As experienced psychotherapists who have collectively led hundreds of workshops over the past 25 years, we can assure you, based on our personal and professional experience coupled with extensive observation of client participation, that 1). We ultimately heal in the eyes of an other, which is to say, within the context of our shared experience as human beings. 2).Without exception, remarkable compassion is extended when a vulnerable aspect (part or role) is presented within the context of his/her story.
“The psychological dilemma plaguing most of humanity is that the archetypes live us instead of us living them. Unless we become aware that there are such things as blind forces or archetypes in our unconscious, unless we become cognizant that we are in their grip, we will remain in a state of identity with these blind, unconscious, archetypal forces.” We must wake up to our deeper realities and dynamics if we are going to stop being menaces to ourselves and others.” [i] Eugene Pascal, Jung To Live By (Warner Books, New York, N. Y. 1992) p.89
“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds”. R.D. Laing Quotation #34029. Classic Quotes.
If this is the case,where and how do people access those parts of themselves which have not been recognized and validated? Would recognition of parts give more meaning and freedom of choice to their lives? If society validates us only for the roles we’ve become, where is the outlet with which one might untangle and liberate the potentially deeper meaning and expression of self-states that lie within the human person?
If roles within any given culture are what mediates our understanding of and construction of our identity, then roles may be understood functionally as a container or compass for each person to orientate their current position.
For example,it is good to know who is the pilot and who is the passenger. It would also be good to know who is the inmate and who is the guard (some would argue this example). In this case,inmate and passenger are temporary roles unless the inmate has strongly identified himself/herself with this role.
We are told to be strong, to keep a stiff upper lip to grieve a loss for a prescribed amount of time, to keep our problems to ourselves, to put on a happy face while simultaneously being told to be open and authentic.
With the myriad of mixed messages about how one should be, which mask one should wear on any given day, it is indeed nothing short of heroic that more of us are not psychotic.
As a result of our genetic makeup, our innate temperament, brain chemistry, i.e. attractors, parental and societal influences, there is much about the construction of our humanness that is beyond our control.
One’s “role” plays a central place in the social sciences because it is a medium for how and what an individual internalizes in terms of human behavior. It provides a way of “being.” The late Ernest Becker observed that “Identity is inseparable from the role one is assigned … and that “The social environment remains to his death the only source for validating that identity”.[i]
Unfortunately, we become attached to our roles as if they were our core identity instead of realizing that we merely have roles like mother, father, daughter, son, male, female, banker, teacher, student, etc. Ultimately, at our core we are much, much more than the role that we endure.
“Emotional life can be influenced, but it cannot be commanded.”[i]
In 1986, Dr. Robert Ornstein, then professor at the University Of California Medical Center in San Francisco as well as at Stanford University, conducted extensive research on the human brain; he concluded that “our illusion is that each of us is somehow unified, with a single coherent purpose and action …But that our mind is really a coalition made up of competing entities, we do not always, even often, know what we think or believe … when these different pieces of the mind are not in harmony, a condition called cognitive dissonance results. …”[ii]
The limbic imprints of the infant brain come from facial expressions, tone of voice and touch etc. that can start in-utero and come from a myriad of social interchanges with whoever has contact with the child. Touch, voice, tone, and facial expressions “… become emotional “Attractors” which come to fore and “play out our unconscious knowledge in every unthinking move we make in the dance of loving”.[iv]
These imbedded emotional inscriptions do not occur without social interchange. The Attractors remain camouflaged in our limbic brain and emerge to create our attractions for some circumstances (danger, serenity), environments (sounds, smells, tastes), people (male, female, tall, thin), and relationships and our rejection of others.
Our personal relationship histories and how we make meaning is fundamental. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA school of medicine and says that “…in these ways, history and present context shape whichever “self” is organized in the moment. As relationship experiences are repeated, these “self-states” become repeatedly engrained and develop their own histories and patterns of activity across time.”[i] It is our contention that all of our “self-states” (parts) plus a Self (the internal spark of the Divine) are what ultimately constitutes a human being.