In my last newsletter, we explored Step One of Taking a You-Turn . . . focus on a thought or feeling that needs your attention. Now, let me ask you: When you give a challenging part of yourself your close attention, how do you feel toward it? Do you notice that you don’t like it? If so, that’s perfectly normal.
Today, I will show you how to address this internal resistance to an unwanted aspect of yourself. You’ll learn how to strengthen your relationship with an internal protector, and the exiled part of your soul that it protects, so that you can grow in self-acceptance and spiritual wholeness.
This second step of Taking a You-Turn is to befriend a part of yourself that you don’t like. Befriending means extending curiosity and compassion to this hurting part of your soul and offering it the care it needs.
As you do, remember that all parts of your soul have good intentions, even if their strategies aren’t very helpful! So, after you’ve focused on an overwhelming thought or feeling, ask your inner critic to give you a bit of space. Then try to appreciate—even welcome—your thoughts and feelings, whatever they may be.
Focus again, now, on the original part you’d started working with. Practice offering this hardworking protector part of yourself genuine words of affirmation before trying to get it to change. You might say something like:
- You’re working so hard.
- I can understand your worry.
- It makes sense that you’re angry.
When you’ve befriended an internal protector, it will naturally give you access to the vulnerable exile it protects. Your internal exiles harbor feelings such as self-doubt, loneliness, and fear. They may also carry denied and underdeveloped qualities such as passion, creativity, and ambition. Be aware that your exiles may have developed subtle victim mantras. Here are a few common ones:
- If only he would notice me, then I would feel complete.
- I’ve never had the chance to live my dreams.
- Everything is my fault.
Exiles need compassion. Consider what would happen if you encouraged these parts of yourself. For example, you might say to them:
- You’re doing better than you think!
- You matter to me. I hear you. I see you.
- God is here with you now. You are loved.
Embrace a Part . . . Not Its Unhelpful Strategy
How does the idea of “sin” fit in with this soul-care method? I’m encouraging you to embrace the part of you that’s sinning and that needs help changing, much as you would help a young child learn right from wrong. For example, a good parent wouldn’t shame or berate an errant child but, instead, would connect with the child in a loving way. Only after making that connection would the parent begin to address the child’s behavior. In the same way, you can turn away from your sinful patterns without rejecting the parts of your soul that need your help to change. After all, the Greek word for “sin” means “to miss the mark,” which does not imply harsh judgment, but indicates the need for a helpful course-correction.
In essence, you embrace the part of yourself, but not its unhelpful direction—befriend the former and turn away from the latter. God created Adam and Eve in his likeness and called them “good” (Gen. 1:31). It is right and good to accept yourself, because you are made in God’s image. God’s arms are open wide to you, no matter your past, what you’ve done, or what has happened to you. When parts of yourself overwhelm you with destructive inclinations, you must accept responsibility for your feelings with strength and dignity, lead them from your Spirit-led self, and establish strong internal boundaries.
Connecting with an internal exile might feel overwhelming at first. It has been carrying burdens and longings for a long time. And like a hungry, neglected child, it has pressing, unmet needs. When your Spirit-led self steps up, however, your exiles will find rest and your protector parts, as a result, will finally be able to relax.
Seen and Loved by The Savior
What if each day you were to kneel before God and give expression to the parts of yourself not yet abiding with Him? You might envision the parts that carry your pride, your anger, and your shame sitting around a table or in a circle. As you lift them up, offer a prayer of confession on their behalf. And as they wait expectantly, let each one be seen and loved by the Savior.
Finally, be encouraged: As you begin to befriend the parts of your soul that you’ve dismissed as troublesome, and these parts transform into your allies, I promise you’ll find yourself living more peacefully, courageously, and wholeheartedly.
So far, you’ve focused on a troubled part of your soul and then befriended it. In my next newsletter, we’ll move to Step Three: Invite Jesus to draw near to an overwhelmed part of yourself. Stay tuned . . . and if you know someone who needs encouragement or help dealing with emotions, consider sharing this newsletter with them.
Note: In case you missed it, here’s last month’s newsletter article on Step One, “How to Focus on an Overwhelming Part of Yourself.”
Adapted from Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings Into Your Greatest Allies by Alison Cook, PhD and Kimberly June Miller, MTh, LMFT, © 2018, Thomas Nelson.
By Kimberly June Miller, MTh, LMFT