Trauma Talks Series: Working with your Parts of Self

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Therapeutic Part Works

The premise of parts work is based on the multiplicity of the mind, and really the psyche as a whole, which makes up each of our unique personalities. We are all born with a true self (TS) and a personality. Our personality continues to develop based on our life circumstances.

Understanding the differences of the brain, mind, and consciousness are important. The brain is a physical organ that we can see, and it is the center of our nervous system, sending messages to our body. The mind is what we consider “self”, we cannot see the mind, and it is part of our consciousness. The mind can expand and can observe the working of the brain and the body. Consciousness transcends mind, body and the brain, having many levels of awareness of which much is untapped, yet is accessible as we awaken our consciousness.

Now back to parts. We all have parts of self. When we face overwhelming and/or traumatic situations that we cannot adaptively process or resolve, our parts often become more separate from our deeper sense of self (TS) and begin to take on more extreme roles to protect us. Since these roles worked at the time in some way, they become more and more frozen in the brain, and all these complex emotions, thoughts, memories, images, beliefs, and action urges cluster together (neurons wire together neurologically). Therefore, our parts can become frozen in time essentially, and can hold complex emotional content and beliefs that are often distorted in present time.

During the time of distress/trauma, our defenses were effective, however, over time the roles of our parts become more and more ineffective in our lives. Yet we often cannot make the shifts and changes we desire to. This is where willpower and our higher cognitive skills fall short, and unfortunately are just not enough to break the patterns.

Parts work has been a game changer in my work within my own inner system and my clients. Allowing us to go deeper into the mind and our consciousness, to interoceptively heal and bring deep understanding into our conscious awareness. When we engage all parts into processing, and into actively participating in coping skills and mindful awareness, shifting at the mind, brain, body, and heart level can occur simultaneously.

Gathering Space Exercise

Take a moment to drop into your awareness. In your mind’s eye imagine a gathering space. A place, real or imagined, inside or outside, that you would like to gather. Just come up with the space, what you imagine it to look and feel like. (Give time needed to come up with the space.)

All parts are Welcome!

Now, invite all parts of self (willing and able) to your gathering space in your mind’s eye. Your consciousness and your unconsciousness.

Take some time and just notice. Turn on your senses. What do you see, hear, or feel? If needing more prompts, take your time, and even notice subtle sensations, thoughts, images, sounds etc. If too much is going on, gently ask yourself internally to soften, and ask who needs attention first?

What do you notice? What/who needs your attention most? What comes to your awareness?

Practice staying an observing and curious state of mind. Spend some time getting to know the parts of you, and how they show up for you in your gathering space. When you are done, gently thank yourself internally. Journal, reflect, or draw about any insight that came to you.

For many of us, this may be difficult at first, especially, if we have had a lot of trauma or our minds are very distractible. Be gentle with yourself, and self-compassionate, try again another time, and see support and guidance from a trained therapist.