The “Ugly” Part

Slowly my eyes began to focus on the hotel room, the abstract wall picture, the typical multicolored bedspread, and my open suitcase supported by one of those portable luggage racks. Claustrophobic since childhood, I always request the top floor so I can leave the curtains open to the safety of the vast outdoors. This morning, however, I was dismayed to see snow falling. After attending a workshop, I had stayed over because this was the day I could finally pick up my 14-foot travel trailer that I had impulsively bought the previous month. The salesman wanted to fix a few things before he would allow me to tow it off the lot. Fear washed over me at the thought of the two-hour drive home while pulling a trailer for my very first time — especially on snow covered roads.

The adventurous part of me soon began daydreaming about my first outing to the ocean, and I was filled with excitement thinking about my planned camping trips. My charming 25-year old trailer was one of those Scamp fiberglass things guaranteed by the salesman not to leak. Yeah right! What was I thinking? Had I been foolish to believe him, I wondered. I suddenly recalled times that I had been duped by my naiveté if not outright stupidity. I now felt embarrassed by my “impulsive” choice to buy the trailer even though I had been considering this for some time. At my age, tent camping was getting hard on my bones. The salesman quipped that it was the fastest sale he ever made. But I loved the trailer and really trusted him.

Good grief! All of this and my eyes had only been open for five minutes.

Next, I wondered about the dream that caused me to awake sobbing. My face was still wet from the tears. Worse still, why was this ugly image hanging around in my mind? Actually, it had not yet formed into an image. It looked like a raw blob of snot. Yuk! What is THAT, I wondered? I reasoned that it must have had something to do with the intensive workshop that I had attended the day before. I knew from experience to ‘light a candle’ in my mind for this emerging part even though it felt really disgusting.

In the course of a few minutes I had experienced multiple aspects of myself: my adventurous part, my competent part, my incompetent part, critical parts, embarrassment, shame, and a new unidentifiable part. Yikes!

What to do?

I wanted six donuts but instead, I called my friend and colleague Jeanette. I told her about the ‘ugly part’. She agreed to meet me for breakfast before I picked up my trailer.

At breakfast, Jeanette handed me a tiny woven basket with a cotton ball inside to represent this still unknown aspect of myself.

We had done many workshops together over the years and knew the importance of honoring our parts by making them concrete; in other words, to make an implicit or hidden part of ourselves explicit and visible. I didn’t have to know what that part represented at that moment but I knew enough to honor whatever aspect of myself was endeavoring to emerge.

Hugging my friend goodbye, I sighed and slipped the basket into my pocket. Mustering up my courage, I headed for the RV dealership noticing how my white jeep seemed to fade into the vast white quietness only evoked by freshly fallen snow

During the next few months, I began to understand that “snotty blob” part of myself as my childhood depression. Between the ages of 7-10, I was depressed nearly to the point of suicide. At age ten, family circumstances changed. We moved to a new neighborhood and I re-invented myself, forever walling off the depression (not consciously mind you).

As this part of me surfaced, I respectively ‘listened’ to the isolation, fear and wall of blackness experienced for so many years. I was moved to tears at the ingenious power of the mind to have found a way to help me survive an unstable childhood. Yet, this part of me clearly wanted to be known.

Dr. Schwartz, founder of Internal Family System, would refer to this process as unburdening an exiled part that had carried a painful burden.

I thought about the highly esteemed family therapist, Virginia Satir who is often regarded as ‘the mother of family therapy’. She would use the image of a mobile as a metaphor for our many parts. She encouraged us to think of ourselves as living mobiles. Sometimes our parts are in balance, other times parts are hanging askew. That is how I felt that morning. Askew! Yet thankful for the following tools I used to re-balance myself.

Unburdening suggestions

Get something to represent this part, i.e., a rock, cotton ball, or small toy. Imagine yourself having a conversation with a part of yourself either in your mind or through journaling. Ask yourself/parts questions, where do I feel this in my body, how old does this part feel, how does it serve me, what would happen if it were not here, what does it need from me?

Post Script: I blessed that caring salesman every time I stepped into my travel trailer, which never leaked. Having enjoyed its quaintness for seven years, I sold it for exactly what I had paid for it. I could trust my intuition after all.


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  1. Ridelle Roper says:

    The part of you that calls and asks a friend to go have breakfast is the part I really admire.
    When can we meet?

  2. Ron Davis says:

    I just really admire your courage Dawn, both as a therapist and as spiritual being searching for humanity and trying to keep all your parts in balance at the same time. Sometimes I wish I could unscrew my head and put it on the shelf…………………..stupid parts anyway.

    • Hi Ron,

      Trying to maintain inner harmony is actually too large a goal for me. I have two simpler goals. One is endeavoring to have more awareness of my parts that drive my emotions and behaviors. Sort of like a daily inventory. With increased self-awareness, I do less emotional harm to myself and others.

      The second is to treat myself with more compassion. I have noticed to the degree I extend compassion to myself, to that same degree I extend compassion to others. If I am harsh and judgmental in my world view of others, I tend to treat myself likewise which has NEVER helped me to grow in any meaningful way.

      My first blog talks about my bumbling part. I could have used the word stupid as you did when referring to some of your parts. I so relate because I really mess up sometimes. Yet, using the word bumbling vs. stupid is one of the ways in which I am kinder to myself.

      I hope that you will take the time to get to know the parts of you that you want to put on the shelf. Every part/aspect of ourselves that come into existence began as a way to protect us or bring us relief in some way. Think about parts that sleep too much or overeat or drink excessively, etc. Aren’t these just aspects of ourselves that are trying to calm us when other methods fail? Are there healthier ways? Sure. But maybe that was the best that we could do at the time. Or perhaps we were really young when our most troubling parts came into existence. Journal, talk to a counselor or trusted friend about these aspects. Most of all treat them with tenderness, curiosity and respect.

      Thank you for writing Ron.

      Warm regards, dawn

  3. I love this one….I’m trying very hard to give the due attention to the parts that need to be known and not slipping into the vortex of fear, confusion, anxiety, and hopelessness. I can get stuck in those parts very easy, then the victim always follows. When I’m centered, I can see how I started to slip but when I’m in it, I believe it to be the truth inside and out. I have had a run of “bad luck” (the universe is trying very hard to teach me something) lately, the latest is my refrigerator has been leaking for a couple of months and my entire kitchen floor is ruined. I am in a sea of insurance companies, flooring companies, electricians, and plumbers. There are blowers and de-humidifiers going 24/7. Then I go out to go to work and I have a flat tire….it sends me over the edge. I have been crying for a week straight, full of fear. Feeling like “I’m in a bad place right not”, in a “storm”, “it will pass” I tell myself, “just hang on”. I was with a friend yesterday and she says, “What if your not in a storm? What if these are just a set of circumstances in your life right now and you can choose how you react?” See, I fee like either everything is good, or bad and those parts take over depending on the situation. When I can separate “me” from the circumstances, I have a better chance of keeping the “ugly parts” safe, where they belong. My evening was wonderful and this morning I feel happy ( a little upset that my eyes are still so puffy and it’s my 20 year class reunion this weekend!) but feeling safe has returned. The blowers are still blowing, workers in and out of my house, but I’m not shaking anymore! I love your blog Dawn….

    • Hi Paula,

      On one hand, I love that your friend reminded you that you could come in out of the rain. I can’t imagine life without those reminders. On the other hand, when fear grabs us (another way of saying that our parts got hijacked) it takes a while for our mind, body and spirit to calm down. This is the way it is for EVERYONE unless they are lying, in denial or close to ascension.

      The bottom line of becoming aware of our parts is not to get rid of them, which is impossible, but rather to work with them so that we do not self-destruct or take these feelings out on others. Sometimes the very best that we can do is precisely what you did. 1). You said to yourself, “Just hang on” which is in itself a form of self soothing. 2). You talked with a friend 3). Your cried (great release) 4). You reminded yourself that you are not the parts, that you have those parts (feelings) and tried to calm them. 5). You recognized that you could slide into victimhood and worked at not letting that happen. 6). I am guessing that you prayed and/or asked for guidance. 7). Puffy eyes and all, you separated enough from the parts to allow for some peace this morning IN THE FACE OF THE SAME PROBLEMS. Wow! It doesn’t get any better than that.

      Warm Regards, dawn

    • Thanks for the insihgt. It brings light into the dark!

  4. Chrysalis says:

    Dear Heart: So happy to have a forum to explore my parts in the company of others. Nothing comes through until I’m ready I guess. As my Mom celebrates 96 years on the planet and is contemplating leaving her body and my daughter takes off – my parts are having a party. I’ll always be grateful for the way you taught me to patiently explore parts with gentle questions and humor when my former style was to interogate and dominate. I am surprized at a couple new parts that have come forward over this last very challenging two years and how I can recognize their worth to my survival. Allowing my parts time to emerge and be explored is not so daunting today and I relish the way this process helps me wake up… good and faithful friends can. Miracles are happening here. I trust this process and so appreciate you for giving it to me.

    Thanks darling….Chrysalis

    My new favorite phrase is “now just hold on…” acknowledge but somehow delayed til is revealed. I love this life.

    • Dear Chrysalis,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is so gratifying to know that I have contributed to something that helps you on your life journey. I too love the IFS model and use it daily.

      Sometimes I think that it takes a village to help each of us, not to just get by in life, but in the humanizing process.

      With respect and admiration, dawn

  5. Hi Dawn! I’m visiting from The Blogging Buddies Social Network

    I love this!

    And it resonates with me because last year, I bought a camper that most would think was a bad time- just recovering from a long- term job loss, etc….

    I sold it for $150.00 more than we paid for it and bought a bigger camper!

    We are living out most of our summer at camp and loving it! And I thank God for my camper all the time.

    I also love the mobile analogy….I actually teach a journal writing class (and just finished an ebook about journaling! ) and there is an exercise in there for finding balance.

    Anyway, thanks for joining The Blogging Buddies….I look forward to reading more of your work here.

    Come on home – mom blog
    Working at home advice

    • Hi Carolee,

      Thank you for visiting my new blog. I tried to respond to your blog today but I continue to experience technical challenges as I learn my way around this social media stuff (I remain baffled by Face Book).

      Congratulations on your recent eBook publication. Great job.

      Thanks for telling me about your camping adventures. How fun!

      Warm Regards, dawn

  6. thank you for sharing this warm and well written blog. I was drawn into it the moment I started reading. I like the way that you put a concrete object into your pocket, it is a way to own the new parts of ourselves. I have always admired you and in many ways I think of all of what I learned from you back in 92. You were the big part of me getting sober. That stayed with me, so it stuck! I also related to your depression as a kid.

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