In an earlier post, I talked about the idea of the Multiplicity of the Mind and ‘parts’ or ‘subpersonalities’. In this post, I would like to talk about some of the examples of ‘parts’ which you may recognise and introduce the idea of how with every ‘part’ there is usually an opposite and look at the idea of ‘primary’ and ‘disowned’ parts; those that we are more aware of and others that think, feel and behave more unconsciously or in Jungian language, the ‘shadow’.
Each of us has a number of subpersonalities, parts or ‘selves’ that make up our whole personality together. Different selves assume our identity throughout the day, each one taking care of particular aspects of our lives. When you are at work your organised self might be dominant; when you are having a coffee or drink with friends a more carefree self emerges; when you are on holidays your lazy self has its turn; and when you are with your partner you probably access your sensual and sexual selves.
We all have our ‘favorites’ which are those selves we use most of the time and by which other people recognise us. These are called ‘primary selves’ while the parts of our personality we hide or are not aware of are our ‘disowned selves.’
All the selves within us have their own feelings, sensations, thoughts, opinions, and needs—and they do not always agree. This is why you might feel conflicted about your job, for instance. The part of you who likes order and predictability probably loves it that you work nine-to-five and do the same thing every day. This feels safe and comfortable for that part of you. In contrast, the part of you who loves adventure, excitement and constant change feels awful in that same job. The experience you get from this is that sometimes you like your job while at other times you hate it—it depends on which self ’s thoughts and feelings are dominant in you at the time.
So sub-personalities always come in pairs. There is always a polar opposite to a sub-personality, although it may be so weak (a disowned self) that it is not noticed, and even when work is first done on sub-personalities it may be difficult to find. However, knowing that there is a polar opposite makes it easy to understand what the traits of the weaker sub-personality are likely to be.
It is due to this imbalance between the polar opposite sub-personalities that issues arise. The dominant one will take over at times when it believes it is needed (i.e. for survival), or at times it is in a situation where is recognises it can meet it’s needs. This can cause a conflict within the personality, where the weaker, polar opposite sub-personality also begins to try and achieve it’s diametrically opposed agenda. A pendulum type effect results, with each sub-personality vying for attention. It can easily be pictured in a classic type view of a devil on one shoulder, and an angel on the other, each whispering into an ear, telling the Self what needs to be done. Confusion results. This is the stage that sub-personalities are dysfunctional, being unbalanced. Often this can lead to an inability to actually achieve anything, where the mind is clouded with the opposing views of each of the sub-personalities, and we can end up “stuck” not knowing which actions are appropriate for us. This is, however, due mainly to the thinking process, where we can see both sides of the argument, both have some merit, but ultimately neither stands out as the thing that must be done for our happiness, welfare and survival. It is the reason why a creative solution must be found, and “And”, which allows us to meet the needs of both sub-personalities to some degree, and start off a transformation process to integrate and synthesis the sub-personalities.
Read some examples of opposite sub-personalities below and see if you can identify your primary and disowned selves. Both sides are described in the most extreme from to fully highlight the key traits.
Rigid, unforgiving, inflexible, and tries to exert control as much as possible, over their own life, and those around them. Enjoys checking for mistakes. Needs rules for everything in order to cope with their fears and insecurities.
Someone identified with rules will follow the rules of their family and social group. They will choose a lifestyle that fits in with family and cultural expectations and they will do well in that field. Identifying with this subpersonality leads to acceptance by your family and the wider community to which you belong.
Feels entitled, wants to do things their own way, and can’t exercise self-discipline or set limits with themself. The rebel breaks the rules! This personality does the opposite of what is expected by their family and culture. Rebels find their own way of doing things and often rock the boat. The rebel likes to think of itself as having no rules but it does have one golden rule which is to break all the rules.
The observing and cautious self likes to suss out a situation before it takes action. It needs to understand how something works before it participates. It stands back and observes and can be seen as fishy but really just likes to know what is going on.
The spontaneous self jumps in and participates and then thinks about what it has done later, if at all. It engages with people instantly and takes action quickly. It does not plan or consider consequences of its actions. It is a very ‘enjoy the moment’ self.
The Pleaser is a great personality for others to have around because it makes other people feel so good. It is considerate, kind and helpful. However, it does not get its own needs met and can feel drained from all the energy it gives to others.
