Some of life’s issues come from within us. This is a scary prospect for many people. I’m writing this blog to say that it doesn’t need to be as scary as one might think. It is a matter of finding out things about our self; getting in touch with our full range of experience, including thoughts, emotions, memories, sensations, inner responses to others; triggers from within us and triggers from with out to us that causes distress.
Psychotherapy is the one profession in which exploring what is within us is a primary focus. In certain cases it is the primary focus because when there is fragmentation in our sense of our self, chaos in our cognitive and emotional functioning, a sense of abandonment inside of us, it is truly impossible for us to function well out in the world. Sometimes psychotherapy, with some individuals, is mainly about their functioning out in the external world. I believe that one of the jobs of the psychotherapist is to discover whether work within needs to be done, so that improvements without can occur. The truth is if there is chaos blocking or fragmentation within, then just working without will not have much effect.
I see the work within us is about connecting the person to their real self and allowing it to be out front in our life both from within and from without. Intimacy in relationships are not possible without this connection to our real self. It is hard for us to fully connect with our inner resources, our talents, our abilities, our skills, our experiences, that allow us to function well in life, both in our work and careers and in our personal life.
There are different ways of describing, categorizing and the language that is use in writing and talking about what blocks us from connecting with our real self. I believe that our real self is beyond any personas, fakeness, manipulation, and even trauma that we have experienced in life. It is that part of us that is whole and unified within itself and wants to grow and prosper in the world. Richard Schwartz has been working on a theory and practice in helping people to connect with their real self. I have not formally studied his theory and practice, but recently took a workshop and recognize that my own beliefs fit in with what I was hearing the workshop presenter was saying. There are other individuals who have used slightly different language like the core self, true self, innate self, etc.
There are also different words to describe that which prevents or blocks us or hinders us from connecting with our real self and having its be in our life. Freud was the first to categorize a number of what he called, “defense mechanisms,” that at one time were developed in a subconscious way to protect us from injury or trauma. Richard Schwartz calls those parts of us that have been injured, “exiles,” those parts of ourselves that come to our defense as, “protectors,” and those parts that come out in emergencies are, “firefighters.”
I’m not going to get into the philosophical distinction between the “real self” and what it means to say, “parts of self,” in this blog. Since I haven’t had formal training in his theory and practice, I don’t know what or if he says about this particular issue. Having had studied philosophy, it is interesting to me but not the point of this blog.
The point is that exploring within us allows us to connect with parts of ourselves that appear to be blocking who we truly are from being out there leading us in the world. In order to achieve this end goal, we must take a look at the defenses or protectors, whatever you want to label them, and challenge them to allow space for that unified self to come forward and lead our life. This calls for deeper work in the psychotherapy sessions. By this I mean we are not just taking a look at the person’s cognition or emotions or behavior as separate from the whole person. We are attempting to allow all of the inner experiences of the person out into consciousness and prevent them from interrupting living fully in our lives.
Thanks for reading,
Robert Bowman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) practicing in the State of California and is a psychotherapist for over 23 years with client experience from children to seniors. He works with children with emotional and behavioral disturbance; children and adults with serious mental illness; and children and adults with relationship issues. He understands that life issues are inevitable because we must pass through life stages in our development as human beings. He helps you engage healthy choices as it is a huge benefit to your physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual health. Call (808) 930-9866 or email RobertBowman@iTherapymail.com to set up a FREE 15-minute consultation. Visit Robert Bowman’s Profile.