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Sum of Our Parts

Ambiguity and the so-called “gray area” have been major discussion topics lately. Some people live and thrive with uncertainty, and others vehemently avoid it (black-and-white thinkers, I’m looking at you!). People struggle to decide where to eat, where to live, where to work, which colors to wear, etc. Part of them wants to go with option A, but another part of them feels very strongly about option B. I view my role as working with clients to make space for all parts to be present. I try to remind clients that they have choices, and they don’t have to feel backed into a corner when making these important, sometimes life-altering decisions.


It can be helpful to think of the opposing parts as messengers, all with valid concerns trying to convey an important message to the centered Self. The “Self” is you when you feel most like you. The Self is the one who is neutral, not particularly leaning one way or another, and remains open and curious. The Self cannot confidently make decisions when there are opposing parts fighting an internal battle for attention.


To help the Self stay in focus and make a final decision, it’s important to hear what each of these different parts has to say about the matter. Some parts might be feeling very hurt and vulnerable, which can bring about a multitude of reasons to avoid further harm. These parts are protective and serve a great purpose. Listening to these parts would probably avoid repeating hurtful patterns.


Some parts might be feeling the need to immediately take action to avoid any hurt. These parts often aren’t rational and make unwise decisions, but the immediate gratification of feeling better (i.e., pain relief) makes sense to these parts. Some parts are more rational and can show the Self the right thing to do even if it’s the harder option. It’s important that the Self has time to slow down and listen to the valid concerns and messages from these parts. We ask ourselves which parts’ messages are most helpful in the decision making process and follow the path to a decision from there.


Each person has moments of feeling most closely aligned with the Self. When we start to drift away from that state of mind and “lose ourselves,” we are letting these parts with very urgent messages take over the Self. These messages are important, but it’s also just as important to remember to make space for all parts and all messages. Decisions made with as much data and information as possible will most likely yield the most successful outcomes. It’s with this understanding of ourselves and our parts that we hold onto hope that our decisions are made with the best intentions for the best outcomes.

An Thai, MS, Resident in Marriage & Family Therapy, provides individual, couple, and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email An today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation.