Identifying some of the messages that gallop through our minds is the first step in ‘dividing into three’.
Dividing into three is about listening to the messages in our heads, the judgements on our shoulders and the feelings in our stomachs. It is about understanding that how we talk to ourselves makes us behave and feel the way we do.
This exercise entails grabbing the essence of your thoughts and feelings and evaluating it to determine which part of you is the directive and which part is the respondent. You will begin to see how you are controlled and, after some practice, you will find you have many more choices in how you respond to the world. When we are chronically depressed, we feel we have no choices and this concludes with us feeling hopeless.
Dividing into three is the best way to get in tune with yourself so that you can sense what is being said internally, how it affects you, and what the correcting course of action is.
This stage can be very hard work, but when your spirit is in the ditch and you have tried everything else to make yourself feel better, you have no choice but to take the risk. It will provide you with lifelong opportunities to change your outlook and beat depression.
To begin to divide into three you have to make a distinction between the three parts of you: the Adult, the Parent andthe Child.
The Adult sits in your brain and is the wise part of you that can give you information about what is best for you without judgement or criticism. It has no emotions attached to it; it is purely objective.
The best way to identify this part of you is to think about a scenario that is going on with someone you are not close to. Take an objective view about what you think is right for them. Have an overview of their situation and get a non-judging response together in case you are called up for your opinion. This is the ‘intellect’. It is the sage, the wisdom or the higher self that you can develop to help you through times of decision.
The voice will get stronger the more you listen. It is that little murmur you often ignore which is letting you know which direction to take. This voice sits in the brain rather than in the heart. It is the seat of all our knowledge.
The Adult is a direct link to our Higher Power. The Adult transcends emotion and we can start to lean on the wisdom it has to offer as a beacon through our dark times. The Adult has only our good at heart and would never give any advice that would harm us or any other person.
The Adult attempts to communicate with us at any given opportunity but this only comes in stillness – and when we are depressed we are reluctant to stop ‘doing’ or ‘thinking’. The Adult strives to create a wholeness in us that will serve to bring together the fractured parts.
The Parent sits on your middle torso and often on your shoulders. This is the part of you that shows judgement and can be helpful or unhelpful. You need to judge things that go on around you; you need to assess what is happening and then make conscious decisions for yourself.
The Parent, like the Adult, contains no emotion, although the way it addresses you can be loving or critical. It works in a logical manner based on the map that was formed in the past.
However, the Negative Parent can often be harsh in its criticism and the severity of the criticism directly depends on how you were criticized as a child. You can hear it as the little voice in your head or on your shoulders that tells you about yourself. It will say how the world sees you and may give a regular ‘See, I told you so’ to reaffirm harsh condemnation that you were given in childhood. However, these messages are way out of date.
Another way of identifying the Negative Parent is to become aware of how you view others. If you think of someone you know and picture what you think of them, you are using the Parent. It is important to be aware what those thoughts are because how you view others is generally how you view yourself.
You can only see the world as a reflection of yourself and it is a good guide to understanding how you are to others. You need to have this Parent inside you but you have to change it so that it becomes a softer Parent who makes assessments and guides you with a firm but gentle voice.
A man was talking to his three-year-old daughter who refused to put on her coat as they left the doctor’s. He bent down and talked to her at her level. He then said, ‘We have to put on your coat because it’s very cold outside; now shall we do this firmly or gently?’ After a whole minute, during which the man just sat, the little girl said, ‘Gently’ and held out her arms. This is the touch we need to give to ourselves.
We took on the script that our parents fed us whether we wanted to or not. As children, we had no choice. But as adults we can change the way we talk to ourselves because we now have the power to do this.
The first step is just to recognize this ‘Parent’. Whether it is a loving voice or a horrible voice, for the moment, don’t try to change it. This voice is your ‘ruler’ for better or worse. It is the voice that judges you – for good or bad.
This voice is the intermediary between your ‘Adult’ and your ‘Child’. It is not always rational – indeed it may never be rational. It is a mirror of your parents’ authority. This may be to your good, but if you have become very depressed then the chances are this parental voice needs some adjustment.
We need the Parent inside us to become a good judge. We need to make judgement on the world to protect us. People who have well-developed judges trust themselves when deal- ing with others. They are relaxed in others’ company because they don’t feel threatened. This is how we have to develop the Parent in us – to become a good judge of others and ourselves.
The Child is your feelings or emotions. This is the part of you that cries, laughs, feels joy, anger, frustration, jealousy, rage and pain. Your Child will live in your torso, which extends from your ribcage to the bottom of your stomach. Different parts of your torso may hold different feelings. Fear often lives in the top of the stomach or in the ribcage; joy often lives in the bottom of your stomach.
The state your Child is in is dependent on the relationship between the Adult and Parent. If you are depressed it’s because your Child has had no voice or good Parenting for some time, maybe never. Many chronically depressed people encompass a traumatized Child. This is a Child who has had to withhold the possibility of joy because it feels dangerous to need love or want contact with others.
Children who have been neglected or abused will not trust adults; similarly, our own Child will not trust our own Parent for care and guidance, and we respond to the world like a child who has been let loose.
Conversely, if we begin to develop our Parent self, using the methods I have outlined, we will better access our Adult self to give us the wisdom we need to take care of ourselves. Our Child self will feel less isolated and will trust a little more.
Learning to talk to ourselves is the fastest route towards building self-trust and, although it is difficult in the beginning, we must persevere. Once we have learned to do this, we have a skill that will keep us moving forwards toward our higher goal.