I love my inner parts. I would not have survived my childhood without them. And I would not have healed my trauma without a deep love and acceptance for them.
Every inner part has brought strength to my whole self which is critical to my success as an adult. Each inner part has a goal which is admirable in so many ways. The defenders bring their goal of protection and safety. The inner children bring their goal of love, peace and purpose. And the freedom fighters bring their goal of pure authenticity and self expression. All the parts bring power to my system through their strengths and goals.
But inner parts carry trauma. And with trauma comes some dysfunctional approaches to life. As I have mentioned before, it is not the goals of our parts that are the problem. It is their methods. Their methods lead to bad experiences in life. They repeat patterns from the past as they attempt to resolve them. They inflict harm on others as they attempt to survive at any cost. And they inflict harm on the self as they attempt to run from the pain of the past. All of this leads to damage. And unfortunately, they don’t care about the damage. They are desperate to meet their goals and the damage they cause is just collateral damage to them. The damage is worth it to reach their goals. And that damage comes in many forms.
Damage to the physical body. Most of our inner parts don’t care about the physical body. In cases of sexual abuse or permanent injury, the inner parts see the physical body as the enemy, the one betraying them. And they know it holds the physical and emotional pain of past. They are not interested in keeping it healthy. They are interested in meeting their goals. The parts who are the hardest on the body are definitely the freedom fighters. These parts are about freedom and that includes the freedom from pain. They will engage in addictive behaviors to avoid the perceived control of pain over the system. They may choose drugs, food (or the lack of it), alcohol, self-harm or sex. That addictive behavior is never good for the body. But their goal is to live a life without pain. And they have no idea how else to do it.
Damage to those we love. I have written in the past about how inner parts drive narcissistic tendencies. I am not making excuses for people who have narcissistic behavior, but knowing where it comes from is important. And it comes from the goals of the inner parts. The love seeker (an inner child) creates heavy collateral damage as they attempt to get love. They have already learned that they’re not lovable from their childhood. So now, they are trying to manipulate the system. Love must be found at any cost. Love seekers can be highly impulsive. They drive all the extra-marital affairs in the world. They can be very controlling. They may go as far as to tell another person exactly what to say to show their love and acceptance. To be fair, they are attempting to find love against all odds. They are fighting against the beliefs that they are not good enough for love. They are fighting against the inner parts who want to run from other people. And when you think about the deep insatiable yet seemingly unattainable desire for love of an abused child, it is mostly sad.
Damage to other parts. Unfortunately our inner parts often mimic our external family of origin. And that is never a good thing. They have a tendency to battle with each other. They block each other. They sabotage each other. They certainly don’t trust each other. And none of this helps to calm your anxiety. But there is no part who creates more damage in the system of parts than the controller. The controller’s primary purpose is to maintain the mask to the outside world. When the mask is in place, the controller feels safe. But to the controller’s dismay, trauma cannot be shoved down into the crevices of the body forever. It interferes no matter how hard the controller tries to push it away. The controller will use all the tactics to keep the trauma and inner parts at bay. They will invalidate emotions. They will distract. They will dissociate. They will fill the mind with doubts. And all of these tactics are incredibly re-traumatizing for our inner children who are trying to share their pain. That said I know why the controller does these things. To the controller, remembering and feeling the trauma means annihilation. And the controller is just trying to stay alive. They are terrified and exhausted and they don’t know there is another way.
Take a look at how your parts may be creating collateral damage in their attempts to meet their goals. This isn’t about villainizing our inner parts. This is about understanding their goals and helping them. We need to help them reach their goals, but we want to teach them new methods. We need to teach them that they are operating from lies they learned from abusive people. We need to help them see how they can be safe and loved and free without collateral damage.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW