If you have spent time in the spiritual, self-help or psychology community, you may have heard the term “parts work”. Today, I’m going to explain to you what parts work is as well as offer you one of my simple methods for how to do it. Keep in mind that I could write several books on parts work alone, so what you are going to read in this article is a condensed version of leagues worth of information.
When we introduce ourselves to someone, we call ourselves by one name such as “I am Teal”. We see ourselves and our consciousness as a singularity. The problem is that consciousness is not unified, it is split. It is fragmented. So that you can have a thorough understanding of this, if you have not done so already, I want you to stop this video now and watch my video titled: Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease before you continue to watch the rest of this video.
To reiterate, even though you have one body, within that body, you end up with multiple selves. The best way to picture this is to imagine that inside your body, you have a collection of Siamese twins. They are technically all conjoined because they all share one body. But each one has its own identity, its own desires, needs, perspective, strengths, weaknesses and appearance. There is really no limit to how many can be inside a person.
Again, the mistake we have made within society is to think that only some people suffer from what psychologists call multiple personality disorder. The reality is that all people do. The question is… to what degree? Most people aren’t walking around calling themselves by one name one minute and another name the next. But how many people behave completely differently in one scenario than they do in another? How many people have multiple “sides”? How many people can’t make a decision because they feel torn? These are all indications that we have multiple selves operating within us at any given time. Our degree of internal suffering is about the degree of harmony or lack there of between these internal selves.
Ready to go even deeper? Though trauma is the primary thing which causes the psyche to fragment, upon opting into a physical human body, you already opt into an experience of fragmentation. Each cell in your body has an individual consciousness (which we could call a part) and every organ that is made up of those cells has an individual consciousness (that we could call a part). Looking at it this way, an organ in your body is actually a collective consciousness. And you are more like an ecosystem that goes by one name, which is also a collective consciousness. We could treat any collective consciousness as a singularity so as to completely focus on and learn from it. This is the bedrock of what we are doing with parts work.
Without you knowing it, I just gave you the actual definition for internal peace. Most people think inner peace means you have found some external thing or type of practice that has caused you to finally feel calm and whole and fulfilled. Actually inner peace simply means that these inner twins (all the different parts of you that add up to this amalgamation that you call by your name) are all coexisting harmoniously instead of at war with each other. It is the absence of internal opposition between parts.
Something to understand about parts work is that just like meditation, no one owns the copyright to working with aspects of consciousness. Any person with a methodology that includes parts work has their own philosophy and approach to parts work. I am no exception. When I teach you about parts work, I am going to be presenting my methodology and approach. I have many important reasons for why I suggest to do it the way that I suggest you to do it. There are so many different philosophies and methods and techniques that fall into the category of parts work. Parts work is simply the term that has caught on to represent the ideology behind them all. For example you have Internal Family Systems, Gestalt, Inner Shamanic Journey Work, Freudian psychology, Art therapy, Play therapy, Acting Schools, Jungian psychology, Inner Child Work, Ego State Theory, Voice Dialogue and the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that shadow work is essentially techniques, practices and processes that make you aware of what is subconscious within you. Most of your ‘parts’, you are totally unconscious of. So parts work is technically a shadow work process.
You can do parts work by yourself and/or you can do it with someone facilitating and guiding you through it. Today, I’m going to teach you how to do it if you are by yourself. You can go deep into the consciousness of only one part of yourself. In fact, this can be a great way to become conscious of yourself. But I’m going to show you how to work with two parts that are in a state of opposition because this opposition between two selves is the primary cause of distress in your life.
First, identify the parts you are going to work with. For the sake of this example, lets imagine that a woman is overworked and her body is breaking down. But no matter what she does, she can’t stop and relax. It is then safe to assume that there is a part of her that needs to relax and a part of her that will not let her relax. She is going to feel into which one is more dominant or present and in control to start. So lets imagine that the part which is more “up” right now is the part that needs relaxation. She is now going to set up two chairs in a room. She is going to pick one of those chairs and when she sits down in it, she is going to sit down AS only that part of her that needs relaxation.
The best way to imagine this is to imagine that she is a method actor and in that moment, she is only diving into the perspective of and becoming that one part of herself, as if it were the totality of her. Another way of thinking about this is that by sitting in that one chair, you are channeling only that one part of you and allowing it to take over your whole body and awareness. She is going to spend some time getting used to it as if she is in a foreign being. She will consider things like ‘what do I feel like?’ ‘How big or small am I?’ Do I feel female or male? Human or not human? How old do I feel? Where do I feel like I am? Essentially, to begin with, you are simply becoming aware of it without asking it to express or questioning it.
