Inside each of us are several characters. These parts are all ‘us’, but they are distinct from one another. What distinguishes these parts is the roles they play in managing our lives. We are, at the same time, the nice guy, the responsible gal, the tactful them. We play many roles in different aspects of our lives. At work we are cordial and diligent. In bed we are adventurous and raw. As athletes we are courageous and assertive. These different roles help us achieve different goals and help us get along with the dynamic and varied people we interact with each day.
What’s most interesting to me is how these parts develop and WHY they exist the way they do. During my decade of therapy and self-help I have learned that my parts, or characters, were developed in childhood – mostly to alleviate some pain or fear. I learned to embrace ‘being smart’ and a part was born that felt better about himself if he reminded himself that, well, at least he was smarter than some people. I have other parts that similarly justify their pretentious or arrogant beliefs because they protect me from sadness, separation, or isolation. We all have these parts we’re not proud of, but they served us well during times of duress when there were no adults around to guide us or teach us a better way.
In other words, many of the parts we carry into adulthood are the result of decisions made made to help us survive a scary or dangerous situation in our youth. Again, at the time these parts were formed, they served their purpose most excellently in helping us survive, feel better, or to find peace. But as we grow, we can learn better ways and we have new experiences that can modify our behaviors. Except that’s not always what happens. Often, these parts become stronger through habituated repetition over time. Often times we DON’T learn and apply new information because these parts are so strong. Especially when trauma is repetitive and frequent. I was repetitively bullied, and relied on my ‘being smart’ part to make me feel better about being a weak target for bigger kids. This made me feel better throughout my youth, but as I grew taller and the bullies stopped picking on me, I was left with a pretentious arrogance that negatively affected me as an adult. It has taken a long time to understand this part, to console it, and to help it find peace. As I understand these parts I am able to make better choices when I interact with people, to feel safer, and to grow.
With apologies to people suffering from true multiple personality disorder, I offer an explanation about how we are comprised of many parts as a way of better understanding ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. In the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, it is essential to understand how we are organized so that we can better organize our beliefs and values.
Or please subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app.
Full YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/QdMfsVc1wfc