You may know this already but the easiest and best analogy for understanding subpersonalities is that your personality is like an orchestra and each of your subpersonalities is a member of the orchestra. So, for example, someone might have a ‘diva pianist’ who is never stops playing and tries to control or drown out the other orchestra members; a ‘violinist’ who truly plays well but isn’t confident enough to come forward; a ‘tuba player’ who hides at the back and is so nervous nobody ever notices her; a ‘percussionist’ who likes making a lot of noise to express her anger; a ‘trumpeter’ who acts as if he is the only member of the orchestra and likes to pretend the other members don’t even exist; a young ‘guitarist’ who had a difficult childhood and is crying all the time; etc… I could go on and name a 100 piece orchestra (!) but you get the idea.
So the first step in working with your subpersonalities is to get to know the ‘members of your orchestra’ and then ask them what they want and need; and (at least symbolically!) find a way to satisfy their needs. They then play more harmoniously with the other orchestra members; they might even shine and show the true quality of their playing.
The next, deeper step is then to become the conductor of your orchestra – a good conductor who doesn’t force the orchestra but gently, with compassion, and firmly, with purpose, directs them to play the music of your life. The theory is that the more we centre ourselves as the conductor the more we can ‘read the music’ it is our destiny to play. This ‘destiny’ comes from the composer, the Self, and is an expression of our true inner nature.
Who or what is “The Self” – the Spiritual Self, the Transpersonal Self, True Self, the Source, whatever name we give it? When we ask ourselves most deeply and honestly what is the source of all our awareness the answer is that it emerges out of nothing. If everything comes from nothing, then there is no ‘true’ or ‘real’ Self that somehow sits behind everything making life appear and making events happen.
At the heart of each subpersonality is a specific quality trying to emerge, and all these Qualities together constitute the Self which is only real because we exist – and we exist only because it is real. I’m reminded of the old Indian story where a sage is asked that if it is true the whole world is supported on the back of an elephant (a Hindu legend) then what supports the elephant? The sage answers: another elephant! … Of course, what supports that is another elephant until we end up with an endless, infinite chain of elephants each supporting the one above. We are good at imagining all kinds of things, from elephants through gods and goddesses and one God to some all-pervading invisible Self.
Truth is, the ‘nothing’ out of which ‘everything’ emerges is unknowable and it is this ‘unknowability’ that is the essence of Self. The fact that we do not know inevitably engenders a spirit of inquiry which brings us to a deep, spiritual connection. If anything is the Self, it is found not in the answers but in the asking.
Sometimes a state of not-knowing, when deeply and existentially felt, is described as ‘the dark night of the soul’, a state when our sense of connection, that there is something ‘greater’ than ourselves, is challenged, when despair and fragmentation and lifelessness take over and there seems little – or no – point in anything, when faith is challenged to the greatest degree and it seems like nothing can fix it. This is depression, yes, but such a deep depression you lose the sense of knowing even what it is that is being depressed… life has no point, no purpose, is lifelessness itself.
To inquire into it, to talk about and share such deep existential separation, is not at all easy, it may be seen as sign of weakness to those who do not know, but really to inquire and talk about it is to own it, to shine a light on it, to recognise it is a challenge, a test, a way of moving towards a deeper truth: that faith is not about knowing and certainty, it is about doubt. Doubt engenders life and enlivens the spirit of inquiry, our greatest connection to and expression of the Self.
Will Parfitt – www.willparfitt.com