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3 Sub Personalities Get Stuck in a Lift

This free worksheet will help you identify and access your sub personalities.

Most of us operate unconsciously, with a variety of disparate inner voices, parts, or sub-personalities that often feel at odds with each other. In extreme cases, they don't even like each other and frequently engage in a battle. This creates internal tension, stress and disharmony. It can create internal conflicts, power struggles, and a lack of cohesion in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This makes it difficult to get what we really need, to heal, to connect with others and to live authentically. The healing work is in understanding how these parts came about (childhood trauma) and getting up close and personal with them so that we can really understand how they have helped us survive, what they need and are asking for and what they are guiding us towards.

When we understand all this, we need to work with the emotional body and the nervous system to integrate the parts by building a relationship with them (feeling them) and then essentially, learning to love them. This process is not a cognitive exercise although we need a psychological awareness to start with. It's a deep somatic journey through the unconscious and a willingness to be brave, to be the one that brings all these parts together in love, cooperation and harmony.

We don't need to ever extinguish a part - they have a reason why they are there and every part has something to offer - including the victim. Usually there is strong emotional charge entangled in these parts that needs to be released and reorganised so that we can harmonise our inner world with more ease. I hope this blog post, where I also share an example of my own parts and some ideas for how you can work with your sub personalities to heal, helps you on your journey to wholeness and inner peace.

Trauma, Dissociation and Sub-Personality Formation

Dissociation is the key mechanism underlying the development of sub-personalities in response to trauma.

During a traumatic event, the person has to mentally "check out" and disconnect from the pain to survive. This dissociation response in the brain is a protection mechanism. When trauma is ongoing, it becomes the modus operandi.

Over time, this allows different aspects of the self to form as distinct sub-personalities, each with its own way of relating to the world. There are cases of traumatic sexual and physical abuse that children have endured that have resulted in hundreds of different sub personalities developing within. If left unhealed, this leads to severe depersonalisation and multiple personality disorder, as well as severe personality disorders including schizophrenia in adult life.

One well-known example is Truddi Chase who experienced prolonged and horrific sexual abuse by her step father. Over time, Truddi's psyche fragmented into over 90 different identities / alters / alter egos - each with their own name, age, personality, memories, and way of relating to the world. She referred to them as her 'troops' and they would be turned on and off unconsciously. One of her parts was intent on killing her step father whilst she had other young, child parts that had no memory of abuse at all. Within her she had young children, protector parts and even fully grown adults with different personalities and names. Her auto biography is called When Rabbit Howls. If you think you might have experienced childhood sexual abuse and you want to heal, please read this blog post on the signs that your body is holding imprints of childhood sexual trauma and take my online course here

Sub Personalities Tend To Fall Into 4 Main Categories

At first it can be confusing and overwhelming to identify your sub personalities. I would advise that you journal and write things down as much as you can to get it out of your head and get some mental space to process. You'll find that there are several sub personalities that stick out, but generally they can be categorised into the following areas:

  • The Caretaker: A part that tries to keep the family together and take care of everyone's needs in the face of abuse or dysfunction. This could have been your role as a child if you did not have a responsible or consistent care giver. It has developed the only way it knows how, which is usually to just keep things together, avoid conflict, pacify and suppress. The caretaker is actually not the most caring aspect of you - that exists in the transpersonal sub personality where self love is integrated. The caretaker often gets us entangled in co dependent relationships with narcissists and results in being burnt out and feeling unmet, un held and disconnected from others.

  • The Critic: A harsh, judgmental part that berates the self for not being "good enough" to prevent the trauma. This is the part of you that has developed out of the deep feeling of shame. Shame is an emotional but also a soul level of wounding that leads us to feel 'not good enough' to exist. Our being is simply not enough. The inner critic is fuelled by deep seated shame and often leads to a performative approach to live, over achievement, a nervous system that is in overdrive / doing mode and lack of purpose or fulfilment in activities.

  • The Rebel: A defiant part that acts out in response to the lack of safety, justice and control. The rebel develops also in childhood but also in the teenage years through self differentiation from our original family system. The rebel is fulled by anger and rage and they become a strong protective part over the more vulnerable and tender emotions that we feel as childhood. The main challenge the Rebel faces is using the energy of rage to heal. Typically, it gets projected externally at the world, and unfortunately it fuels the feeling of injustice. The rebel gets to feel in control and safe by looking externally and by avoiding the inner grief that lies behind the rage.

