When ‘Ego is the Enemy’ becomes ‘Egos [plural] are the Helpers’…

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When Ego [singular] is the Enemy becomes Egos [plural] are the Helpers… a great shift happens.

Yesterday evening I was thinking about writing this post. EGO is most certainly NOT the enemy. We need EGO — Earth Guide Only — to help us with all our humaning. Also, whether you call what’s goin on within us ego states, schemas, parts, or EGOs, there is more than one. We are not universally one personality. We don’t have monominds, rather we acknowledge multiplicity of mind.

And so, I was noodling on it while walking to the pool (meaning the hot tub… you might have heard about my ice cube toes). I had a book in tow. My sister had lent me this book, and she’s coming to town this weekend, so I wanted to check it out. Well, lookie look what was in that very book:

Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life, by Radha Agrawal

I got super excited (as I do), but it’s not really a surprise. We all experience this particular variety of multiplicity of mind: conflicting parts within us. TV shows capture it:

Yep! From the Flintstones, to Herman’s Head, to the kids’ movie Inside Out. These EGOs (plural) are part of the human condition.

The science-backed IFS Model gets into multiplicity of mind (versus a mono-mind) view. This is what we experience as humans, and we speak to this by saying things like “Part of me wants to go for a run, but another part of me wants to go buy a donut instead.”

Even Spotify gets it:

Again, in addition to calling this multiplicity of mind “parts“, other terms which are often used are “ego states” and “schemas.” I like to go with EGOs. Why? It was the great Wayne Dyer, PhD who dubbed EGO = Earth Guide Only.

Now we know (and experience that) we don’t have just one egoic state, we really have EGO’s [plural]… EARTH GUIDES ONLYs.

And the thing is, that everything our minds and bodies do are because they are trying to be helpful.

Well, helpful intentions turn into:

  • actually being helpful
  • being “helpful” (not helpful at all… like the time I was being “helpful” and tried to fix our toilet and it ended up with a little hole that shot water up and out into the sky)

Parts ALWAYS have good intentions. The part of me that would say “You deserve to relax with some wine tonight,” was helping to distract me from the super shitty life I had once my work environment turned so toxic that three people cried at the office in the course of just a few days. (And yes, I was one of them.)

This winky-eyed alcohol suggester part within me would be a special kind of part that Richard Schwartz, PhD, founder of IFS would call a firefighter… it was dousing the pain. Our parts are trying to help and protect us best they can. Some put out fires, some step into manager roles.

At best, managers work in harmony with other parts (teamwork makes the dream work), being truly helpful. Other times they are “helpful” in that we go-go-go, do-do-do, work-work-work kind of way. Their “helpfullness” is over the top and come into a polarization with other parts chime in and say “This bitch has to pee!” Or perhaps a rebel part pops up to say “F this, let’s go have some beer!”

It’s always a matter of helpful or “helpful.” No bad parts. EGO is not the enemy. Ego’s are the helpers (or “helpers”). So release the idea of “self sabotage” and think more along the lines of self protection and is this helpful or “helpful”?

In our lives, and in their “helpfulness,” parts take on roles, again, because they have good intentions. Once a part releases this role, they can take on a more beneficial role… brining harmony to the internal system.

In the book An Internal Family Systems Guide to Recovery from Eating Disorders Healing Part by Part, Amy Yandel Grabowski presented the idea of parts acting on a continuum from “balance” to “extreme.” Beneath Theodore’s paw you can see that the kid part can be playful and fun when it’s most balanced and when extreme, it may be anxious, defensive, etc.

We would all want to get to know our own parts. Map out yer own darn parts. 😉 How do they help us when they are in balance and how do they “help” us when they get extreme?

If you have checked out my blog or videos before, then you know that I love looking at the 3 main physiological states, and I call them (as many do): GREEN, YELLOW, and RED.

But since I work with so many people who do not want to hear about the polyvagal perspective, I call these “feather modes” on the feather-o-meter. (Here’s a great Polyvagal Chart that you can reference if you heart science.)

I was noodling on “How do my parts show up in these different states?” and I figured that someone else must’ve done this already. Viola: Check out this diagram, etc, regarding parts that show up depending on state.

IFS welcomes all parts, and acknowledges that even extreme parts have good intentions. The ‘you’ that is ‘not a part’, is Self. When we show up with Self Energy we are compassionate, calm, connected, curious, courageous, caring, creative, and have clarity. These qualities that we have access to when we are in Self Energy are called the 8 C’s. When we are infused with Self Energy, this is where I’d say we have “more translucent” mindstuff — mindstuff that allows our am-ness to shine through. The way I see it: am-ness is formless. Our foundation of being-ness is connect to a wider field of being… a conscious Universe. Thus, I interpret IFS’s Self to equal am-ness and showing up with Self Energy as being am-full. Part of what struck me about IFS is the Richard Schwartz, PhD says that Self is like light.. a particle and a wave.

Incidentally, right now, we are seeing people showing up, facing each other part to part. Can you imagine if we took a moment to get into Self Energy?

Things you can try:

  • Often (thanks to the genius work of Deb Dana, LCSW), people use a LADDER versus GREEN / YELLOW / RED. You can use these two concepts in combination as well. Check out this post, here on BetterAndBetterer, and grab the PDF that let’s you Befriend Your Inner Ladder. Follow the instructions and also map out the PARTS that you meet. You can also check out posts that are tagged Polyvagal Theory.
  • Simply noticing your parts, welcoming them, and following the 6 F’s: Find, Focus, Flesh out, Feel toward, Befriend, Fear (what does this part fear will happen if it stops doing what it is doing to “help” you?)
  • Check out posts on BnB that are tagged IFS.
  • A lot of these images are from my book Am-fullness… check it out if you are interested in getting the full download as to how I view and experience this SQ stuff. The idea of helpful or “helpful” is elaborated on in my book Ever-stressed.
  • Join noetic.org… it’s quite inexpensive and you can catch awesome live webcasts and replays. Maybe this suggestion doesn’t super-apply to this post, but go do it anyway. <3
  • Watch this video and be sure to check out the article here for awesome notes.
  • Look at these cards — an amazing description of all kinds of parts! (These are also for sale on Amazon as well.)