While training as a therapist, I read many books. Some of them were catalysts for developing new theory and ideas, and some seem to be the key to a wider state of freedom and growth.
One book had a profound effect on me and seemed to activate a state of psychological freedom.
What that means is, sometimes due to our heritage, history and past experiences the way that we define who we are might be somewhat limiting and sometimes quite distant from the truth. Many of us grow up in households and communities where our personalities and behaviour are shaped by the views of those around us and what has been deemed as unacceptable.
For example. I was brought up in the 80’s in the North in the UK. Back then if you came from a poor white single-parent family, teachers expectations of you were could be pretty low, and they may have already decided the path you would take after leaving school. Like many of us, their views had been informed by class, gender, and race politics. This would, of course, influenced their expectations of me. I remember two very distinct views of myself as a woman and the path carved out for us along with other more subtle clues that people give off when you interact with them.
I grew up as a woman, or “tomboy” in the 80’s, the youngest in the family with three brothers , with daytime TV ,music and not much else to do but explore the odd old railway line and hang out with friends. My mother was a very strong independent woman and most definitely passed the message on that a woman could make it if she had several strings to her bow and wasn’t only meant for a life of bearing children and household drudgery. That’s how I also saw life. I didn’t buy into the Disney stories. By 14 I was very independent and had a lot of freedom. At school, however, which was an all-girls school, there were those unspoken rules that applied to gender back then, very much informed the curriculum. I often rebelled after feeling pigeonholed. I rebelled against having to do cookery, sew and the only other option was to learn to type. A woman in my community could only look forward to working in a shop, factory or getting married. I looked around me and knew this wasn’t what I wanted. I was already socially aware of the class, and gender stereotyping and groaned and scraped through school.
The problem with trying to get kids to fit the system is that the system favors only a few. Many subjects and activities available may only be accessible to those that are either very studious, interested or have a natural gift. Others will potentially be bored witless unless of course there is one of those teachers that just inspire everyone around them, They are worth gold-dust! Those teachers were my geography and social studies teacher.
Anyhow, fast forward, I take a training course after a few years of volunteer work and work that I had never mapped out for myself. Several jobs later, I found something that piqued my interest and started on the path to training as a therapist. It is a whole world of difference learning when you are interested in the subject.
Much of the training was about learning about who you are, what drives you, what values and beliefs inform your day to day life as well as the skills to become a great listener and help people understand and process their pain. On that journey, which is one of the best I’ve ever taken, I was led to discover a whole world of information and concepts that I had never come across before.
I had grown up in a limited family with limited resources, money and expectations, and now my mind was being lit up every week as I discovered so much more. I loved this new found interest!
Back to the article in question.
One book that I feel was the key to that development of my expanding awareness, skill development, and psychological freedom was a book called
“Subpersonalities, The people inside us.” Below is the description and still available on Amazon.
Rowan states that “We all have had the experience of being divided, of being in two minds’ about something – one part of us wants to do this, another wants to do that. Subpersonalities are the first book to do justice to the phenomenon as a normal feature of our psychological life. John Rowan argues that we all have some personalities that express themselves in different situations and that by recognising them we can come to understand ourselves better and improve our relationships with others.
Anyone reading this book will run the risk of making quite discoveries about themselves. It is a fascinating book that challenges our accepted view of ourselves and provides an intriguing picture of how human beings work and why communication between them so often goes wrong.”
I’ve never forgotten the impact that this made, mainly since many of the theories developed in therapy still divide people into segments, CBT is the mind, psychosynthesis speaks to our spiritual selves, and Jung talked of the unconscious, etc. etc. Now I found a book, akin to Greek mythology that spoke to the many parts of me.
A way to understand this is when we grow up there will be parts of you that you develop because they are accepted, and you experience the psychological stroke. That means that when we do something that others approve of, then it says you are ok.
When we show something of ourselves, and it gets disapproved, then we can often hide that part of our selves. That’s the first step. What parts of you are you willing to easily share and what parts remain hidden.. The first step to empowerment is awareness, my friend. When aware you have choices.
For me, I also had parts of me that were buried deep. Rowan talks about the process that when parts of you are deeply hidden or have been shamed and never acceptable, then these can become split off. It’s a psychological process that helps you remain ok in the world. Sometimes things are just too painful, and we don’t have the necessary support at our disposal to explore this. But when we start to feel depressed or unsatisfied we may not be able to pinpoint why Therefore looking at what aspects of ourselves we deny or are out of touch with can release a lot of energy and help those unexpressed parts of ourselves get expression.
So without getting to psychobabble about it , I will demonstrate what I did.
As a kid, some things made my mum very angry, and others pleased her. What made her angry was either avoided or came out when not around my mum. Therefore having an opinion or arguing was not tolerated; therefore a large part of me grew very quiet. It took a lot of personal development and self-work to help me become more open and expressive. Initially, I was filled with a lot of anxiety, sometimes feeling my throat close up but then over time the benefits outweighed the anxiety and I since went on to train people and speak at conferences.
As I got older an essential part of me that loves freedom, music and independence emerged, and I travelled around working in different hotels and having a great social life. Later as I grew to know myself more, I also realised other parts of me.
Sub-personalities that are neither right nor wrong. I also discovered and learned to enjoy my other aspects.
That loves to read and digest various bits of information from anyone!
That loves to find out lots of info and make connections. I love the search engine! And my favorite book linking to this was where all the great ideas come from.
I need to understand the world, and this is what made me good at what I did. Plus I could help people unpick what they now needed to move them forward in their careers and home life.
Like many of us, I own a tie-dye top, and it comes out for my annual pilgrimage to the mind spirit and body shows. I love crystals, aromatherapy and all things spiritual.
The passionate warrior
The part of me that loved runs, cycling, kickboxing, self-defense provides me with energy and stamina to keep up my activities. The warrior can be someone who fights for the rights of others and hates inequality.
And the lazy sofa person
Sometimes I cannot be bothered. My energy yaws from being full on to I cannot be bothered to get off the sofa and will watch films all day. But who said It was lazy? Is it? Are we meant always to strive?
And now the writer
I found another way to express myself. If your shy or want to work on yourself journaling and log thoughts ideas and experiences can be a very powerful way to grow and develop, plus when you look back, you can see how much you have grown, and this activates faith and trust.
These are just some of the different identities that exist within me, and all have a place, a unique energy in that I can utilise in my life. When we see what part of us are acceptable and what parts remain hidden, we can decide if we want to accept that part and integrate it into our personality.
One caution. If you choose to read Rowans’ book and go on this journey, it may feel tough at times, as those parts of ourselves that we kept hidden can have feelings of anger or sadness attached to them. But it’s never too late to embrace the fullness of who you are and live your unique personality – your way.
I love urban life along with trips to the sea and mountains. I can hold those parts at the same time. I don’t get caught up in chatter that is judging which one is better and neither should you.
Get a pen out and write
Who am I?
Here are some links to get you started from the most tested theory that you can have fun with.
By the way, more of you can emerge over time. Sometimes we will expand and grow.
I now love things that I didn’t years ago. I now listen to stuff I didn’t then. If you’re bored or dissatisfied, do this exercise and see what comes out of it.
Write a list also of all the things people would say to describe you but do not judge these as wrong nor right
I would love to hear about any books that also was a key to significant change for you and any tools you developed to help you develop further …