Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

An Introduction to
Personality Subselves

Who Really Runs Your Life?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/IF/innerfam.htm

  Updated  01-20-2015

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       This brief YouTube video previews what you're about to read. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site - I've simplified that to seven.   

      This is one of a  series of articles in Lesson 1 of 7 in this Web site - (a) free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and (b) reduce significant psychological wounds. All six other course Lessons are founded on this one.

       My experience as a family systems therapist since 1981 is that ~80% or more of typical men and women and many kids bear significant psychological wounds caused by fragmented personalities - i.e. groups of reactive, well-meaning subselves or parts. Most people - including many mental-health professionals - have no awareness of their subselves and the six common wounds they can cause.

      This article provides an historical perspective on normal personality subselves, three functional groups of subselves, and suggests where to learn more about this keystone to wholistic health. The article assumes you're familiar with... 

  • the intro to this site, and the premises underlying it

  • this perspective on your personality,

  • this letter to skeptics, and...

  • these FAQs about personality subselves or "parts"


       I gratefully recognize a source of many of the ideas below: psychologist Dr. Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., and the clinical colleagues with whom I studied the "Inner Family System (IFS) model" during 1990-92. Richard had developed the model for over a decade then, as a therapist, researcher, and teacher. He said "My clients taught me about their inner-family of 'parts' and how to work with them."

      His concepts closely match my own experience as a trauma-recovering person, a therapist since 1981, and a lifelong student of human relations. I've blended my perceptions with his and several other theorists, and am responsible for what's presented here.  

Ever Argue With Your Self?

       Remember the last time you momentarily "hated" a beloved person? Or the last time you wanted to go to an interesting event, and an inner voice said "Oh, come on, stay home and rest!" Have you ever struggled between longing for a delicious treat and "knowing" that it was "bad for me"?

      When was the last time you said (or heard) "I don't know what got into me!" or "She really seems like two people"? Do you ever have whole dialogs with your Self, or talk to your Self out loud? Ever wrestle with "breaking a bad habit," or wonder where your dreams come from and what they mean?

       Most of us have inner discussions and battles many times a day. They're so routine as to be almost unnoticed. Yet most of us don't know who these inner "voices" are, or how to harmonize them and effectively use the very real gifts our many "speakers" (subselves) bring us.

       Like many other researchers, I propose that these "voices" in us belong to a real inner family or team of semi-independent personality "parts" or subselves. They can learn to be peaceful, cooperative, and highly productive in astonishing ways. Meeting your inner family and organizing it to function as a clearly-motivated, well-led team vs. a squabbling set of individuals is called "parts work" and "inner-family therapy" here.

      This article introduces you to the devoted team of inner specialists that shape your daily life, and it hilights some implications of learning to harmonize them. To set the stage, let's briefly review five evolving ideas about how we all "tick":

    • Sigmund Freud's theories,

    • family therapy,

    • transactional analysis (TA),

    • "multiple personalities" (dissociation, or "splitting"), and...

    • "inner children."

          First, know that ...

Subselves Aren't New

      Around 400 AD, the Roman Christian poet Prudentious wrote "Psychomachia", which personified seven human vices and virtues (i.e. subselves), and described a battle (internal conflicts) between them. Socrates writes us across the ages that his inner life was controlled by "daimons."

      Like him, people have tried for millennia to explain their thoughts, dreams, actions, and "natures." All cultures have evolved beliefs that spirits, gods, imps, stars, leprechauns, fairies, goblins, cosmic and planetary rays, witches, angels, "ethers," ghosts, and space-beings cause humans to feel, experience, think, and do weird and wonderful things. In most developed countries, this crazy-quilt of explanations began to change a century ago...

  Freud's Three "Parts" and Three Minds

       In the early 1900's, Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud proposed a startling new idea: that we each have three personality parts that determine who we "are:" our Id, Ego, and Superego. These, he felt, cause us to act from "instincts" and "drives," with pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding as their goals. He also proposed that we all have three minds: the unconscious (contents never "knowable"), the preconscious (eventually knowable), and the (fully) conscious (knowable now).

