Controlling Our Many Dimensions, Parts or Aspects

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman

A therapist by profession, I am an unrepentant seeker by hobby and vocation. I long to understand myself, others, and life’s mysteries.

My soon to be self-published book, Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe speaks to the many faces that everyone wears either consciously or unconsciously. Just think about the expectations that abound depending on your birth as a male or female. Left without examination, we all step into roles and behaviors that often control every aspect of our lives.

Like all human beings I have many dimensions: the driven part, the adapter part, the inept part, the addict part, the Marilyn Monroe part, and the wounded child within. A part of me still carries shame and can slip right into a childlike state of shyness and embarrassment—sometimes at the most inopportune moments. Until one is aware of and connected to these sub-personalities, we are all subject to feel the way Marilyn felt, exquisitely expressed in the following statement,

“My work is the only ground I’ve ever had to stand on. I seem to have a whole superstructure with no foundation — but I’m working on the foundation.” Marilyn.

I would argue that Marilyn had a vast foundation but had not fully explored most of those roles/parts/faces of herself before tragically dying at age 36. As widely reported, after finding out that she could never have children Marilyn said to her friend, “Nobody’s ever gonna marry me now, Lena. What good am I? I can’t cook, I’ve been married three times. Who would want me?”

Lena responded, “Millions of men.”

“Yeah, but who would love me? Who?”

From this conversation, it is clear that Marilyn felt that she was not worthy of true love unless she was dutifully performing the roles of the traditional 50’s woman.

Some of us, like me and Marilyn, grew up with enormous challenges and abuses. While others, grew up in basically happy, secure environments. Still others grew up in silent homes, learning little about communication skills or how to connect in intimate relationships. Problems with self-esteem and relationships are then played out in our attitudes and behaviors toward ourselves and others. The HOW of how we arrived at WHO we are and WHAT we do with what we have become, is ultimately up to us to accept, change or stop complaining about.

What types of roles might we become indoctrinated into before we ever had the chance to consent or decline? For example, what if you are only four years old and have a profoundly depressed parent? You might grow up to become overly responsible without giving any thought as to whether or not you actually enjoy being in charge. On the opposite extreme, you may find yourself isolating from relationships to avoid the position of responsibility or care-giving. Either way, it helps to learn why we do what we do. Otherwise we simply label our behaviors as controlling or co-dependent, leading to disappointment, even self-incrimination.

And yet, we are each totally responsible for our own behaviors. Boy, talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

It makes little difference how or why we are burdened with inner conflicts–beliefs, old wounds, defenses, and assigned roles. These might be manifested as care-taking, control, perfectionism, or acting-out behaviors such as binge-eating, alcohol abuse or disinterest in others. Regardless of how we arrived at these aspects of ourselves, they are now solely ours to deal with one way or another. These parts or aspects of ourselves often run our lives without our explicit permission. Have you ever felt like you did not trust your own judgment or instincts, ignoring red flags and instead becoming frozen or anxious but could not stop thinking or behaving this way in spite of yourself? Ugh! Me too!

So why would I even care about self-understanding? Why is this important? It is important for me to have some level of conscious awareness if I want to ever have a choice in my behaviors. I need to have a working knowledge of my patterns so that I have my parts versus my parts having me (controlling me unconsciously).

Do you notice any parts that have you? Do you sometimes feel as if your thoughts, beliefs or actions have unwittingly hijacked your life? If so, just remember, you are not helpless to do something about it. And you are not alone.

The more we allow ourselves to unfold, the less likely we are to unravel. Rabbi Irwin Kula


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  1. Dawn,

    I do identify with you and Marilyn. As women I agree we need to be aware of all of those parts of ourselves and learn to love our wise old woman to our wounded inner child. I love your thoughts and your blog. I feel I know you better having read this. Thanks, Helen

    • Hi Helen,
      I agree that as human beings we need to be aware of our parts. An unexamined life plays havoc on everyone around us including ourselves.

      Warmly, dawn

  2. Ron Kelley says:

    And so I have one major part controlling me. But will I ever be able to control that part? Even knowing all the reasons why I should take control, I seem to only hack away at it–usually ineffectively. Why?


    • Hi Ron,

      Great question.

      The first step is getting to know a part. One way to do this is to slowdown and thoroughly examine the part. Ask the part questions (perhaps through journaling). For example,
      1). When did I get here? Answers may be something like, “When I was about 8 years old observing how indecisive or fearful my parents were, I knew I needed to grow up quickly and help out.”
      2). What do I think would happen if I were not here? Answer may be some version of, “I think things would fall apart if I were not in control.” Or, “Who would get the job done if I didn’t do it? “I can only trust myself.” Or, “What good am I if I am not fixing, doing, providing?”
      3). How do I serve my internal system? Answer may be: “I feel calmer, less vulnerable or powerful when I am in charge.”
      My controlling part believes that if I stay one step ahead of EVERYTHING, I will prevent the next bad thing from happening. Ah yes, the illusion of control.

      Warmly, dawn

  3. Ridelle Roper says:

    Accept , change or stop complaining about, made me chuckle. Writing a letter this morning I have to accept that a barrage of emotional situations this weekend about parental abuses and abandonments made me tired. Duty and fear of my own parental responses being inadequate, lack of sleep, old relationships missed and grieved, made me tired. Oh how it bothers me to be tired. I must have endless energy or desire to exercise or work in yard or socialize. My tired part is unheard. Get busy I tell her. I. also am so often between a rock and a hard place, just have to trust that Something will lead me to a better space. XXXOOO

    • Hi Ridelle,

      Boy do I hear you. It is difficult not to feel tired when our internal critics begin their assault. I was particularly moved by, “My tired part is unheard.” Maybe you could get to know that part a little better by hearing her. Sometimes when I am working with a part of myself, I will get an object to represent that part. For example, a small rock, stick or toy. Making parts concrete or explicit, I un-blend or distance that particular part from myself allowing me to explore the thoughts, beliefs and feelings held by that part. Unexamined parts are powerful. They can zap our energy right out from beneath us making us feel inexplicitly weary.

      Warmly, dawn

  4. Hi Dawn,
    Many of us are trapped by limiting sub-conscious beliefs. Our lives are a direct reflection of our beliefs about ourselves and the world that we live in.

    I have been happily blogging for 7 months and I have hit the proverbial wall. I am working on uncovering the limiting belief that is holding me back so I can keep on flowing down the river.

    • Hi Justin,

      I sure understand about limiting beliefs. I have never been able to totally rid myself of these annoying little critics. However, I do notice the more that I can get to know those parts of myself (without judgment), the quieter they become. I used to try to stuff, ignore, or over ride parts which only made these aspects of myself louder.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my new blog. I wish you a rapid return down that flowing river.

      Kind regards, dawn

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