Category Archives: Subpersonalities

Miss Victorious Meets Miss Silent

The Subpersonality Process

The Subpersonality Process

This is an edited excerpt from my article, ‘Coping with anxiety and rebuilding identity: A psychosynthesis approach to culture shock’, published in Counselling Psychology Quarterly. I am happy to announce that it has been included in an online article collection featuring the most downloaded articles published in Routledge Behavioral Sciences journals in 2014.

The collection features the top three most downloaded articles that were published and downloaded in 2014 in each Routledge Behavioral Sciences journal.

You can download my article (along with others you might find interesting) for free until the 30th June.

Special thanks to “Maria” for allowing me to use her drawings and testimony in this post.


Usually inner conflict is a result of two or more subpersonalities clashing because they each have different needs. You can begin to recognize your subpersonalities by being honest about the roles you play in your everyday life. For example, do you always need to be perfect at everything? Then you probably have a dominant Mr or Mrs Perfect subpersonality. Do you freeze when meeting new people in social settings? Then perhaps you have a Mr or Miss Freeze subpersonality. Your subpersonalities are revealed through the different roles you play in different situations with different people.

By first recognizing your different subpersonalities, you start your journey towards creating more harmony in your life. The subpersonality process includes the following stages: recognition, acceptance, coordination, integration, and synthesis. This process does not happen overnight, but takes patience and lifelong practice.

Maria’s Story

Reconcilation

Miss Victorious and Miss Silent

Let’s take a look at how Maria (not her real name) was able to work through the subpersonality process and integrate two conflicting, polar subpersonalities: Miss Victorious and Miss Silent. The more dominant Miss Victorious wanted to control all situations and be the best. She needed recognition and could operate in the rational world with great success. Miss Silent, on the other hand, was sensitive, deeply emotional, and more creative. She wanted acceptance for who she was and needed safety, space and time alone.

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Starve Your Fear!

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini at drawntocolor.com.

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini at drawntocolor.com

Let’s talk about fear. Inner fear. How elusive and arbitrary it can be. We sometimes struggle with fear over the simplest things – talking to our boss, having a routine visit to the doctor’s, or taking an exam. We might be fearful for our health, bank accounts, jobs, or kids. Of course, we can feel legitimate fear, but usually what we fear is not based on our outer reality but rather coming from within ourselves. Assagioli calls this fear a widely diffused psychological poison.

In order to deal with fear effectively, Assagioli urges us to eliminate or minimalize the fear within ourselves. He also warns us of a vicious circle that can occur – the fear within us can open the door to the influence of external fear, and external fear feeds the inner one.

To break this vicious circle, we need to use our skillful will to withdraw our attention deliberately from the psychological poison of fear. The energy that is holding and nurturing the fear will then be released. We can then redirect this new-found energy to do the most good in our lives.

Last year, Susan came to see me because she wasn’t able to become pregnant. She and her husband were both 30 years old and had been trying for one year without success. Susan had a doctorate in biochemistry and knew exactly all the ways the body functioned – and didn’t function. After two of her friends had died of cancer, she was terrified of the disease. She had spent hours visiting various doctors asking for multiple aggressive and invasive tests just to ensure herself that she did not have cancer.

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Become a Peacemaker of Your Own Heart

Some are saying that this summer is the bloodiest in history. Brutality and war seems to be flaring up all around us. What is wrong with the world today? I have one answer that is certain and simple: Catherine Ann Lombard.

BKS Iyengar, photographed in Karnataka, India, in 2005

BKS Iyengar

Yes, that’s right. Me. I am partly responsible for what is wrong in the world today. Mr. Iyengar, the yoga master whose practice I have followed since 1988, died last week at the age of 95. More than any other practitioner, Mr. Iyengar was responsible for the spread of interest in yoga in the west over the last half-century. He always insisted that yoga is a spiritual discipline, describing it a “the quest of the soul for the spark of divinity within us.” As to its wider benefits, he maintained:

“Before peace between the nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being.”

The small nation of my being is usually managing okay. Love still maintains the strongest foothold. But there are times when a violent war seems to have overtaken my consciousness. I fight to be nice to someone I envy. I struggle not to be lazy. I blame another for my personal failings or frustrations. On the outside, I look sweet and understanding all the while brutal battles are being fought inside my soul. The only way I can conquer these warring factions is to go deeper and honestly sink myself into the true origins of my anger, sadness, abandonment, and fear. And then to joyfully accept, allow, and attempt to act in a new and creative way whenever that particular war begins.

