Why therapy works - know thy selves

Why therapy works - know thy selves

Very often people seek out therapy because they have a problem they want to fix. They believe they should know what to do about a specific person or situation or be able to ‘cure’ themselves of a particular affliction such as anxiety, depression or addiction.

It is not long before they realise that they are much more complicated than they thought, as well as being a lot more fabulous!

It is actually a relief to realise that we are not in fact a totally consistent being, but a multiplicity of beings. Sometimes these different ‘parts’ do have conflicting needs and desires, but very often they are a delightful cacophony of the playful, the exotic, the sinful, the powerful and the rebellious. These parts are often full of vitality and can give us fresh insights into what we need to do or bring into our lives in order to experience greater joy and serenity.

Each ‘part’ or sub-personality has a style and motivation of its own and when a humorous, non-judgemental attitude is applied, it can learn to work in unison with the other sub-personalities like a harmonious orchestra, rather than a solo instrument struggling to be heard above the rest.

In my experience there is only one exception to the delightful crowd of sub-personalities and that is the ‘inner critic’ or ‘judge’, who is best understood as the internalised voice of a negative inner parent. This is the voice that devalues you and finds countless reasons why you can’t do something or won’t succeed. The inner critic must be silenced and stopped and this does require on-going vigilance, especially at first. However, once he or she has been banished, you will find that the other sub-personalities have greater permission to ‘come out and play’ so for example you might find your fearless warrior self stridently emerges or you get better acquainted with your 'Aphrodite part' who is creative, instinctual, passionate and sensual.

To get to know a sub-personality sit quietly and consider one of your prominent traits, attitudes or motives and allow an image to emerge representing it. Take time to notice its appearance, (it may be a person, animal, monster, object or anything else in the universe!) its movement, expression and its qualities. Make it a multi-sensory experience by involving all of your senses; smell, sight, sound, taste.

Explore the sensations and feeling that arise – you might even want to move or act something out or draw the sub-personality and give it a name. There are no good or bad sub-personalities, they are all expressions of vital elements of our being even if they seem negative or repulsive at first. Often, they have evolved to protect us, but their true purpose is to help us accept all of who we are so that we keep evolving and integrating.

As we get to know these parts or sub-personalities we can stop being controlled or limited by them and learn to regulate, care for and enjoy them. We become flexible in our approach harmonising our sub-personalities within a flexible whole and ultimately understanding and integrating the hidden potential they carry.

Although you can discover your sub-personalities alone it is really helpful to get to know them with the aid of a therapist, who can guide you through active visualisations and support you in the process.
Sometimes, a therapist might use figurines, such as animals and birds or a selection of interesting stones and crystals that you can hold and feel and get in touch with on a physical, intuitive and sensate level.

Over time as you get to know these different ‘people’ who pepper your psyche you will experience a greater sense of peace and gratitude. Your different parts will become more and more synergistic with each other and you will understand the paradox that Carl Rogers identified.

‘When I can accept myself as I am, then I can change’.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
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Written by Sally Turberville Smith, Dipl. Psych, MBACP, UKCP. Individual & Couple counsellor
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist specialising in relationship issues. I work with individuals and couples who want to understand themselves, their choices and their behaviours better so that they can live happier, more fulfilling lives with less conflict and a greater sense of conn...

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