      Freud felt that these three interact in ways we can't comprehend, causing inevitable mystery in what we think and do, or don't. His ideas  and the emerging art of hypnosis revolutionized at least the Western world's views on how to understand and heal "madness" and many human "mental problems."

       Around 1950, scientists began an increasing exploration and use of "psychotropic" (mood-affecting) drugs. These reliably relieved depression, controlled violent mood swings, and improved other troublesome human emotional behaviors. The combination of Freud's ideas and the new chemicals turned (many) shamans with rattles into psychiatrists with couches in just four generations: an evolutionary finger-snap.

Our (Outer) Families Become "The Patient On The Couch"

       In the mid 1950's, a few pioneering mental-health clinicians began exploring the novel idea that clients' emotional problems could be eased by putting their whole family on the couch at once, so to speak. Family therapy flowered, bringing impressive results for many, specially when combined with emerging communications and systems theories. Clinicians increasingly began to work on outer families, while a dedicated core kept focused on taming and balancing Ids, Egos, and Superegos.

Freud Revisited: Our Inner Parent, Child, and Adult

       Because Freud's ideas were obscure to many, they were recast in the 1960's by professionals who used "Transactional Analysis" (TA). In 1967, Dr. Thomas Harris wrote "I'm OK - You're OK", which suggested that we each had an Inner Parent, an Inner Child, and an Inner Adult personality parts that collectively determined our feelings, beliefs, and behavior. 

      A therapeutic TA goal became helping people understand and balance these three inner entities, and keeping their Adult in charge. No one that I know of proposed treating the three together with the emerging concept of inner-family therapy.

       While the TA idea was spreading through our culture, more psycho/biological facts emerged. These included growing evidence that alcoholism, traditionally thought to come from a "weak will," a "defective character," or a "demon" (e.g. rum), really came from a combination of the addicts' genes and childhood (family) trauma. 

      It's now clear that some addicts metabolize ethyl alcohol (which powers vehicle engines) differently than non-addicts because of a genetic inheritance. This concept increased the clinical belief that family dynamics strongly influenced alcohol and (later) other addictions.  

Our Inner Child Becomes (More) Famous

       In the late 1970's, a new set of mindscape pioneers suggested that the grown children of alcoholic families (ACoAs), whether addicted themselves or not, had common emotional traits and troubles like depression, low self esteem, social isolation, and divorces. It became clear that typical kids in alcoholic families were accidentally deprived of key emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical nurturing - just as their parents had been. 

      In the next decade, a flood of books, conferences, 12-step support groups, magazines, and two national advocacy groups erupted across the country for millions of troubled Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoAs) to help them toward psychological, spiritual, and social recovery.

       From this came an explosion of interest in nurturing and healing our "Inner Child" (singular), who retained the fear, sadness, and shame of real birthfamily trauma and deprivation. Two groups of people excited by this idea were adults coming from any kind of painful early years ("Adult Children"), and healers and entrepreneurs who wanted to help them. 

      Because of unintended childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma), our "Inner Children of the Past" were clearly wounded, orphaned, paralyzed, or lost. Unrecognized, they seemed to cause many of us serious personal problems.

       One such problem, viewed now by many as a relationship compulsion as harmful as any chemical addiction, is codependenceSince the mid-80's, hundreds of Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) 12-step support groups have bloomed in every state, as a rainbow of people admit and struggle to break free from powerful dependency-addictions to a lover, parent, child, or some other person.

      Theorists proposed that codependents' inner children (plural) were terrified of abandonment, because in childhood, the codependent had felt searingly neglected and rejected by key adults. Where true, it often turned out that their caregivers' parents had been similarly abused and/or psychologically neglected. "Toxic parenting" and the crippling shame and guilt that it causes were wryly labeled "the gift that goes on giving..."

       Because of expanding public interest in and acceptance of these ideas, programs and books now abound on healing from dysfunctional families, abusive or "toxic" parents, and "emotionally absent"  (wounded) fathers and mothers. An awful and hopeful current offshoot is the mushrooming U.S. awareness of how common and damaging childhood sexual abuse has been and is.