  • The Victim: A part that feels helpless, powerless, and resigned to the trauma. The victim is fuelled primarily by fear, fear of change and fear of love. The victim develops from traumatic imprints that create deep fear in the nervous system. These imprints of fear and terror usually have not been accessed accepted, processed or released. The inner victim tells you that nothing can change for you, that you are beyond help and that healing doesn't work. This is the biggest barrier to growth. The victim is seeking validation for pain and fear from the external world because internally, that fear has not been faced. Click here to read my post on the trauma identity / victim identity and how to heal.

These sub-personalities can serve important functions - for example, a part of us may be the responsible, hardworking perfectionist, while another part is the rebellious, free-spirited inner child. While these parts are often in conflict, each one provides valuable resources and insights. Learning to understand, communicate with, and integrate these different aspects of ourselves can lead to greater personal wholeness and self-awareness.

If you want a deep dive into healing dissociation from a somatic and energetic perspective and helping your clients to heal, please take my online course here. You might also like to do deeper work to identify and heal your shadow parts by taking my online course, Shadow Hunter.

The Autonomous Nature of Sub-Personalities: John Rowan's Perspective

John Rowan, a British psychologist and author, has made significant contributions to the understanding of sub-personalities and internal multiplicity. According to Rowan, we all have a "multiplicity of selves" within us, which he refers to as sub-personalities.

Key points from Rowan's work on sub-personalities:

  • Autonomy of sub-personalities Rowan sees sub-personalities as semi-autonomous parts of the psyche, with their own thoughts, feelings, motivations, and ways of relating to the world. They are not simply neurotic "parts" to be eliminated.

  • Hierarchy and coordination Rowan believes there is a natural hierarchy among sub-personalities, with some taking a more dominant or "executive" role. The goal is not to eliminate this hierarchy, but to facilitate better coordination and cooperation between the different sub-personalities.

  • Relationship and dialogue Rowan emphasizes the importance of establishing a conscious, dialogical relationship between the different sub-personalities. This allows for greater self-understanding and the ability to draw on the unique strengths of each part.

  • Cultivation and integration Rather than suppressing or disowning sub-personalities, Rowan advocates cultivating and integrating them. This involves developing self-awareness, building bridges between conflicting parts, and allowing the sub-personalities to work together in harmony.

  • Transpersonal sub-personalities Rowan also discusses the idea of "transpersonal" sub-personalities - aspects of the self that transcend the personal and connect to universal, spiritual qualities.

Personal Example of Exploring My Sub Personalities

When I first started my healing journey I didn't know anything about parts work or sub personalities. I always thought I should just believe and accept every single thought that crossed my own mind because it was me.

When I started Gestalt psychotherapy training and discovered the book 'Sub Personalities, The People Inside Us' I was fascinated by the notion that within me, could exist many different 'people' or 'personalities' and I wanted to understand them better. I knew at some level that they were playing out in different ways and would be triggered by certain situations or people but I didn't have the awareness to understand them or to do anything about it. I was in auto pilot mode, operating totally unconsciously.

I remember getting on a plane to India for yoga teacher training and tightly gripping John Rowan's book, determined to read the whole thing and get to the bottom of the mystery (and pain) within me. At this point I had realised that I was dissociated - despite the yoga and meditation, I wasn't embodied. Here is an example of a piece of writing I did unconsciously to explore my sub personalities. Scrappy the dog, was the manifestation of the wounded and dissociated part of me that wasn't even worthy of being human, let alone a woman! Dora was the uptight, control freak that often turned up to therapy sessions (often to make the therapists job more difficult!) and Ghandi turned out to be the wise sage within me, that was holding compassion and awareness but was also very silent, watching parts unfold and not speaking much. I didn't know what I was writing until I got to the end and read it back and had that 'aha moment' and I felt something click deep within me. I also felt a sense of relief and some bemusement at the whole experience of my sub personalities getting stuck in the lift. The lift of course, was my field of consciousness - trying to ascend but stuck.


Dora: Shi* Now what?

Scrappy looks at Dora

Gandhi: Noticing the lights have dimmed

Dora: Why are you looking at me!?

Scrappy Looks away

Gandhi: Looks at Scrappy. Looks at Dora.

Scrappy sniffs the door

Dora: It’s closed. You can see that.

