SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY -
WHAT ARE SUBPERSONALITIES?
One of the most harmful illusions that can beguile us is probably the belief
that we are an indivisible, immutable, totally consistent being. And finding
out that the contrary is true is among the first tasks and possibly
surprises that confront us in our research.
We can easily perceive our actual
multiplicity by realizing how often we modify our general outlook, changing
our model of the universe with the same facility with which we change dress.
Thus, life may appear to us at any time as a routine, a dance, a race, an
adventure, a nightmare, a riddle, a merry-go-round, etc.
Our varying models of the universe color our perception and influence our
way of being. And for each of them we develop a corresponding self-image and
a set of body postures and gestures, feelings, behaviors, words, habits, and
beliefs. This entire constellation of elements constitutes in itself a kind
of miniature personality, or, as we will call it, a subpersonality.
Subpersonalities are psychological satellites, coexisting as a multitude of
lives within the overall medium of our personality. Each subpersonality has
a style and a motivation of its own, often strikingly dissimilar from those
of the others. Says the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, "In the very corner
of my soul there is an altar to a different god."
Each of us is a crowd. There can be the rebel and the intellectual, the
seducer and the housewife, the saboteur and the aesthete, the organizer and
the bon vivant, each with its own mythology, and all more or less
comfortably crowded into one single person. Often they are far from being
at peace with one another. As Assagioli wrote, "We are not unified; we often
feel that we are, because we do not have many bodies and many limbs, and
because one hand doesn't usually hit the other. But, metaphorically, that is
exactly what does happen within us. Several subpersonalities are continually
scuffling: impulses, desires, principles, aspirations are engaged in an
1 - Consider one of your prominent traits, attitudes, or motives in life.
2 - With your eyes closed, become aware of this trait, attitude and motive.
feel and focus on Its energy in you. Then let an image emerge representing
it. It may be a woman, a man, an animal, an elf, an object, yourself in
disguise, a monster, or anything else in the universe. Do not consciously
try to find an image. Let it emerge spontaneously, as if you were watching a
screen, not knowing what will shortly appear on it.
3 - As soon as the image has appeared, give it the chance to reveal itself
to you without any interference or judging on your part.
Let it change if it tends to do so spontaneously, and let it show you some
of its other aspects if it wants to. Get in touch with the general feeling
that emanates from it.
4 - Now, let this image talk and express itself. Give it space, so to speak,
for doing so; in particular, find out about its needs. Talk with it (even if
your image is an object, it can talk back to you; anything is possible in
the imaginary world).
You have in front of you a subpersonality , an entity with an energy, a life
and intelligence of its own.
5 - Now, open your eyes, and record in a notebook everything that happened
so far. (keep a special diary to discover more about the different
subpersonalities that cohabit and form your ego)
Then give this sub-personality a name any name that fits and will help you
to identify it in the future: the Complainer, the Artist, the Bitch, Santa
Claus, the Skeptic, "Jaws," the Insecure One, the Octopus, the Clown, "I
Told You So," the Judge, the Victim, the Rebel, the Mother, the Boss and so
on. Finally, write about its traits, habits, and peculiarities.
6 - After you have identified and exhaustively described one sub personality
you can go on to the others. But take your time and work on each one alone
until you feel finished. The process requires merely picking a few more of
your prominent traits, attitudes, or motives and going through steps 1 to 5
for each one.
You can also discover other subpersonalities by taking stock of the various
ways in which you look at life, by reviewing your behavior in various
situations, and by considering your various styles of being you. Discovering
our subpersonalities in these ways gives us a quick means to gain a
relatively clear picture of our inner life. In turn, this clarity can enable
us to be more at home with all those unknown inner guests having
their own party or battle inside us.
When we recognize a subpersonality, we are able to step outside it and
observe it. In psychosynthesis we call this process "des-identification."
Because we all have a tendency to identify with to become one with this or
that sub-personality, we come implicitly to believe that we are it.
