The Internal Family System

Since I discovered my inner child early in my recovery process, I have worked hard to establish a relationship with my inner parts. I have allowed them to be mean to me as they have worked through their anger and grief. I have allowed them to be heard. They have told me their stories, many times for the first time. I have always expressed how we were in this process together. I would never leave them. I would never abandon them. I would not don another mask to quiet them again.

I have written and spoke for many years about the need to treat our inner parts in age-appropriate ways, so they would have the opportunity to finally grow up and become a part of the whole. This could mean integration or it could just mean cooperation. It depends on your take. But one thing is for sure. They are no longer an outsider. I have often cautioned against labeling inner parts as inner critics because it leaves the impression that we can “throw them out”. I have always seen that view point as dangerous.

But I have always been open to new concepts and ideas around recovery. Honestly, my openness has been one of the greatest success factors in my recovery. So when I came to the realization this morning that there might be something else going on, I was confused and concerned. Let me explain.

The Other Part

Lately, I have been working with a new part who seemed to be 20-something. This didn’t surprise me. I know from my friends with DID that older alters are very common. And it made sense. I have been traveling up the age order with my work, so this was a natural progression. I noticed that she was quite adamant about her opinions and very logical. She was so logical that she has convinced me at times that she was the only logical one. Her opinions are very fear-based and she thinks my higher self is a trickster with nothing but evil intentions. Needless to say, establishing trust has been a challenge. I wasn’t sure how or if I would get through to her.

This weekend, I had a major physical shift in my neck. This area has been a fundamental physical component in my recovery. My throat was impacted by physical, emotional and verbal abuse when I was growing up. Since this journey has been about regaining my voice, it is not surprising to me. But right after the shift, I felt a strong drive to journal my feelings. Something needed to be said. It sounded a lot like my 20-something part. But when I started writing, it was much more hostile than she had been in past. The message could be paraphrased to “you have messed up now”. I took it to mean that something she was trying to protect or secure had just been opened for healing.  And she was furious about it.

And that may be true. But this morning, I had another urge to write and it was more of the hostile approach from the weekend. It was very harsh. It was as severe as the verbal abuse from my parents. I didn’t take it personally. I knew it was an aspect of me. But my response surprised me most of all. Instead of trying to convince her that it would be okay and I would be there for her no matter what, I took a different approach. I told her that while I would love to take this journey with her, I would be glad to do it without her. I told her that if she felt the strong need to leave, then she should go.

Letting Go

I was stunned by my response. And I was confused. There is no part of me that can up and leave. That isn’t possible. We have to work together. Then two words hit me from out of nowhere: false self. I was dumbfounded. How could this be a false self? A false self was a mask. A false self wasn’t an entity, was it? I had never heard of such a thing. Could the false self be an actual entity that lived as a part? Was it possible to kick this part out? Is that an aspect of letting go that I had not considered? I know this false self did a great job of hiding from consciousness. Until this morning, I had not recognized this part. She became so angry, she blew her cover.

But this false self has kept me alive for my adult life. She has a very specific approach to life that has worked well for her. In many ways, she uses my strengths but takes them to an extreme. She is independent, distrusting of others, self-serving, independent, willful, controlling, independent, highly logical and full of evidence of the rotten world around her. Did I mention she is independent? She doesn’t want help from others, least of all me. She doesn’t want to cooperate with me. She doesn’t want to explore new options. She wants to stay safe, no matter what the cost to others. And she does not see how my plan of trust, openness and vulnerability is a safe one. She will not change for the sake of my goals. She will not get on board.

So I must let her go. I must let go of all the defenses that saved my life in the first forty years because they don’t serve me any longer. She must pack her bags and go back where she came from. And I must unearth my real, true, whole self, the self who has been waiting to emerge. Or maybe I will do nothing at all. Maybe she is just waiting for the space, the room to move back in. Maybe I have been waiting for her too.