Monday, April 20, 2009

Shadow Work - Hijacked by a Part

I wrote this poem last night as a way to sort out something that came up for me. The circumstances aren't important, but the response in me caught me off guard.

behind the words
I heard my father's voice,
so unexpected,
felt myself 6 years old
and quivering

some feelings persist,
buried in the dust of memory
but still potent,
able to rattle bones
and wring the heart

I watched it happen,
helpless now as then,
watched myself crumble
inwardly, silent, unable
to unclench my jaw
In parts work (or subpersonalities, if you prefer), this is what is known as being hijacked by a part. It gets triggered and, much like an autonomous complex in Jungian psychology, takes over the system.

This can only happen if the part in question has been exiled from consciousness, or relegated to the shadow. So it waits there, quietly, unconscious most of the time, until a trigger comes up that is associated with its original causation.

Parts get exiled when we are young as a result of trauma, anxiety, fear, or any other feeling that makes the "executive control function" feel that the emotion is too much for consciousness. Over time, similar feelings get added to the exiled part, making it more or less a distinct personality, but a young one, and one with lots of emotional baggage.

So, years later, if these parts are never dealt with, they can pop up when a similar trigger is present. That's what happened to me last night - an expected trigger sent me back to being six years old and feeling ineffectual.

In all the work I've done over the years, apparently I haven't dealt with the ways my father dismissed me and made me feel worthless. For me, like many men, my masculinity is at least in part connected to my sense of agency in the world - my ability to feel self-directed and effectual, the drive to be whole.

So now I know he's there (the hard way). My next step is to get to know him, dialogue with him, find out who that child is and what he needs, and how to help him release his burden. The more compassion, curiosity, courage, and creativity I can bring to the exploration, the easier the process will be.

BUT, and this is a big BUT, any time there is an exiled part, there are "managers" whose job it is to keep the part exiled. I can't just go in and work with the exile directly. I must deal with the managers who would rather not let that part into the light of day. From their perspective, it was a HUGE failure that the part got out last night, and they are likely to clamp down that much harder to prevent its escape again. So there must be negotiation with these managers (and this is something a lot of therapists don't understand in their "inner child" work with clients) before the exile can be approached.

My work is cut out for me.

1 comment:

painter ofblue said...

Beautiful poem, it really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.