From there, you have a choice to communicate in a written or spoken format as this part (keep in mind that some parts are less communicative and verbal than others). Some people choose to record themselves doing this if they are speaking. Others prefer to write. If you have chosen to write and find it difficult at first to simply let the truth belonging to one of your parts to flow through you, consider writing with the hand you do not usually write with. It doesn’t matter if it is messy. Your non dominant hand is more connected to your subconscious mind. This woman in our example will then begin to write or speak as this part. What is its current truth? What does it need to say or need you or others to hear? Seeing as how the part this woman in our example just went into is the part that needs relaxation, it may write or say things like “I’m just so tired. I literally can’t do this anymore. I don’t like life anymore. Every day is just a grid, what kind of life is that? I don’t even like what I liked anymore etc. Let it express as much as it wants. You may feel questions arise from somewhere deep inside you. You can ask these questions to this part. Things like “when did this start or when did things change for you?” Or “what would you be doing instead if you could do anything and why?” Any question that arises can help you to gain deeper clarity about this part of you. Two questions that you need to remember to ask are how this part feels about the central personality. For example if it were me, I would ask, “how do you feel about Teal”. Also ask how this part feels towards the part on the opposite or other side of it (the other side of the split). In this case, the part that will not let the woman in our example, stop and relax. Don’t be surprised if it has no awareness of the other part. Also understand that it can have any type of relationship with the other part. It may hate the other part, love the other part, consider the other part a protector, minimize the other part etc. Any relationship that is possible in the outside world is possible in the inside world.
When it feels like this first part has said what it wants and needs to say and you’ve explored it so as to have a good understanding of it, and when it feels willing for you to explore the other part, you are going to stand up from the chair. When you do this, imagine leaving that part of you sitting in the chair. You are going to turn back around and look at the chair you just came out of as if that part of you is sitting in front of you. Imagine, sense or feel that part of you. Your perspective of it from this “middle point perspective” will often be different than the perspective you had of it when you were inside of it. What does this tell you about yourself? Using our example, the woman might notice that when she was inside this part and sitting in the chair, it felt older like a stressed out version of herself but that when she stood up, suddenly that part sitting in the chair mentally looks like a young slave from the 1200s.
The next step is to sit down in the other chair you set up in the room. But when you do this, this time, you are sitting down as the opposite part. Using our example, this woman will sit down as the part of herself that refuses to let her relax. She is going to repeat the exact same process as she did with the first part, but with this part now. Seeing as how the part this woman in our example just went into is the part that refuses to grant relaxation, it may write or say things like “I can’t afford to relax. People who need relax are pathetic. Life will come crumbling down around me if I let go of any of the balls I have in the air” etc. Let it express as much as it wants. Question it if you are able to split your consciousness enough to do so. Again, the two questions that you need to remember to ask are how this part feels about the central personality. For example, if it were me, I would ask, “how do you feel about Teal” and how this part feels towards the part on the opposite or other side of it (the other side of the split). In this case, the part that needs relaxation.
When it feels like this second part has said what it wants and needs to say and you’ve explored it so as to have a good understanding of it, you are going to again stand up from the chair. When you do this, just like you did the first time, imagine leaving that part of you sitting in the chair. You are going to turn back around and look at the chair you just came out of as if that part of you is sitting in front of you. Imagine, sense or feel that part of you. Your perspective of it from this “middle point” will often be different than the perspective you had of it when you were inside of it. What does this tell you about yourself? Using our example, the woman might notice that when she looks at it, it appears to be a very serious version of herself that acts and feels a lot like her mother. This of course gives her the clue that this part of her may just be an internalization of her mother, which looks to have taken over her mother’s job of beating her into responsibility productivity and work ethic. Also take a moment to look at both parts now, as if they were both sitting in their respective chairs in front of you, what do you notice about them when you imagine, sense or feel them both sitting in front of you?
If you allow your awareness to touch these parts, the process of integration will already be occurring. So technically, you could simply become aware of them and make them aware of each other and that will have initiated the healing. However, the aim of this kind of parts work is to create a conflict resolution between these opposed parts. You can consider your intention to be to bring enough awareness to each part that each part begins to release its resistance to the other and finds alignment instead. You can go back into the first or second parts as many times as you want to or feel called to in order to create this ‘resolve’ between them. Simply remember to come back into the ‘center point perspective’ each time you do this. By setting this intention, you are acting as a kind of mediator for your own two parts.
