post

Staying on Target

I once heard a spokesperson for NASA say they know that a missile is on target because 93% of the time (more or less) it is off target and requires constant correcting. I like comparing myself to a NASA missile; it helps me stay on target with minimal self-recrimination as I gently remind myself that I am off target AGAIN.

How do I get myself back on target?

By Self-correcting.

How do I do that?

Well, let’s say that we have had a really hard day. Our elderly parents need more of our time and resources leaving us feeling guilty for not meeting their expectations. Our son gets suspended from school causing a slow burn in our gut and then we find out that our auto repair bill will be double what we expected sending sparks of fear throughout our entire body. A part of us believes that eating chocolate NOW (before even making it to the checkout counter) or having a couple of martinis (which our partner complains is one too many) is a logical way to calm down. If you can do these things in honest moderation, read no further. If, on the other hand, you find yourself doing these things to calm your system keep reading. Like the NASA mission control, our systems are always in the process of trying to self-correct. But like missiles without direction, we constantly veer off target.

Caveat! If your system is off target to the point of serious overeating or drinking then professional help or a 12-step program may be warranted.

So what do we usually do if we drift off course and over-indulge?

Well if you are like me and 98% of the population, one of your inner critics beats you up.

If I try to override the inner critic, I need to conjure up a bigger critic to drown out the one that is berating me with sharp barbs like, “You know that you are overeating (drinking), what is the matter with you? Can’t you just use some self-control? You should be handling this situation better like everyone else seems to.” Or if my critic is really extreme that day it might tell me to just go eat some worms. Ugh!

What to do differently?

According to Dr. Richard Schwartz, founder of the Internal Family System model, we each carry within us, at the core of our being, what he began to call Self. Schwartz says that he sort of stumbled upon Self as he listened ever so carefully to his clients during their moments of clarity. When clients were sharing from Self, he could sense the difference in them immediately, and he could clearly discern their detached calmness and acceptance. He began to understand that at those moments, clients were separated enough from their parts to have them vs. their parts having them. This ‘Self” interfaces with the parts but it is different than the parts.

Dick, not a religious or a particularly spiritual man at that time, began seeking an explanation. He researched spiritual literature among the world’s major religions. He discovered that, while using different language, all emphasized the same core beliefs, that we are all “sparks of the eternal flame, manifestations of the absolute ground of being.”

Schwartz explains how to consciously access this Self.

“To experience the Self, there’s no shortcut around our inner barbarians – those unwelcome parts of ourselves, such as hatred, rage, suicidal despair, fear, addictive need (for drugs, food, sex), racism and other prejudice, greed, as well as the somewhat less heinous feelings of ennui, guilt, depression, anxiety, self-righteousness, and self-loathing. The lesson I’ve repeatedly learned over the years of practice is that we must learn to listen to and ultimately embrace these unwelcome parts. If we can do that, rather than trying to exile them, they transform, ” ( The Larger Self-Richard Schwartz PhD)

WHAT? Did he say, embrace the inner barbarians?

Yep.

See, here’s the deal. The more that we ignore, stuff, override, etc., these aspects of ourselves, the more extreme they get vying for our attention. Jeff Hunter, author of  The New Paradigm Digest, succinctly sums up my point.

“Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian founder of anthroposophy, said that for every step you took in the spiritual realm you had to take three on Earth. If you didn’t balance your pursuit of higher things and the divine with embracing the low, the wicked, the bad and the sinful, the gap between who you were and who you thought you should be would be too wide. Psychiatrists have a word for this: psychosis.”

To have my system off target 96% of the time not only deregulates me but it can elicit retaliatory launches from friends and loved ones. I have to pay attention to my mission control (Self). Once you get the hang of it, it’s easier than you think. Not the being off target part — the correcting part.

 

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Comments

  1. Ron Kelley says:


    Dawn,

    How do you know when you are in control of your ‘inner barbarian’ and not just recognizing it?

    RonK

    • Hi Ron,
      According to the Internal Family System model (IFS), the object is not to “control” our parts but rather to get to know them. What kinds of burdens do these parts carry that forces them to act so extreme? For example, suppose you have an aspect of yourself that feels compelled to control everyone and everything. Perhaps you need to have a certain amount of gas in your tank at all times. Or maybe, everyone needs to be sitting at the dinner table, in a particular chair at a particular time. Your rigidity around these situations clearly causes family members distress but you are unable to act differently, perhaps even justifying your actions by saying something like, “consistency is important.”

