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.
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.