Do I Have Split Personalities?
It’s easy to look at other people and think that they’re stable and grounded, that things don’t phase them, that they’re coping. And when we look at ourselves, we might feel like we’re none of those things…that in fact we’re quite the opposite, that we’re all over the place. One minute we might be happy but the next minute we’re a mess. Like we have these split personalities that we have no control over who are always popping out when we least expect it.
Well, if you’re relating to what I’m saying…don’t worry - you’re not alone! In a way, we all really DO have split personalities - Because we have all been through hard things that our minds have reacted to by coming up with behaviours that helped us cope in that moment (and which ROCK in the moment!)
But then our mind continues to use these patterns and reactions even when we are not in that hard situation any more. Because what we know about our minds is that they’re a bit like computers, and once they’re programmed they just keep going and going.
So what we we end up with is all these different personalities that arise in our minds when we’re triggered or scared in some way.
For instance, most of us have an inner child - you know the one who throws a temper tantrum when she doesn’t get her way? The one who feels helpless and scared and overwhelmed when we’re late or we lost our keys, or we don’t know the answer to an exam question? Our triggers for what brings her up might be different, but most of us have this little child reaction that pops up when things really aren’t going our way. And we might have a little defensive pre-teen punk inside of us also - the one who gets really angry and and tries to shut everyone out when we feel threatened in some way. Someone beats us at something or we think they’re making fun of us behind our back, and all of a sudden we see red and we’re ready for war. Or we might have an inner critic - a part of ourselves and comes out purely to slam us when we’ve messed something up. That part that calls us names and tells us we’re no good and we can’t do anything right.
Like everything else, we can trace these patterns back to experiences we have had that have imprinted on our minds ways of coping in specific circumstances.
For instance, this little child inside may have come from being the youngest sibling in a large family who coped in hard situations by always deferring to his elders, and having a pattern where falling apart emotionally meant that others came to the rescue. And our little angsty fighter might have come from having a sibling close in age to us or a best friend that we wound up competing with, and needing to prove ourselves better than in order to get attention from our parents or our other friends or someone else we really cared about. And our inner critic might have come from an experience of being bullied in our younger years and developing a defence of getting angry at ourselves to try and protect us from the overwhelming feelings of loneliness and rejection.
So we can see the brilliance of these inner personalities of adapting to their environments, and also the difficulty they pose when they arise now, when we are more or less a fully functioning human and don’t really need to be brought back to our 5-year-old circumstances.
And what makes these personalities even more difficult to reckon with, is that often they all come out at the same time…So not only are we acting from a perspective that might no longer be true for us, but we are also faced with a war going on in our minds, with a whole host of different reactions all screaming at us at the same time…which can be pretty bloody confusing…No wonder we feel like we’re losing our minds sometimes!
So…how do we change this??
Just like everything else, we start by noticing.
When we start seeing that we have slipped into a version of ourselves that isn’t helpful, we can begin to understand that it’s not anyone else's fault - it’s just one of our personalities getting behind the wheel in our brain. And if we can really accept this about ourselves - not beat ourselves up over it (which can be very tempting, especially when we first begin to see these patterns!!) then we can start to make choices about which parts of ourselves we want to run the show…
The power comes from actually seeing these different parts of ourselves and accepting them.
When we see these parts of ourselves and stop fighting against them, that’s when they lose their power and the rest of our brain can come back to the table.
Want more on this topic? Check out my Youtube Channel for a personal account from my good friend Joel on his split personalities here: