I had been swimming against the current of acceptance for a very long time, for many reasons. I didn’t want to work any harder on recovery than I already did. And I didn’t want to face the parts of me that I had abandoned, for good reason (or so I thought). One by one, I’ve become less resistant to accepting parts of myself. After all, it’s not like ignoring those parts ever made them go away. They knock at my door every day to remind me that they are still there. Waiting for me to take responsibility for them.
Accepting the many parts
Hopefully, you’ve had the chance to do “parts work”, or you’ve had some exposure to Internal Family Systems Therapy in your recovery process. What this work entails is a very explorative look at your inner parts. What parts of yourself can you identify?
For example, I have a “must be seen as” part, an advocate part, a shameful part, a persistent part, and we just identified my stubborn part. (I was a little resistant to identifying that one.) We all have many parts within us. Each part has a voice and tries to use it. Whether you choose to listen or not is very important. Here’s why; How are you going to heal if you aren’t willing to bring to the surface the parts of you that need healing? And if you don’t heal those parts, how are you going to move forward in recovery with a strong foundation? In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown said, “I can’t rise strong unless I bring all of my wayward girls and fallen women back into the fold. I need them and they need me.”
As scary as it may seem to acknowledge and talk about these parts with your therapist, it is absolutely necessary to heal. I remember the first time I mentioned anything about my “parts.” I was so afraid that my therapist was going to raise her eyebrow and do the head tilt that said, “Oh my, she’s on a new level!” But, to her credit, she jumped right in and started to help me dissect what these parts needed. Back then it was only Anna #1 (independent, cold) and Anna #2 (my feelings part) that I had identified, since then I’ve realized that there are so many more parts, and I love them all!
Most recently, I’ve been working on asking certain parts of myself what they really need, why are they showing up? These parts inside you don’t just show up for fun. They arise within you when there is a need that’s not being met. So how do you find out what they are saying, and how do you take action accordingly?
4 Steps to Accepting Your Parts
1. Be Curious
By simply being curious about this, not searching for an answer, you will learn how to be in tune with your parts. It was frustrating for me at first, because I wanted an answer, like a school exam. I really wanted to go back to therapy with the correct answer. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. As I practiced just acknowledging the presence of a certain part, inquiring what it may be saying, and waiting for a feeling or personal revelation as to what it needs, it became much easier to feel the promptings.
2. Be Kind
I found it very hard to lose my self-critical tendency with these parts. I used to think, “How dare you try to be a part of me!” “I don’t like the way you make me feel, you aren’t welcome here.” Some I wouldn’t even give any thought past a simple, “nope”. What I’m learning is these parts aren’t going away. So if I’m not willing to do my work, we are at a standstill and my recovery process is stagnant. The best thing to do is welcome these parts, even if you really don’t like them right now. Because as you get to know them, you will realize that you have a lot in common – after all, they are part of you.
3. Be Generous
By generous, I mean allowing your parts the space to be seen and heard. Don’t hurry their process. I have a part of me that I have shame around. I’m working on it- it’s my suicidal part. I try to push this part away, far away. It’s a very scary part of me that I’ve been exploring, on and off, for a long time. My current therapist has challenged me to really try to listen to and honor its needs.
I was a bit confused at first. You want me to honor its needs? What could it possibly need? We sat for a while and explored. I love exploring – don’t you? What we realized is the suicidal part of me needs comfort, support, reassurance, grace, and encouragement. That revelation was amazing. I finally knew what I could do!
Rather than wait it out and hope it passes quickly as I try to remain intact, I can let the survivor part of me bolster this part.
I can help myself become more whole by simply comforting that part of me. By supporting it, reaching out for support, and encouraging it: things are going to be okay, you can do this.
4. Be Willing to Honor its Needs
Once you’ve figured out what the parts of you are saying and needing, you must be willing to honor those needs. It may seem like a lot of responsibility because there are a many parts. But it really isn’t. It’s more satisfying work than I have ever done before. I have learned to help my inner parts, and throughout the process I became more whole and feel a much greater sense of belonging. I highly recommend using a journal when you are doing parts work. I even suggest letting the parts write letters to you – without being judgmental.
At first, I thought that if I do this parts work, I would get rid of some of the more “undesirable” parts.
My therapist asked me what parts, specifically, would I want to get rid of. I quickly spewed out, “MY EATING DISORDERED PART!” She acted surprised and asked me why. I explained that life would be a lot simpler without it. It’s the root of all my problems, right?
She then asked if it had done anything for me., I sat for a minute and thought about it, and then at her (I’m sure with an eye roll) and admitted , yes, it had done a lot for me. And I have learned so much because of it. So, I wouldn’t really want to get rid of that part of me. Lesson learned.
The point of this work is to integrate all parts of you so that you are becoming and acting as your whole and authentic self.
You are turning the exclusive way that you’ve been looking at yourself into a totally inclusive way of being.
When accepting the parts is your intention
As you’re exploring these parts, don’t do it with the intention of getting rid of some of them. Do it with the intention of accepting the parts, comforting them, and becoming more whole. Starting to pay more attention to the different parts of you will facilitate growth. As you learn to listen to their needs, you will build a relationship with the parts of yourself that will carry you into sustaining recovery. And create a sense of belonging within yourself.
For so long, you’ve made it very clear that those parts of you sure as hell don’t belong here, inside of you. But now you are making an effort to repair the damage and heal, letting these parts be who they are and need what they need. They now belong to you, and you no longer have to fight, internally, with and against the “undesirables”.
You are on the amazing journey of becoming; becoming who you really are, every last part.