      It would be helpful for you to learn more about this aspect of yourself. Imagine inviting this part to visit with you (either in your mind or through journaling). With benign curiosity ask this part questions like:

      How long have you been in charge?
      Why did you take charge to begin with?
      What do you think would happen if you let go?
      How do you think you are protecting Ron?

      Thank this part for doing such a good job in this role but let it know that it can relax a little. Remember, we do not rid ourselves of parts but we can reduce their intensity by holding them with compassionate regard.

      Kind Regards, dawn

    • And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for settnig me straight.

  2. Ridelle Roper says:

    Lots of exercise, meditation and meetings usually help me with the calmness and the acceptance. Also time and the perspective of others takes away the power of the fearful lady carrying the whip. I may not love her but I don’t have to believe what she says. “Self” has much better ideas!!!

    • Hi Ridelle,

      “The fearful lady carrying the whip” may have untold gifts for you if you would be willing to get to know her (See list of questions in my response to Ron). If you choose to take on this task, I would recommend getting an object (like a toy or stick) to represent her. The point of getting an object is to objectify a troublesome part so that you can get to know this part. Parts/aspects/roles come into existence to serve us in some way even if misguided in their efforts.

      Blessings to you, dawn

  3. I started working my eating program again. In the past my inner barbarians become intense when I stop stuffing. Rage usually shows up. It’s hard to love the rager in me but I am thinking of turning to greet her. I’ll ask her the questions too.

    • Hi Gayle,

      Thank you for your great comment.

      Our “inner barbarians” can sure give us fits. First, we have our pro-active parts or managers; they like to control everything about our lives believing erroneously that if everything would just remain in its proper place we would be emotionally safe from all real or imagined harm. So our manager parts try to control people, places and things like the director of a play.

      When our pro-active parts fail (and they always will) our re-active parts come to our immediate rescue. Dr. Schwartz calls these re-active parts Firefighters. Their job is to put out the fire in the belly known as painful feelings like, fears, anxieties, shame, and all manner of vulnerabilities.

      Indeed, food, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, rage, dissociation and a myriad of other creative ways of distracting us from scary, painful emotions can temporarily put out the fires in our belly.

      Think how brilliantly we humans have been designed to have come up with such creative pro-active and reactive ways to manage our distress until we have learned some alternative ways to put out our emotional fires.

      How effective has it been to shame, detest, and beat up, etc. those inner barbarians. Well, if you are like me, not very effective at all. I just end up feeling worse about myself thinking that “I should know better.” After all, from the perspective of the parts, they are working very hard taking care to calm the emotional fires.

      For the next month or so, how about listening to those negative, pain causing parts with curiosity and compassion? For example, gently asking them questions while making a collage, journaling, and/or meditation. You could even get some kind of monster toy to represent that rage part of you. This could act as a reminder that you have this part verses it haves you.
      Good luck Gayle and please let me know how these suggestions work for you.

      Kind regards, dawn

    • Hi Gayle,

      Thank you for your great comment. Our “inner barbarians” can sure give us fits.

      First, we have our pro-active parts or managers; they like to control everything about our lives believing erroneously that if everything would just remain in its proper place we would be emotionally safe from all real or imagined harm. So our manager parts try to control people, places and things like the director of a play.

      When our pro-active parts fail (and they always will) our re-active parts come to our immediate rescue. Dr. Schwartz calls these re-active parts Firefighters. Their job is to put out the fire in the belly known as painful feelings like, fears, anxieties, shame, and all manner of vulnerabilities. Indeed, food, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, rage, dissociation and a myriad of other creative ways of distracting us from scary, painful emotions can temporarily put out the fires in our belly.

      Think how brilliantly we humans have been designed to have come up with such creative pro-active and reactive ways to manage our distress until we have learned some alternative ways to put out our emotional fires.

      How effective has it been to shame, detest, and beat up, etc. those inner barbarians. Well, if you are like me, not very effective at all. I just end up feeling worse about myself thinking that “I should know better.” After all, from the perspective of the parts, they are working very hard taking care to calm the emotional fires.

      For the next month or so, how about listening to those negative, pain causing parts with curiosity and compassion? For example, gently asking them questions while making a collage, journaling, and/or meditation. You could even get some kind of monster toy to represent that rage part of you. This could act as a reminder that you have this part verses it haves you.
      Good luck Gayle and please let me know how these suggestions work for you.

      Kind regards, dawn

  4. This piece was cogent, well-wrtiten, and pithy.

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