“The Loyal Soldier — a courageous, wise, and stubborn sub-personality that formed during our childhood and created a variety of strategies to help us survive the realities (often dysfunctional) of our families and culture. It keeps us “safe” by making us small or limited, or by further traumatising us. It is the intrapsychic element that shovels chunks of our wholeness into our Shadow so that we will appear acceptable or invisible to the powers that be.” Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft
Wouldn’t it be lovely if all the voices in our heads were on our side and working in the same direction! Just imagine what you could achieve from this place of inner cooperation and power. It could be like having your own super team of experts and supporters, all looking out for your well-being and success. Is that even possible? I hoped it was and was willing to find out. This week’s blog is about what I encountered on this adventure, deep into the dusty cupboards of my mind…
There are many routes to finding self-acceptance and a gentle ease in our own skin and no one way is “right” or “better” than any other. It is a life’s work, not a sprint as there is no real end point, more of a fractal unfolding. Most paths however, involve a period of deep introspection and diving into the shadows of our psyches to find out what all the conflict is about. Some are forced into this through illness, depression or life circumstances, others simply have a deep longing for a more rewarding life, free of inner obstacles. My motivation was a bit of both. A longstanding anxiety issue and regular feelings of social isolation meant I had plenty of time on my hands to do inner work! Also, I had a general sense that I was missing out on so much, living a fraction of my life potential. But where to start? How to unpick the frankly chaotic inner battle going on and find out who is wounded, who needs the most attention and who is very determined to sabotage the whole thing! I needed a guidebook. Luckily I was handed one, and it was called “Wild Mind” by Bill Plotkin.
I have a bit of a soul-crush on Bill Plotkin and count him among the most influential people in my life. Not that I have had the pleasure of meeting him, but his writing really speaks to me and has provided an easy to follow road map to start integrating my sides of self. Rather than viewing wounded parts as “bad” or needing fixing, Bill’s model is one of wholeness and each part offers a unique gift to the full expression of that person. He weaves together depth psychology, wilderness rites and earth-based spirituality to create a 4-directional outline of the parts which make us whole. Each direction has an “immature” sub personality (a part which develops from our upbringing and culture) and a “mature” self (a part which is our essential nature, complete)
In traditional, Earth-connected cultures it is accepted that in order to progress to full maturity, you must undergo a rite of passage, involving a period of time away from your community, alone in nature. How can you hope to find your true essential self (true nature) if you are mixed into the very community that shaped your sub personalities? Personalities that helped you survive in your family, school and peer group, but are now outdated and limiting. If our need to find our true nature, in Nature is removed then what happens? Well you find cultures with lots of people operating from their immature sub personalities! You can find angry wounded children running countries, lots of scared inner soldiers fighting battles with a “threat” they perceive in the outer world, drama queens, bullies, critics, manipulators and generally lots of reactive behaviour.
So then we have a choice. To let our sub personalities run the show and feel bitter about never reaching a place of inner peace. Or we can arm ourselves with a tool kit and life experiences to make up for the rite of passage we did not receive. Bill provided me with such a tool kit and off I went to meet my loyal soldiers. The parts of my personality that were keeping me small and safe, but ultimately no longer served my highest potential. For each loyal soldier there is a beautiful process of welcoming them home. It is not about getting rid of them, they are part of my wholeness. This has four stages:
- Identify the Loyal Soldier, give them a name, draw them, talk to them, find out what mode of operation they are using to keep you “safe”. Are they willing to work with you, stop fighting and come home?
- Thank your Loyal Soldier – I mean, really extend deep gratitude from your heart for the service they have maintained for years of your life to keep you safe. They exist only to serve you, they just didn’t have the full information about the adult person you are now. Reassure them the war is over.
- Welcome your Loyal Soldier home – they have been fighting a lonely, fearful battle for decades, pull out all the stops, give them a hero’s welcome. Hold them close to your heart, this process can be filled with many tears, a part of you has come to know your love.
- Reassign your Loyal Soldier a new job – this initially is giving them a well earned holiday! You will know when they are home and trusting the “war is over” as you will no longer feel their behaviour is dominating your decisions and reactions. Once rested, this Loyal Ally has an amazing gift for you. It now serves from a place of love and will do everything in its power to help you thrive.
Meet three of my Loyal Soldiers and Allies:
The Fixer – this part felt safe and worthy when she had something to fix, some perceived weakness or failing to get right. Running on fear based beliefs, she notices everything that might possibly be “wrong” in the inner and outer world and seeks to correct it. “Never enough” and “must be perfect” are her key beliefs.
Self-care Ally – the gift of the fixer is to notice things and seek remedy. Once serving from a place of love, this part of self can spot my needs and potential opportunities to care for myself in beautiful ways. If I feel a bit tired or achy, this ally recommends a massage and invites me to get an early night! She now accepts I am good enough so does not seek to change me, simply protect and care for me.
The Lion Tamer – this part will do anything to avoid confrontation. She needs to earn my place in the world by staying quiet and apologetic, never threatening the people around me by being too much to handle. She would rather deny any needs and stay small than risk rejection or anger another. She is an expert at reading body language, tone of voice and subtle changes in behaviour…got to be ready for danger right? This part generates a lot of internal rage and confusion for other parts which do wish to be seen and heard!
Boundary Setting Ally – once on side the Lion Tamer became an excellent provider of personal boundaries for me. She understands human behaviour and spots subtle shifts in my space and those around me. If something is draining or inhibiting my expression, which may not be deliberate, she notifies me to take action and gives me options. Sometimes that is just saying “I am tired, can you stop talking to me now!” Other times it may involving leaving a situation quickly to protect my well-being.
The Outsider – this part never felt like she fitted in, so decided to take this into her control. Easier to chose to be isolated and different right, than risk actual rejection? She operates in two ways, firstly to make choices which isolate me, stay distant, and feel sorry myself. Secondly to see isolation as a hugely positive strength and superiority over other, weaker individuals. “Look at me on my big mountain, you couldn’t possibly understand how different I am!”
The Connection Ally – it took a lot of patience and love to get Outsider to come down off her mountain, this part of me was very frightened. Once down and rested she is an expert at spotting new ways I can connect to others. She knows what it feels like to be alone and disconnected, so can help me reach out. She is so happy to have playmates again!
Over time each soldier softened and relaxed and came on board. That is not to say they never go back to old patterns, the parts like the whole are human after all! But what I have found is that these personality traits do not run my behaviour and interactions now. If stressed or tired I may hide away for a bit or avoid speaking my needs, but I can view it now through loving eyes. I reassure the loyal soldier that I am ok, have a rest and start again….the war is most definitely over.
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