Seeking Safety and The Split Self

Acceptance means acknowledging what is so I can make the next right choice for me. It does not mean allowing myself to be harmed because of what is.

Today’s topic is from Seeking Safety by Lisa M. Najavits (2002), pages 227-230.

Rainer Maria Rilke, a 20th-century German poet writes: “be attentive to what is arising within you, and place that above everything else… what is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it.

We’re definitely working at it when we enter fully into recovery. I’ve often said this is hard work, the hardest work I’ve ever done. But I am seeing the changes in myself and my ability to be intentional and comfortable with my own discomfort. Not always. But I’m moving in the right direction.

I had some odd recognition that I had separate sides to myself. I think it’s why I had 17 girlfriends. I shared only one side or aspect of myself with each friend. Some overlapped a bit. It wasn’t until my friend Becca told me she was in love with a married man that I shared my whole self with someone. I took the risk because I thought it would help her to hear my truth, and how painful it was for me when my own husband had an emotional affair with an employee who fell in love with him. I thought it would help her stop her own bad behavior if for no other reason than to avoid hurting her beloved’s wife. I erred in trusting Becca – or it was authored by Divine Providence. She is now married to my husband, so that didn’t work out like I expected.

The “split self” is the mind’s defense when it is being attacked by devastating life experiences, and they are necessary for survival. Splits can happen when, as a child, parts of us are rejected by our families. It may not have been safe to express anger; “nice girls don’t get mad!” after all. There are other causes for the split self too.

The split self doesn’t disappear, and that can be dangerous. It will often reappear in times of stress or under other traumatic circumstances. In order to avoid the surprise appearance, a victim of PTSD can work on integrating and accepting the various splits that have been rejected.

So. I will work on the following four things:

I choose to acknowledge, respect, and own the different sides of myself, including the ones I don’t like.

I choose to recognize that I have other sides, and that when one I don’t like is making choices I don’t like, I will intentionally think about the other sides that do make choices I like.

I choose to stop punishing myself if and when I do something wrong. Shame is dangerous for me – for us – and I will do what I can to forgive myself when I falter or fail.

I choose to create a healthy dialogue between my split selves until I can learn integration. It’s weird, but so is letting part of me that struggles with alcohol, for example, make my choices for all of me.

My assignment this week: Think of the last time you used: What part of you led to the dangerous behavior? What part of you was not present?

Safe Coping Practice:

Old way: I felt lonely. I thought: why should I keep trying to be well when no one cares anyway, and I am alone. I drank so I could escape feeling badly about myself.

New way: I felt lonely. I thought: this feeling is going to pass, and I have amazing and loving friends and family. I am not lonely, I am bored, and I’m going to do something kind for myself right now. I feel okay and I will feel better soon.

God! Grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference. Peace!



Source: Fierce Recovery

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