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What Do You Mean by Parts of Yourself?

Here’s a phrase I hear often: “part of myself.” And here’s how it’s used, “There’s a part of me that wants to stop eating so much” or, “Part of me thinks I’d benefit from exercising and the other part thinks I’d be better off going back to sleep.” I’m sure you get my drift on how the term is used. But do you understand what you mean by using the word?

Can you point to where this “part of you” is? If you’re talking about two parts, are they in different places? I’m not trying to be silly here but to make a point. The truth is that there is no “part” of you that feels one way or thinks another. What you mean is that you have conflicting/contradictory/mixed/opposing thoughts and feelings. We all do.

When you use the word “part,” it sounds as if there’s a permanent installation somewhere within you, as if it’s a component of your body. Not true. Feelings and thoughts are fleeting mental or emotional sensations or constructs, nothing more.

Let me explain what I mean. You’re expressing emotion when you say, “There’s a part of me that wants to stop eating so much.” What you’re really expressing is a desire or wish to stop overeating. Most likely, you also have another emotion, a fear or dislike of the idea of stopping overeating. Once you understand that you have conflicting feelings, you can go about deciding which one is best for you. Your feeling is not a permanent fixture, so you can do whatever you wish with it.

Using another example, you’re expressing thoughts when you say, “Part of me thinks I’d benefit from exercising and the other part thinks I’d be better off going back to sleep.” You have opposing thoughts, neither of which is a body or even a mental part. Thinking about the benefits of exercising more will likely pull you in that direction—out of bed and toward your workout clothes. Thinking about the benefits of sleep will probably prompt you to burrow down under the covers and hurry back to dreamland.

Moreover, much of the time we refer to a “part” of us, we’re talking about a reaction from memory. We have them often and they drive behavior, though we don’t always realize it. Memories are stored but recalling them is meant to be a transient process: they come and go, and some disappear forever. Some are relevant to current life and some aren’t, so we want to be exceedingly careful when one comes up to make sure it’s worthwhile and will enhance our lives. In short, be cautious about how you view your thoughts and feelings rather than just believing they’re “parts” of yourself.

Best,

Karen

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