When you are doing this, if one part does not begin to agree with the other, I don’t want you to think about striking a compromise. You can’t force resolve and compromise is damaging. Compromise means, I’ll take some pain and you’ll take some pain in order for us to stay connected. Instead, you want to be focused on the ‘third option’. The third option is something that is a “yes this feels good to both of us”. Using our example, the part that will not allow relaxation may begin to see how much damage it is doing and that continuing to disallow relaxation is leading to a burn out (where being unable to be productive is a guarantee). It may also remember that it used to feel like hell to be treated like a slave by mom and see that it is doing the same thing to the other part. This may lead to it agreeing to get on board with relaxation and deciding with the other part what that relaxation might look like. This may lead the first part to reassure the second that it will feel more motivated to work if it gets that relaxation and even thank it for being so driven.
When parts begin to merge and re integrate, it can feel like the two have reached peace or agreement. It can also feel like they are literally dissolving into one. The goal is for the tension between them to turn into relief and alignment.
Eventually, when your system gets used to parts work, your “awakened ego” will become stronger and stronger and your parts themselves will gain awareness and so they will be increasingly oriented towards and interested in finding alignment. As a result, what you will notice is that they will begin to soften quickly and without having to go into each one over and over, they will begin to merge into one or one may even choose to disappear because that part does not have a role it wants to fill anymore.
Here are some important things to remember. I don’t care how hateful, violent, difficult, avoidant, narcissistic, unaware or whatever else a part may be, it is abusive to hold an attitude of negative judgment or criticism towards a part when you are working with it. This can in fact enhance a split and make the conflict between your parts worse. The right attitude to have is curiosity and the intention to offer it awareness that will help it, not even to change it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen people approach one of their parts thinking it needed to change, when really it was the one holding the truth. But for the sake of understanding this, imagine you are an addict and I walk up to you and tell you, “Don’t you see how messed up you are? You’re ruining everyone’s lives. Who is stupid enough to keep hurting people even if you know you’re doing it?” How open are you going to be to me? Are you going to soften or go into more resistance to me? Are you going to open your truth to me or close down? A thing must become softer in order to change. So act in a way relative to this process that inspires willingness, openness and softness.
Also, the reason that I consider it critical to step into the ‘center point perspective’ is because this integrative process is also a conscious dis-identification process. This does not only help with self-awareness. If you go all the way into a part and then step out of that part, you are realizing a very powerful truth. You are seeing that you are at one time, all of these parts and therefore no one single part. This causes your identity to grow in the direction of oneness, which can be considered the awakened or enlightened ego. I know when I say that an ego can be awakened or enlightened, you may feel yourself choke. But don’t worry, to understand this concept better, you can watch my video titled: Oneness is not the ultimate truth if this universe. When you get that you are all and therefore none of these parts, suddenly you become choice. You can draw from the incredible resources of any part. They no longer have control over you. In this way, parts work becomes one of the methods to actualize enlightenment.
Most of the time when fragmentation occurs within the psyche, you will be dealing with a polarity. This means two opposed parts. There can be an exception, when a vulnerable part has two protector parts that are opposed to one another. This is much more rare and I call it a three way split. But here is the good news, you don’t need to know both parts to do parts work. You can start with one, such as “the part of me that is committed to my relationship” and when you go into the other one, it can simply be as loose as “the one on the other side of this one or the one behind this one”. Doing parts work in this way can be quite effective because when you go into the perspective, you are staying totally open to what it actually is, instead of projecting that it is the part that isn’t committed to your relationship. The opposing part in this example could be the part of you that is in a state of learned powerlessness and that is convinced the relationship will end no matter what you do.
If someone is facilitating you in parts work, the difference here is that they are acting as a kind of guide and mediator of the entire process. They become the ultimate relationship therapist between your parts.
Until you go into your parts, you have as much awareness about yourself as your neighbor has about you… Mostly a mix of paltry observations, judgments and projections. You never know what the truth and actual perspective can be until you dive deep into a part. It will shock you and surprise you how incredibly different it can be from what you expect. It will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”.
There are a million tips and tools and suggestions to make your parts work more effective. There are a million awarenesses you will gain about parts work and the psyche and consciousness itself and the universe at large by doing parts work. But consider this your crash course. As with anything, the more you practice, the better and better you’ll get at it. Just be aware that the part of you that is doing the parts work, may just be a ‘part’ in and of itself!