I am forever telling my patients and clients: talk to yourself, and listen to yourself.
The catch? Your “self” is not one, unified entity.
No one’s “self” is one, unified entity, that listens with one mind or speaks with one voice.
The fact is, most of us have many parts that comprise our “selves.” And we need to talk to each part of us and listen to each part of us in specific ways.
We do this through a skill called “internal communication.” I developed my version of it while working primarily with patients who were diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (the clinical syndrome formerly known as “multiple personality disorder”).
Over time, I realized that it’s not just patients who had Dissociative Identity Disorder that need to pay attention to all the different parts of themselves when they internally communicate.
The fact is, we’re all kind of shattered.
We all have conflicting parts of ourselves and voices inside.
We all need to learn about and pay attention to the various parts of ourselves.
We all need to learn the skill of talking to ourselves and listening to ourselves in specific ways; and we all have to develop the patience and discipline to utilize our internal communication skills, often every day.
If we communicate only with a few parts of ourselves that we like or approve of, and neglect those parts of ourselves that we dislike or are ashamed of…then those neglected, unseen, unheard parts of us become the parts of us that are most likely to unexpectedly rear up and kick our asses.
Do you ever wonder why you self-sabotage?
There are lots of reasons why people self-sabotage, ranging from ineffective planning to fear of success to disordered attention. But a very common reason people self sabotage is: they haven’t paid sufficient attention to certain parts of themselves, and those parts are trying to be heard…in the only way they know how.
Think about it: it’s not the parts of yourself that you are comfortable with and proud of that cause you problems.
It’s the parts of you that you try to keep hidden, that cause you shame and fear, that most often pop up right when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough or success to crash the party.
Why do they do that?
They do that because they’ve been neglected, “stuffed” down, in the hope that if they’re just kind of shoved in the closet or under the bed, they’ll go away on their own.
Spoiler alert: they won’t.
They won’t go away on their own because they have important things to say.
They “hold” important parts of your experience.
Just because they’re not attractive or convenient or pleasant to think about doesn’t mean they don’t need things from you.
If you expect to live your life in a conscious, goal-oriented, integrated way, you need to pay attention to those neglected parts of yourself.
The bad memories. The shameful impulses. The “young,” immature you that lives hidden behind the “adult,” supposedly more mature you that you show the world.
All parts of us need to be acknowledged with compassion and acceptance.
Some people don’t want to look at or deal with the parts of themselves that they find unacceptable because they think that acknowledging those parts with compassion and acceptance makes it more likely that they’ll do things that those parts want them to do, but which are incompatible with their adult identity.
For example, some people think that if they acknowledge the “angry” parts themselves, it’ll make them more likely to lash out in anger.
Or they think if they acknowledge the sexual parts of themselves, they’re more likely to act out sexually.
Actually, the exact opposite is true: if you DON’T acknowledge those parts of yourself, THAT makes those parts more likely to come roaring up when you least expect them and try to yank control of your life away.
It’s the “pink elephant” rule. Right now, try, really hard, to NOT think about a pink elephant.
What are you thinking about?
That’s right. A pink elephant.
So try NOT to think about how angry or sexual you are.
The good news is, we can learn to communicate among all the parts of ourselves. We can learn to take care of the parts of ourselves that need care. We can learn to acknowledge the feelings of angry, hurt parts of ourselves without acting out. We can develop a relationship with all parts of ourselves that is constructive and non-toxic.
But it takes practice.
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