Parts work in Therapy
Have you ever felt like intellectually you know what’s right for you and what’s not, but emotionally it’s a struggle for you to change patterns and do what’s in your best interest.
That’s because your body still responds to and makes decisions from your original core belief that used to work earlier when you were a child and did not have much agency. But now that you are an adult these patterns based on the old core belief are not working any more.
With the combination of EMDR and parts work in therapy we work with the original core beliefs and identify what belief fits now according to your here and now, also, we work with the memories or experiences that have been holding the original beliefs in place. The behavior changes happen because of shifts in the core belief and not because of you trying to convince yourself to make a different decision.
There are different approaches to doing parts work in therapy. Internal Family System and Ego States work are a few of those approaches.
Here is a peek into my approach to parts work in therapy.
According to parts work we all have different parts that we access based on the occasion. Sometimes these parts just show up and we find ourselves reacting in a way that we don’t understand.
Different types of parts
We all have different parts within us. There are adult parts, for example, if you are a parent, then your parent part shows up when you are taking care of your kids or doing other responsible things with patience and compassion. You might have a boss lady part, the part that shows up to take care of business. Then you might have a fun loving and carefree part that shows up when you are with your friends and family. This could be a combination of your kid part and adult part, having fun responsibly.
Then there are kid parts that show up from time to time. Have you ever thought “I enjoy this video game more than my kids do.” or you get as excited about eating chocolate ice cream cones as your niece does or when you are curious about the colorful bird in your backyard. These are the playful vulnerable curious kid parts.
There are times when during certain situations the adult parts don’t show up in our adult life, instead a middle school part of you might show up who might be feeling guilt, shame, fear mixed with anger for being misunderstood and is now having a difficult time sitting through the one on one meeting with your manager at work.
Have you ever wondered, “why did I get so anxious?”, For example, when your boss suddenly schedules a meeting on your calendar and you notice yourself worrying about possibly being in trouble. These could be a younger wounded part showing up feeling scared and helpless.
There are other parts that are protectors, or our deep rooted beliefs that we developed overtime. These protectors have kept us safe our entire childhood when we did not have much choice and had to depend on our caregivers for our safety and survival. However, as adults they are not very effective because our situation has changed, our needs have changed and we have changed.
When you feel stuck and are ready to make a change but something holds you back, you feel frustrated, sometimes depressed, but cannot get yourself to make the change.
This could be a protector part that was formed growing up to protect you from hurt and keep you safe. So it’s doing its job by holding you back from something that this part thinks could expose you to the possibility of getting hurt.
We feel resistance in breaking any old patterns because these are rooted in beliefs that have kept us safe for a long time.
A few examples of beliefs that might have protected you in the past, but are now keeping you from making changes even though you feel stuck and feel unhappy in your current life.
When you have a hard time believing that you are valued for who you are and that setting a boundary is not going to cause abandonment.
When in your mind failure means rejection and meeting your perfectionist standards is the only way you are going to be accepted by yourself and people around you.
There is a part of you that tells you that you cannot trust anyone, as a result you are unable to make friends or get in a romantic relationship or even delegate work at your workplace.
How are the wounded parts and protectors formed?
As kids we are vulnerable, curious, playful, creative, very expressive about our needs and express raw emotions like anger, sadness, happiness.
If caregivers respond to our needs constantly and predictably with moments of repair, we start trusting that the world is a safe place and we continue to remain curious, express vulnerability, express our needs.
We form an understanding about the world around us that allows us to feel secure enough to develop a sense of independence, take risks to satiate our curiosity.
As our caregivers encourage us to step out of our comfort zone while providing us with a safe space to land on at times of a failure we develop a secure attachment with a positive sense of self.
On the other hand if our caregivers respond to us in ways that are unpredictable and inconsistent with no time invested in repairing the attachment, we learn that in order to get the caregivers attention we have to attend to our caregivers needs and overlook our needs.
We learn that we have to depend on ourselves and we cannot depend on anyone to take care of ourselves and become very independent at a very early age.
We learn to minimize our needs and put others ahead of us. These kids learn to shut off the connection with their physical sensations that communicate our needs to us to avoid the possibility of abandonment.
Others learn that the way to seek attention to their needs is by showing anger or throwing a tantrum, this is followed by a lot of guilt and shame and the fear of the possibility of abandonment.
These experiences rupture our attachment patterns and result in insecure attachment.
These parts that have experienced abandonment and neglect because of their caregivers lack of attunement with their needs become the wounded parts. The belief system that develops because of these experiences become protectors. They protect us from experiencing the pain that comes from rejection and abandonment. One of such protectors is, “I cannot ask for help, I have to do everything on my own.” The belief behind this could be that you cannot trust anyone to be there for you.
Parts work in Therapy
I use Parts work, EMDR, mindfulness and self compassion in combination in therapy.
I use this approach to help work through relationship trauma, relationship issues for individuals, and pleasing people. I use this approach for anxiety and depression in combination with CBT.
Parts work starts with identifying different parts and getting acquainted with how they feel in your body and what feelings come up with these parts. We spend time learning about them so you will be able to recognize them when they show up.
Before this we work on reconnecting you with your physical sensations and recognizing the message your physical sensations are trying to give you. You learn to identify the feelings that show up in your body. You learn to recognize where your body holds these feelings and the message it carries for you.
Then we work on developing emotional regulation tools through grounding and mindfulness techniques. You gradually learn to sit with your emotions as they come up, and you learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable feelings.
We identify adult parts and bring those parts to the forefront. Through different techniques we identify your inner strength and resources.
We talk about memories and experiences where you have accessed these resources and strengthen them through EMDR. We talk about nurturing figures that could be real or imagined, we identify your inner happy child parts.
Simultaneously we talk about your experiences and life stories and identify the protectors presented as core beliefs and different wounded inner parts. We use EMDR techniques to work with the protectors, to loosen the resistance so that we can work with the inner wounded child parts.
As the core beliefs loosen and we are able to work with the wounded parts, we bring forward your adult parts to help connect with the wounded inner child parts that are stuck in the traumatic events. We bring those parts to the present to reorient and reparent them.
We use EMDR to work through traumatic memories, in the process we use the adult parts and other resources identified earlier to help support the inner wounded parts that had experienced these events and help them orient with the present.
The goal of parts work in therapy is to help all the parts within our subconscious to support each other. Parts work in therapy aims at making space for your authentic self or adults parts to grow stronger and guide the other parts so that they can show up as needed.
If my approach in therapy resonates with you then please drop me a line and I will be happy to chat with you to see if we are a good fit.
Are you ready to start your healing journey?