Saturday, September 26, 2009

Problems with Treating Rage--Parts Psychology

Rage may be the most significant challenge to the Parts Psychology approach. The problem is not the lack of connection to a person’s subpersonalities. Those who rage generally have quite vivid images of their internal worlds when they look inside. And the difficulty is not with communication between the observing self and the angry part. Instead, the problem has to do with the relative autonomy of many angry parts who are given to rages. Sometimes, they simply refuse to cooperate in the therapy, taking the position that their ability to rage is essential to protecting the Self or young, vulnerable child parts. Or they may insist that the problem lies with those who provoke their rage. Sometimes a person’s angry self will be quite similar to the alter personalities of multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder) in that when anger turns to rage the part takes full executive control of the person during the raging incident and, later, the person will not remember what happened during the rage.

A case of marital therapy illustrates a problem angry part in action. The husband agreed to work in individual therapy on his “temper.” However, once there, he really only wanted to talk about the failings of his wife. When his angry part was differentiated, its first comment was “Get rid of the Bitch!” Speaking for the angry part, the husband said that while he agreed he had a temper it wouldn’t be a problem if his wife didn’t behave the way she did. She was the one who needed to change. In our sessions the husband was content to describe in depth the many ways his wife had wronged him. The angry subpersonality flatly refused to participate in any unburdening of its memory set for fear that it would make the husband weak and vulnerable to his wife’s deceit. The wife, with an anger problem of her own, was similarly unwilling to do much work on freeing herself from her complaints against her husband. The couple eventually decided to seek another therapist. Neither party could dislodge their angry parts enough to work on their own contributions to their marital problems.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Illustration of Ego State (Parts, Subpersonalities) Dynamics

I just finished writing a summary of the dynamics involved in treating an extended case which is the subject of one chapter of my book. I present the summary here because it illustrates some of the dynamics of working with normal internal parts.

The work with Suzie demonstrates a number of the basic concepts of Parts Psychology. First, it is occasionally necessary to explain the philosophy of parts and Self to one or more of the parts. Sometimes, a part refuses to acknowledge a relationship with the Self and other parts, and this misunderstanding must be addressed before the unburdening work begins. Next, internal parts can have different orientations to the current situations in the client’s life, including employment activities, marital status, and even whether the client’s children are also the part’s children.

Suzie had a few experiences of releasing a burden and finding it had returned, or of having difficulty reaching a SUD ("Subjective Units of Disturbance") level of zero for a particular memory or belief. This is almost always a sign that there is another part somehow blocking the work, intentionally or otherwise. Also, unburdening negative beliefs rather than single memories often involve several sessions or work with more than one part.
Within the conversation about the inner work, it is not uncommon for individuals to switch from referring to an experience using the pronoun his or her for the client in the same breath as the personal pronoun I. That is, sometimes parts present as separate from the Self even as they identify with the Self in the next moment. Changes in parts' inner physical appearance are also common, as we saw both in the work with Suzie and with other individuals in the previous chapters.

Parts therapy requires that we work with both present day sources of stress as well as previous life experiences. Suzie’s unburdening involved unburdening the unhealthy beliefs she had acquired while growing up as well as current life stressors. Working with both historical and current triggers for extreme behaviors permitted us to reduce and finally eliminate most of Suzie’s blocks to healthy functioning. After Suzie had completed her course of therapy she felt that she was able to face current challenges without further therapy or the use of her previous psychoactive medications.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Development of New Internal Parts

In previous blogs I wrote about Kerri, a client who didn’t feel much enthusiasm for being pregnant. The part of her who wanted to move ahead in her career was greatly disappointed, as was the part who wanted to travel and experience new things. In her 12th week of pregnancy Kerri came to the session with a serene look on her face. She had begun to enjoy being pregnant and had begun to look forward to the birth of her child. She was no longer nauseous and uncomfortable. She also looked positively on the three months break she would have before returning to work following the arrival of the child. The way she presented herself was so different from the usual that I asked here who was the new part. She didn’t know. But when she turned her attention inward she found a part who did know. This part said that she was aware of the new part and her name was Duffy. (Duffy is the name of an actor who appeared in a sitcom Kerri liked and who had a baby in the sitcom). When Kerri was able to visualize Duffy she asked if the part knew who she was. She did. She said that she was “the mother,” and Duffy was “the mother’s caretaker.” Duffy’s earliest memory was of the second ultrasound of the baby. So she was a new self-state in the client’s internal world. Like all parts she appeared when the person faced a novel or demanding new circumstance.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jaycee Dugard: Why Didn't She Run

Jaycee Dugard: Why Didn’t She Run?

Parts Psychology has a pretty simple answer to this question. She didn't run because she didn't have a runner among her adult parts. Some popular ideas about the case are correct: she went into survival mode. Parts Psychology gives us an understanding of how this works at the unconscious level. A new part, or subpersonality, developed to help the Self adapt to the shock of her new circumstances. Actually, there would have been a number of new parts who developed. This is a universal process. We all develop new parts when we have to adapt to new and demanding situations. In the Dugard case the new parts would probably have entirely supplanted the child’s previous ways of living her life. The older ways of being an 11 year old girl would not have disappeared; instead, they would have been pushed into the unconscious background until it became safe for them to come forward again. Effectively, that probably took 18 years. I would hypothesize that the adult Jaycee only knows how to relate to her parents as she did when she was eleven years old.

I would guess that Jaycee did not develop multiple personality disorder as the result of her captivity. However, the same process of identifying with the perpetrators that we see in multiple personality disorder was undoubtedly active in Jaycee’s inner world. In my opinion the best therapists for Jaycee Dugard would be those experienced in work with dissociative disorders or with the subpersonalities of normal people.