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“I reassured the part that it could relax but…”

“I reassured the part that it could relax but…”
September 13, 2017 Ann Weiser Cornell
Worried parts

Focusing Tip #576 – “I reassured the part that it could relax but…”


Merilyn writes:

Recently I had to mind my 10 month old granddaughter for the whole night, and because she wouldn’t settle in the cot, I had her in bed with me. I could not get to sleep, so paying attention and being curious about what was happening in my body, I became aware of something in me that was highly vigilant. As I spent time with this part, it became clear that it was absolutely not going to go to sleep while I was responsible for the baby; nothing was going to happen to that baby on its watch.

I commended it for its great care and vigilance, and suggested that the baby would almost certainly be OK, or maybe the rest of my body could go to sleep while it stayed on watch, but no doing: unless I could reassure it with 100% certainty that the baby would be fine, it was going to remain awake and alert. And it did. All night.

I am curious about a part having control over the whole body. I am pretty sure I was not identified with that part, because other parts of me were very clear they’d have liked to go to sleep.

Dear Merilyn:

Good for you for being curious about what was happening in your body!

It does sound like you had a part that was vigilant. But you have not named the second part… the part that wanted that part to stop being so vigilant.

Both parts were there, in an inner struggle, and you felt that one of them was “you.”

Yes, it is quite common for one type of part, the part that Barbara McGavin and I call the “Defender,” to control the whole body. The other type of part, called a “Protector,” tries to talk it out of what it is doing and feeling.

I know it is tempting to try to talk a part of us into feeling or behaving differently. Offering reassurance, offering rewards, offering praise… they all feel as if we are being very mature and nice.

And you know what? If that worked, we wouldn’t be talking about this now!

But it doesn’t work.

When a part of us feels that it is supposed to change, it is very very unlikely to change.

So what works instead? Empathy. Pure empathy.

After acknowledging the part of you that was wanting to go to sleep, you would have turned to the vigilant part and said, “I really really hear that you are going to make sure that nothing happens to that baby.” And don’t say “…but…”!
Keep listening to how it feels from its point of view without trying to change anything. I’ll bet you anything that… before too long… sleep will arrive.

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