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5 Ways Parts Work Can Help Your Relationships

We've all been there - conflict stirs in one of your relationships and you become fixated on proving your point.

You could be seeing red, devastatingly disappointed, or terrified that you'll lose this person. We all get hijacked at least now and then by our emotions. When that happens it's difficult to notice that we are in an activated state, and even more difficult to trust that such high activation isn't the most conducive place to be in when in conflict.

What I love about the language of parts is its spaciousness for both intensity and multiplicity. Working from the perspective that we have different parts with different feelings, needs, and motivations gives context to and normalizes inner turmoil, as well as the surfacing of older feelings which sometimes feel "out of nowhere" or seem "mismatched" to the sitaution.

Parts work can help us slow down, externalize, and take inventory of which parts of us are showing up, and why. Here's how it helps:

1) When we notice that parts of us are activated we are practicing dual awareness. In essence, this is noticing what's happening while it's happening, rather than being swallowed by the flood of it. As we notice the different parts of us and how they show up in our thoughts, feelings, impulses, body sensations, and behaviors we invite in curiosity and contemplation.

2) We can extend this same curiosity to our partners. As a therapist friend of mine's husband said - "parts work helps you take things less personally." Parts hold on to stuff; think of it like each part has a "raw spot," that memory or thing that induces insecurity or rage, for instance. Because parts work helps us be aware of our parts raw spots, we can pump the breaks on taking things personally. We can be curious about what's coming up for our partners. We can express empathy.

3) Because things are less personal, we can take accountability, be even more curious, and we can remember that we don't have to rush to a resolution with urgency. Here, we learn what our and our partners' raw spots are. We can slow down and co-regulate. We can work together to repair harm and acknowledge triggers from past experiences. We can center creating safety in the relationship even if one partner's safety needs are different than the others.

4) As we practice checking in with our and our partners parts, we create a template for conflict. When conflict arises, we do not have to be afraid of how we will handle it. We know more and more each time about how to hear and be heard, soothe and be soothed, when to take breaks and when to come back together.

5) Parts work also teaches us that sometimes parts, and real-live people, have to take turns. I often think of my parts as all my little inner children running around. These little ones all have equally important needs, and I can only tend to so many of them at a time. But, if I build a culture where everyone knows I'll come back around to them, and that it's important to me to do so, it makes it a little easier to have patience. The same goes for partners - conflict often gets gridlocked where each partner wants something that is contradictory either in type or time (e.g. we both need our needs met NOW!). Parts work reminds us that we've got to start somewhere in order to move forward, but that no part or partner gets left behind.

This stuff takes time and practice. Parts often need time and repetition to build both trust and skills. Sometimes parts need external allies as well; this is where relationship therapy can come in handy! (And, yes, I do have open slots!)

Whether you choose to seek therapy or test these skills out in your relationships on your own I invite you to rest in the language of parts, to truly feel into the container that's cultivated when you have a template and a working relationship with your Self and your loved ones.

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