Focusing Tip #805 – “Can we name our Parts?”

Focusing Tip #805 – “Can we name our Parts?”
July 20, 2022 Ann Weiser Cornell
“I am wondering about naming our 'recurring characters' or finding an image for them.”

Focusing Tip #805 – “Can we name our Parts?”

Does it help to name our parts if we meet them again and again? Read on…

Amanda writes:

I really liked your answer last week because I feel very comfortable saying “part of me.” But I am wondering about taking it a step further and naming our “recurring characters” or finding an image for them.

Personally I can find it very reassuring to greet an old friend (like an inner critic, worrier, pleaser, etc). But is it better to allow our parts to be fluid and in-the-moment?

Dear Amanda:

I love your phrase “recurring characters”! Parts do tend to recur, don’t they? Like recognizing characters in a drama, we can feel: “Ah! I’ve seen you before!”

So of course there is the urge to give them names. “The Inner Critic” and “The Inner Child” are two of the most common.

The problem has to do with the power of language to freeze experience and hold back change. We wouldn’t want to speak in a way that made it less likely that we could evolve and change and grow.

Of all the words in the English language, the one that gets us in the most trouble is the word “the.”

Notice what happens when you say “the Inner Critic.” You’re saying there’s only one of them, right? That’s what the word “the” does. Maybe there are lots of Inner Critics. Maybe there are parts that criticize sometimes, and don’t criticize at other times.

This is the problem with labels. They set up an expectation that it will always be this way… and that this quality (being a critic, being a child, etc.) is its only important attribute.

What if I say instead: “There’s a part that is being critical.” I can add, “It feels familiar, it feels like I’ve met it before.” No harm in that. We do recognize recurring characters, don’t we?

But we need to be careful to hold our language open so that change is possible. A part that is criticizing today might be gently reminding tomorrow. Or something else.

Just as you love your actual friends but you don’t need them to always be the same, our inner “friends” can change… and we welcome their changes.


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