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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Having a Dialogue in Writing Between the Different Parts of Yourself

In my prior article,  Are You Approaching Your Problems From an Adult or Inner Child Perspective?,   I discussed how Ego States therapy can help you to become aware of which aspect of yourself is active in any particular situation and how to shift from one self state to another self state that would be more effective.  In the current article, I'm providing another possible way to access self states through writing.  Throughout this article, I'll be using the terms parts, self states and aspects of self interchangeably.

Having a Dialogue in Writing Between the Different Parts of Yourself

A psychotherapist who does Ego State therapy introduces clients to the idea that everyone is made of many different inner parts.

Many people are already familiar with the concept of the inner child as an internal aspect of themselves.  An Ego States therapist furthers this idea to include many other aspects of the self.  For instance, an adult might have an adolescent self who is operating in a particular situation as I discussed in the prior article.

The aspects of self might also be identified by a particular attitude.  For instance, adult aspects might include a judgmental self, a fearful self, a self who becomes emotionally paralyzed/freezes at times, and so on.

Having a Dialogue in Writing Between the Different Aspects of Yourself
Becoming aware of your self states and making shifts between self states is easier when you have a psychotherapist who does Ego States therapy, but not everyone has access to an Ego States therapist, so you can also access your various self states through writing.

Before you can have a dialogue between self states, you need to identify the self states that are involved in a particular situation.

In order to become aware of self states, you don't need to worry about what you call the particular self states.  You can use whatever names that feel right to you or you can even call them Part A and Part B if you're really not sure how to identify them.

What's more important than labeling them is developing an understanding of each self state.  At first, this might be a very basic understanding and, as you continue to work with these parts, you can develop a more in-depth understanding.

Here's A Fictional Example:
Ted is ambivalent about going back to college.  He has been thinking about it for over a year, and he can't decide what to do.

Sometimes, he feels excited about returning to college to complete his degree and the possibilities that this can open up for him.  But there are also other times when he worries that he won't do well in college and it would be a mistake to return.

His ambivalence has kept Ted feeling confused about what's best for him.  Feeling ambivalent, Ted is at an impasse and he has been unable to make a decision.

Initially, Ted isn't sure what his ambivalence is about.  He knows that there are at least two parts of him that are in conflict about going back to college.  He doesn't know why he's in conflict about it or the root of this internal conflict.

As an experiment, Ted decides to write about this conflict by having a dialogue between Part A, the part that wants to return to college, and Part B, the part that worries that he won't do well and thinks it would be a mistake to return to college.

Having a Dialogue in Writing Between the Different Parts of Yourself

Keeping it simple, Ted begins by giving a voice to Part A and then allowing Part B to respond:

Part A:  I wasn't ready to be in college when I first went a year ago, but now I'm ready and excited to return.  I think it would open up many more job opportunities for me.  I want to go back.

Part B:  I'm worried that this would be a big mistake because you probably won't do well and then it would be a waste of time and money.  It's better not to risk it.

Part A:  I don't understand why you would think that I wouldn't do well.  I didn't leave because my grades weren't good. I left because I wasn't ready to be away from home, but in the last year, I've matured and I'm ready now.  Tell me more about your concerns.

Part B: I'm afraid that if I return, I might get homesick again and want to leave.  Then, I would feel like a failure.

Part A:  I understand your concerns and you might be right, but there are probably ways to address these concerns without giving up on college.

Part B:  Like what?

Part A: If I go away to college and I feel homesick, I can seek counseling at the student counseling center.  I can also choose not to return to the same college.  I could go to a local college instead where I can commute from home.

Part B: Well, those ideas sound like possibilities.  I'm open to considering it.  Let's talk about this again tomorrow.

As Ted continues to dialogue between these two parts of himself that are in conflict, he learns more about the hopes and fears of each part.  He learns the origin of his fears as Part B "talks" about other earlier times in his life when he was afraid to take risks.  In addition, he develops new ideas about how to deal with his fears.

Along the way, he might also identify other parts of himself that are involved in this conflict and gain insight into the role these other parts play.

As he continues to dialogue with these parts in writing and concretizes his various conflicting feelings, he feels calmer about it.  Now that he's writing about it and capturing his feelings on paper, he no longer has these conflicting feelings whirling around in his head in a confused state.  It's all down on paper.

As he gains insight into how his various conflicting aspects of himself are affecting his decision making process, he can address each of these issues by getting more concrete information, talking to others about it, and seeing where he might be catastrophizing about issues that aren't a catastrophe (see my article: Are You Catastrophizing?).

By dialoguing with his various self states, he is able to put his hopes and fears in perspective, and he is in a better position to make a decision.

Having an internal dialogue in writing with the various parts of yourself can help you to overcome problems where you're experiencing an internal conflict.

Being able to reflect on and write about the internal conflict from the perspective of the parts involved helps you to understand yourself better and have more compassion for yourself.

Writing out dialogues between your internal parts can also stimulate more creative ideas for overcoming the conflict that you might not have thought about if you didn't write about it.

Initially, you might feel uncomfortable doing this exercise but, once you're immersed in it, you will probably find it to be a very useful tool.

Getting Help in Therapy
A skilled psychotherapist can help you to understand the conflicting aspects of yourself as well as get to the root of your problems (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

If you have access to a licensed mental health professional, you have an opportunity to work through unresolved problems so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients using Ego States therapy.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

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