We often experience a battle between two or more parts of ourselves, usually allowing the same part to win the battle every time. For instance, you may experience a struggle between the relaxed part and the achiever, or the “I want this now” part and the “I better save” part, or the “I don’t want to make waves” part and the “I deserve to be treated fairly” part.
In this last example, it may take being emotionally pummeled and worn out to finally be able to confront mistreatment. Yet, when you ultimately stand up for yourself after giving in to abuse or injustice for a long time, you’re likely to do so in a highly-charged way because that part has been repressed for so long.
While we allow our different inner voices to battle it out, we often end up listening to the same particular inner voice every time — our “primary” self, whether it’s the pleaser, the rule-abider, the rebel, etc. The problem is that when we become one-sided, allowing our primary self to make all the decisions, our relationships and life experiences tend to show us how off-balance we are, usually by difficult lessons because we attract people and situations that are drawn to our weakness.
For instance, if we always go along with others, even when they are self-serving or abusive, we will be exploited and hurt. Occasionally, the other side — the “disowned” part of ourselves — in this case our self-preservation, might flare up. Yet, explosive reactivity is not well integrated, and thus rarely very effective.
How do we avoid becoming emotionally crushed before we make a change in our lives?
Ideally, we free ourselves from the enchantment of the primary part of ourselves. Then we can truly listen to both the primary part and the “disowned” part, rather than simply choosing between the two. It’s similar to running a business. You make better decisions if you listen to all the pertinent departments — perhaps accounting, production, AND sales, rather than choosing only one department to listen to.
It is more difficult and time-consuming to pay attention to all our various needs and desires, such as going along with others and preserving our dignity, and to make a complex decision involving intricacy rather than black or white thinking. Yet, when we take the time to do so, the result will be more balance and wholeness in the way we feel and the choices we make in our lives.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD