The Mind has Parts

And some of them are outcasts.

It’s like seeing a new side of a friend. “What do you mean you don’t like blueberries!?” This can be unsettling and thrilling. It can also explain past mysteries: “That’s why you were so awkward when that cute girl offered you pie.”

Okay let’s be serious, cause who doesn’t like blueberries?

If you had pinned me down and asked “What is the mind?!” I would have fallen in love and then evasively stumbled down some esoteric path about dualism and the monkey-mind while sprinkling a little collective unconscious behind to cover my trail. I had no idea. I’m still not really sure.

But I’m convinced that it has parts. Even if it doesn’t literally have parts, it sure is useful to think about it that way.

These parts are like a group of friends. Each one has different desires, goals and fears. Most of them talk to each other and have agreed about most of these things. Others are anti-social. It is these outcasts that are truly fascinating.

When I get anxious about new experiences it is as though one of these outcasts has taken the wheel. He hasn’t talked to the others, so he doesn’t know that we’ve done this a thousand times before. He doesn’t know that we actually enjoy meeting new people. He thinks it’s still middle school and is thus rightly freaked out.

Thinking about this as a part explains why reasoning is so ineffective. It’s why logic never mends the gap between conservatives and liberals: their experiences are too far apart. This part’s experience froze around thirteen years old.

I know it sounds crazy that part of my mind doesn’t know all I’ve done. But maybe it takes a crazy theory to explain crazy behavior.

When jealousy arises it’s a similar situation. Some trigger alerts a certain part of the mind and then boom, she’s at the helm. All others be damned, she doesn’t want to hear any evidence or think back to his years of faithfulness. From her perspective she’s about to save the whole crew from sure disaster.

Yet afterwards when the rest of the crew has control, when calmness and higher consciousness return we feel ashamed. That scared part retreats back into the shadows while everyone else is asking “what the hell was that about?”

It’s about parts! Or one specific part I suppose.

Anger, depression, insecurity, anxiety… I’m becoming convinced that each of these can be traced back to parts of the mind that are cut off from the rest.*

Creativity, insight, compassion, spontaneity: those moments when your natural self effortlessly flows out into the world; those are the result of the parts working together. Each one is in their position and doing what they do best.

I want as many of those moments as possible. I’m fascinated by this theory because it has a very simple strategy for living that way: find the hurt parts and bring them back on board.

So, friends and I have been doing just that. Through EMDR, using basic meditation and imagination we have begun the process of bringing these parts back on board. Future posts will go into those adventures, but I don’t want to burden this one with any more insights than the most basic, simple and useful one I know:

The mind has parts.

*Of course negative emotions arise naturally like any other emotion. But I’m talking about when they are acute, when we feel trapped by them. Those moments that leave us saying: “I’m sorry, I wasn’t myself back there.

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