Have you ever woken up on a given day and felt that you were being pulled in several different directions? Perhaps a part of you wanted to stay in bed; but another part of you was eager to accomplish the tasks you had set out for the day. A third part of you felt upset about a conflict with a loved one the day before. As human beings, we are complex and complicated animals and we have many things that motivate us: fear, joy, pain, anxiety. How do we decide what to listen to?
If you could sit down at a table with all of the unique parts of yourself, what do you think would ensue? Would there be conflict, arguing, anger, avoidance? Would there be efforts to connect, heal, soothe, and find understanding? Who would be at the table?
With the web of experiences that create the beings we are today, it can feel overwhelming to try to comprehend how the aspects of ourselves interact on a daily basis. That we are made up of so many parts is a beautiful aspect of the human condition. Sometimes, however, these parts of ourselves — perhaps a child that is hidden within and her adult counterpart — come in conflict with one another or are pitted up against each other in a way that can cause destructive behaviors in an effort to cope with this discord.
Eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder, along with other issues that create destructive behavior patterns such as substance abuse, addictions, and severe depression and anxiety may be indicators of internal conflict. Some of us might feel like there is a “dark” part of us, or a “bad” part of us that needs to be hidden from the world and which can elicit feelings like shame and guilt. Denying or avoiding an aspect of ourselves might only intensify the self-destruction that the feelings may cause.
I invite you to try to get to know all parts of yourself, those that feel scary and dark as well as those that bring light and energy. In truth, these parts of ourselves are trying to communicate something to us and by embracing them all — even the dark and scary ones — we can free ourselves from unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Here are a few ideas to get you started on exploring the parts of yourself:
1.) Imagine you are at a play date with yourself when you were a child. What sorts of activities are you engaging in? What do you notice about yourself as a child? Do you play with others, or mostly with yourself? How does that child connect with who you are now?
2.) If you were to write a chapter book about your life, what would you name each of the chapters? Would they be about experiences you’ve had, or things you’ve learned? What do you notice about the way(s) you portray yourself in this book?
3.) Draw a round table with chairs all around it. Invite parts of yourself to come to the table for a peace talk. Who is invited? Is it the timid daughter who avoids conflict? Is it the strong willed man who stops at nothing to achieve success? Is it the little girl who blows bubbles and runs freely in the park? What about the dark shadow who looms behind, above, sometimes within you? What would it be like for all of these parts of yourself to have a conversation?
If you did have a peace talk, what would be the outcome?
I invite you to imagine what it would feel like to have a truce between the aspects of yourself that sometimes create conflict — the little girl being able to shake hands with the dark shadow, who, when brought into the light isn’t so scary anymore.
On Saturday, May 5th from 11:00am-3:00pm, Kate Daigle, MA, NCC, eating disorder and body image psychotherapist and Carolyn Jennings, poet and writing guide, will spend the afternoon guiding workshop participants to get to know the various parts of themselves through writing exercises, dialoguing, embodiment, and discussion. We will see what really happens when we sit down and hold court with all of the parts of ourselves. To register for this low-cost workshop please visit www.eatingdisorderfoundation.org.