Listening To Your Anxious Parts Takes Practice
In my last post I talked about your parts — about when they show up and how they can make you feel, whether it’s anxious, depressed or like an angry or sad 16-year-old. I explained that your inner critic is often the most easily identifiable part, but that we have many parts that develop over our lifetime.
Some of our parts are so hidden that it takes some time and practice to listen and hear what they have to say. Other parts feel so comfortable that it’s hard to distinguish the difference between them and our true selves — our everyday-showing-up selves. Yet, when they show up, we don’t feel genuine or truly connected in our relationships or with ourselves. We might feel like we’re responding from a much younger self or that, deep down, we don’t know who we are.
Recognizing and beginning to identify our parts can help us better understand who we are, how we feel and what we want and need in our lives, in our relationships and within.
Noticing Your Parts
Your parts often show up when strong feelings arise. By paying attention, you begin to notice that you have many different parts. You might hear them in the different messages you tell yourself. They may give you a general sense of uneasiness when life is difficult. Here’s an example:
You’ve decided to step out of your comfort zone and join a yoga class. Never having tried yoga, you’re feeling a little nervous, anxious and unsure of yourself. Below is a conversation that might go on in your head:
Voice One: “Good for me! I signed up for that class!”
Voice Two: “It’s about time. I should have done it six months ago instead of procrastinating! I might even be in shape by now if I’d started then.”
Voice Three: “Everyone is going to know I’ve never done yoga. They’re going to look at me and laugh. I just know it.”
Voice Four: “I should call and get my money back. I have no business being in a yoga class and it’s better to quit then to make a fool of myself.”
Voice Five: “Don’t be such a wuss! You’re always quitting before you even try!”
Voice Six: “Be quiet! Why am I making this so hard for myself? It’s a yoga class, not a dissertation!”
Each one of those voices in your head could be a different part, and they all believe they’re helping, guiding and offering quality advice. Unfortunately, instead they often leave us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unsure of what we want.
Quieting The Inner Critic And Other Anxious Parts
If you pay attention, you begin recognizing the different parts that get triggered when you’re feeling uneasy, depressed or anxious. Journaling, or noting to yourself in an intentional way each time they arise, can help you identify when and where they show up.
Next time a part shows up, instead of telling it to be quiet or arguing with it, I want you to be curious about it. Ask that part, “What are your concerns, worries, or fears? What do you need me to know?” Take a moment to listen, with compassion.
Your inner critic might be worried that by putting yourself out there in new ways you’ll get hurt by others. So it wants to warn you, and keep you safe, but the only way it knows how to do that is by criticizing you.
Your part that wants to avoid, withdraw or submit might tell you to stay home. It worries that being around new people will open you up to their judgment. That part wants you to stay home and avoid anywhere there might be people you don’t know, because that will keep you safe from the uncomfortable feeling of being judged.
Your defensive angry part might yell at you for staying home or not engaging in new, different things. That part thinks that shaming you is the only get you to go out and do the things you say you want to do.
And your true self is overwhelmed, worrying and wondering whether you’re crazy to have all these voices in your head, which leave you feeling unsure about what you want, need and desire.
Listening To Your Self
When you begin to understand that your parts are reacting from deep-seated worries and fears, that they want to keep you safe and protect you, try offering them some compassion for working so hard. Try asking them to quiet their constant dialog, or to step back for a moment to allow you to assess what you really want.
Identifying and dialoging with your parts takes time and practice, because we either accept the messages as truth, or we try to ignore the parts altogether. As your parts feel heard, understood and welcomed, they’ll begin to quiet down. As they become less reactive and anxious, it will be easier to listen and really hear what your true self wants, needs and desires.