      Professionals have recently  estimated that one of four American females and one of seven males under 18 are sexually molested. The psycho-spiritual trauma from this is usually devastating and long-lasting. To survive any such youthful or adult agony, people normally appear to "go to (inner) pieces."

"Split" (Modular) Personalities

       From studies across the world, mental health researchers now agree that typical adults and children surviving cataclysmic natural and man-made disasters like war and personal abuse have an automatic protective reaction. Clinicians call it dissociation or splitting

      To survive unendurable stress like significant childhood neglect and abuse, normal young people automatically develop protective semi-independent subselves, forming a "false self." This seems to be a natural way we frail humans evolved to avoid being overwhelmed by intolerably chaotic, terrifying, or painful experiences.

      The fact that our brains operate modularly has been conclusively proved in the last generation with new scanning technology like Positron Emission Tomography (PET). This allows photographing the dynamic thermal patterns of living brains. Few of us are aware that many regions of our brains are operating concurrently to create the "simple" experience "I [see + hear + smell + touch + sense + react to + need + love] my child."

       One symptom of false-self dominance is that trauma-survivors emotionally numb themselves and (temporarily) feel no pain from a terrible physical or psychological injury. Other symptoms are distorting reality by believing that the current horror...

  • "isn't that bad" (minimizing),

  • is happening to "someone else" (projection), or...

  • isn't happening at all (denial). 

Many (most?) delusions, hallucinations, neuroses, paranoias, and psychosomatic (mentally-caused) illnesses stem from this automatic reflex to protect ourselves from perceived dangers.

      Protective reality-distortions allow a person in intolerable agony to "float up to the ceiling," "become an eagle soaring free," "visit the beach," or "become an observer." To survive, we detach or dissociate from mental + emotional+ physical agony and overwhelm, and often develop protective local or situational "amnesia." A common trait of unrecovering Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) is being "unable to remember" - or feel - much about our early childhoods and/or early caregivers.

       To combat unbearable terror, shame, hopelessness, and loneliness (i.e. to survive), normal neglected and abused young kids automatically develop a group of personality subselves. They may manifest as "invisible companions," and/or populating dream worlds which seem absolutely real.

       It's become well documented and increasingly accepted since the 1980s that about 5% of typical Western populations have true multiple personalities. These afflicted people repeatedly show patterns of socially-hidden or obvious changes in thinking, abilities, and behavior as though they literally become "another" person at times.

      Studies have documented on video tapes that each subpersonality or alter in the host person can have its own IQ, memories, skills, voice, likes, values, and even unique allergies and eyeglass prescriptions! Some alters may not know about each other. If they do, they can be deeply loyal, indifferent, or suspicious and fiercely competitive for control of the host person.

       Research suggests that a high majority of such exceptionally wounded people have experienced devastating traumas in their early life. From the media, the public learns of only the most sensational of such cases, like Sibyl, When Rabbit Howls, and Mind of My Own. People who suffer from what used to be called multiple personality disorder (MPD) are usually terrified, disoriented, depressed, and embarrassed by its symptoms. 

      They (like Socrates?) live with what feels like an uncontrollable inner life. Understandably, they try hard to deny or mask the evidence of their alters. Someone in your life now may have MPD -  relabeled "Dissociative Identity Disorder" (DID) in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association - without you suspecting it.

       Professionals working with these trauma-survivors patiently assist them towards awareness, acceptance, and eventual fusion and permanent integration (the opposite of dissociation) of some personality alters. Many reports of permanent integration are now documented.

      2000: The Millennium of the Inner Family?

       So in the last century, at least (part of) Western society has gone from believing in moon rays (making "lunatics") and devils; to Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego parts of the psyche; to (outer) family therapy; to inner children, adults and parents (Transactional Analysis); to modular personalities and dissociation; and finally to adult recovery from childhood trauma and low nurturance.

      The clinically-validated concept of ordinary persons having an inner family or team of subselves affirms, combines, and extends these prior ideas.

