There are no parts of us. We are whole.
Who are we? This is an age-old question that is as perplexing today as it was when it was first conceived. Are we the sum of all our experiences or the characteristics that we have picked up along the way? Or, are we the silent observer who has been listening to our inner monologue since the beginning, without judgement or interruption? Perhaps for now, we will have to settle with remaining perplexed.
As we grow older, multiple parts of us are born through our experiences. If we have been hurt in the past, a part of us may be distrusting towards others. If we feel burnt out, anxious, or depressed, the victim within us may take the wheel to give us the space we need to feel freely. Similarly, when we are done hurting, the nurturing part of us will appear to nurse us back to good health.
There are many parts of us and each of them compete for acknowledgement, recognition, and control at varying times. This is the reason we find ourselves acting inconsistently across different areas of our lives.
At work, we may be a beacon of stability whereas in our personal lives, we struggle to keep it together. In our free time, we may crave the thrill of adventure but on a day-to-day basis require the controlled repetition of routine. We may feel secure in our friendships but constantly insecure in our intimate relationships.
All the different parts of us do their best to work collaboratively to help us navigate the world, but they often get tangled up and trip over each other.
In some cases, the interests of one part of us is in direct conflict with the other. For an alcoholic, a drink helps numb the pain, but it also numbs their ability to be present with others. For someone who has experienced heart break, one part may sabotage relationships to protect herself from being hurt at the expense of the other part that craves deep intimacy.
Every part of us that exists is born out of necessity. We are not involved in a conscious process of creating these identities and even when we are, we are not able to predict the consequences that will follow. New identities are born to provide immediate solutions to imminent problems.
When we ask ourselves how a pattern of thought or behavior serves us, it gives us deep insight into why it appeared in the first place. If we investigate it further, we can trace it back to its origin. If we look close enough, we will find that it was born from a place of innocence.
This means that the part of us that gets defensive or lashes out at the ones we love was born for a reason. It means the side of us that may break other people down to make ourselves feel better helps us to manage our own lack of self-worth. Similarly, our desire to fit in can help us to navigate challenging social situations.
Every identity is indifferent to the consequences that it creates. It is born to fulfill a purpose and that is all that it knows.
Every part of us is a product of a particular time in our lives. As circumstances change, the need for some of these parts become obsolete; however, if we fail to re-integrate them properly, they remain dormant until we are faced with situations that cause them to reemerge.
The part of someone who experiences jealousy may become obsolete when they are not in a relationship. However, as soon as they are back in one, the dormant part of them remerges. Similarly, a person who has built up their self-esteem may not feel good enough when they are in the presence of a parent or sibling who always criticizes them.
When these kinds of re-emergence of past identities occur, it can be very painful and makes us feel as though we have regressed.
Most of us have identities that we are extremely fond of and others that we wish we could do without. We may be fond of the identity that loves to kick back, relax, and spend time with our loved ones. We probably do not feel as fondly about the part of us that second guesses ourselves at every turn.
When we encounter the parts of us that we like, we want to hold on to them, give them a pat on the back and say, “great job,” whereas the ones we are not so fond of, we are inclined to find a dumpster in a dark alley behind which we can dispose of them.
It is extremely problematic when there are parts of us that we try to cut out.
The act of cutting out a part of us is by nature a condemnation of ourselves. The attempt is intrinsically self-deprecating. There are certain parts of us that we need to let go of, but the answer is not to cut them out.
Let’s explore this phenomenon in action.
David is a boisterous, fun loving person who is the life of every party. One night, tragedy strikes unexpectedly: while driving a couple of friends home from a party after he has had a few drinks, he gets into a terrible accident that kills both of his best friends. He survives the accident but suffers injuries that cause constant and nagging pains to his neck and shoulder. To manage the physical pain, he starts taking painkillers and to manage the psychological pain, he turns to harder substances.
These substances allow David to escape from his pain temporarily and in the moment, escape feels like the most loving thing David can do for himself. Just like that, out of necessity, the identity of the addict is born.
This identity is then commissioned by David, to consume David, to a point where his pain is almost non-existent. After experiencing years of feeling little to nothing, David realizes that there may be no return for him unless he makes an immediate change in his life. Suddenly a new identity is born. One that has hope. The challenge for David is that the addict has made himself at home. This is the internal conflict and tango that David must now step into.
Since David has started his rehabilitation, the identity of the addict has become public enemy number one. All of David’s friends and family members take swings at the addict. They let David know that he must get rid of the addict. He must beat the addict. He must be stronger than the addict.
The addict, who was born of innocence to shield David from his own pain is now the bad guy and all the other identities that are a part of David are ganging up on the addict and telling him fuck off. They want the addict to leave, to get out, and to let them resume their normal life.
The addict takes all the hits, all the punches and all the blame. What the other identities fail to realize is that the addict has been protecting all of them so that they can remain unscathed in the first place. The addict was commissioned to carry out these orders and it was fulfilling its duty, which was to protect David from pain that he was not ready to endure. The consequences may not have been positive, but its desire to serve was born of innocence.
The addict doesn’t deserve to be ostracized. The addict must be re-integrated.
David must honor the addict and thank him for his service. He must apologize to the addict for commissioning him to take on this heavy burden. He must let the addict know that he can take things from here and that the addict has successfully fulfilled his purpose. Once the addict is re-integrated, he can finally rest knowing that his service to David has concluded.
What are the parts of you that you try to cut out?
We cannot cut off a foot and then expect ourselves to run faster. Cutting out parts of us is never the solution; re-integration is.
There are no parts of us and there never have been. We are whole.