It is by no means certain that our individual personality is the single inhabitant of these our corporeal frames…We all do things both awake and asleep which surprise us. Perhaps we have co-tenants in this house we live in.
_ Are you really in charge?
Are any of us really as in charge of ourselves as we think we are? We’ve already mentioned earlier in this chapter that if we were captain of our own ship – in charge of our own mind – then we would always have the right and immediate solutions for any emotional or mental problems in our lives, and we would be able to immediately correct those problems. There would be no mental discomfort: no emotional dissonance in our lives; no depression.
Let’s have a brief look at the things that are going on within the realm of your unconscious mind that are taking the helm of the ship away from your firm grasp.
Protective Mechanisms Sabotaging You
Protective mechanisms? Something sabotaging you? This section is crucial to a later understanding of what sort of forces are going on at unconscious level that keep you stuck in the perpetual mental and emotional state that we may refer to as a sort of depression coma.
As an affectologist and an educator and trainer in my field, it is this understanding of the dynamics of emotional protective mechanisms that constitute a huge part of the theory studies in my professional practitioner teaching programs. It is enough to say that I’m not going to be putting you through an academic discourse, but I offer you enough in this section to help you realize that there is something afoot below your awareness that maintains your present – assumedly uncomfortable – state of being.
Protective mechanisms are exactly what they sound like. They are aspects of how your subconscious operates that are designed to protect you – at a deep level – from the prospect of change away from that which is an unyielding belief system. So far; so good. The problem, though, is that their positive protective and defensive intention does not match the sorts of changes that you want in your life, so we need to have a brief look at those mechanisms that are most relevant to our task of beating depression – in the now.
Parts Drivers in the Mind. The Devil Gremlins
In the field of affectology, ‘parts drivers’ and ‘task drivers’ are defined as ‘aspects of what has been learned by the subconscious to ensure a person’s survival and maintain status quo. They operate unconsciously and instantaneously whenever any external force is brought to bear – including information and/or advice.’ So even though there are many aspects of the subconscious that act and react in this way, let us look at the two that are particularly germane to the subject of this book – how the unconscious processes new information and how it protects old information, right or wrong.
For decades, psychology has proposed some fairly loose concepts of what I call Parts Drivers. A number of relatively well known therapies embrace the notion that there are dynamics of the subconscious that drive or manifest certain behaviors or attitudes that tend to disallow – or sabotage – any productive change. Those therapies include the likes of NLP, Analytical Hypnotherapy, Ego State Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Voice Dialogue therapy, and the list goes on and on. But in those therapies, the approach seems to be to remove those pesky parts from the mind. But what if those parts drivers have certain tasks that have been learned early in life that protect the organism (you) and are necessary for survival and reasonable functioning?
It has not been until the advent of clinical affectology that these parts drivers have gained any respect as to just how preventive they can be. And further, just exactly why they are necessary to our survival and what can be done to circumvent them in the interest of bringing about positive change. But before we address that, what are they?
It’s common for people (all of us, in fact) to use phrases like, ‘There’s a part of me that wants to do it’ and ‘That does not appeal to a part of me,’ and so on. That concept per se is not foreign to most of us; we just haven’t given a thought to the full consequences of a bunch of different ‘states of us’ running around inside our unconscious, and more to the point, these unconscious parts are silent and invisible, yet cause solid manifestations in behavioural and other ways.
Affective Neuroscience tells us that human beings learn many things at an early-life, preverbal feeling level that we hold on to, in one way or another (that is, solidly or subtly), well into adulthood and perhaps forever. So it is with the ‘parts’ of our unconscious that are designed – through early learning and experience – to maintain status quo for us. So it leads us to the statement, ALL PARTS AND TASK DRIVERS ARE ‘GOOD’ AND SUPPORTING MOST OF THE TIME AND FOR MOST TASKS.
This comment may seem counter to what we are attempting to achieve here. After all, if it’s so ‘good’ and so supportingly productive, then would we be attempting to get rid of it? The simple answer is, ‘no, we’re not.’ The task in our project is to allow those highly productive and protective parts to do their jobs, but with a newer realization that the dynamics and circumstances of everyday life have moved on from the time in which they were learned and formed as unconscious reactive habits.
It is useful for us all to develop a respect for the ‘organism-supporting’ nature of parts drivers and transfer that respect into the way in which we work through an awareness of the seven deadly myths in Chapters Seven and Eight. To this end, you will note that I have inserted a note at the end of each or the two parts driver comment below that states; ‘It’ had (the parts driver), when it was learned, and still has, for all intents and purposes, a positive intention, however counter-productive and out-dated that may now be.
For the purposes of this book and our project together, let us examine two of the most robustly solid parts drivers that are a part of the unconscious make-up of every one of us.
The AVOIDANCE part:
This is the part that learned, at an early stage in our development, that it is a protective and productive thing to do to avoid any change to our status. It learned this on the basis that ‘change’ brings about chaos and unpredictability in our lives. It has, predominantly, a stabilizing influence, but it can be clearly seen that it may be a strong deterrent to therapeutic change for the better. ‘It’ cannot determine the difference between change for better or change for worse.
‘It’ had, when it was learned, and still has, for all intents and purposes, a positive intention.
The SABOTAGE part:
Not unlike the ‘avoidance’ part. In fact, identical in context, identical in rationale. The difference is in timing. The avoidance part will make efforts to get in the way of pending change (that is, before the event), while the sabotage part leaps into operation after change has taken place, or is beginning to take place, and it attempts to restore the status quo.