      Colin Ross is a highly respected veteran DID researcher and clinician, and past president of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation. In The Plural Self - Multiplicity in Everyday Life (1999), he writes (p. 193) that multiplicity - having a multi-faceted (modular) mind and self - is normal. He concludes that what colleagues and I call a false-self is a "cultural sickness" - a widespread condition fostered by our culture's traditions and practices, and the unchallenged old delusion that "I am one person."

       There's growing evidence that few of us have true multiple personalities, and most (all?) of us do have modular personalities. Some people have more discrete "Parts" (subselves) than others, depending on their genetic inheritance and the emotional/spiritual nurturance they got as a young child. Since I began studying this phenomenon in 1992, I’ve witnessed scores of average women and men identify 15 to 35 subselves or parts without being "crazy" in the least - though at times we feel that way!

      Our subselves seem to be like a group of people living in the same dwelling. They each have different skills, jobs, ages, values, and needs, and may or may not know about, understand, like, and accept each other. They can ally, fight bitterly, or ignore or hide from some others, like members of any human group. Conversely, if individual subselves are acknowledged, respected, and effectively led, inner-personal stress drops and harmony, energy, spirits, and achievements soar!

       Our language doesn't yet have an accepted word to describe these subselves who dwell within our brains and bodies. In his interesting 1990 book "Subpersonalities - the People Inside Us," (Rutledge, London / NY) researcher/therapist John Rowan has discovered 25 different terms for them in international literature. 

      Yet we often write and speak about our parts - e.g. "He was of two minds…", "Pat is a real Jekyl and Hyde person." "She has a musical side to her"; "I’m getting a double messages from you"; "Myra's really two-faced.," "Make up your mind, will you?", "I see both sides of this issue," "Roy has a yellow streak," and "Sometimes she can be very jealous." In this Web site and the related guidebooks, I'll use the terms (personality) parts, subselves, inner team or inner-family members, and inner voices interchangeably. Pick which term feels best to you, or invent your own...

       Is it possible or probable that "you" are really a number of semi-independent subselves sharing one brain and body? What are you hearing inside ("thinking") right now? Is there more than one voice (thought stream)? If so, who are they? Where did they come from? How do they feel about each other? What do they want? How harmonious are they? Which ones are controlling your life?

      What would your life be like if your unique crew of subselves willingly worked as a co-operative, loyal team effectively led by your talented true Self? What might happen to your favorite "bad habits," anxieties, guilts, phobias, and other stresses? Take a break and review this, and then...

  Meet Your Inner Family

       Your group of personality subselves is as unique as your fingerprints. Yet most of us have subselves who do standard "jobs." They may be called by a wide range of names, but their personality functions seem the same in average people.

Three Groups of Personality Parts

       Our subselves seem to fall into three types, which this Web site calls Managers, Inner Kids, and Guardians. Dr. Richard Schwartz and colleagues call them Managers, Exiles, and Firefighters. While each subself has unique talents and limitations, its function and type seem common across typical adults and kids. Manager and Guardian subselves have two goals: to protect us from significant discomfort and harm (as they see it), and to survive, moment to moment.
      Manager subselves are the "general staff" that guide us through daily life situations when other subselves perceive no danger. A universal Manager can be called our true Self (capital "S"), whose natural talent is effective personality (inner-family) leadership.

      Your Self can help you be consistently effective and serene, or s/he may be blocked from doing so by other upset, distrustful subselves. In this context, the words "self" (small "s") means our all subselves as a group, and "my self" (small "s") refers to all subselves + your soul and/or spirit + your body.

      Our Inner Kids (plural) are developmentally young subselves, ranging from fetuses to infants to teens: most of us have several of them. Like physical children, they know little of the world, and are vulnerable to unwise advice and decisions and distorted perceptions. Until they feel internally known, valued, and consistently safe, Inner Kids can be powerfully needy, intense, reactive, and noisy

      When they react to something, Inner Children can "take over" or ''blend with'' our Self (capital "S"). When this happens, we're flooded with this young part's intense emotions, needs, and naive worldview. We act impulsively and become "childish." Know anyone like this?

