel safe again. And part of that was connecting with someone else, talking with someone else about what had happened. Oh, was a whole thing. So I learned over time that when, when that trigger comes in, you know, that’s a really perfect example of, of a younger self, you know, being triggered of probably a trauma response of me being triggered.
And so I’ve learned more now, and I certainly don’t expect perfection from my psyche, but I’ve learned way more now to notice the signs of what’s happening and to be able to just nudge that younger self to the back. And let the adult self bring her to the fore so that she can have that conversation with that person.
Maybe the bitch was required in that moment. And so, you can use these psychological parts in a really helpful way for yourself as well. And so you can, you can tune into parts work, right? And that was important for me after that experience. All those years ago was to take some quiet time and place my hand on my chest and my hand on my belly and just to breathe and to wait for things to settle down, wait for my heart rate to settle down.
And you know, of course I talked it over with someone else as well and cried probably pretty sure I did that too. And, and then, you know, I could have a conversation with a younger self around. Just feeling into her. You can do this now too. You know, Good not to do it in a triggered moment
and you check in with the younger self and you might see her there and only do this if you’re not driving right or if you’re not busy. But you can put it in your memory bank and do it later. If you’re listening to the podcast now and you’re busy, but you might close your eyes if you’re not, if you’re not busy.
Or you might just check in with the younger self and just notice what age she is right now and what she’s wearing, what she looks like, what her hair is like, what their hair is like, what his hair is like and just notice them and you might start up a conversation, you know how you doing? Might ask that of your inner child, how are you doing?
What do you need? That part will tell you. You can connect with this part pretty easily. It’s another beautiful exercise that you can do that once you’ve connected with that in a child, you can imagine that you’re sitting around a campfire with this child and you are that supportive adult that’s there for them.
And it could be the age that you are now or an older age wise, supportive, open, fun, and the child is there too. And you might, you know, once you’ve said to them, how you doing? What’s happening? How are you feeling? You might invite them to throw their worries into the fire. They might have their worries written down on a scrap of paper and then throw them into the fire and let them be transformed.
Let them shed their worries, their fears, and just let them be transformed by the fire, and you can sit there with your younger self and be in support of them. It’s a really helpful process to do, and then when you’re complete, you give them a hug, let them know you’re there for them.
The campfire dies down and goes out, and you might leave a wise, older version of yourself with your younger self if you would like, and let them know that you’ll return any time they need you. It’s a really beautiful process to do with our psychological parts and you can do it really simply and you can journal about it afterwards.
You know, what did it feel like? What does that, what does that young self need? What does that inner child need? What do they need that they didn’t get? What can I give them? I just, just doing that process now with you and feeling into it myself. I can feel that my inner child needs some more play. Some more play, some more fun, some more time just doing nothing or fun things.
So that’s a really simple tool that that’s a really simple tool that you can engage to work with your inner child or to work with other parts as well. The inner child is a beautiful place to start when you’re doing parts work for yourself, with yourself. If you’re working with a therapist, you can absolutely go into, you know, if you’re working with a therapist, you can go into those other parts as well.
But working with the inner inner child is a really great place to start for. Understanding the psychological parts of ourself and giving space to them, becoming more adept at identifying with the core sense of self and noticing when those inner parts arise and, and being able to respond, you know, is this helpful in this situation or does that younger self, does she need to move to the background? Because an older, wiser part of me needs to come to the fore because all of the parts of ourselves, they’ll have aspects of them that are maybe.
Challenging. Some might be fearful, some might be critical. You know, you’ve got the perfectionist part, but underneath that, there’ll be this gem of a quality that will be like this part. Super power, right? So the inner child, for me, the gem of that is play. And for many of us it will be play for the, for the inner critic, for example, underneath you, scratch underneath, all of that stuff, all of that bad behavior.
What might be the gem underneath that? Well, it could be discernment. What about the bitch? What’s her gem? So hers might be assertiveness, assertive communication. It could be power. So every part that is within us and we have a multitude of parts, right? Every part that’s within us probably has a wound, maybe has a psychological challenge, but also has a gem and a gift.
So if you’re a person that likes to journal and when you are going through psychological or just life stuff, right? It can be really good to journal, to understand things better. You might be able to start to identify the parts that are coming to the fore and are having a voice in your journaling.
And the easiest one, I think anyway to identify is the inner child. It’s one of the easier ones to start with. You can start communicating with the inner child and understanding what their need is, understanding when you know what their gem is, and also understanding when maybe they show up in a difficult moment, but the central core of you, the I that is, you can say to the inner child, Hey, you know what?
I’ve got this, I’ll handle this tricky situation. You go off and play. And so that can be a really helpful way to work with our psychological parts. Hey, my friends, I hope that has been helpful as psychological parts 1 0 1. Working with the parts of ourself.
If it interests you, start working with your journal and your inner child. Or you might just catch when there’s a psychological part that has kind of come to the fore. That is a, having much louder voice than the other parts. And when that happens, you can notice it and maybe you’ll have a like a name for that part.
You can identify it really clearly or maybe not. And. When you notice that you can make it, then make a choice, right? Is this useful? Is this helpful in this moment or do I just need to tell that part to just let’s lower the volume on that part. I’m gonna come back to my central core, or maybe I’m going to, I’m gonna engage a psych, a part of my psyche that is in this moment, assertive and powerful and can have a voice.
Maybe it’s my old wise woman. Maybe I wanna speak from that part. So there is much, much more to say about this. It’s a whole study within itself. But you know what? We’re experts on us on what’s going on in our psyche
and sometimes these sorts of maps and models can be really helpful to understand ourselves more clearly, to understand the patterns that we get into the stuck places that we get into, or you know, the repeating patterns that we identify with. And by understanding it through that lens of psychological parts or subpersonalities
Then we have much greater resourcing for ourselves and to be with ourselves and to respond from a way more connected place. Alright, my friends have an amazing, amazing week. Go and do something fun for your inner child. She will. Thank you for it. If you enjoyed this podcast, if it spoke to you, share it with a friend that really helps to get this information into the hands of so many more people.
Really appreciate you. I’ll speak to you real soon. Bye for now.