Recently I noticed that I was avoiding doing some important work, then I noticed that I was avoiding working with the resistance and that got me thinking.
Our culture is full of references to working / fighting / overcoming the resistance to get to our goals. Books like (the excellent) “The War Of Art” by Stephen Pressfield talk about overcoming resistance, pushing through the things that get in our way to reach our goal.
We are encouraged to resist our resistance, to struggle with it and overcome it (even if that feels like wading through treacle).
Unfortunately, I’m rather more lazy than heroic, so my struggles have often been half hearted.
I realised that all the time I spent struggling with my resistance could be better spent doing the thing I was resisting. It dawned on me that struggling with my resistance was a large part of the resistance.
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
– H. L. Mencken
There is an amusing and inspiring steamship story that is often told in trainings or workshops, it goes something like this.
In the days of the old steamships a passenger liner broke down just before the entrance to New York harbour.
The ship was helpless, there was nothing the ship’s engineer or crew could do. The liner lay dead in the water unable to make any headway.
The captain radioed the harbour asking them to send their most skilful engineer to solve the problem.
The engineer rode a pilot-boat to the crippled liner, where the captain showed him to the engine room.
To the captain’s surprise the engineer just wandered about. He walked around the engine room, putting his hand on the miles of piping and his ear to junctions and valves. He looked into the boilers and over the towering engine.
By now the captain was beginning to get impatient. “When is this man actually going to DO something?” he thought.
After half an hour of wandering around the engineer just scratched his chin, nodded to himself and asked for a hammer.
One of the problems of describing therapeutic techniques is that they can seem dry and remote. It occurred to me that writing a folk tale would be a good way to talk about the Identity Healing process in a way that spoke to the metaphorical part of ourselves that delights in a story. This tale is one way of telling you about it without talking about it. I hope you enjoy the story and see its potential. – Andy
In a land far away and long ago there lies a village remote and beautiful.
A scattering of rough stone houses and tangled gardens surrounded by high hills and deep forest.
The villagers lived the simple lives of villagers everywhere.
They worked, slept, laughed, cried, were born and gave birth, grew up, grew old and died in all the ancient and familiar rhythms of the world.
To their occasional visitors they looked the same as villagers everywhere and anywhere.
To those visitors who stayed a while they seemed happier than villagers ought to be.
In spite of the hard work in the daily and yearly struggle for survival these villagers had found a way to be contented with themselves.
The villagers had an easiness of being. A deep contentment with themselves and the world. And although they had all the familiar vexations in their lives, they lived them to the full without struggle.
Children growing here suffered all the usual knocks and blows of life.
If you saw such a moment in a child’s life here you would see all the things you would expect to see anywhere. The shock, hurt, anger or fear would run through their bodies and over their faces.
What you wouldn’t see, what you couldn’t see, if you were not from this village, is the secret way each child protected themselves from their pain.
If you look at your passport or your driving license you can see your name and your photo. Even if the photo is bad you can tell that it is you.
You appear to be just one person. But is that true?
On the outside you may project an image of calm, capability, or one of the other ways we like to present ourselves to the world. Behind the eyes and beneath the skin it can be a different story.
Have you ever said or heard someone else say?
I am not good enough
There is something wrong with me
I can’t forgive myself
Nobody loves me
I hate myself
Each of these statements is about an ‘I’,’me’ or ‘myself’. They speak about our identity, who we are.
Beneath what we hope are our socially acceptable exteriors there may be parts of ourselves that are not happy.
These parts: the ‘I’ in “I’m not good enough”, the ‘me’ in “Nobody loves me” and the ‘I’ and ‘myself’ in “I hate myself” are sometimes known as sub-personalities. Sub-personalities are parts of our inner selves that step up and wear the mask of our outer selves.
These parts of ourselves are usually suffering.
The ‘I’ in I’m not good enough is not having a good time.
The ‘me’ in “Nobody loves me” feels distress.
The ‘I’ and ‘myself’ in “I hate myself” are both feeling stressed.
These parts of ourselves are often formed in childhood at times of stress. They carry what they felt, thought and did at that time through life in a capsule of that stress and distress.
You may also remember times when it felt as if a younger part of yourself took control of your adult self. It’s as if you had been hijacked by a terrified child or angry teenager. If you’ve had this experience you have felt the presence of a sub-personality.
It’s bad enough that we can carry these pockets of stress and distress within ourselves, but it gets worse.