I found a fantastic infographic today about how to handle upsets in young children. And it's also exactly the thing we need to do with ourselves in order to mend the hurts of the past. Take a look:
I use a protocol like this that I teach my clients called the Compassionate Container.
Let's see how it works to help us self-soothe and become more resilient, happy adults:
You are a wonderful collection of Parts
Our "Parts" are basically younger or different versions of ourselves.
Think of how you are at work versus at home. Professional, tidy, polite at work. Easy-going, Netflix fan and avid prankster at home. Different aspects of yourself, right? They're both you... it's just you doing work, and then you doing home. Imagine that each "you" is a Part.
You have many Parts that have different thoughts and feelings about things! Think about if you wanted to start an exercise program. Part of you wants to do it, feel fit, look great, and be proud of yourself. And another part of you feels HORRIBLE about it and has a special talent for convincing you to stay in and eat comfort food. You've got two totally different Parts with totally different perspectives on what this exercise thing is all about.
Your two Parts are completely polarized with each other! And how does that inner conflict make you feel? Horrible, of course! That's what happens when our Parts are judging each other.
Welcome to the world of Parts! ;)
Our personalities really are a collection of Parts, not one single point of consciousness. Working from this framework is essential to undo the negative momentum of the past. Because all of this momentum is actually being generated by our Parts.
I think we intuitively know this. We use terms like "inner child" or "wise self" or "the angry part of me" because it just feels right to think of ourselves this way.
When we start to get dysregulated (which means: feeling anxious, tense, fearful, angry, ashamed, shut down, or numb, etc.), often it's because a Part of us is reacting to something we just saw, heard or thought. That Part is still living in the past, reacting as it would have as a child. And those big emotions are taking us over today!
For example, you may see an angry dog barking. A Part of you may have had bad experiences with dogs growing up, and it's freaking out. Meanwhile, another, adult part of you is saying "get over it! It's fine! Stop worrying!", trying to badger you into feeling OK. Now you've got two polarized parts again. Both are trying to manage the situation..
...but both are forgetting about You.
You are the part that's not a Part. You are the wise, Soul Self who gets it.
You may never have met You if you're always in a Part!
Welcome Your Parts
Parts can be quite young and literally have the personality and reasoning ability of the young child they represent. We can't just tell them: "Snap out of it!" "Grow up!"
When we do that, we just reject our Parts all over again. We re-traumatize them.
No healing happens when we repeat the emotional wounding of the past. We must not reject our parts or punish them for feeling the way they feel.
We actually have to approach them the way we would approach any upset child: with the intention to comfort, validate and love them back into calmness. And just like any parent knows, it's super easy to get triggered when your child/Part is triggered! This post is about helping you navigate this process so that doesn't happen as easily.
The infographic above provides a fantastic 3-step process that you can use anytime with yourself. Regulate, Relate and Reason.
Remember: hire a professional if you're working through trauma or if you find yourself taken over by the emotional intensity of your parts. You must be able to keep a "dual awareness" throughout this process... one part of your awareness is focused on the here-and-now You, and another part of your attention is on your younger Part. Everyone needs help doing this at some point, so don't be afraid to reach out.
Regulation in Parts Work can be done with tapping, visualizing hugs, rocking, or a soothing environment. Be creative and go with your gut. If you're starting to calm down and relax, you're doing or saying the right stuff.
Start by picturing your Part, notice how old it is, what scene it's in (freeze the scene or take it out of the scene if it's overwhelming. Do not proceed if this is too intense for you.)
If you can maintain dual awareness, ask you part, "what's happening? What are you feeling?" while tapping. Let it tell you what it wants to share.
Take. Your. Time.
Feel the feelings from your dual awareness perspective. That means noticing from a loving Witness standpoint, not actually getting sucked into re-living the experience. You will feel intensely, but you should always feel in control and nonjudgemental toward the Part's experience.
When you've established a safe connection with your part, and have learned what's happening, here are some ways you can do Relating:
Tap on yourself (you can also visualize tapping on your Part, kind of like Matrix Reimprinting), while saying the following things to your Part:
"Of course you feel this way!"
"You're so concerned that _________ (something bad) will happen if I keep on ________."
"How could you not be worried about that?"
"I see you working so hard to keep me safe."
"I still completely accept you even with all these feelings, and you don't have to change for me to love you."
"It's OK and you're actually safe here. I've got this now, you don't have to do all this hard work alone."
Take. Your. Time.
Multiple waves of emotion can and do come up. Anger turns into fear turns into shame. Fragments of memories flash before your eyes. You remember things you had forgotten, good and bad.
Repeat these soothing phrases while tapping through each wave.
You are remembering. This is how it actually was. This is the truth of what happened.
Make sure you keep your dual awareness. Hold a big, compassionate container that can fit in all of What Is. Hire a professional if you can't keep the compassionate stance - it's normal and OK for that to be challenging.
Next comes Reasoning - we can think of it like integration.
The Reasoning piece will often come up on its own from our own inner source of wisdom once we've Regulated and Related enough. This can also be called a "cognitive shift." It's really important not to try to go into reasoning (or positive reframes) until this stage, just like the infographic says. You'll just be rejecting and re-traumatizing yourself if you don't catch your Part's story.
Tip: We wait for a feeling of Curiosity or Compassion to signal that we've regulated enough to explore and integrate what happened from a logical perspective. Your emotional intensity should be a 3 / 10 or less.
When the Reasoning happens, our prefrontal cortex is back online. The shame, anger, fear or guilt are gone. We're now able to take a look at what happened from a neutral, fair and compassionate standpoint.
Often this perspective reveals something new about the situation that we never saw before.
This new information is empowering, and provides fantastic advice on how best to respond or more forward. When in session, your coach or EFT Practitioner should allow you to navigate the best solutions for YOU, holding a compassionate container for your process. Do not let them rush this phase - you are integrating.
During this process, you will probably want to keep tapping continuously. You can say the positive things that you are now realizing:
"Wow, you are so brave! That really was an impossible situation for you!!"
"I could actually learn to trust people more!"
"Wow, I'm actually feeling OK about this now!"
Take. Your. Time.
Remember your Sneak Away techniques if you don't have time to fully process or integrate your Parts' experiences!
Kudos for taking care of yourself!