Promote The Self But Thank The Protectors

As part of the 7 Day Challenge, I wrote about polarised thinking and how the battle for control of the various “parts” of our personality can lead us to such extremes as being stuck, procrastination, people pleasing and addiction. The antidote to these “protectors” is the promotion of the “Self”, the logical, reasonable, calm adult voice within us that has been subdued. This article deals with how to promote it. There are a range of books that tell us how to deal with our family of inner critics and protectors. Most centre on mantras and progressively aggressive language to deal with them. While this can be useful, we have to remember that by isolating these “parts” and pushing them away, we are maybe losing an ideal opportunity to work with them. Working on the theory that they are  trying to protect the inner child that was wounded and criticised, we can safely say they are trying to help, albeit in some dysfunctional way.  Getting to know and connecting with a critic or protector voice is a much more effective way of dealing with them and eventually lessening the grip they have. We also have to remember, we created them as children so in effect, they are part of us.

One of the key aspects in this process is the discovery of the Self. This is the pure part of us that shines through and guides us when we are not being tormented by the host of protectors that exist within us and polarized thinking . It can be said that we are either in Self (curious, open, compassionate) or in torment (taken over by pain and insecurity) at any given time. Finding the Self is the key to healing and seeing the world in a different light. When this can happen, the natural qualities that embody the Self will shine through. For example, the Self promotes connection, helping you to interact socially. You are drawn to meet other people, join groups and be part of the community. The Self also likes to connect with our protector voices, helping to engage with them and aid healing. The Self is interested and inquisitive. It helps you to take natural risks in life, to be interested in people without judging and promotes an understanding of new things. It is also interested in how your inner voices work and why they react the way they do. Finally, the Self is compassionate and helps you to be compassionate towards others and yourself. Best of all, the Self promotes responsibility and definitive action.

To be help the Self shine through, we first have to understand that our protector voices are not aware that the Self exists and they feel the need to control to keep us safe. They are fully ignorant of the fact that underneath it all is a part of us that is fully able to deal with life’s issues. They are still in young and scary mode where the inner child is being protected from hurt and rejection. This is the only way they know. They do not trust that the adult can handle situations that the wounded and criticised child couldn’t, so they step in when triggered and take over. They tell us to avoid conflict, not to take risks or act socially..all in the name of protecting the child within us. True healing takes place when we can appreciate and work with the protectors , rather than pushing them aside to get to the inner child. These voices have been working tirelessly for years helping us to avoid our childhood pain and when we connect with them and appreciate what they tried to do, they can step back and trust us to take over. To be able to connect with and understand our protectors, we must be in Self mode and this is done through a process called unblending. This process happens when we work directly with the protectors and ask them to release control so we can directly access the banished inner child. Understanding what the protectors are protecting us from is key to the unbending process. Only then can, we understand the trauma held in the banished child.

It is important to absolve the protectors of their responsibility and this can be done as described below. Once your protector is isolated, you can speak directly to them.  This is where the strength of Self comes in. Rather than scorning and getting angry with the protectors, use compassion, curiosity and connection.

Firstly, openly thank them when they appear.

Thank you, I appreciate all you have done for me

I fully understand that you are trying to protect me

I understand the responsibility you carry.

I know you work hard for me

I understand how hard it is to let go

Ask questions (from the stance of curiosity)

I wonder what you are trying to achieve by protecting me this way? (likely answer is to avoid pain, facing change)

What would be the consequences of not calling me lazy, fat or stupid? ( the protector would have less power)

What happened that made it important for you to judge me? (the wounded child was hurt in the same way and it was triggered)

Be compassionate

I accept that you are trying to help but I would like to do this

I accept you fully and as part of me

Please trust me to lead

Once the protectors have stood aside, We can comfort the inner child directly with compassion, letting know that you understand the pain and hurt it feels. You can reassure it that the Self will be interacting with the protector and will help it to understand. You can also use imagery to conjure up pictures of comforting your inner child, standing between it and the protector or images of a protective parent soothing the child while your Self talks with the protectors.

This process of having a direct relationship with your Protectors and critics is in stark contrast to most other advice which banishes the protectors with images of aggression and violence. By working with them , we can promote a healthy, trustful relationship with them that allows our inner child to be healed. This is not a process that happens overnight and can take some time. However, in therapy, a therapist can promote this process and help the client come through.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a therapist offering online therapy globally.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Marty

    This sounds like the internal Family system with managers, firefighters, and exiles.

    Excellent post. Trauma is stored with our abilities at the time it happens which for some of us is childhood. I remember feeling like a child some days which now I understand my trauma was active.

    I agree with the acceptance as the path to integration and wellbeing.

    I am going to apply some of your questions to my firefighters.

    Mindfulness/ Meditation is a great way to center on the true self while working on these issues.

    1. Hello Marty…yes…it is based on IFS…I like to take the best from different therapies and adapt them..

      1. Marty

        This makes sense. As I worked through the internal Family system, my managers or protectors were young, the same age as the abused child. The adult self was decades away from emerging. Seems to me the protectors were first used during our initial abuse.

        Some of the protectors influence is subconscious, subtle and hidden. Maybe not even conveyed in words but feelings, hunches at times.

        Good stuff doc