The Power of Naming

By the Vickis

" I hated it when Elizabeth was just shouting and shouting at me. But when I finally listened to her, she stopped shouting."
- Elaine of the system Patricia

Beginning Communication, Building Safety and Trust

This is taken from another of our a.s.dis posts. It describes the process that Big Vicki went through at the beginning, as she was learning to get to know the kids in here. It's the sort of starting point we'd suggest to anyone trying to get to know their others/insiders/parts. It was part of a thread on a.s.dis, and so the relevant bits of other ppl's posts are included.

 >>Suppose that one tried to make the environment safe, however that was
 >>done, and then got scared and immediately said, "I don't believe
 >>nothing, its all bull #$%@."   and that happened a number of times and
 >>now lots are skeptical and if there was any (one) or whatever around
 >>to communicate with, they sure ain't gonna now cuz they think its just
 >>a trap.
 >>I mean, how can one make an enviroment safe and inviting.  Tell me cuz
 >>I want to do that and I don't know how.

Well one thing is that the part who got scared & said "I don't believe nothing", really needs to feel safe too! It sounds like you're focussing on how to make it safe for the others, but you (or whichever part of you reacted that way) need to feel safe enough that you don't have this reaction, or at least, have some way to cope with the reaction.

I had a similar issue when I first started. I sat down to do some inner child writing and immediately was deluged with "this is stupid, this is corny, how can you do this, this is so ridiculous". I felt like my mother was sitting across the table from me, badmouthing me and my efforts.

So before I could begin to dialog with my inner child, I first had to have a dialog with my "inner parent" or "inner skeptic" or whatever you want to call it. This was a fantastically powerful, positive experience for me. I won't go into too much detail but basically, I started from my stating that this was MY life and I get to do anything that I think will help. That I'd lived my life her way for a long time and all it got me was miserable, so now I was going to try something different.

Given that you've repeated the pattern often enough that whatever other parts inside are now skeptical, it might be good to start out by admitting to those parts inside, that you realized you'd done this and they don't believe you anymore and you can hardly blame them; and apologize, and then _ask their help_ in dealing with the messages that come up. Tell them you don't want to believe those messages either, but it's what happens when you get scared. Ask if they can help you feel safer, not feel so scared. Ask if they can help you counter those messages.

Even if you get no help, just your approaching them this way, and then doing something that is clearly trying to keep the same pattern from happening again, will be evidence of your sincerity and that you are _trying_ to change. That can only help, I'd think.

Hmm... yet another approach might be to thank the "I don't believe it" messages for their help in trying to protect you, but explain that you need to believe it for a while in order to feel better, so please would they stop protecting you this way. (This never would have occurred to me when I started, but I've since learned to believe that every part of me is there for a reason and is trying to protect, and it's just that the old protective strategies are causing trouble. But the _intent_ is a protective one, and that can be appreciated and thanked.)

Now as far as other ways to try not to get so scared... Personally I repeat "If it works, I get to use it" like a mantra. I know lots of folks who've started out by saying "Hey, I don't necessarily _believe_ any of this stuff, but let's just _go_ with it for a while, and see what happens" - kind of hypothetically, you know?

Another approach is to try and look in more detail at just what is it you are so scared of? And take the "ok, suppose it is true; then what happens?" kind of thing. Sometimes I find that I am only scared of a word, and when I follow it in more detail, I find that the consequences of the word or idea actually... aren't that bad at all. Or at least aren't so dramatically different from what I have now, anyway, as to warrant that kind of fear.

Also, you might consider making a contract with yourself that even if those "I don't believe it" messages come up, you won't stop what you're doing, you won't stop listening. It's possible to take a sort of "Well, you're entitled to your opinion, but we're going to keep at this anyway" approach to messages like that.

 >Here is what _I_ mean when I talk about making my environment safe
 >_enough_. I hope others share what they mean! I see safety as being
 >kind of complex. There's external safety (like knowing my therapist
 >won't physically hurt me, or knowing that if the body is physically
 >hurt one of us can fight back) which is kind of vague because it
 >involves trusting external people and we aren't real sure on that one
 >yet! Then there's internal safety which is what I describe below.

Another piece of external safety for me has to do with physical boundaries. I need to be alone to do this work, generally. I need to know I won't be disturbed or interrupted. In my room, door closed, phone unplugged, sign on the door that says "do not disturb". (Altho alone in the house is even better.)

 >For me, things are safe when they are honest, real, and
 >have few expectations. We try to always include everyone inside in
 >everything we do, we try to ask everyone for input and listen to them
 >when they have something to say (this is _really_ hard to do!). We
 >have learned alot about what it means to be a good parent and what it
 >means to be non-judgemental and we try to do this with everyone inside
 >as much as possible. We've also worked very hard on the idea that no
 >one is perfect and that it's good if you make mistakes because then
 >you are challenging yourself.