Not easy. Not easy at all. That’s what’s wrong with the world today. We are all looking for the easy way to end our wars. More than anytime in history, many of us have access, time and money to pursue the many distractions that keep us from making peace – both inner and outer. Where’s the app to take care of my inner battles that leave me feeling depressed? Where’s the exotic holiday? What’s the latest fashion craze? What can I eat, drink, pop, inject, smoke, snort? Who can I abuse mentally, physically emotionally? Who (and even what God) can I use for my own self interest?

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is another great soul who recently died at the age of 86. A brilliant American poet, writer, actress, dancer, and singer, she said:

We need the courage to be bodacious enough to create ourselves daily– as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings. I think that the courage to confront evil and turn it by dint of will into something applicable to the development of our evolution, individually and collectively, is exciting, honourable.

I am now thinking of Clare, one of my former clients (not her real name). During an amazingly beautiful session together, Clare related how, for the first time, she became aware of the inner war inside her during an innocuous conversation with her boyfriend. They had been discussing where to live together when he started to talk about how much he would like to be in Amsterdam. Amsterdam wasn’t really the best choice for Clare, and suddenly she felt overwhelmed with feelings of rejection and never being good enough.

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You Are a World Champion

If you’ve been spending the last month watching 22 men chasing a little ball around a green pitch, then you’re not alone. I along with millions of others have also been captivated by the World Cup Tournament. Today the German team appears in the media as World Champions, holding the funny looking gold trophy above their heads. Throughout the tournament, players and their fans have been photographed crying, laughing, beaming, broken, angry, despondent, and joyful. What is this global emotion all about?

World Cup Champions 2014

World Cup Champions 2014

After the final match, my husband and I watched a flustered journalist attempt to interview the German team captain. The reporter could barely put two words together, he was so overwhelmed with emotion. All these feelings with nowhere to go. We look to our national teams for courage, determination, skill and stamina and we bemoan their defeat. The team carries so much more for us collectively as we wave our flags, paint our faces, and wrap ourselves in the designated colors. Now that it’s all over, what will we do?

We might think about our need for outer heroes and heroines (the latter are sorely lacking in football), and how they reflect our personal heroes inside us. All our football players are holding the higher qualities that we long for in ourselves. Perhaps we too are seeking courage and persistence in our own daily struggles along with joy and elation in our own personal triumphs.

Now is the time to try and integrate the feelings that bubbled up during the tournament and make them more our own. For example, I found myself consistently sad at the end of any game, identifying with the losers, wishing everyone could be a winner. What does that say about me? I often criticize myself for not being good enough, a failure, insignificant in this whirlwind called life. But the reality is, I too am a winner in my own way, through my own small everyday battles, sometimes creeping along inch-by-inch with the persistence, faith, and stamina of the best footballer. And when I am successful, I often shy away from the limelight, almost afraid of standing firmly in the winner’s circle.

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Willing and Waiting for Change

horse ridingAs I wrote in the last blog, strong will is not about how well you can dominate others. It is about how much power or energy you have to drive your own life forward. Imagine your strong will as a horse. Horses are huge, strong beasts with tremendous power. But if you don’t know how to ride a horse, or how to be in relationship with them, they will take advantage of your ignorance. They might gallop away with you hanging on for dear life, or they might just stand there and not take a single step, no matter how much you try to coax them.

If we think of our strong will as a horse, then we quickly see the great need to have skillful will. Without the skills necessary to ride a horse, we might never leave the meadow. Or worse! We might end up running around the meadow chasing the horse. Skillful will is, in fact, our ability to obtain what we want with the least amount of energy. We all know people who can ride horses almost magically, easing these huge, powerful animals right or left with just a miniscule pull of the reigns. This how we want to move through our lives, skillfully, with minimal effort, going in the direction we desire.

Strong Will Can Work Against You

Let’s look at one example of how the strong will can actually work against you and the skillful will is more effective. I knew a woman from Romania named Olga. She needed to support her son through university, so she left her own job as school headmistress and moved to London where she could earn more money working as a nanny and also improve her English. Suddenly, after 20 years of running a high school and two university degrees—one in mathematics and the other in engineering—she was taking care of three children, ironing, and cleaning house for someone else.

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