August 11, 2003
Inner Conflict - Part 7: Integration
Since healing means "to make whole or complete," the intention of working with subpersonalities is to support the natural movement toward integration. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "integrate" means "to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole: to unite."
That's it. The intention of our organism is to remain whole, to be one. If we become split or "dis-integrated," the pain of that split motivates us to mend.
Some theorists believe that human beings are fundamentally split, and that subpersonalities are a natural phenomenon. I believe that this conclusion is drawn because the humans studied - and the theorists - have been split. A fish that lives in a swamp will naturally assume "murky" is just the way water is.
My experience indicates that those who work with their subpersonalities in a feeling way gradually begin to change. Life goes from being complex, puzzling, conflicted, and extreme to being more simple, evident, harmonious, and balanced. These people are perceived as being more steady, assured, cohesive, and reliable. They are simply who they are. They may have a vibrant emotional range, but they express themselves in ways that are appropriate to the given situation.
Subpersonalities are a response to unbearable childhood stress. When they persist into adulthood, they are a part of the neurotic superstructure that is still relating to those past stresses. When a present-day situation connects, by association, to an old trauma, a certain subpersonality will arise in response. It may be the "Scaredy Cat," the "Angry Parent," the "Joker," or any one of the particular "characters" we have split into.
Since a subpersonality is an extreme response to a trauma that occurred in the past, much of how we respond when wearing that "mask" will be inappropriate. It will be a response that does not directly relate to the present-day situation. That's what neurosis is. Therefore, subpersonalities cannot possibly be a natural part of mature, healthy adult life. Subpersonalities are illusion-maintaining structures that block us from seeing and responding to life as it is.
There is, however, an aspect of subpersonalities that persists even after integration occurs. The act of behaving in certain ways can develop aspects of ourselves - talents - that remain in our systems. If we learned piano to be "The Star," we are still left with that skill - or that curse, depending on circumstances! Many of us who have caretaker subpersonalities have developed sensitivities to others that can be useful once the neediness that drove the subpersonality is resolved. With integration, a set of extreme, battling subpersonalities are transformed into an interconnected tapestry of character and abilities.
The most significant effect of personality integration is full engagement with the present. If subpersonalities aren't shrouding us in illusions of past feelings, we are able to fully attend to the present-day sensations and perceptions of our bodies and the world-at-large. We can fully feel.
This is enormously significant. Integrated, we engage life, moment to moment, as it is. This is a doubt-free existence, because whatever is happening is simply happening. There are no "shoulds or shouldn'ts" - only what is. Things occur, painful or pleasurable, and we respond. That's that.
Living life "as-it-is" is our birthright. Unfortunately, for many of us that simple, powerful existence was interrupted by pain and conflict. Regardless, life is always right there, waiting.