Sometimes it may feel like a different person takes over us when we are in need of protection. Sub-personalities, not to be confused with multiple personality disorder, are this “other person” that works to keep us safe and secure. We use these sub-personalities to have a variety of needs met. So what is a sub-personality and which one do you use?
Sub-personalities are fragments of a whole. They are the parts of us that we use to meet our needs, as well as protect ourselves. We use these personalities to adapt to different situations, to tailor our reactions in order to get the desired response from others. These personalities come in several combinations and take different forms in each person. Each of us has between four and eight sub-personalities, which I have listed below:
3) Approval Seeker
5) Chronic Crier
8) Inner Critic
9) Fixer/ rescuer
11) Lost Child
13) Over Achiever
14) People Pleaser
16) Pillar of strength
In my office I often see this combination amongst other combinations that I will write about in future blogs. These three often pair together and have much in common; “The Inner Critic”, the “Judge”, and the “Perfectionist”. Each of these sub personalities and those above will transform to meet the needs of the situation and those that we are interacting with. Knowing these sub-personalities and how they affect your reactions is important so that you can see when they are doing more harm than good.
The inner critic is that little voice that attempts to keep us safe, that little flashing warning sign that goes off when something doesn’t feel quite right. It is a collection of the judgments and criticisms that we have received our entire lives (both positive and negative) that is meant to keep us on track. This little voice can often manifest itself in a negative way, especially when coupled with the judge. This sub-personality is like a built in security system, meant to keep us in check with reality. In order for this sub-personality to do more good than harm we need to learn to communicate with it. By making choices independent of the criticisms, assessing the validity of those criticisms, and changing the negative into positive, we can use the inner critic to take a more whole look at situations.
The judge often comes paired with the inner critic. This sub-personality projects poor self-image in order to defend and protect. It is based in shame from previous criticisms and has a strong hold within our fear of rejection. It will attempt to control the situation by pointing to others’ flaws and shortcomings instead of allowing us to come to terms with our own. The judge is often decisive and observant, but is also intolerant and far too judgmental of others and ourselves. In order to combat the judge in us we need to learn to face our fear of rejection, accepting that we will not always be accepted. We also need to do inner work on self-image and the basis of the shame in our lives. By stopping the negative behaviour and addressing the inner messages we are receiving, we can learn to see the bigger picture and be more accepting of ourselves and of others.
The perfectionist is another shame-based sub personality. This shame is based in past failures. The perfectionist causes us to be more expectant of others than ourselves, in the fear that we may fail them before they will fail us. The perfectionist will attempt to control the situation by making us perfect, or what they deem to be perfect. But despite all of this talk about perfection, the perfectionist is very aware of the shortcomings and causes a lack of confidence. While the perfectionist is often times responsible and will give everything their best, they will often times be very rigid and cause conflict when it is not necessary. In order to come to terms with the perfectionist we must accept the fact that we are only human. Mistakes will happen, but that is okay. Vulnerability and fears should not rule our lives, and neither should shame. By setting appropriate and achievable goals, and learning to treat ourselves with the love and respect that we deserve, there is hope to have a more positive perfectionist.
Sub-personalities may only be fragments of the whole, but they are essential to who we are. Keeping them in check is a very important part of maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries. Letting these sub-personalities go unchecked is going to cause unnecessary turmoil and stress. With inner work, we can develop a better understanding of our sub-personalities, and use them in positive ways in our day-to-day lives.