Self-Leadership in a Polarized World

 “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche

I recently attended the 2012 Internal Family Systems Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. What a beautiful state framed against the budding colors of fall. I loved being there.

The conference was entitled, Self-Leadership in a Polarized World.  Dr. Richard Schwartz, founder of the Internal Family System model, while making introductions, stated “…one goal of the conference is to generate more Self energy that can be brought to bear on the polarization within us, our clients, and our county.”

Dr. Schwartz believes that we each carry within us, at the core of our being, what he calls Self. He says 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. He could clearly discern their detached calmness and acceptance of self and others. 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.

Consistent with the name The Faces we Live, my blog posts are about the myriad of roles/parts/sub-personalities and shadow sides that constitute the makeup of every human being. Values, beliefs, feelings, behaviors, and roles all contribute to the overall makeup of an individual (not withstanding heredity and certain physical characteristics). In the IFS model, these aspects are called parts.

Schwartz explains how to consciously access this Self. “To experience the Self, there’s no shortcut around our inner barbarians – those unwelcome parts, such as hatred, rage, despair, fear. The kind of internal fear protectors (inner barbarians) that alienate or estrange others while justifying our own position, makes the outside world appear ever more dangerous. 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. That’s what he said.

So why would I even care about self-understanding much less “listen to and accept my inner barbarians? Yuk! Why is self understanding important?  It is important to have some level of self-understanding if I want to have options and choices regarding my thoughts, beliefs and behaviors.

While Schwartz says that all parts are welcome, he also emphases that internal polarized parts conscious awareness if I want to have a choices in my behaviors; I need to have a working knowledge of my internal and external patterns so that I can have my parts versus my parts having me (controlling me unconsciously). The more that we ignore, stuff, override, etc., aspects of ourselves, the more extreme they get, often overwhelming us with fears and anxieties that we then project onto political systems, or religious systems and groups of people that are different from us. This often elicits polarized parts in others causing a vicious cycle of fear. “To reverse the process, systems need consistent contact with Self-that state we all know when we’re calm, clear, and in balance and, perhaps most important, when overcome by polarization, a profound sense of compassion for the polarized parts of others, as well as our own.”

Jeff Hunter, author of The New Paradigm Digest, succinctly sums up this 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.”

During these highly polarized political times, I am deeply grateful for the Internal Family Systems Conference as a reminder to calm down my reactive parts so that I may bring more Self- energy (peace) to the world at large. Components of Self-energy are; calmness, clarity, connectedness, compassion, creativity, curiosity, courage, confidence. When in Self-energy, I am less apt to judge myself or others, thereby contributing calmness to the world at large.

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  1. Meeting the inner barbarian takes guts. thank you for leading the way, Love, dorothea.

    • Hi Dorothea,

      I agree that meeting the inner barbarian takes guts AND what a spiritual journey it can be. Thanks for being a sister on the path.

      Love, dawn

  2. Love them “inner barbarians” and you’ve got the keys to the kingdom. I really resonate with Schwarz as I do with much of Steiner. If we reject parts of ourselves and fail to continually move in the direction of “an examined life,” we finding many detours and tempting parking places on the road to wholeness. Of course, that’s given that we even consciously stepped onto that road…lol.

    For now, among other things, I’ll work on seeing the Highest in my clients, my friends, my family, and those folks who hover around the free food in Costco with their carts and offspring when I just want to get my frozen berries and depart!

    • Hi Roberta,

      Thanks for visiting my blog site.

      I love your comments and especially your humor. lol. I wonder if I will ever be free of them “inner barbarians” especially when dealing with my judgmental thoughts at those ” folks who hover around the free food in Costco with their carts and offspring” when I want to taste those treats myself. LOL big time!

      Warmly, dawn

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