What is Parts Therapy?
Imagine for a moment that you are standing on a stage in a dark auditorium. The spotlight is on you. You can’t really see much of anything. But you can hear the crowd. Now, let the spot light scan over the crowd. You can see them, spread out before you, cheering you on! You can hear their screams of delight and adoration.
Well, okay, maybe that’s a stretch… But it’s a great analogy for what’s really going on inside of you. Your conscious mind is the one that gets all the attention. It’s the part of us that we think of when we refer to ourselves as “me.” But that is not even the tip of the iceberg. Your conscious mind is but a small part of you. The rest of you takes care of the mundane work of keeping your heart pumping, digesting food, maintaining blood pressure, blood sugar, hormone levels, and so forth. And that’s just the physical aspects, not to mention all the cognitive functions.
The mind has a truly stunning ability to anthropomorphize anything. What’s so stunning about it is, when you give something a face, or a body, or a being, your mind naturally ties the things together. Once tied together, the image that you see in your mind can tell you things about the reality that it represents. And if you change the object or person, you change the underlying reality that it represents!
What this means is that you can give a part of you a face and a voice, then converse with that “part” of you, and learn from it, and negotiate with it, and convince it to change. Once you are successful at getting the image of that “part” to change, it actually changes whatever underlies that part!
The parts may not always be anthropomorphized. You can give an idea a face, or you can let it take the form of an animal. Or you can create a “control panel” or “gauges” that represents and offers access to the physical systems of the body. For example:
Trying to lose weight? Imagine a gauge. Now imagine that the gauge represents your body’s blood sugar level. Know that if the needle ever points straight down, you are dead, because there is no energy in your blood, not even pulled from stored fat reserves or stolen from muscles. And if the needle is pointing straight up, you are probably experiencing brain damage, and about dead, because there is just too much sugar in your blood. Know that there is an ideal range, where your body and mind function at peak performance. In that range, you will neither gain weight, nor lose weight. In that range, your metabolism will ramp up, and you will feel fantastic. Now, imagine that the gauge has a green band that represents where the needle would need to point to be in that optimum range. Now imagine another range, marked with some other color, such as yellow, or white, which represents the optimum weight loss range. It is just a bit lower than the bottom of the green band. It is a much narrower band, too, most likely. Now, make a note: where does your needle point right now? If you were my client, I would also walk you through the process of setting alarms on either side of the weight-loss zone, and making associations for what to do when the alarms go off, and how to re-calibrate the gauge every time you use it. But you get the point.
Or maybe you are struggling with feelings of inadequacy, or nagging thoughts. Stop for a moment, and pay some attention to those thoughts. If those thoughts were a person, what would their voice sound like? What would they look like? Young, or old? Male, or female? Strong, or weak? Who do you know that might say things like that? Whether it is someone in your life, or someone you imagine? Take some time to really strengthen the image by making note of all the details, such as color of the eyes, shape of the face, hair color and style and length, clothing, height, gestures and body language, everything about them. Sounds like your mother? Great! What is your mother wearing? What is the expression on her face? Now start with yes or no questions, and watch everything about the image to see how it changes as you ask the questions. “Are you the one that is giving me those nagging thoughts?” “You have my best interests at heart, don’t you?” Once you have established an ability to get simple yes or no answers from the “part” you can work your way up to more complex communication. Try asking questions where the answer is an emotion, and watch them for the answer to appear in their appearance or behavior or the sounds that they make. Questions like “How does it make you feel when I do this?” “How would it make you feel if I did that?” Finally, graduate up to letting the image speak to you. “Okay, Mom, what EXACTLY is it you want me to do?” Then, once you have identified exactly what she wants, you can then proceed to talk to her about what you want, and see if you can’t come to an understanding. Come up with a plan of action that satisfies you and her. And even though you were just talking to a figment of your imagination, an amazing side-effect happens: The nagging voice disappears!
Parts therapy is a very valuable way of getting at your own inner wisdom, as well as affecting changes in your life. Give it a try! See where it leads you. It may feel strange at first, but get over it! The rewards will outweigh any sense of silliness you have about talking to yourself like that!