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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

This is not who I am.

It came to my attention recently that in certain contexts I behave out of character for how I usually am and I became curious to understand why this was happening. It only shows up in group contexts and with certain people. In the past I blamed it on feeling anxious or on my avoidant attachment. If you don't know about attachment I suggest you join my online course Mindfulness for Attachment Strategies. My default attachment is avoidant. This means I suppress unwanted feelings and use specific strategies to avoid feelings of shame or guilt, sadness or anger.

I have done a lot of work on this so it doesn't show much at all in my close relationships but it still does, sometimes, in groups situations. For example I am inclined to say no to invites with more than two other people, I avoid parties and work dos and I know it is to avoid feeling awkward or like I don't fit in. More recently I became curious to understand why I do this and so when I was in a group context a few weeks ago I decided to pay attention to how I was feeling and what was going on.

Getting to know the protector parts

I became aware of two protector parts of me. If you don't know about parts-work then check out my online course From People Pleaser to Boundaries Badass. One of my parts is the one who says no to group events and another is one gets frustrated when I become too eager in groups and try to make people laugh or act like I am like others by telling stories to get me to seem like I fit in.

Finding the Exile

I became aware quite quickly that the eager beaver part who is desperate to fit in is a child part of me who is exiled by the other parts, and so I took the time to get to know her. In a meditation I took time to tune in to her. She's about 7 or 8 and I can clearly remember the time when she came into being. As a child I was a very poor eater. A mixture of avoidant attachment, wanting to control a very unpredictable home life, and a arft of health issues that only were diagnosed this past 5 years were the cause. Understandably my parents were very frustrated by this and did everything they could to get me to eat.

One such tactic was to leave me in the kitchen to eat my food whilst everyone else left the table and went into the living room. One particular occasion came to mind very clearly, as I sat with this child part of mine. I was about 7 and I was left in the kitchen to eat what was left of my dinner and everyone else went inside to watch the TV.

I can remember sitting in the kitchen feelings cold, cold food in front of me, wishing I was inside in the warmth laughing and watching TV with my family. Eventually my mother came inside and said if I ate two more bites I could have my dessert and then join the others. I can remember walking inside and feeling like a complete outsider. No one said anything and so I sat on the floor away from everyone. I was desperate to be seen and desperate to be included. I wanted to be part of the jokes and to know what I had missed. I can remember trying to get everyone's attention by attempting to be funny and asking questions and pretending like I knew what was happening.

The do-over

Suddenly it became very clear to me why I was feeling like this as an adult. It made sense that this part would blend with me still desperate to repair that time in the past by being seen in the present. As I sat with her I asked her what she wanted to happen. What she needed was for her to be seen so we did a redo on the past and gave her waht she needed. She needed my mother to tell everyone I was there. She wanted my father to say 'ah there you are' and aknowledge that I had arrived and she wanted my siblings to make room for me on the sofa and fill me on what had been happening on the TV show. So that's what we did. We ran the memory as she would have liked it to be and she immediately relaxed. I brought her to the present then and let her let go of any sadness or pain that was left and she took on the qualities of calm and confidence so that she could feel the way she needed in future.

Afterwards I went for a walk. I felt like something had shifted in me and lightness in my body. I can't say yet if everything will be different as I haven't tested things out in a group yet but I definitely feel like the pressure to be something, or to be seen, will be greatly diminished. I'll keep you posted.

I love parts-work. I love how it allows you to get to know yourself more fully and to heal the moments in the past that trigger you in the present. I love sharing this work with my clients and helping them to get to know their own parts too. Thanks for reading. If you are not already following me on social media, I would love if you would connect with me and say hi.

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