Have you ever been in a situation where you act in a way that doesn’t even make sense to you? For example, you and your partner are arguing and, suddenly, you find yourself yelling, running away, or doing something, that when calm, you would never do? Or do you ever find yourself having trouble believing something about yourself that, at some level, you know is true? My clients will often describe this feeling as some version of, “My head knows its true, but my feelings don’t.”
If this describes you, you’re not alone. We all have different parts, or facets, of ourselves that react to certain situations. Some may call these parts our inner child. I often compare them to the emotions running around in the movie Inside Out. (Side note: if you haven’t watched that movie – do! It’s not just for kids.) In short, when all of us are young, we learn ways to adapt to and manage the world around us. However, if we grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances or experience a traumatic event, the ways we learn to navigate the world as young children or teenagers may no longer serve us well as adults in different environments. By adulthood, we will have learned new ways of connecting, managing stress, and caring for ourselves.
But sometimes, these younger parts of self are triggered by specific situations, and you find yourself acting in a way that doesn’t match how your ‘adult you’ knows how to manage things. This response is usually a sign that a younger part has taken the driver’s seat and might need some care. Our instinct is often to shove these parts away and tell them to shut up, but what they really need is care and compassion. In a previous blog post, I discuss how, when we experience trauma, a part of the brain thinks the trauma is still happening. Using this framework, we can call this part of our brain the trauma part. This trauma part needs the reminder that the messages they learned from trauma aren’t true in the moment and that they are no longer in harm’s way. The good news is, these parts can heal. In combination with trusted others and the Holy Spirit, our true selves have so much healing to offer the hurting parts. We can learn to heal all parts of ourselves instead of constantly being frustrated by them and live a life that feels integrated and congruent with who we want to be.