      To protect our Inner Kids and us as a person, our Guardian subselves stay constantly alert to imagined or actual inner and outer dangers - even when we sleep. They're like a personal Green Beret or SWAT team of dedicated specialists. One or more Guardians spring into action whenever they believe that a young part is upset or may be in danger. They too can disable our Self then, often causing extreme reactions and behaviors that puzzle or harm us or others ("I just don't know what got into me!").

      Typical signs of Guardians in action are failing, "forgetting;" spacing, blanking or numbing out, procrastinating, prolonged apathy (grief?); rage or panic "attacks;" screaming; seduction; lying or stealing; abuse to self or others; excessive worrying; idealizing and/or fantasizing; some depressions; some sleep, concentration, eating, and digestive disorders; a range of physical discomforts and conditions like migraines, tics, aches, and ulcers; delusions, phobias; suicidal and homicidal thoughts and impulses, ad-dictions, and many more ...

       Such harmful "protective" actions may seem logically crazy or paradoxical. Most Guardian subselves seem to have their own kind of logic. With narrow views and often badly distorted or outdated information, they're fiercely dedicated to protecting us and our naive, needy Inner Kids.  

      Guardian subselves only relax or change their roles when they trust that our Self and other Managers can reliably keep our young subselves consistently safe. Building this trust over time, and freeing your Self from blending to harmonize and lead your inner family of subselves, is the goal of "parts work" (inner-family therapy).

Typical Subselves

      This YouTube video describes a way to identify your subselves, based on what follows. If you got here by viewing this video, continue reading. The video intro mentions eight self-improvement lessons. I've reduced that to seven.

       Who makes up your talented inner family? Though each of us has a unique roster, some subselves seem to be common in function to us all. Some functions or roles are done by one subself, and some by several. You probably have some or many of these subselves - who do you recognize?  

Common Manager Subselves

  • Achiever / Do-er / Driver

  • Analyzer / Thinker

  • Artist / Creative One / Inventor

  • Far Seer  /  Visioner

  • Healer / Health Director

  • Historian  / Memory-manager

  • Humanitarian

  • Learner  /  Student

  • Moralizer / Rule Keeper

  • Nurturer(s)  /  Loving Parent

  • Observer / Reporter

  • Pace-setter / Balancer

  • Philosopher

  • Planner / Organizer

  • Practical Adult ("Common Sense")

  • Prioritizer

  • Professor  / Teacher

  • Socializer  /  Humanist

  • Spiritual One (Higher-Power liaison)

  • Survivor

  • (True) Self / Leader / Coach / CEO

  • Wise One / Sage / Crone

Common Inner Children
  • Abandoned Child

  • Anxious / Scared / Worried Child

  • Awed  /  Amazed Child

  • Bored  Child

  • Creative Child / Artist / Inventor

  • Curious Child  /  Explorer

  • Defiant / Stubborn / Rebel

  • Delighted  /  Excited child

  • * Entertainer / Performer / Star

  • * Fantasizer / Dreamer / Mystic

  • Fetus / Infant   (generates primal feelings)

  • Friendly  /  Happy Child

  • Frustrated / Impatient Child

  • Good / Dutiful / Obedient Child

  • Guilty Child

  • Helpless Child / Victim

  • Hurt / Resentful Child

  • NEW  Hyper Child

  • Innocent / Naive (Trusting) Child

  • * Joker / Clown / Trickster / Imp

  • Lost / Orphan Child

  • Loving  /  Loyal Child

  • Lonely / Needy Child

  • NEW  Overwhelmed / Paralyzed Child

  • Rageful / Aggressive Child

  • Responsible Child / Little Adult

  • NEW  Selfish / Entitled Child

  • Shamed Child

  • * Sly / Dishonest Child

  • Sensual / Sexual One (often a teen)

  • Friendly / Social  / Playful Child

  • (others)

* = may be a Guardian subself

              And which of these familiar inner-family members affect you?

