Thursday, July 3, 2008

Embodying Masculinity, Part Three - Know Thyself

As part of the project to embody a healthy masculinity, I feel it is important to know who we are. And if you think -- because this is what you have been told -- that there is a single you, whoever that might be, you are mistaken.

We all have a core self, the perspective from which we operate on most days (even this is an illusion, but that's a whole other topic). But beneath that ego or persona, there are a whole mess of other, lesser selves. Each of these parts take on specific roles (most simply: father, son, brother, husband, employee, and so on, including more complex roles such as the inner critic, the pusher, the inner child, and many others).

Subpersonality theory
explains these other selves (referred to as parts, selves, subs, schemas, ego states, and so on) and how they develop. Nearly every branch of psychology has a version of subpersonality theory, though there is little agreement among them as to how these parts operate.

As we get to know our parts -- and most people have between three and twelve distinct parts (and no, this does not mean you have dissociative personality disorder) -- we begin to understand why we act in the ways we do.

Have you ever totally blown a fuse over the littlest thing, then wondered what the hell came over you, as though for a few minutes you were a completely different person? Well, for those minutes you were -- you had been hijacked by a part. Most part "hijackings" are associated with specific scenarios, often ways in which we were hurt or shamed as children. We have grown up, but those protective parts have not.

There are many ways to get to know our parts, and one of the best ways was developed by Hal and Sidra Stone, the Voice Dialogue approach. One of their students was Genpo Roshi, who adapted their voice dialogue model to something he calls Big Mind/Big Heart.

What follows is a series of videos of Genpo performing the Big Mind method, with the purported goal of inducing a higher state of consciousness (that's up to you to decide). What this will do, however, is introduce you to the process of sorting out your various selves. Don't be worried if you don't have some of those he mentions, just follow along to the next one. And you'll likely have some parts not mentioned, no worries, explore them on your own.

You might want to make some notes as you go along.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

Part Seven:

Part Eight:

Part Nine:

Part Ten:

Part Eleven:

OK, so that is the Big Mind, Big Heart method. How many parts did you get a clear feel for? Are there others that you think might be there?

When we can learn to see our parts, and know them, we have more control over when and how they manifest. Rather than getting defensive when someone offers criticism, you can acknowledge that your inner critic was triggered and is beating up on you, which makes you feel defensive.

The person most likely to trigger our parts is our romantic partner, the person who knows us best. Our inter-locking parts are often what draw us into relationships (this link explains bonding patterns and was written during a previous relationship), which is all well and good at the beginning. But over time they can become habitual ways of treating each other, and they can limit who we are with each other.

When we can see a part (for example, a dismissive father voice who gets angry when your partner feels to you to be a helpless little girl) get triggered and step outside of it, then we are much freer and more expansive in our ability to respond to our partners. And we respond with more maturity and compassion.

A great exercise to practice getting outside of our parts is the disidentification exercise from Psychosynthesis -- it essentially helps us get into the observing self (this link is also an exercise), or aware ego, of higher self. what one wants to call it.

Do this work often, share it with your partner (if you have one). The better know who you are, the more you can embody a mature form of masculinity.

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