Imagine yourself in the line at the grocery store and the person in front of you suddenly realizes that they’ve forgotten to get a carton of eggs. Normally this wouldn’t upset you, but today you find yourself immediately angry because you’ll now have to wait an extra five minutes to complete your check out. That’s a part. One evening, you’re sitting on the couch watching TV. A commercial comes on and Sarah McLachlan’s “In The Arm’s of An Angel” starts playing; you find yourself sobbing into your blanket. That’s a part. During lunch, one of your friends at school says to you, “I can’t make it to the game Friday night. Something else came up.” You instantly feel sad and rejected, assuming that you’ve been ditched because something better came along. That, too, is a part. We all have different parts – sadness, happiness, joy, frustration, anger, resentment, disappointment, rejection, etc. Each part plays a role in us being us and each part has something to say whether we want to hear it or not. Problems arise when we don’t allow ourselves to listen to what our parts have to say.
As humans, we are complex. Our brain is constantly processing new information while drawing on past experiences and thinking about future possibilities. With this, the emotional center of our brain is always on, ready to send out either warning flares if things become too intense to tolerate or self hugs if things feel good and are validating. This is when our “parts” start to pop up and begin to do a dance with our true, genuine, authentic self. It is through this dance that we instinctively decide which parts are going to lead and which parts are going to get pushed aside.
Imagine yourself in the middle of an empty room, waiting for a party to start. The doors to the room open and your different parts start to file in. Here comes: happiness, excitement, contentment, joy, security, bliss, and gratitude. Storming in behind them are: anger, frustration, sadness, rejection, disappointment, abandonment, rage, fear, and insecurity. You find yourself quickly glancing around to see where everyone will position themselves in the room. Who’s going to come up and talk to you first? Who do you hope will stay on the perimeter of the room keeping their distance from you? You begin to notice that certain parts are forming cliques and banding together. Happiness and security seem to be hitting it off well and come up to dance with you while anger, resentment, and fear are huddled together in the corner, glaring at the three of you. Out of no where, self-doubt taps you on your shoulder and happiness and security slowly fade off into the distance. The next thing you know, anxiety, fear, anger, and insecurity have circled around, you trying to get your attention by starting a mosh pit. Try as you might to push these four away, they stand their ground insisting that you listen to them. All you want is for happiness and security come back in and save you but now you can’t even see them because the circle of negativity has become too tight. This is when you find yourself ready to yell at the woman at the grocery store because she forgot her eggs. Obviously it’s not about the eggs; it’s about your parts and how they hijacked your genuine self.
What is it that anxiety, fear, anger, and insecurity wanted to say to you? Perhaps the more important question is, why did you want so desperately to get away from them and not listen to their stories? Maybe if you had leaned into them a little, welcomed them into the circle, and had given them the attention that they yearned for, you wouldn’t have found yourself ready to yell at the lady in the grocery store. I know, I know...uncomfortable feelings are just that – uncomfortable. No one wants to feel them nor give them any attention, but maybe they have something important to tell you. Perhaps if you’d give them a few moments of your attention and tolerate their discomfort, you’ll find that they’re not so scary after all. It’s possible that they just need someone to hear them say that they’re sad, hurt, scared, or lonely. More than likely they really just want you to give them a hug and acknowledge their words. Just as we don’t like to get pushed aside, our parts don’t like it either.
The next time you find yourself having some uncomfortable or painful feelings, give yourself the grace to pause and listen to those feelings. What part is rearing it’s voice and what is it that it’s trying to say? Try something different and allow your true self to listen to that part and show it the same compassion and respect that your true self wants. Rather than reject or hide away that part, identify and embrace it for it’s a piece of your identity quilt. If you find that listening to these parts is too intense to do alone, reach out to a therapist for support. In challenging yourself to interact with these parts differently, you’ll very likely find that your parts dance will shift from being a clumsy square dance to a smooth and engaged waltz.