Honoring and Healing Your Wounded Parts

Emotional healing through the art of validation and parts work, is one of the most effective approaches to therapy. One of the biggest obstacles in emotional healing often involves conflicts between different parts of ourselves. Although that might sound strange, it’s not uncommon to use language referring to these unique parts. For example, “Part of me wants to stick to my diet, while another part of me wants to eat that whole chocolate cake.” Different parts of ourselves have different agendas. Even with the best of intentions, we may still sabotage ourselves. Sometimes these parts serve a purpose of protecting us from vulnerable feelings. We often suppress different parts of us that carry shame or pain that are otherwise too painful to fully acknowledge.

What is Parts Work?

There are a number of ways in which we try to avoid emotional pain. Parts of us may work to distract or numb pain through shopping, harmful substances, or even perfectionism. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a form of psychotherapy that supports the concept of healing through parts work. This simply means that our inner parts contain valuable qualities that work to protect us. Sometimes these parts or ways of coping, become outdated and no longer helpful. The core Self knows how to heal, allowing us to become integrated and whole.

Somatic psychotherapy also addresses these different parts using mindfulness to bring these parts to awareness. Giving these parts a voice is one of the tools used with this somatic form of psychotherapy. This is just one way to effectively assimilate and heal these wounded parts of ourselves. The process is commonly referred to as “reparenting” and describes how we heal from traumatic memories by validating these personal experiences. Healing occurs when we are able to validate difficult emotions or painful memories from our past.

To supplement your healing journey outside of therapy, here are some ways that you can start the emotional healing through parts work. Use the following steps to help you address the difficult memories or feelings that may arise for you. The injured parts need to be seen and heard in order to move along and heal.

Name the Emotion

First, notice when you’re feeling triggered or perhaps reminded of a difficult memory. Do your best to identify the feelings you are experiencing.  Coming up with a name for our emotion brings the frontal portion of our brain online and helps us to stay focused on the problem. Take your time naming the emotion as this will help to calm your nervous system. If you find yourself overwhelmed or shutting down, you may be experiencing more than a trigger. A severe response may indicate symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. If this is the case then it may be necessary to seek support from a trained professional.

Now that you’ve named your emotion, let’s get to step 2– validation.

Validate the Emotion

Validating your emotional experience is critical to healing.  This process involves validating ones self through self talk. An example might sound like, “This feels deeply painful, or, I did the best I could in that situation.” Recognizing the unjust actions of others or neglectful events in our lives is important to feeling understood. For example, I may be experiencing hurt feelings around being ignored . By allowing myself to be curious, my parts can help me understand why in this moment I am feeling hurt. I might ask myself, what part of me needs to be seen and heard? By offering myself a validating statement such as, “It makes sense that I am being triggered in this moment of feeling ignored. It reminds me of my mom who always seemed too busy for me.” This is an example of emotional healing through the use of validation and parts work.

Seek Compassionate Curiosity 

Third, invite curious and compassionate “whys” around why this particular moment is reminding you of a difficult memory from your past. A soft and curious “why” is very different than a critical and harsh “why.” Soft and curious why questions offered to yourself might sound something like, “Hmmm, I wonder why that memory is resurfacing today? Is there something in my environment that may have triggered this memory? How can I better allow this hurt part to feel safe? In what ways can I provide support to myself rather than turning to unhealthy coping behaviors? Think of the wounded child coming and tapping on your adult knees to let you know they want to be heard. Until we can take the time to pause and offer validation to that hurt part, it will continue to arise in the form of a trigger.

This process is brilliantly illustrated in the book “What Happened to You?”.  It’s a breakthrough approach to healing through the words we use. Understanding the importance of how we speak to injured parts of us can make all the difference. Phrasing questions like, “What happened to you?” rather than the more commonly used phrase, “What’s Wrong With You?” by Bruce D. Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. The better you get at being curious in a compassionate way, the more likely you will be able to sit with those emotions in a helpful way.

Where do I start?

If you feel stuck or unable to reach your potential despite your hard work, then working with your parts might provide valuable insight. A trained therapist in either IFS or other forms of somatic psychotherapy can help you start recognizing self sabotaging behaviors and teach necessary skills to begin healing. Somatic psychotherapy is a mindful approach that promotes emotional healing through validation and parts work. There is incredible healing power in having a supportive witness to our pain or trauma. A caring partner or therapist can offer validation when we’re unable to do this for ourselves. If you are ready to make positive changes in your life through parts work, reach out to us today. You know a part of you wants to (wink).

“Contributing Author: Christine Gibb, LMFT