“Only Over My Dead Body” – Hiding Parts of Us in Relationships

Listen to the blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read it below!

David was always interested in motorcycles. But when he and Lisa met during university, he didn’t have the money to buy a bike. Lisa lost her cousin in a motorcycle accident and felt very strongly that riding a motor bike meant taking an unnecessary risk. When David and Lisa fell in love with each other, they were fascinated by their differences in personality and character. Within the first year of their marriage, their daughter arrived, and two years later, their twins followed. David put the wish for a bike aside, especially because he knew how Lisa would feel about him riding one. She told him he would only ride a bike “over my dead body”. So David exiled the part in him that was dreaming about riding across Canada on a bike.

David also used to love watching action and science fiction movies, but Lisa did not like any kind of violence. He slowly began to exile the part in him that found enjoyment in these movies. Lisa preferred to go to the theatre, art shows and other cultural events. David felt out of place in those settings. At first, he went with her because he simply loved to spend time with her, but then he became more and more reluctant. Lisa asked him less and less to go to these activities. They stayed home more. Instead of finding a friend to join her, she began to exile her culture loving part for David.

Lisa was always interested in meditations, Reiki and in crystals. When David met Lisa, her apartment was full of crystals, she went to a weekly Reiki share and meditated every day. She considered learning how to use crystals for healing and how to read tarot cards. She easily connected with others and made new friends quickly. As much as David was originally fascinated by her intuitive and spiritual nature and by her ability to connect with others, it over time began to scare him; he felt left out and threatened. He would either get clingy and retreat when Lisa met with her spiritual friends, or cynical and offensive. When that cynical part took David over, he called her friends “airheaded dreamers” who were into “new age nonsense”. Lisa stopped going to the Reiki shares and when her kids arrived, she even stopped meditating. The crystals were banished to a corner in the basement, and she gave up on her dream to be a healer. She exiled the part of her which thrived on intuitive and spiritual endeavours.

Lisa also loved animals, but David was bitten by a dog when he was young and did not want pets. Lisa gave in and exiled her pet loving part for David. After all, David had given up his interest in bikes for her. Each time she met somebody on the street walking a St Bernard, her favourite kind of dog, she longingly stopped to pat the dog, wishing she could get one for her kids and for herself.

Ten years after they originally met, David and Lisa appreciate each other as parents but they have an almost non-existing life beyond their children. Both are carrying resentment because they feel they had to hide away some parts of themselves. David’s brother just bought himself a bike and took part of the summer off to ride from coast to coast. David is feeling a dissatisfaction in his life and annoyance towards Lisa but can’t quite put his finger on the reason for it, until he realizes the connection. There is a part in him that feels trapped and angry. And if he does not address this, the part might take over in a destructive way. Lately, he has found himself very attracted to a female colleague who embodies freedom and danger for him by the way she lives her life.

Lisa has also been feeling depressed. The other day, she bumped into a spiritually minded girlfriend who she had lost touch with. When her friend Valerie told her how she has opened an alternative healing centre with a group of people, Lisa realized how much her spiritual part has been starving. She accepted her friends invitation to check out the centre but did not tell David about it, weary of how he will feel about this.

David and Lisa have done what we often naturally do in relationships. We all have many different parts. Some parts are given space in our relationships, others don’t get any room for expression. Some of our parts we already had to hide away and exile when we were young because we were told that they were bad or wrong. Or we experienced that we were hurt when showing one of those more vulnerable parts. Those hidden childhood wounds affect our relationships subconsciously in a variety of ways. Shadow Energetics works on embracing these dark or light shadows which other people mirror back to us. IFS (Internal Family Systems) Therapy also works towards more wholeness by connecting, unburdening and reintegrating these younger exiled parts.

Beyond our original exiles, we often also disown parts of us when we are in a relationship, in order to make our partner and ourselves feel safer. Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS, calls these parts neo-exiles. These are parts of us that are exiled because they are seen as threatening to the relationship.

When they met, Lisa and David were drawn to each other by the longing we all have to be loved and feel safe. Lisa liked how strong David was and how he could fix anything around the house or solve any practical problems. She liked that he was, as she says “a typical guy”. He was confident, had a strong male energy and seemed to be in control of things. The younger child parts inside of her felt looked after and safe.

David loved Lisa’s free spirit and passion. She was more outgoing than he was and had such a loving open way with people. He felt truly seen and loved by her ability to accept others. His younger parts were drawn to her emotional intelligence and fascinated by her joy for life and for people. He felt emotionally taken care of and accepted.

Over time, the qualities that attracted Lisa and David to each other became a threat to their relationship, due to their own vulnerable child parts which feared being unlovable and abandoned. They unconsciously chose to exile parts of themselves, out of fear of losing the relationship.

In order to reassure our partner and our own vulnerable parts, we might—similar to Lisa and David—exile certain parts of ourselves and expect our partner to do the same. “Unlike the parts you exiled when young, however, these neo-exiles once had a great deal of power. They aren’t used to being excluded, and they continue to have loud voices in your inner family despite their loss of influence. If, because of how you interact with your partner, there continues to be no room in your life for them, they can sabotage the relationship.” (Schwartz, You Are The One, 100)

Both Lisa and David noticed that they felt restricted in their expression of their passions and resentful about having to give up parts of themselves. They needed to become aware of the dynamics and the fears underneath.

