In Steps One through Four of this newsletter series, I’ve shared the benefits of focusing on and befriending a hurting part of your soul, inviting Jesus to draw near it, and unburdening it. In this final step of the Five Steps of Taking a You-Turn, we’ll explore how to integrate a once-troubled part into your internal landscape. Integration achieves harmony within, as your Spirit-led self guides these opposing factions to reconcile.
Think about the Northern and Southern states before the Civil War. They were polarized and couldn’t agree. Sometimes parts of your soul struggle to get along, too. Internal polarization can feel like a civil war going on inside of you! Part of you wants things to go one way, while another part of you wants a different way.
Reconciliation, on the other hand, resolves conflicts between you and God, you and others, and among warring parts within your soul. The Bible encourages the “ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians chapter 5. You’re fulfilling this role when you restore peace and harmony among the adversarial aspects of your soul. You do this by creating internal boundaries and negotiating with competing parts to unite them around your values, vision, mission, and goals.
Leading this process is a job for your Spirit-led self—that is, your self when it’s led by the Spirit of God. When you discover a polarization, work with both parts and then negotiate between them. Start with whatever emotion or thought feels most present to you. Think of that emotion or thought as belonging to one part of you. Focus on it, befriend it, and learn its perspective. Assure it of its value, too. What are its fears and concerns about softening or changing its role? Invite Jesus to be near this troubled part. Then see if this part would be willing to step back just a little and watch quietly as you work with the second part. If so, repeat the process with the second part. If not, continue working compassionately and patiently with the first part until it’s willing to cooperate.
You’ll be surprised how naturally once-polarized parts will adjust when they realize they’re on the same team. First, connect with these conflicting dimensions of your soul from your Spirit-led self. Update them on your life’s achievements and all the things you would like to accomplish. Then, explore how they can learn from each other and develop more helpful strategies and roles to achieve their common goal of helping you thrive. Once reconciled, competing parts will feel relieved to be able to trust you and will enjoy how much more pleasant it is to work together.
The integration process reminds me of a client who came close to losing his marriage because of a prideful part. This valiant Protector worked hard to guard a vulnerable Exile that felt insignificant because of childhood neglect. During one of our counseling sessions, Tom (the name I gave him in chapter 6 of my book) took a You-Turn with his hardworking internal Protector. Sure enough, once it began harmonizing with the part that had been feeling insignificant, Tom’s prideful part gladly changed roles, becoming his humble confidence. Internal parts, once at war, were then able to unite behind a new mission: regaining Tom’s family’s trust and helping him become a loving husband and father.
In Tom’s life, and in the life of every other client with whom I’ve had the privilege of working, the process of integration has led to a lighter way of being. I’m confident that working the Five Steps will help you feel lighter, too. As your Protectors soften and gain more perspective, you’ll become more wholehearted, and you’ll feel more peaceful fulfilling your life’s vocation. Following the creative movements of the Spirit, you’ll discover the motivation to pour yourself out for others. And as Frederick Buechner so eloquently wrote, you’ll find that place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
By Kimberly June Miller, MTh, LMFT