Scrappy Looks up at Dora.

Dora: For Christ’s sake. Why don’t people maintain these lifts?

Gandhi thinking about the question

Scrappy: Walks around the lift

Dora: Stop walking - you’re making me edgy!

Scrappy: Stops and looks up at her

Dora rages: I’m stuck in a lift with a bloody dog!

Scrappy: She thinks i’m just a dog.

Gandhi: Wonders- how long will these two survive in this lift together?

Dora: I’m pressing the alarm bell. This is ridiculous!

Scrappy: Losing interest. Sits down.

Gandhi: Thinking - she’s panicking. Why?

Dora: There’s too many of us in this lift. I want to get out.

Gandhi: Asks Scrappy Can we let her out?

Dora: Can you help?

Gandhi: What do you think?

Dora: What kind of question is that?

Gandhi: Do you think I can help you?

Scrappy: Looks up at them

Dora: Can you help or not?

Gandhi: It depends what you mean by help

Dora: Stop talking jibberish. I want to get out of this lift.

Scrappy walks around.

Dora: That dog needs to sit still!

Scrappy: Stops moving. Looks at Dora. Goes to lick her shoe.

Dora: Don’t lick my shoe, get away from me!

Gandhi Sighs

Dora: Why are you sighing?

Gandhi looks at the door and then the dog

Dora: Why?

Gandhi: You’re safe here

Dora: I don’t want to be in here

Gandhi: Where do you want to be?

Dora: Somewhere else, not in here with a dirty dog

Gandhi: Whose dog is this?

Dora: I don’t know, but he follows me around

Scrappy: Looks up at Dora.

Dora: Why do you follow me around?

Scrappy: Blank face

Dora: I think he does anyway. That’s how I feel

Gandhi: You feel like he’s following you

Dora: What does he want! When was the last time he was washed?

Scrappy sniffs

Gandhi: Why don’t you ask him

Dora: I don’t talk to dogs!

Gandhi: Maybe you can try today?

Dora: When did u last wash?

Scrappy: Blank face

Dora: Why are you blank?

Scrappy: Blank face

Scrappy wags his tail

Dora: Why are you wagging, are you happy?

Scrappy: Smiles

Dora: You’re happy?

Scrappy: Curls up at her feet

Dora: You’re sitting on my shoes, get off!

Scrappy stays

Gandhi smiles

Dora: What’s he doing?

Scrappy falls asleep

Gandhi: He’s coming home

Dora: I’m not his home

Scrappy snoores

Dora: Can you open the doors?

Gandhi: Yes, just press the button

Dora: What do you mean 'just press the button'

Gandhi: Press ‘open’

Dora: Presses open

[Doors open]

Dora looks at Gandhi

Gandhi looks at Dora

Scrappy walks out

Dora follows Scrappy

Gandhi: Now, who is following who?

Dora: What did you say?

Gandhi: Sometimes the thing you need most is the thing that is annoying you most. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. All you need to do is push the button. Open up. Sometimes, the lift hasn't broken down , it's just waiting for you to realise you've arrived.

Dora: Right..I have no idea what you’re talking about...

Scrappy wags his tail

Dora: The dog seems happy at least

Gandhi: And what about you?

Dora: I’m just happy to get out of this lift

Gandhi: And now?

Dora: Now I’m leaving both of u! I probably smell of dog!

Scrappy raises his eyebrow

Gandhi: Are you taking Scrappy with you?

Dora: No!

Scrappy gets up to start walking

Dora: See- he’s following me again!

Gandhi: Tell him what you want

Dora: I don't know how to do that

Gandhi: Try

Dora: If I agree to take you home..can u promise not to lick my shoes

Scrappy: Woof!

Dora and Scrappy walk off together

Gandhi: Watches them leave and shakes his head and smiles. Presses the lift button.

[Doors close, Gandhi ascends to the top floor]

Courses You Can Take To Heal Dissociation & Harmonise Your Sub Personalities

This free worksheet will help you identify and access your sub personalities.

If you want a deep dive into healing dissociation from a somatic and energetic perspective and helping your clients to heal, please take my online course here.

You might also like to do deeper work to identify and heal your shadow parts by taking my online course, Shadow Hunter. Trauma focused Dialogical skills is key to offering your clients deeper somatic healing and integration of parts. You can take my online course on that here.



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