Evolutionary Leadership

baby looking up

The age we all form 'parts'

How many times have you heard "one part of me wanted to do this, but then this other part said...". We talk about our "parts" all the time, but how often do you actually look at them closely? There's a reason for that.

In my coaching, some clients suffer the conflict between their parts. Let me tell you how they integrate these parts to claim the inner stillness that makes for great listening, great decisions, great leadership and great performance.

"Parts" display themselves in characteristic patterns of breath, posture, tone and language. It's usually obvious to our loved ones. The weird thing, is, we DON'T KNOW we are doing that "thing" when we are doing it.

We act out our parts unconsciously in ritualistic patterns of display. Why? Because the "part" of us, or pattern of behavior, ONLY wants to be acted out, and NEVER wants to be seen. You'll see how this makes perfect sense in a minute, and I will tell you exactly how to see your patterns by laying a neat little "pattern trap".

One  New York executive client told me his business partnerships were hard to form and maintain because of how he acted with potential partners. Although he is very creative and intelligent, he would defer to their ideas without putting out his own, and he had trouble "doing anything for himself". His parents had told him to be 'seen and not heard' and 'never be selfish'. He was in despair to ever overcome this pattern.

He did a great job of describing the part and it exact display pattern. We gave it a name: 'Deflector'. This executive was able to understand and see how it helped him in the past. This is important because our parts are not 'bad' in themselves, even though the outdated patterns of reaction often produce painful results as adults.

We also worked to list what the positive payoff was for this pattern, and what the cost was. Once he saw the cost/benefit, he was very willing to change 'Deflector'. But how to make him aware he is doing 'Deflector' in the exact moment he is doing it?

It turns out nearly every part, every ritual pattern of behavior, has a 'language formula' that signals that the display is starting. In his case, it was when he said, "don't worry about it." Sounds pretty innocuous, right? But every time this executive said "don't worry about it", it meant that he was starting Deflector!

So we laid a trap for Deflector: my client and I made a display to put above his desk to remind him of the deeper meaning of "don't worry about it."

Armed with this insight, he was able to SEE Deflector. And once the pattern is seen by the person doing it (everybody else sees it all the time!), then it can be transcended, and a new, more conscious, appropriate and responsive interaction can emerge.

In this case, he chose a new language pattern to help him integrate Deflector and reclaim the partnership, friendship, power and achievement that his old adaptation of 'Deflector' was preventing. Instead of "don't worry about it", he practiced to say, "let's consider this more" as training wheels while the pattern unwound.

He also saw where he does this with his wife, and how he can deepen intimacy with her. In that case, he says, "I'm with you" was the training wheels phrase.

All of this from looking deeply at the tiny details of language and behavior! If you want to discover your own parts and patterns, listen for the phrases you always say. If you don't know them, your friends will be happy to tell you what they are. Write the most important one down, and then trust yourself -- remember, your parts are trying to ACT, and trying NOT to be seen. But when you see them, you reclaim yourself, your choice, and all the positive feelings.

I promised to tell you why this makes perfect sense: because we form these patterns of behavior very early, before we have words, to make sure that our parents will love us. If they don't love us, it seems like, as little toddlers, we will die! So it is very dangerous, as a toddler, to question the behavior that allows us to survive.

As an adult, we rarely update these patterns, so we continue our neurotic urge to simply DO the pattern, rather than the conscious impulse to SEE the pattern. That's why it can be pretty hard to see the pattern -- that's why we need to practice and remember the language formulas for a while until the pattern integrates, and the neurotic impulse relaxes.

Questions? I would love to hear them.


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  • Craig December 22, 2012

    Parts work is one of the most powerful modalities I’ve ever experienced.

    I love the idea of executives seeing the infantile parts that are running their companies (or countries!) and choosing to transcend those strategies in favor of something easily as accessible and far more enlightened.

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