Monday, May 29, 2006

Exercise: Discovering Subpersonalities

Here is the first exercise I have posted over in the Integral Relationships pod at Zaadz. The exercise is set up for those in relationship, but as I note at one point, you can also use friends, family, coworkers, even people you don't like much -- maybe especially people you don't like much.

Have fun and please post your observations in the comments. You can be anonymous if you want.
One of the ways that we relate with each other is through our subpersonalities or selves (please see my post on this topic – it explains the difference between primary selves and disowned selves).

In our relationships, we tend to be drawn to people who carry our disowned selves (meaning that we project those selves onto our partners because they have traits that we unconsciously associate with our disowned selves). Recognizing these disowned selves is a way to reclaim those projections and in doing so become more whole. This is one of the ways that relationship can act as a teacher for us.

This is the first of two exercises I want to post in helping those who have never worked with subpersonalites (selves) to identify some of those subs. I believe that knowing our subs is an important part of integral relationship. This exercise is from Partnering, by Hal and Sidra Stone. I have modified it slightly for our use.

Judging Your Disowned Self

Think of your current partner (or a previous partner if you are currently single), and think about the ways that person was able to push your buttons. The longer the relationship the better for this exercise. Really identify the ways this person just annoys/annoyed you to no end. What is it about this person that you judge? In which area do you feel superior? Be specifc as you write down the most irritating or reprehensible attribute of this person. When you discover what it is, you have learned about one of your own disowned selves. Flesh it out a bit by looking at how it operates and what motivates it – maybe even have a dialogue with it.

Now look for the oppsite quality in yourself and see how you contrast with your partner. What kind of person are you? What are the qualities that you are proud of having? Write down these qualities. You have just identified one of your primary selves. Again, try to get to know it a little more, give it a name or notice how it feels in your body.

You now have a picture of one of your primary selves and one of your disowned selves. Repeat this exercise as many times as you like. You can also use family members, coworkers, and friends to help you identify disowned selves. The more a person annoys you, the more likely s/he is carrying a disowned self.

Who did you find living inside you?

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Anonymous said...

I seemed to have disowned the self who blunders and smashes the physical and spiritual artifacts in his surround with massive unself-consciousness, proffering only absent-minded, insincere apologies if confronted; the one who adores chemical oblivion, luxurious sloth, TV binge-watching, and never, ever to do independent thinking, from struggling with the difficult ideas every human must face individually, to thinking a milisecond before asking where in the world is the thing that, even now, is there in my hand.

My primary self is the one who keeps the flood lights of (self) consciousness and (self) scrutiny at full blast at all times, with a ferocious regime of physical discipline--and occasional bouts of intellectual and emotional discipline.

The primary and the sub are implacable enemies: how do you get them to talk to each other?

(That was exhausting!)

Kai in NYC

william harryman said...

Excellent! Thanks for posting your observations, Kai.

First thing is that the primary and the disowned are both subpersonalities. The higher self, "aware ego," or observer self is the core self who can integrate the subs and get them to work together.

With a disowned self, the key is to reclaim the projection, which generally means to honor its needs in some way. For example, using the sub you identified (one that I have as well), this part of you may need to be less structured and discplined. It might need to cut loose once in a while and just not be so responsible and dedicated to being conscious.

The trick is to give it some of what it needs while not hurting yourself in the process. Play hookey from work one day, watch cartoons or something else that is a "guilty pleasure" on the TV. Have some cheesecake one day, or a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Whatever it is, find a way to not be disciplined and responsible in a way that is not harmful.

If you can honor the needs of a disowned sub, it won't feel as foreign and "other." As it gets more integrated, it will cease to be something that can push your buttons.

In order to talk with a disowned sub, it helps to disidentify with the primary sub. The higher self exercise I posted a couple of days ago is a good way to disidentify with subs and get to that core self who can observe them. Meditation can do it as well.

It is hard work at first, but it gets easier. I promise.


Anonymous said...

I no longer have any physical objects it would hurt very much to lose, nor do I feel any sort of emphatic connection to any aspect of my outward identity (race, religion, sexuality, gender, career, nationality, etc.) but I never realized until this exchange how much identity I have tied up in my sense of being self-disciplined and conscious. Those are precious beyond words to me.

At the moment, it feels as if I don't WANT any lessening of the discipline in my life or the consciousness; those are the pillars that support the integrity of the whole edifice of my life. Weaken them somehow? Part of the problem is I think I've developed real discipline: that is, a discipline which recognizes that allowances regularly have to be made, and yet the overarching structure can remain in place.

I don't mind allowances: watching TV for 10 hours straight on the occasional Saturday, skipping a week at the gym because of exhaustion/apathy once a season, or a slice of red velvet cake here and there. It's the lack of that over-arching structure--a life composed solely of "allowances"-- I feel so much contempt for, and guard against. At the moment I'm at a lost for addressing that contempt (a hideous feeling; even worse when it's coming from the inside directed towards others) while not also losing what's most valuable to me. I guess it's something to interrogate and work with in meditation.

Kai in NYC

william harryman said...

Great observation, Kai. The next question, then, especially as someone who is working toward greater levels of awareness, is how much is the ego involved in defining yourself as disciplined and structured?

I think looking at the way you feel about the lack of structure and discipline from an observer self viewpoint (in meditation as you suggest) is probably the best approach right now. Maybe over time, you can separate out the growth impulse and its need for structure and discipline from anything that might be tied into a subpersonality/ego attachment. Or maybe you'll find something else entirely. That's why I like this stuff.

Sounds like cool work.