I have been introduced to my second superior part over the past week. Unlike my superior defender, this part is a rebel who wants to do her own thing.
At first, I found it a bit amusing to listen to her talk about how much better she is than everyone else. But in this work, no feeling stays for long (especially the good ones). This part is struggling. She is struggling with so much futility. She is struggling to find her way in a world that doesn’t acknowledge her. She went through horrific neglect and abuse. She was a child with great ideas who was never heard. She wanted to be different, but knew the visibility was too dangerous. And unfortunately, that is only part of her story.
She grew up to be a woman in a “man’s career” and the pattern continued. She was the one with soft skills who was given all the tasks nobody else wanted. She was the one without the highly technical knowledge who had to prove herself by working harder and longer than the others. She handled all the stuff they hated. She struggled to be seen for the skills she really brought to the table. She was just the token woman in technology who could make them look a bit better, a bit less misogynistic.
And then, she became a survivor in an activist movement. Let’s face it, almost everyone in activism is a survivor. But she was an “outed” survivor. And with that comes baggage. It is not a decision to be made lightly. Survivors are not given the same clout as those who have read the books and taken the tests. They aren’t invited to the conferences to speak (unless it is to tell their story). They certainly aren’t invited to be an expert at anything. And they certainly don’t get to be an expert in trauma recovery. So the pattern continued. She worked harder than most to get her message out there, to get it taken seriously. She was treated as “just another survivor” by far too many. She was condescended to and treated like her opinion didn’t matter. What could she possibly share that hadn’t been shared a thousand times before?
And it is heartbreaking to see how this part tried to make sense of the world around her. It is heartbreaking to see the belief path she chose to keep going in a world that had no interest in what she had to say. Instead of falling into a deep lack of self-esteem (that was the job of another part), she chose to go a different direction. She chose to assume they were intimidated by her brilliance. She chose to assume they tried to keep her down because they could not handle her. She chose to allow herself the space to be a great, creative, brilliant, unique person who others wanted to knock down for their own selfish reasons. This became her story.
I respect that decision. The story isn’t true of course. Maybe there were a few who were intimidated by me (or my mean girl). Maybe there were a few who recognized what I had to offer and were worried about competing with that. But the reality is much harder to take. The people in my childhood were not good people. They treated me poorly when there was no reason for it. It wasn’t because I was superior to them. It wasn’t because I was inferior to them. It was because of them. They did bad things. They were responsible for their behavior. I was not. That realization brings despair for a child. It brings deep hopelessness because there is nothing the child can do. So instead, our inner parts pick a story. And her story was superiority.
So now I have to unravel her beliefs that my innate superiority will cause others to attempt to knock me down. It’s hard because there is futility and grief to be felt in that process. But it is critical to my recovery to do it. I do it because I know what lives on the other side of it. There is so much beauty in this work. When I help her process her false story, I get the gift of her strength. That strength looks like a confident rebelliousness. I will know the truth. I will do what feels right to me. And there is not a person in the world who will take me off that path. I will be who I am. I will be seen. And this is empowerment. This is what it means to live.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW