In Gestalt coaching we sometimes work on what is called "Parts of Self" (no, not split personalities :-)) We all have parts of ourselves that pop up when needed and help us deal with our lives, or pop up when least expected and throw a wrench in things 😜
Parts of Self work was a fun little exercise for me when my mentor first did it with me. I had never noticed all my pieces and parts before. Some of them were easy to find: Mom, Wife, Artist, Writer, and Animal Lover but as she began to ask questions I found others I had never considered: People Pleaser, Perfectionist, Fearful, Hopeful, Optimistic, Reader, Lover of Learning, Sensitive (meds, lights, sounds, textures, smell), HSP-Highly Sensitive Person, Animal Communicator, Obsessive, Medium, Sucker, Healer, Teacher, Always Thinking (1,000 tabs open in my Brain Browser), Creative, Gardener, Caretaker, Life Coach, Listener, Talker, Bitch, Pissy Pants, Scattered, Focused, Clairaudient, Claircognizant, Clairvoyant, Clairalient, Clairsentient, Anxious, Depressed, Angry, Whitewater Kayaker, Snowboarder, Seer of Beauty, Photographer, Daydreamer, Silly, Funny, Lover of Words, Ambivert, Empath.
Now I can add two that seem more like the umbrella, the overarching parts of me that the rest fall under: Hyperactive and Routine&Calm and these two feel like the parts of myself that I didn’t know were there until recently but boy have they created a lot of angst my whole life since they have been so diametrically opposed.
Routine&Calm Julia: Lover of peace, quiet, sameness, less input, no change!
Hyperactive Julia: Lover of all the change all of the time: plate spinner, physically and emotionally active, more input, did I mention the change?!
These are the parts that are creating a lot of interest for me lately. How to give each part the attention it needs to create balance and health in my physical and emotional life.
Hyperactive Julia wants to see all the people, talk with everyone, go and do and be super active both physically and emotionally. She needs time, out in the world, so we feel happy and fulfilled and creative. She’s bored and depressed by Routine&Calm Julia.
Routine&Calm Julia needs a weighted blanket and noise cancelling earphones. She likes to deep dive into her interests, like animals and writing and art and not come up for air. She’s perfectly happy spending long amounts of time by herself. She’s overwhelmed and anxious by the life that Hyperactive Julia creates.
For most of my life I’ve allowed Hyperactive Julia to rule and have tried to stuff Routine&Calm Julia way down and out of sight. She’s most noticeable when in burnout and she shuts us down—yikes.
I’ve somehow been able to pretend she’s not a part of me. I don’t know how I did that. At 54 she is making herself known more clearly, particularly after the death of my Mom. Actually she’s been trying to make herself known all my life. I just didn’t understand that Routine&Calm was an okay part to have.
I’ve recently run into a word that fits and that’s “masking.” Like parts, most people mask—some more than others. I’ve been masking my Routine&Calm part most of my life, even from myself. Weird. She’s kind of not socially acceptable. People think she’s strange. Her sensitivities and needs are over the top compared to typical people. I learned from a young age that Hyperactive Julia was much more socially acceptable. People liked her energy, her playfulness, her creativity, her willingness to try new things like whitewater kayaking, skiing (yuck), snowboarding (yay!), her laughter and silliness.
I’m learning my brain is a bit different and that’s okay. I thought Routine&Calm didn’t deserve to be seen and heard. I thought she was other parts like: Depressed, Bored, Boring, Daydreamer, Obsessive, Fearful. I called Routine&Calm all the mean names and told her, “Buck up!”, “Snap out of it!”, and “Stop being a baby!”
At the end of last year and now early 2024, I’m allowing Routing&Calm to lead the way for the first time in my life.
I want to see who she really is, what she needs to be happy. Routine&Calm Julia is a curious sort with how long she can paint and write. She can forget to pee when she’s really engrossed! Can the two sides learn to happily cohabitate instead of working against each other? What would that look like?
Usually I let her wear noise cancelling headphones (or earbuds when in public) whenever she wants (which is way more than I ever knew she wanted) but if we can’t then I take her take her lead and as soon as possible, tuck her in under her weighted blanket and stick a headset on her with some soft soothing music and she’s better pretty quickly. Growing up and not allowing her the light of day, it feels weird! It's hard not to say, "Oh for heaven's sake, stop it, you're being ridiculous!" But guess what? I'm generally calmer. I have a lot fewer panic attacks.
When Hyperactive Julia starts to pout, drag her blankie around the house and give me those woe-is-me eyes, I take her out to play and be with people. As soon as we get home, it's quiet time though. I’m learning the balance and it’s been eye opening, soothing, amazing, joyful, shocking, funny, and completely life changing.
This is why parts work is so important. Once we start figuring out our parts we can understand them better. We can see how we tick and why. That understanding can help us feel some compassion for ourselves and self compassion is so very healing. With self compassion we can move forward into our lives in a new way, a way that is kind to ourselves and supportive for all the pieces that make us whole.
Wondering if anyone can relate? Are any of you masking your weirdness too?
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