From my clinical training, research, and experience as a family-systems therapist since 1979, I have come to believe that normal human personalities – like yours – are composed of a group of unique, talented “subselves” or “parts (discrete brain regions). This “inner family” of subselves acts like an athletic team or orchestra – with or without an effective Coach or Director – your true Self.
This is not a new idea. Observers and theorists as far back as Plato have proposed hay day hack no root this idea of “little selves,” “Mini-minds,” “daemons,” and “subpersonalities.” Early Western formulations of this idea came from Sigmund Freud (id, ego, and superego) and later Dr Thomas Harris (good parent, bad parent, and inner child).
Our wounded society needs to deny the universal reality of our subselves so far, and what it means to most people and families. If share more content our personalities were monolithic, we’d greet each other with “How IS you?”
American psychologist Dr. Richard Schwartz is a pioneer in exploring and teaching this subject to thousands of lay and clinical people. He is the founder of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. I trained with him.
Unawareness of having your life controlled by a group of well-meaning, contentious subselves has promoted the wry adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Do you relate? Have you ever made a firm resolution to change some unpleasant or unhealthy trait only to “fail” or relapse again and again?
Have you ever done something you knew was “wrong” – and suffered guilt and/or remorse aftewards? Have you ever loved and hated the same person, or seen something “from both sides”? These are all normal symptoms of various subselves at work, below click more details your awareness.
The bad news is – if you’re not aware of your talented subselves and who leads them in calm and stressful times, you risk having a false self run your life. This contributes to a wide range of mental and physical health and relationship problems, and usually blocks you from being all you can be. The American divorce epidemic and most social ills are sobering evidence of how widespread false-self dominance is in our culture.
The good news is – once aware of your dedicate subselves, you can harmonize them under the expert leadership of your wise resident true Self and responsive Higher Power. An effective way to do this is inner family therapy.
This personality-subself concept explains why so many well-meant “self help” techniques and programs only provide temporary relief – or none at all. A multi-billion-dollar example is the American obesity and “weight loss” industry – fueled by inner pain and self-medicating compulsions to overeat and/or eat unwisely.
These programs often fail to keep unwanted pounds off because they don’t address the real problem: a tireless “Comforter” or “Addict” subself which ignores health risks in it’s zeal to provide comfort and protect several anguished inner children. This same dynamic applies to all unhealthy or unwelcome “habits (compulsions) like nail biting, interrupting, codependence, exploding, (some) “depressions,” lying, jealousy, and “split personalities.”
Common initial reactions to this true Self / false self concept are (a) instant recognition and affirmation, and (b) apathy, skepticism, or scorn. The latter is usually a protective reflex of dominant subselves fearing they’ll be discovered and “deposed.”
If you’re curious or skeptical about the concept, see the memo at , and then try the safe, interesting experience of interviewing a subself of your choice –
So – who’s REALLYrunning your life? Your wise true Self, or “someone else”?
For more perspective and options, see this self-study lesson.