Free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man.
--Flannery O'Connor in her preface to the second edition of Wise Blood
What a succinct and accurate way to describe the dilemma of our subpersonalities, those many people living within us. Have you ever had one part of you want one thing and, at the same time, another part just as vigorously want something altogether different? Or acted one way only to find yourself acting in an inconsistent way but a few hours (or even minutes) later? Or had clients unexpectedly or inexplicably change? Then you have probably experienced subpersonalities in action.
As William Harryman explains in his blog post "Subpersonalities -- Definitions and Origins" (Intergral Options Cafe), "nearly every school of psychology recognizes some form of subpersonalities, parts, or selves." He then goes on to summarize several of the schools' ways of characterizing our inner selves. I have talked about two approaches, psychosynthesis and Bonnie Badenoch's inner community, before; click to read my post "The obligation of a mediator to practice good mind hygiene, and an interview of Bonnie Badenoch on being brain-wise."
Harryman quotes Molly Brown about the subpersonalities of psychosynthesis:
Our various ways of being and acting are often crystallized into behavior patterns, or "subpersonalities." Because being sweet is often useful, for example, we develop a sweet little girl or boy personality. Our sense of identity gets temporarily attached to that way of being, and we think that is all we are. For a period of time, we think and feel and act as if being sweet were the only option available to us. We become trapped in a worldview (the world is threatening and I must be sweet to avoid punishment) and a personal identification (I am someone who is always sweet, never grouchy), both of which limit our freedom.
We now know that the behavior patterns Brown mentions are also neural patterns, pathways and clusters in the brain. Knowing about the brain helps us to manage our subpersonalities, utilizing the strengths of each; and minimizing and taming the challanges they, and their inner conflicts and tensions, can present. The understanding of subpersonalities is also an extremely valuable tool for facilitating the resolution of conflicts between (and perhaps with) our clients.
Because I think the concept of subpersonalities is so important to working with clients, I am, as I blogged before, going to review my knowledge of psychosynthesis by attending an intensive in psychosynthesis -- taught by the same Molly Brown!
During or soon after the program, I will blog about subpersonalities and the other concepts of psychosynthesis helpful for conflict professionals. Much of what was developed by Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis, makes a good toolbox for mediators. Therefore, I am glad that a 10-day psychosynthesis training was required of me many years ago in my two-year meditation intensive training. If you ever get a chance to take training in this approach to the person, both yourself and others, do not hesitate.