Still on Vacation, Self-leadership

The usual personal-growthy stuff is less on my mind than usual (despite having gotten some good related reading done), since I’m still in Maine on vacation with my family, and I once again didn’t get around to writing my usual Monday post. 

I’ll just throw out a brief story from my life.

I wrote a longish description of what “Self-leadership” means in IFS terms, but it bored me to reread it. Basically, it’s acting from your own best judgement, in a way that feels right and natural, devoid of “should” affect.

One of my historical patterns is getting upset to the point of crying when there’s something that seems important to me that I want from someone and am afraid I won’t get, particularly if I can’t “justify” the want. Unlike anger, sadness has been on my list of emotions to welcome and express for many years now now, which is one reason I’ve gotten a bunch of mileage out of using this pattern to short circuit angry feelings.

Last week, this same pattern surfaced when talking to my therapist and she helped me negotiate for Self-leadership. We didn’t go do a big thing and heal the underlying issue, though it probably would have felt good if we had. (We didn’t because I wanted to use our time differently, which I think was the right call.) The part just basically agreed to trust Self to decide what to do, in that moment and the next time it got triggered.

The moment of trust felt both awesome and somewhat unexpected. I didn’t have a plan for what to do. I didn’t have to think through the situation and make sure the part’s desires would be taken into account. It trusted me. I have pretty negative affect around the word, but it even seems appropriate to say that the part had faith in the overall system to make a good decision.

And why shouldn’t it? When I’m not caught up in a trigger, my best guess about what to do isn’t usually half bad. Thinking things through in advance is well and and good, but I’ve had many years of experience that have given me refined heuristics for most situations that routinely come up.

The coolest part is that the negotiation worked, even though I didn’t really expect it to. A few days later, I wanted Will to come hang out with me even though he was doing something he really wanted. First I checked in to see whether he wanted to go to the beach. He didn’t. Then, I went with the plan of trying to distract myself and repress my desire. It didn’t work, and I got more worked up. I felt the sad crying pattern coming on. I slipped into it almost without realizing. But then, there was the tiniest opening. I noticed a thought along the lines of “oh yeah, the plan was to try something different.” When I noticed it, I got really excited! Even just that thought was clearly worth reinforcing. And it turned out to be enough. “Self” was now in charge.

And in that moment, I had a strong sense of what to do. I called up Will and asked him directly to come hang out with me, which turned out pretty well.