We all have our own unique worldview. How we think, feel and behave in any given situation is shaped by our perceptions, past experiences and beliefs. What we believe becomes our reality, so when we’re faced with certain situations, those beliefs step forward to take centre stage.
To illustrate my point, let’s say that Mary secretly believes she’s only worthwhile when she’s helping people. As a child she received lots of praise from the adults in her life for being a “good girl” and “very helpful”, and she internalised this message.
As an adult, Mary takes on extra responsibility at work, she’s known for being the ‘reliable’ one, and her friends and family often ask her to do favours for them. That’s her “helpful part” taking centre stage.
Mary likes feeling needed, in fact there’s a big part of her that needs to be needed. This ‘part’ was formed to help Mary feel more secure and less anxious, and there’s nothing wrong with that – until there is…
Unfortunately, the behaviours Mary adopted as a young girl might have been helpful to her back then, but are less helpful to her now.
In fact, now they often make her feel resentful and used by people. Mary thinks to herself:
Why does everyone always rely on me?!
They only call when they want something!
Here is where Mary has a choice.
She can continue to operate under this ‘part’ of herself to get her need of being ‘needed’ met. Or she can recognise when she’s operating from this part out of a programmed response, and learn to accept herself. The difference is, she now has awareness, and can change her behaviour if she chooses.
So when a certain ‘part’ of you steps forward and starts taking over, maybe it’s your fearful part, an angry part, a bossy part, a righteous and entitled part, whatever part steps forward for you in certain situations, ask yourself these five questions and see if you’re responding with mindfulness or if you’re simply reacting on autopilot.
Let’s use Mary again, and her friend Sally, as an example:
What are the facts of the situation?
Sally needs someone to look after her cat while she’s away for three weeks. Mary’s allergic to cats and she lives in an apartment, which doesn’t allow pets.
How am I interpreting the situation?
Mary thinks, Sally’s a good friend, if I say “no” she’s going to be stuck. I feel really guilty saying “no”. I don’t want to have to say “no” and then have an uncomfortable conversation afterwards.
What evidence supports my interpretation?
Mary is already feeling guilty. Sally said she was going to be stuck. It always feels uncomfortable after saying “no” to someone.
What evidence contradicts my interpretation?
Sally asked Penny first, but she said she couldn’t do it, and their friendship is fine.
Is there another way of looking at the situation?
Sally can ask other friends or family, or have her cat professionally minded. Mary will feel guilty and a little uncomfortable for a while, but not forever – and Sally may never even know.
Answering these five questions helped Mary work through the problem in a more balanced way. It helped her resolve the conflict within her own mind about how her friend would respond, and encouraged her to use healthier self-talk.
Ask yourself these questions the next time you start to feel a ‘part’ taking over. Hint: this ‘part’ is often something about ourselves that we try to ignore or push away.
It takes work to check our behaviour and make better choices about how we will react to a situation. It’s not easy, but the peace and loving self-acceptance that you’ll find at the end of it are well worth it.
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