Memory and meaning: how our subconscious codes you safe

Mental health issues all seem to have on thing in common: they keep you stuck in the past.
Especially with trauma. When a violent event is so disruptive in presence, it can become its own driving force.
This can be manifested in multiple ways: if severe enough, your personality itself could become ruptured into multiple to ensure that you are kept safe in day-to-day life, safe from the past.
But even when seemingly ‘one‘, our subconscious memory has the capacity to dissociate into multiple agents.

“Western commonsense of the singular integrated ‘self’ is an illusion.
We are all interacting subpersonalities (‘parts’) with their own history emotions, cognitions and ways of interacting with the world.”

– Lester, Schwartz, Richard

Internal family system therapy understands the mind as a human system – a distributed network with delegated tasks.
This fits the Buddhist worldview of emptiness quite well: nothing is as simple as it seems.
The notion that I as an individual am a distinct entity exist independently from my environment is a Western idea that does not seem to stand up in practice.
Aren’t we all different around different people? Doesn’t our memory in time protect us from painful experience?
Our conscious self is a manager of sorts, striving to achieve balance between the different actors within.

“No matter how much pain or dysfunction you have to deal with in your
life, every part of your psyche is doing its best to help you”

– Jay Earley


Lester describes the different roles within: exiles are hurt and frightened who are kept out of view by the manager.
When our insecurities are triggered, we might suddenly seem like a little child, unable to see sense.
Firefighters on the other hand deal with stress and might cope in unhelpful ways such as drug use or self-harm.
This whole notion might sound similar to dissociative identity disorder, but there the blending of porous selves has been absolute.
Usually, one might switch from one role to another without realising, while still sharing one sense of self, memory system and agency.

What does that mean?
What you’re looking for is where you’re looking from.

All of the resources, the confidence, joy and vulnerability, it is all already within us.
We might be looking for stability in our friendships and relationships, neglecting that we already are there for ourselves.
The support we might chase is already given tenfold. The unconditional love we hope to be worthy of has already been found.
Even just expanding our idea of self can be beneficial to increase self-worth – we were never alone all along.

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