COMMUNITY OF THE SELF 1
The self is an amazing, wonderful and powerful life force. It is intricate, strong, delicate, complex and deep – an entity full of paradoxes. The self is like a huge maze, in which so many of us have now become lost, unable to find our way out. The self can also feel like a safe haven in one moment and then be such a harrowing and frightening place to be in the next. The dichotomy of the self has been the subject of so much investigation and exploration in philosophy, psychology, medicine, science and spirituality, and its mystery and complexity still largely defy definition and explanation.
One very useful way of understanding the different complexions and contradictions of the self is by relating to it as a community. A healthy fully functioning person is one whose community is working co-operatively, each member of that community actively participating in the creation and sustenance of balance, harmony, stability, peace of mind and happiness. The unhealthy states that we define as depression, nervous exhaustion, anxiety, panic, phobias, other forms of neurosis and psychoses are all examples of where there is a breakdown in the community of the self.
The members of the community are created out of our vast spectrum of feelings, our infinite number of thoughts, and the huge catalogue of experiences we gather as part of the human journey. It is out of the dynamics which take place between thoughts, feelings and life experience that what, in modern parlance, are known as sub-personalities emerge. Sub-personalities are essentially different aspects of one’s personality that can be described as members of the community of the self – each sub-personality having a unique function, role and identity, which can both suffocate and stifle the whole personality or enlighten and liberate it.
Personal growth needs to take account of the community of the self because so much of what sabotages our growth comes from within. Far too often we look outside ourselves for the solution when the solution lies within. Firstly, we need to understand that there is a community and that for the most part that community is currently working against itself because there is not enough healthy internal dialogue taking place. Why is that? Essentially it is because the community of the self (nearly always in childhood/adolescence) is fragmented which leads to disassociation. Fragmentation can be caused by so many things, such as: tragedy and trauma, mixed messages, abuse, neglect and deprivation, lack of attention, affection and praise, instability, uncertainty, loss. In fact, all those things that breed fear, insecurity and prevent the development of a self that feels worthy and well balanced can be added to this list. Once fragmentation takes place, the sub-personalities are born and a culture of opposition, duality and disassociation begins.
Disassociation keeps the sub-personalities busy ensuring their own survival, the community spirit is broken, and the concept of co-operation and integration is no longer a part of the community’s vocabulary. It is the competitiveness, separateness and conflict that emerge from the dis-unity of fragmentation that leads to emotional and psychological ill health. When we understand how dysfunction and damage starts, we can learn to mobilise our sub-personalities so that they can be instrumental in restoring emotional and psychological health. The first step in re-establishing a healthy dialogue within is to realise this community is not made up of natural enemies. The hostility, rivalry and self-preservation that now exist between the sub-personalities have evolved out of negative life experiences and this is not our natural state. The primary inclination of each member of the community is to work together. However, it is the reservoir of rejection, abandonment, loss, sadness and pain that prevents the community from fulfilling this goal. Only healthy internal dialogue will redress this imbalance. It is time for kindness, compassion and understanding. It is time to learn the intra-personal language, the language of healthy communication with oneself.
COMMUNITY OF THE SELF 2
Having acquired some understanding of how the community of the self is fragmented and a state of disassociation is established, the mission is now to restore balance, wholeness, and well-being. So how do you get your sub-personalities to hold hands and dance their beautiful, co-operative and wonderful dance once more? How do you create the internal dialogue that is needed to end the separatism and futile conflict?
There are many things you can do to assist you in this endeavour, such as: learning the art of creative visualisation, exploiting the power of stillness and silence, celebrating your own value through positive affirmations and positive self talk. Depending on your beliefs the power of prayer may be a route you choose to take; the magic of meditation is another invaluable process that can help. Other things that can help are learning the skill of relaxed breathing and looking after your body through good nutrition, yoga and exercise. These kinds of endeavours will assist immensely in creating a healthy climate within, from which well-being can emerge. The first thing you need to do is to find a place to talk, a place where you can be heard without condemnation, ridicule and shaming. You might find this kind of support in a friendship, or within your family, maybe you need someone more skilled and outside your personal orbit for that kind of help. Whatever your choice, this is nearly always the first step you need to take to re-unite your community.
Once this courageous step has been taken and you begin to unpack your emotional wares with another, you will then begin to see more clearly how your fragmentation has taken place and evolved. The unique manifestations of your sub-personalities will become clearer. Clarifying and defining your sub-personalities is vital in enabling you to relate to them. This defining will help you to understand your moods, attitudes and behaviours and give clearer insights into their origins and reasons for being. Once you have externalised the members of your community through dialogue with someone safe, the next step is to set up a dialogue with yourself. This is where still-time, creative visualisation, positive affirmations, mirror work and the other uplifting and empowering activities are needed, as they will all help you relate more effectively to yourself. Self-awareness and personal growth are not activities of self-absorption and self-indulgence; they are about regaining a balance between oneself and the world. To achieve balance, you must develop a relationship with yourself; then and only then can you really understand your relationship to the world and relate more meaningfully and positively.
It is time to realise that the challenge of integration, wholeness and wellness is not in anyone else’s hands, it is down to you. Decide from today to make peace with yourself by building bridges between your fragmented parts. Decide that you are tired of the chaos, confusion and fluctuations and select your preferred ways of re-creating unity within the self. No one can deny you this attainment except you, so do not stand in your own way any longer; it is time to make real the possibility of a self that relates kindly to itself. A self that is patient and understanding to all its parts. A self that speaks and listens to those different parts and does not condemn or crucify, a self that creates security and stability by celebrating that which is good rather than dwelling on the negative. Such an attainment is not the property of a selected few and it will be yours if you start practising positivity. Application of positive principles is the secret of integration and liberation.
After reading this handout make a pact with yourself that you are going to use all the positive means available to you to mobilise and recreate the community of the self, and within that community re-discover your beauty, potential and purpose. It is time to understand that the damage caused through various life experiences can be rectified by understanding the nature of the human condition and applying the principles of personal growth. To believe you are beyond rehabilitation is self-limiting and false. Create a life of fulfilment by talking, affirming, visualising, breathing and being still and you will once again experience the ‘united kingdom’ of the self.
Also see: Making Peace with Your Subpersonalities