The fear of not being lovable if we show our true self is at the core of the creation of neo-exiles. “There are many different versions of this neo-exiling dance, all fueled by one or both partners’ abandonment anxiety.” (Schwartz, You Are The One, 103)

The next step for Lisa and David is to work out ways in which these parts can be reintegrated into their relationship. What is a solution for David to live the part in him that loves the freedom of riding a bike and the excitement of action movies? What compromises can they find for Lisa to not have to exile her culture loving part, her spiritual energy and her dog loving part? Different techniques like IFS Inspired Coaching, Belief Changes through PSYCH-K® or Shadow Energetics, Emotional Releases or other coaching tools allow Lisa and David to create space for all parts of them.

Here is a JOURNAL EXERCISE if you are wondering about neo-exiles in your own relationship:

  1. What parts of yourself have you exiled / disowned in your relationship(s)?
  2. How much have your own fears led your partner—or other people you are in a relationship with—to exile parts of themselves?

 

If you are curious about finding out more about IFS inspired coaching and about working with your exiled parts contact me for a free phone consultation. I offer sessions for individuals and couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Authenticity Barometer

AUTHENTICITY quote 1

Ever so often, I need an honest sounding board. For me that sounding board is three hours time difference and only a phone call away.

My best friend—who I grew up with and whom I feel closer to than to my own two sisters—can always be counted on as a barometer for how I am doing. We talk about being parents, being relationship partners, about our families—close and extended, about new experiences and challenges, but most of all about who we truly are.

Claudia is what I call my “authenticity barometer”. She truly loves and respects herself, and I admire her for how she navigates life. When I am at a crossroad and about to make an important decision, I often ask myself, what would she do or say? That does not necessarily mean I make the same decision that my best friend would make, but it always means I am making my own choice with more awareness.

AUTHENTICITY quote 2

My soul sister and I have learned from each other’s errors and from each other’s successes. We are encouraging and non-judgmental with each other, while at the same time we do not let each other get away with less than what we feel the other person is capable of. We don’t coddle each other or lie to save each other’s feelings. The measure is always authenticity. The one person who will honestly tell me if I am behaving in line with what I claim my life philosophy to be, is Claudia.

About thirteen years ago, she was brutally honest with me and let me know in not unclear terms that I was not showing up to my full potential in terms of honesty and the values I claimed I had. She could have just turned away from me without telling me why I was hard to be around at that time, and done the “polite thing” by letting the friendship slowly and quietly die. Instead, she spoke her truth and expressed honestly what she saw. It took me a while to digest what she had noticed but because it came from her, I knew it was worth considering. I am still grateful to her today, for pointing out how and where I had lost myself.

Speaking your truth is different from being opinionated and feeling you know what is right. Speaking your truth is a subjective I message: “I see, I feel, I believe and I need…” It is up to the person I am being straight with to accept or reject what I am saying. There is no absolute truth, no absolute right or wrong. There is just what works for me, or doesn’t work for me.

AUTHENTICITY quote 3 Guber

Being authentic also means refusing to fit into moulds of what is done, in lieu of finding your own way. Claudia always encourages me to take the harder path, the path of being in integrity with myself, which lately has required setting clear boundaries with people I love.

Sometimes we can lose ourselves in the name of love for others. Our children and partners bring out our shadows. They constantly challenge us to love ourselves as much as we love them. Living life in line with who you are means checking back in every so often to decide if a clear “no” is in order and if the lines have become blurry. Is it time to say to someone we care about, “Sorry, honey, no. That does not work for me.”?

One of the things Claudia always reminds me of through her own example is that our relationships do not have to be lived according to what society deems to be the norm. Sometimes we decide to just live how married people do, or to do what so called “good parents” do, or to behave how “good children” are expected to behave because it feels safe. We forget that it is completely up to the two people involved in a relationship to decide how they want to design their personal commitment or their personal relationship. The only relevant question is, “what feels right to both parties?” And if guilt clouds your judgment, know that shame and guilt are the lowest frequencies and biggest blocks to truly being happy. Clear them out!

AUTHENTICITY quote 4 (Brene Brown)

We all have heard of grieving the loss of another person. Do not underestimate how deep the grief goes when you lose yourself, the true voice of your soul. Ultimately, choosing to not be true to yourself comes from a place of deep fear of being unlovable. That feeling of fear, unworthiness and shame is the breading ground for depression, food, alcohol or drug addictions, and for many physical symptoms and disorders.

How does one avoid losing oneself? What if you decided to not do things for others because you owe them but because you truly want to, because it fills you with joy? What if you reminded yourself that being lovable is not tied to conditions? Most of us still find it hard to believe that we will be loved unconditionally, independent of what we do or don’t do. And then ask again—free of guilt and obligations, free of the worry not to be loved—what feels right to you deep down?

Shed the idea that your decisions need to be popular with others! If it is a deciding criterion whether others will like your choice, you sure aren’t making that choice from your own inner voice. Sometimes one has to risk being called “a bitch” or “selfish” in order to be true to one’s own needs and values. To truly be authentic and at the same time to do what other people approve of is nearly impossible. The fastest way to come to a place of being true to yourself is to let go of the need for outside approval.

Sometimes we have to risk hurting someone’s feelings in order to be true to ourselves and our own needs. That doesn’t mean you have to be cruel or insensitive. We can come from a loving or compassionate place when we let others know how we feel. After all, love and compassion goes two ways. In order to be truly loving with others, we cannot come from a place of hidden resentment because we have been ignoring our own needs.

Being authentic has no agenda of manipulating or changing others. The motivation for authenticity is being happy with yourself and being truly healthy. Authenticity is detached from the response of others. Being authentic is loving yourself unconditionally and continuously, no matter what. Ultimately, we cannot change anybody. By living in line with our own inner voice, however, we can be an encouragement for others to try the same.

 

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Angelika wide picture for blogs smaller

Life and Relationship Coaching

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca