"I was initially amazed to discover that when I was able to help clients access their Self (an essence of calm, clarity, compassion, and connectedness), they would spontaneously begin to relate to their parts (thoughts, emotions, sensations, and impulses that aim to protect more vulnerable parts that went into exile at a time when it wasn't safe for them to be expressed) in the loving way that the textbooks on attachment theory prescribed...So why is this important? For one thing, if you can become what I call the primary caretaker of your own parts, then you free intimate partners (or therapists, children, parents, etc.) from the responsibility of taking care of raw and needy exiles (the vulnerable, unhealed parts). Those people then can act as the secondary caretakers of your parts, which is a much more enjoyable and feasible role.
Most of us have that reversed. Our exiles don't trust our Self and consequently they and the protectors who try to get them to calm down are looking outside of us to get what they need. When we encounter a person who resembles the profile exiles have of their ideal protector, redeemer, or lover, they feel elated, infatuated, and relieved. Through what is called positive transference, our parts put distorted images on such people, who can't help but disappoint those extreme expectations. Then comes the negative transference from angry protectors."
—Richard C. Schwartz, PHD, No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model, (p. 69).
Who among us does not want to feel loved and supported?
Valentine's Day can be a reminder that it's part of the human experience to give and receive love, but for those of us who can feel others emotions (including the dense ones) within our own body, we typically have a protector part that I'll call "the people-pleaser" that believes it's safer to give than receive. It's thinking goes like this: if everyone else is at peace, then I can be at peace.
If this part has played an active role in your life, it's likely that, as a child, your gifts of fun and play, and the ability to tune into your own needs and desires were exiled in order to minimize feeling the dense emotions around you. This people-pleasing (e.g, stop crying/yelling, take care of siblings...) was an effective way to feel a sense of belonging and ensure that your needs would be met by your caregivers; however, protector parts like this one tend to continue into your adult years and get in the way of your ability to create the life you want to live.
This conditional way of relating can work for decades until your authentic Self wants to be expressed. That's when the parts of you associated with frustrating health conditions, and exhaustion show up to protect you from the perceived dangers that came along with authentic expression. In addition, it makes you a magnet for one-sided relationships.
All the while, this young, exiled (unhealed) part continues to have its needs go unmet—making you vulnerable to manipulation by those who prefer one-sided relationships (with energy directed toward their side).
So how can you stop being a magnet for one-sided relationships, and start attracting those that have the capacity for an unconditional loving relationship?
The key is to extend unconditional love to all of the parts within you (e.g., the "people-pleaser" and "the inner critic" and "the angry part" and "the numbing part" and "the vulnerable exiled part"...). This way, you'll be a magnet to those who are leading from their authentic Self (an essence of calm, clarity, compassion, and connectedness) and have the capacity to give and receive love.
If you have a meditation practice, you're familiar with the practice of noticing your thoughts, and the impulses that tempt you to stop, or distract yourself. Some meditation practices also guide you to notice changing physical sensations, and any emotions that arise, but with Parts Work (or what Richard Schwartz calls Internal Family Systems), you can take it a step further, and interact with these different parts of yourself—your thoughts, impulses, sensations and emotions.
While healing the wounded exiled part may require additional support (e.g., reading about Internal Family Systems, reaching out to a therapist trained in this area, or a mind-body coach/shamanic practitioner like me who can facilitate the process...), the following steps can bring awareness to the various parts of you that have played a part in protecting you from further harm. Note: It's important that you start with the protector parts before directing your attention to the exiles as it can activate other protector parts that have more intense ways of preventing (emotional) overwhelm to the system.
Step 1: Identify a distraction, or thought, that seems to get in the way of your dreams. This could be your inner critic, or people-pleaser, or a tension area in your body. Whatever shows up for you in the moment is an indication that it is ready to connect. Note: The intention of this exercise is not to change this protector part, or get rid of it. Instead, you're just going to interact with it, and extend your appreciation so it can potentially create the space needed for more of your authentic Self to come through.
Step 2: Ask yourself, "How do I feel towards this part?"
If curious, continue.
If other emotions and thoughts appear (fear, frustration...), ask if they could give you some space and allow you to be curious towards the protector part
If yes, continue
If you get a "no," work with that part as your Step 1.
Step 3: Notice where you feel this part in your body, and ask it the following questions:
- What is your purpose?
- What do you do in this role?
- What are you afraid will happen if you no longer did this job?
- Why is that so bad/an issue?
- If you could have a job that you would love to do, what would you do instead?
- How old do you think I am? (See what age pops into your awareness, then share your true age and notice its reaction)
Step 4: Extend your appreciation to the protector part for all that it has done for you—protecting your system from becoming overwhelmed—so you can experience greater relaxation, and navigate change using the wisdom of your authentic Self.
With these steps, you bring awareness, love, and attention, to a particular part that may no longer be serving you in its current role, and may elect to take on a new role that would feel more supportive at this point in your life. Interacting with it in this way offers an opportunity for your authentic Self to come through and extend unconditional love to it, as well as the exiled parts it's been protecting, which builds greater trust that your authentic Self can lead your decision-making and choose relationships that feel more supportive.
This can seem confusing, but I love facilitating this process for clients in their private sessions, so please feel free to reach out with any questions!
P.S. I'll be walking participants through this in more detail during my "Recover Your Energy After Unsupportive Relationships: March 9th at 6pm via Zoom ($27). Click here for more details and to register: https://www.meetup.com/women-who-flow/events/
P.P.S. If you'd like to consider a private session, please feel free to schedule a free discovery call where we can clarify the part that needs attention and share resources and whether we are a fit (no obligation to invest): https://calendly.com/kellycmullen/30-min