‘It’ had, when it was learned, and still has, for all intents and purposes, a positive intention.
I’m hoping that by now you are beginning to get an idea about how important it might be for you to recognize and acknowledge these two parts drivers and the role they play in keeping you unchanged. We will not be trying to change the dynamic of these important aspects of the mind’s operation, but we will be doing what is necessary to prevent them from being effective in their sabotage and avoidance tasks as they relate to changes in your belief system and the subsequent positive changes to your emotional style of being.
The other parts:
In affectology training, and as a result of decades of Affective Neuroscience research, we hold dearly to the concept that within each person’s subconscious mind, there are parts that have learned tasks, actions and reactions that have been brought forward as traces of unconscious ‘reactive memory’ well into adulthood. As mentioned, these all have positive intention, even though their outcomes may not ‘match’ our intentions, aims and desires today. There has been a displacement of intention and real-time response. In therapeutic terms, we’d call that a temporal disassociation – a mismatch brought about by the passage of time.
While formal students of Clinical Affectology investigate the full range of possibilities related to parts drivers – including practitioners’ parts drivers – we are always aware of the existing traces of all these parts drivers that can wreak havoc with even the best forms of analytical talk therapies. And we do not propose, of course, that these parts drivers operate on any conscious or intentional level, but that their effects at unconscious level are still being manifested in some ways. They were, after all, formed with a singular intention in mind: – survival! Or at least, survival of the status quo.
Above, I’ve homed in on the two most important unconscious parts drivers that relate to attempting to make change to states of mind, mental or emotional – that relate to your quest to beat depression – but some readers may be interested in a list of some of the other parts and task drivers that affectologists acknowledge and combat in their session work. These tasks were essential to the early infant in order for it to exist at all. And still may be to the adult.
The ATTENTION-SEEKING part, the remnant of the dynamic that infants must learn in order to signal discomfort. The baby must get attention in order to survive. The details are irrelevant, the habitual traces are not. The subconscious, in adult life, accepts that this parts driver has positive intention.
The ABNEGATING RESPONSIBILITY part. Similarly, the baby can not attend to early-life discomfort in positive-resultant ways other than accepting that another person brings about comfort to its distress. Again, the subconscious, in adult life, accepts that this task driver has positive intention.
The PROCRASTINATING part that has learned to ‘never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.’ This part (dynamic of the mind) has learned that life tasks must be segregated, prioritized, and, combined with the influence of the avoidance part, perhaps, never got around to.
The ‘SETTLED’ EPINOTIC* part that has learned, or been conditioned to accept, that the secondary gains derived from any symptom are a necessary and comfortable aspect of the whole mode of operating in the world. In some cases, this part may not have come into being by having learned that something works but may have been conditioned by early life observation of what seems to work for another person close to them.
A clear example of this is the woman who suffers migraines in the same way as her mother suffered migraines. Many would put this down to ‘genes.’
_*Epinotic: Epinosis (also called secondary gain) is defined as
‘a gain achieving sympathy derived from neurosis;
may lead to resistance of psychotherapeutic change
with an aim to perpetuating the epinotic gain.’
_The UNACCOUNTABLE part that has learned to place the responsibility for self in someone else’s court. It is the part that seems to be very predominant in those people who have developed the habit of continual long-term talk therapy, and have difficulty in taking responsibility for themselves. It is not a natural part, or at least, not a part that would survive if this society and some of its beliefs about therapy, did not nurture it.
The SMART part, the competitive part that has to be right at all costs. It may be a part that will outclass (as it can) any attempts at true discovery by either the conscious mind, or a therapist’s efforts. AND it may well be the part that rejects new information, no matter how much sense it makes (old belief systems have to be winningly right).
The DEMONSTRATIVE part, that continuously works hard at getting attention. In the formation of early life encodings, this is a perfectly natural part. During later life, though, a strong ‘look-at-me’ part can be exceptionally damaging to the job of getting unstuck from maladaptive habitual responses and self-perception. It is those very habits (symptoms) that feed that ‘look-at-me’ part in its need to attract the attention, sympathy and support of every surrounding individual including, and especially, psychotherapists, counselors and doctors.
The VIGILANT part, the self-protective part that ‘keeps an eye on’ whatever is going on around us, particularly in situations that are new to us.
The TRICKSTER part that may be the monitor of the way in which any conventional therapy is progressing. The part that decides to report false wellness and change when it is fed up enough with ongoing efforts in counseling and ‘working through’ depression problems.
The VICTIM, - “SICKNESS WORKS FOR ME” part that learned early in development that being sick, either genuine, or confabulated, worked in the interest of (say) having things done for us, or staying home from school, or not having to face an unpleasant task. Consider that if this part is present within all of us (and I believe that it is – we cannot escape the logic of it) it influences to a very large degree the way in which any therapy might deal with psychosomatic illness. In some cases, this part may not have come into being by having ‘learned that something works’ but may have been conditioned by early life observation of what seems to ‘work’ for another person close to them.
The TALKING part, the vocal part that many therapists in many modalities seem to think is the only part that matters. It is the part that takes its instructions, at an unconscious level, from all the other parts. As such, it is the part to be least trusted in terms of the truth of information that it offers – or the thoughts that it generates!
The SHUFFLER part: A client of mine, a chronic depression sufferer, ‘invented’ this part, and although a joke, she was probably well on the mark. This could be the part that learned that one must go carefully from step to step in life for fear of making a wrong move.
ALL the above parts could and should be tagged with that one comment:
– ‘It’ had, when it was learned, and still has, for all intents and purposes, a positive intention.