:smile: We have dealt with this one with the affirmation "I'm not SUPPOSED to be perfect. I'm SUPPOSED to make mistakes." The idea being, that that's what human beings ARE: imperfect creatures. Our design spec comes with "will make mistakes" - you know? ;)

 >Other things we'd like to have but haven't gotten to yet: respect for
 >each others views, acceptance of each others differences, acceptance
 >of each other as a positive part of the system.

:nod: We have made some progress on this. Used to be that the teens would bitch and moan and verbally abuse a younger kid for whining and crying when she was upset. I pointed out to the teens that the verbal abuse just made the younger kid feel _more_ upset and then she would just whine and cry _more_, and so it was really a self defeating strategy. This was successful :) and for a while the teens would bitch about that, but that's okay cause then they were directing it at a fact of life, not at another one of us inside. And now, generally, there isn't even the impulse to criticize like that. The teens sometimes get into an "attitude" like "Oh, geeze, there she goes again", BUT, the youngers are now strong enough (and I'm so proud of them!) to be able to stand there and say "hey, you are entitled to your feelings and i am entitled to mine too."

I set some rules about namecalling. Name calling is not allowed. No one here is allowed to call anyone else _or themselves_ names, no matter what. Sometimes the "or themselves" part gets bent a little bit, when someone's _really_ upset, but just knowing that rule is in the background has helped.

Hmm. I just realized. I never applied that rule to me. I (BV) feel that if the kids want to call _me_ names when they are feeling really angry, well, then I'm the adult and I can take it. I think I must have some inner barometer, ie if they call me names to hurt then I'll put a stop to it, but if it's just an outflow of feeling then I won't. Hmm.

Another big thing that I did, when first starting out, was to _begin_ by validating and praising the part I was talking to. EG if one kid was verbally abusing herself & us because we'd made a terrible mistake and hadn't done something right, or had let somebody down, then I would start out by telling her, that I could tell she had a strong sense of responsibility, or she wouldn't be so upset, and that that was a _good_ thing. And only then would I go on to talk through with her whether we really needed to be _that_ upset, or whether it was _that_ bad.

For us, I think this was the fundamental characteristic of "inviting". If it was just me deciding everything and making all the rules, then why would my kids have anything to do with that at all? I was an adult, what did I know? Where had I been all those years when they were upset? They did not trust me at first and that was perfectly reasonable, why should they?

Whereas if I began conversations by praising them and validating their point of view, then that showed I wasn't going to just be bossy and try to run everything and not pay attention to them. Once I showed that I could see the validity of _their_ point of view, _then_, they were willing/able to listen to me, and see if maybe there was some validity in my point of view too.

All my kids believe that grownups don't know anything. :) Thus the way for us to communicate, was for me to show that I was willing to learn from them, and see their point of view. (Thus proving myself an exception to the general rule about grownups. They are now willing to admit that there are a few things that I do seem to know something about. :) )

 >We would like to get to the point where we can trust each other enough
 >to be respectful and supportive so that no matter what any of us says
 >the others will be positive and not hurtful. We would also like to get
 >to the point where everyone inside has the same goals and priorities
 >(on the big stuff that is) so that we are all comfortable with _any_
 >of us being out as needed.

We would love to have the same general goals and priorities on the big stuff too. This is sort of the ongoing issue we're working with over the past few months. For us what happens is that parts who haven't totally "signed on" to the larger goal or priority will sabotage our efforts (in getting our hours in at work, for instance). And I've come to believe lately that even just passive non-sabotage makes life difficult; that we'd really all have an easier time of it if we could get active cooperation from every part.

One thing that's been important for me to realize recently is that I can't just pick a goal, or get agreement on a goal, and then cast it in concrete as a never-to-be-questioned axiom! I read an exercise about goal setting recently, & it said that every couple weeks, or every month at _least_, you should revisit your goal & see if it is still your goal. And I thought "hmm, now _that's_ an interesting idea" and was met with an internal chorus of "FINALLY!!!!" :giggle:

What would happen for us is, we'd agree on a goal, and things would go great for a while, but after a few weeks the cooperation & all would sorta "wear off". And now I know why! :) (At least partly why, anyhow.)


Big Vicki (BV) especially -- feeling quite often like a den mother who could really use an assistant!! :smile:

ps from kids: if some of your parts are little like us and you want to know like what they might think about something then you could ask us if you want. sometimes kids is better at explaining kids to grownups than grownups are. :) we think it's nice you want to know how to make it safe and inviting and stuff. probably your parts know stuff about how to do that and if you ask them and listen then they might tell you. probably they might think you don't know anything at first but if you give them a chance and just be considerate and stuff like you were with starting a new thread and stuff, then probably they'll get to know you and not think bad of you. specially if you don't act like you know it all, which you rpobably wouldnt or why would you have started this thread at all? :) well that's just what we think. good luck, we know it's probably scary to you but really it's not so bad to have parts inside, because they can know stuff and understand stuff that you might not. bye, Vicki(s) kids

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