The Challenge of Making Friends with Fear – Part II

Placing our hand on our heart and talking to the part of us that feels a certain way involves separating out our Self from our feelings. I use a capital “S” to distinguish between Self as our Higher Self (the Divine within) versus self with a small “s”, representing our ego-self. We are greater than our feelings.

As a person who advocates remembering our essence as ONE and awakening from our illusions of separation, it is ironic to discover the psychology of internal parts as an incredibly healing tool. Although there are a number of different authors who discuss sub-personalities, I find the most comprehensive discourse on the subject comes from Richard C. Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems Model (IFS).

You can click on the link above or read more on Wikipedia, which has a fairly good overview:

IFS sees consciousness as composed of various “parts” or sub-personalities, each with its own perspective, interests, memories, and viewpoint. A core tenet of IFS is that every part has a positive intent for the person, even if its actions or effects are counterproductive or cause dysfunction. This means that there is never any reason to fight with, coerce, or try to eliminate a part; the IFS method promotes internal connection and harmony.

I imagine to some this discussion of sub-personalities may seem a bit schizophrenic, however if you read a bit more about it, you’ll see that it actually makes perfect sense. Almost everyone has had the experience of saying “well, a part of me wants to … (go to the party, take a hike, eat out etc.), but another part of me wants to … (go to a movie, go swimming, eat at home)”. We all have parts of us that want different things at different times (or even at the same time!)

Cheri Huber in her book Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline has an entire chapter on “Who’s Talking”. Ann Weiser Cornell of Focusing Resources has a free e-book on “Getting Bigger Than What’s Bugging You“. Many other spiritual practices also talk about the benefits of having a dialogue with our sub-personalities, and how doing so can be a powerful tool in the awakening of self-awareness.

Note, when I talk about separating out feelings and viewing them as a part of us, I’m not advocating disassociation, but rather a framework for growth. Within this structure, I can make friends with my fear instead of continually pushing it away.

If I’m not cognizant that it’s just a part of me, my fear of how I’m going to pay the bills can easily take over and appear to be all of me. If that happens, I might feel hopeless and just give up on my dreams. Or, I might end up taking actions that are driven by my fear and aren’t in alignment with what I want and who I truly am.

Placing my hand on my heart, I can say hello to my fear and thank that part of me for trying to take care of me. After all, that’s what the part of me feeling fear is trying to do. The opening of this dialogue might sound something like this:

“I know you’re scared. Thank you so much for trying to take care of me. I really appreciate you and how you’re always looking out for me. I know how scary it is right now not to have a job, and I want you to know that no matter what happens, everything is going to be okay.”

It’s not always that simple, and this is just the beginning of the conversation. It’s one step we can take to start to make friends with our fears (or other feelings we’ve been pushing away). We may not like the feelings, but I believe they are coming from a part of us which, as Schwartz’s says, has a positive intent.

Having a dialogue like this can be tricky if one of our other sub-personalities slips in with judgement or condemnation, so it takes some practice to learn to stay in the Self. When we’re in the Self, there is unconditional love and acceptance. Learning this practice can catapult us into greater self-love and awareness.