Typical Guardian or "Firefighter" Subselves
  • Abuser / Sadist / Bully / Rapist

  • Addict / Compulsive One

  • Anesthetist / Numb-er  /  Blocker

  • Avoider / Fugitive / Runner

  • Bitch / Witch / Bastard

  • Catastrophizer 

  • Competitor / Opponent

  • Controller / Manipulator / User

  • Critic / Shamer / Blamer 

  • Con artist / Thief / Cheat

  • Cynic / Pessimist

  • Daredevil  /  Risk-taker

  • Distracter / Defocuser

  • Egotist / Narissist

  • Entertainer / Clown / Joker

  • Entitled One / Jealous One  

  • Fanatic / Terrorist / Zealot

  • Fantasizer / Dreamer

  • Flirt / Seducer / Slut / Voyeur

  • Hermit / Loner / Recluse

  • Hero(ine) / Champion / Star 

  • Hoarder /  Miser  /  Collector

  • Hypochondriac  /  Sick One

  • Idealist / Optimist  /  Missionary

  • Impatient / Hyper One

  • NEW   Irresponsible One

  • Jealous / Envious One

  • NEW Judge / bigot

  • Liar / Spy / Secret Keeper

  • Magician / Illusionist / Denier

  • Matriarch  /  Patriarch

  • Nagger / Reminder

  • Nihilist / Fatalist

  • NEW  Obsesser

  • People-Pleaser  /  Peacemaker

  • Perfectionist 

  • Skeptic / Doubter 

  • Pretender  /  Phony  /  Politician

  • NEW  Predictor

  • Procrastinator / Evader 

  • Psycho /  Weirdo / Schizo /  Maniac

  • Rager (may be an inner child) 

  • Rationalizer / Explainer / Justifier

  • Rebel / Defiant One / Rule Breaker

  • NEW  Replayer / Repeater

  • NEW  Represser / Stuffer

  • Righteous / Pious One

  • Self-saboteur / Fail-er / Screw Up

  • Shopper  /  Gambler  /  Spender

  • Slob  /  Apathetic-Lazy One

  • Suicider / Killer

  • Taskmaster / Overseer

  • Vagabond  /  Drifter  /  Bum 

  • Victim / Martyr / Loser 

  • Warrior / Amazon

  • Whiner / Complainer

  • Worrier / Cautious One

  • (others)

       Each subself's purpose or function is more important than its name or title. With some editing of these three groups, do you see the whole "You" here? Can you envision your crew, gang, squad, team, committee, tribe, or troop of subselves as an "inner family"? For your perspective, over 75% of the visitors to this site say "Yes, personality subselves are real, without question."

      Each of us has a unique mix of ~20 to 30 subselves like these, not all of them. Different mixes of subselves help to explain the 16 different "personality types" that the popular Myers-Briggs scheme describes.

       Who are you, anyway? If "y'all" had a unified personality, I'd ask "Who is you?"!

  Higher (Spiritual) Subselves: A Fourth Group?

       Many believe every human has one or more spiritual parts. These live in us, "somewhere else," or both. People speak of special experiences with their "Higher Self," a "Collective Unconscious," "Mastermind," "Soul," "Higher Power," the "One" or "Old Ones," and/or a "Guardian Angel." Many followers of Jesus experience the "indwelling Christ" or "Spirit within" guiding us by a "still, small voice." 

      Millions of oriental and other peoples venerate and obey ancestral spirits. Other millions seek their "Buddha Nature." Many Native Americans and others know they have a "Totem," or "Spirit Guide" - a special visionary, spirit Being who watches over, guides, and protects them. In her interesting 1990 book Recreating Your Self, therapist Nancy Napier proposes that we can meet and be advised by our wise, caring Future Self. For an interesting experience with yours, try this after you finish here.

       Some people (i.e. their ruling subselves) view such spiritual entities as ridiculous, fanciful, or absurd. Other people are certain of them from personal experience. Do you or could you have one or more spiritual subselves who care for, nurture, and protect you? How might they communicate with you, or vice versa? 