Des-identification consists of our snapping out of this illusion and
returning to our self to the real Presence within and its level of
consciousness. It is often accompanied by a sense of insight and liberation.
At certain other times subpersonality recognition is also accompanied by a
healthy feeling of dismay or alarm, as, for instance, when a woman who had
suddenly recognized her "Victim" subpersonality exclaimed: "If I stop
complaining, what else can I do?" Still other people, after having
recognized a sub-personality, especially a very deeply ingrained one,
suddenly feel naked and defenseless, as if their armor had
dissolved, which is exactly what .has happened. In all cases, however, no
matter what the initial emotional response, there is more real awareness
and, therefore, more freedom. But let's look at a concrete example.
Andrew, a young doctor, is blocked by an inner rigidity, which interferes
with his relationships and is otherwise a nuisance. A subpersonality is
continuously judging and criticizing whatever he and others do or say. It's
like having a nonstop internal moralist preaching all the time.
When he deliberately evokes this quality and tries to let an image emerge,
Andrew sees a respectable, old-fashioned priest, grim, stern, and dressed
entirely in black. As soon as he can see the image clearly, he also discerns
the outlines of the rigidity, which has been controlling him. While before
he would feel this as a vague discomfort and merely endure it, now for the
first time he is able to shake it off.
We must remember that there are no good or bad subpersonalities. All
subpersonalities are expressions of vital elements of our being, however,
negative they may seem to us at first. After all, the "Saboteur" or "judge"
may have a strong sense of humor, and the "Mystic" may at times only a
boring moralist. The "Rebel" may come handy once in a while and even save a
Sub-personalities become harmful only when they control us. One of the aims
of our workshops is to prevent us from becoming dominated and consequently
limited by them, and to aid us in identifying with and des-identifying from
them at will.
The ultimate aim in sub-personality work is to increase the sense of self or
center of Being by deepening our awareness and acquaintance with our own
subpersonalities, so that instead of disintegrating into a myriad of
sub-selves at war with each other, we can again be one.
From the center of Being, we can get into this subpersonality or another
one, we can regulate them, correct them, care for them. The skill to be
learned is flexibility, so as not to be dominated by our subpersonalities,
nor to suffocate their expression and ignore their needs. In other words, to
have a sense of compassion, playful mastery.
Working on each of our sub-personalities one by one is the first, essential
step. Later we may become aware of the dynamic interplay between them and
notice the ways in which our wholeness is violated and stopped.
Although the possession of several sub-personalities makes us rich, their
many different needs may also cause dispersion. Such an inner experience of
dispersion is especially likely to occur during times of great outer changes
Before we work with subpersonalities they seem to us to be fairly distinct
universes, ignoring or misunderstanding each other. But as soon as
awareness penetrates them, their communication tends to increase. AWARENESS
not only liberates, it also integrates.
Often sub-personalities are degradations or distortions of universal
qualities existing in the higher levels of the psyche. For example, the
hyperactive sub-personality can be seen as a distortion of the archetype of
energy. The compulsive seducer is a distant relative of love in its higher
aspect. The obstinate subpersonality may be seen as a distortion of will,
and so on.
Hence, we could say that subpersonalities are like exiled gods and goddesses
- caricatures and degraded specimens of the original, luminous archetypes.
But there is a difference: while there seems to be little hope for the
exiled gods, subpersonalities are clearly susceptible to transformation.
Instead of degraded archetypes, they can be regarded as psychological
contents striving to emulate an archetype, as a gross version of what is to
appear later in a much more refined form.
If we keep this dynamic conception in mind, subpersonalities won't look to
us like a bunch of nonsensical patterns anymore. On the contrary, they will
reveal to us the hidden potential they carry. However far a subpersonality
may be from its origin, it may well come to serve us as a means for
reconnecting ourselves with it.
To print :
more exercises on Self-Identification and Subpersonalities Click:
Archetypes and Subpersonalities
Learn more about Soul and Ego Personalities
About Soul and Ego Personalities
To know who and what you are you
must first find who and what you are not
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