Less than a week ago I arrived in the USA after a four-year absence. I am here to visit my 93-year-old mother and a dear friend who has recently become ill. Before leaving Italy, I anticipated that I would experience a clash of subpersonalities. How would the American part of me emerge and what would the European part of me do about her?
Upon arrival, instead of a passport control agent, a machine took all my biometrics and a computer compared them with my passport. I am now in a NSA database somewhere… But a real person in uniform did stop me and asked, “Do you have anything to declare?”
Immediately I felt a subpersonality fight her way forward. She wanted to say:
“Yes, climate change is real and I am sorry the only way I could come here was on a horribly polluting transatlantic flight. Build bridges not walls. Love is the desire for the whole and the pursuit of the whole is called Love.”
I guess this was the “Rebel” in me. As well a the Creative One, the Smart Alack and the Clown. But ‘I’ managed to take control and simply answer, “No.”
Assagioli said that our subpersonalities are:
“… in continually play one against the other, they form alliances, and struggle between themselves. It’s a continuous integration. They continually act and react between themselves. It is the drama of the human life, where the desire to profit, for example, struggles with laziness in a constant subpersonality tug of war.”
After 6 days in Southern California I am both caught and having fun observing this tug of war. A part of me feels strangely at home. Everything feels familiar. Another part of me is homesick for Umbria. I search for a mug for my morning tea in my sister’s kitchen cupboard and find the Italian part of me longing for the most beautiful cup I can find. My family often buys their dinner-to-go, all eating at separate times. The Italian part of me wants to sit down together for a four-course pranzo. The American part of me enjoys the courtesy shown by drivers who stop to let me cross the street, unlike Italian drivers who seem to make up their own traffic rules. The list goes on…
Interesting enough, Assagioli said:
“It’s enough to think of how we will pass an evening and soon there are four or five parts of us that clash, imposing their point of view and hopefully two that align themselves against the third. For this, we need the ‘I’ to be vigilant. The ‘I’ directs the subpersonalities.”
But the fun part starts when all these subpersonalities in me who struggling for my attention and control meet all the subpersonalities in you, who are busy with their own tug of war! Again we turn to Assagioli:
“The complexity of relationships is given to the fact that we are a group of subpersonalities in front of another group of subpersonalities. We do not realize this continual multiplicity enough. This is what complicates life, as well as our personal relationships. When John talks with Joe, there are three Johns talking with three Joes – and even more – therefore they have multiple reactions and often they are contradictory.”
And so I marvel while visiting with my mother… I am Daughter, she is Mother. And then suddenly the conversation turns and we both are Friends. Sometimes I become Mother and she becomes Daughter. Then I am Caregiver, and she is Vulnerable. Then I am Vulnerable and she is Wise Woman. The play is a beautifully woven tapestry of life.
I would like to declare that all our subpersonalities are authentic, real, genuine and spontaneous. When they are in equilibrium, a harmony occurs within ourselves and within each other, and among each other. Subpersonalities can actually become our gateways to better relationships, to a more authentic way of interacting, and to the pursuit of Love.
I recognize a lot in your story…
It is beautiful that you are with your mother. I wish you rich moments together (home in America) and a safe return home (in Italy).
Thank you Stire. It is a blessing to be here. Thinking of you with Love, Catherine
Hello Catherine, I just want to let you know that I enjoy reading your writings and thank you for being so open.
And to wish you and Kees all the best for 2018. XX
Gedy van der Lely
Thank you Gedy! We also wish you a wonderful year!
Thank you Gedy. We wish you a wonderful year as well!
I recognise some of the challenges of your conflicting sub-p’s, but what really made me smile was what you really wanted to declare at customs and what you actually said – “No”! Of course that’s what we do – set aside the tongue-lashing part which wants to have its say in favour of getting to our goal – being with the family – asap! I visit family in the US & like you find the extreme politeness of drivers who stop so I can cross roads a real pleasure after the rude and often inconsiderate attitudes of drivers here in the UK. One of my sub-p’s aims, on returning to the UK, to “train” drivers and get them to stop as I cross the road in the same polite way they do in the US. Sometimes it actually works – is that an act of will on my part!?
Dear Catherine I am in Colombia looking for friends and family holidays I have to re.read this article from you. I love it All what you write stays with me in the back of my mind. Thanks a lot. Greetings and Kisses, Luz