      In his years of inner-family work with hundreds of clients, Dr. Richard Schwartz reports experiences of some (not all) people becoming aware of an external spiritual "council" or "watchers" that provide wise, caring guidance at crucial times. Could this be the source of the hunches and intuition that most of us experience if we slow down enough to notice? Are these our Guardian Angels?

    Why This is Relevant to You and Your Family

      If this inner-family concept is new to you, what you have just read may seem like abstract or fanciful ideas. Having studied and practiced inner-family therapy professionally since 1992, I now agree with hundreds of other clinicians who feel that a disabled true Self and discordant subselves cause most "mental health" and relationship problems. They may also significantly affect physical health.

      The implication is - people who get to know their inner crew, and intentionally learn how to promote inner harmony under the wise guidance of the resident true Self and other Managers and a benign Higher Power, can live significantly more peaceful, productive, wholistically-healthy lives.

      A vital corollary is that Self-led people can also help their kids avoid the pervasive [wounds + unawareness] cycle, develop and live from their true Self, and avoid much personal, marital, and social stress and perhaps illness.

      Self-improvement Lesson-1  offers much more detail on this concept and how to retrain and harmonize your subselves. All 7 Lessons in this site are based on the concept of personality subselves and pervasive psychological wounds and unawareness.

      The practical question I urge you to research is this: have you been living under the control of a well-meaning false self without knowing it? Have other people who are important to you? Are your kids silently developing psychological  wounds that will stress them for years and may shorten their lives?

      Pause, reflect, and notice the "voices" in your head now and any emotions that have come up. They are some of your dynamic subselves reacting to these questions. Do you know who they are?

    Reality Check

      In presenting these ideas to hundreds of average people since 1992, I've experienced a wide range of first reactions. Some people are skeptical or reject the ideas. Most people say "This makes complete sense to me!" See where you stand now: T = true, F = false, and ? = "I'm not sure"

I'm sure I and others have a group of dynamic "subselves" that comprise our personality, psyche, or "character." (T  F  ?)

I'm clear on which subselves comprise my personality now (T  F  ?)

I'm sure I have a natural inner-family leader - my Self (capital "S").  (T  F  ?)

I know how to tell if my Self is leading my other subselves.  (T  F  ?)

I know clearly which subselves run my life in _ calm and _ stressful times. (T  F  ?)

My inner family is harmonious enough of the time.  (T  F  ?)

I have one or more spiritual subselves who affect my life. (T  F  ?)

I like and am proud of my unique set of subselves most of the time. (T  F  ?)

I have a clear idea which subselves rule key people in my life in calm and stressful times. (T  F  ?)

I am intentionally guarding the kids in my life from psychological wounds by healing my own, and providing a high-nurturance environment. (T  F  ?)

      If you feel any confusion or doubt about the reality of our (your) subselves now, experience "talking" with one or more of your parts, and read my letter to you after you finish this article.

      The guidebook for self-improvement Lesson 1 is Who's Really Running Your Life? It explains and illustrates this inner-family concept, integrates most of these Web pages, and outlines how to harmonize your subselves via "parts work."

      For an entertaing example of how personality parts are seeping into our societal awareness, enjoy this brief YouTube Disney movie trailer:


      This Lesson-1 article proposes that normal people raised in a low-nurturance childhood automatically develop a group of protective personality subselves, or parts, to survive. The clinical name for this reflex is "multiplicity." The article sketches a brief developmental history of this ancient concept, starting with Socrates and Sigmund Freud, and evolving through family therapy, inner children, Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder), to the "internal-family systems" (IFS) concept proposed by Dr. Richard Schwartz in the 1980s.

      Over a score of mental-health researchers have written about versions of this concept for well over a century, but there is no current professional consensus yet. The public is largely unaware of the "multiplicity" (subself) concept.

      The article outlines and illustrates Schwartz's proposal of three or four functional groups of subselves in most people: Managers, Inner Kids, and Guardians, Protectors, or Firefighters, and one or more spiritual entities which may provide intuition, hunches, senses, premonitions, and a "still, small voice."

  Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll.

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