The selfish self considers only itself. It makes sure its needs are met – it always comes first. It does not care about other people’s needs and has no qualms about stepping over others for its own interests. The selfish self rarely becomes tired or sick because it makes sure its needs are always met, and it does set great boundaries.
This is the force which propels us to action. Someone with a strong pusher will get many things done. The pusher is constantly on the go and is always thinking about what needs doing next. Nothing is ever finished—there is always more to do on its list. It leads to high achievement and high energy but unchecked leaves a person stressed, tense and unable to relax. Pushers are unable to enjoy their achievements because they never stop long enough to do so.
The being self is still. It is focused in the moment. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go. This is a restful place where you can recharge your batteries. Time seems to stand still and you feel relaxed and alert if you are a being personality. This is a nice balance to the pusher but if you are always being you are not doing and therefore will not get much done.
The perfectionist makes sure everything is perfect. Perfectionists look over everything they do countless times and they keep improving. They can stand in front of the mirror for hours doing their makeup and they can get stuck on one task at work, redoing and revising until everything is just right. Perfectionists find it difficult to finish things and can take so much time doing one small thing.
The slob does not have any standards. Everything is fine as it is. Mistakes are not a problem, mess is not noticed. You would not want this self performing brain surgery but it is easy-going and relaxed compared to the uptightness of an absolute perfectionist.
If you are personal then you connect with people warmly and openly. You like being in close contact with people and you share your feelings and thoughts easily. People feel like
you are present with them. This can feel good but it also leaves you with no boundaries and can drain your energy.
If you are impersonal you are cool and more distant. You connect with people but on a more mental level. You can discuss ideas and share thoughts but not feelings. Impersonality gives you objectivity and allows you to maintain you own space. A great self to use in business and when you do not want to take on other people’s ‘stuff ’.
We all have one an unfortunately most of us become victim to our own inner critic. The critic points out our weaknesses, flaws, mistakes, and generally anything less than perfect about us—yet perfection, even by its own admission— we can never achieve. A great friend of the perfectionist and pusher, the critic keeps us trying harder and harder. Then directed outwards, this self is a judge. The judge looks on others and does to them what the critic does internally to us.
This part of us has wisdom, it is supportive and it is on our side. It sees the lessons we can learn from our lives and reveals these to us. Being identified with this self, you would be compassionate towards yourself and others. You might be seen as a wise being who is full of acceptance and good advice.
The spiritual self is concerned with matters of spirit. It may have experienced extraordinary things and have a connection with spirit, or it may have a strong desire for spiritual experiences and so follows particular practices to lead to such experiences, or it may be expressed in a more traditional religious way, following the rules of an organised religion. Either way, its focus is on a god or ultimate energy of some kind, and it often does not value very highly everyday matters of life on earth.
The earthly self is interested in the here and now. It is concerned with the material world, but is not necessarily materialistic, and usually identifies with being atheist. Philosophically it is more of an empiricist, valuing direct experience through the physical senses. The earthly self is also concerned with very earthly things like the environment, sustaining life, the practicalities of life such as food, shelter and family life.
The feeling self feels. It picks up what other people feel, it is affected by events and people, and it expresses emotions easily. The feeling self is more connected to the body than the mind – feelings are often felt throughout your whole body. The thoughts of the feeling self are mainly about feelings and they can be muddled by the feelings that accompany them.
If you are identified with the mind, you think. A mental person analyses, woks out solutions, thinks abstractly. The mind is impersonal and objective. It is not concerned with the experience of feelings and relating to others, but it can analyse feelings and relationships. We all have a mind but some of us are more mental than others—in more ways than one!
The outgoing self is focused outside itself. It interacts with people easily and talks out
its ideas with others rather than spending time looking inward. It is friendly and very comfortable with other people. It is confident and sure of itself. It has a strong, resilient nature.
The shy personality is not confident with other people or in groups. It is quiet and soft and more sweet. They shy self is introverted and feels as though it is hiding. It is often perceived more negatively than the outgoing self in our culture but it has the qualities of sweetness and sensitivity.
Perhaps you identify with some, perhaps not with others. Or perhaps they are out of awareness or disowned! Internal conflict often occurs when we deny, repress one side and stay too much in the other. As with most things, balance is the key and a compassionate attitude to all aspects of ourselves and others as unique and flawed (and uniquely flawed!) human beings.