One way of thinking of the human mind is that it is a collection of interconnected sub personalities. The idea that we have parts goes back as least as far as Shakespeare, who had two of his characters in one of the comedies saying something like, “A part of me wants to go to the party, and a part of me wants to stay home”. And, it’s still common today to hear people talk about one or more of their “parts” wanting this, or thinking that.
As a hypnotherapist, a part of me thinks that it might just be useful to use the notion of parts to help my clients resolve issues. For example, the parts model can be very useful in resolving internal conflicts. Most of my stop smoking clients for example, both want to quit smoking and desire cigarettes both. So I’ll have them imagine the two parts and negotiate a new set of behaviors that both agree are superior to smoking for accomplishing their positive intentions for the client. Assuming that all behaviors (and parts) have a positive intention is very useful in these kinds of negotiations.
One way of approaching a behavior that the person consciously finds unacceptable is by assuming that the part that runs the behavior may have stopped developing an an earlier age in much the same way that alcoholics or drug addicts stop maturing when they start spending much of their time in a drug alter reality. So I may have the client ask the part how old it is. This is where the hypnosis is beginning to come into play. To answer the question the person has to go into an altered state of consciousness to have a dialog with the part. To be sure, this is a very shallow state of hypnosis, but it’s hypnosis none the less.
If the part says that it’s 5 years old, for example, and the client is 50, it’s safe to assume that the part is immature, and never had access to all the learnings and experiences the person since he or she was 5 years old. The next step is to instruct the part to communicate with all the person’s other parts and have them share with it all the learnings and maturity that they’ve accumulated over the years. In essence the part “grow up”. Once the part has grown up, it no longer finds the original, childlike behavior desirable, and spontaneously develops choices that the person consciously appreciates as being appropriate and acceptable.
One example of how growing up a part can be effective is that of a client who came to me for help in stopping smoking. She had started smoking over twenty years ago specifically for the purpose of upsetting someone else. “I’ll hurt myself, and then they’ll be sorry” is a childlike and childish attitude. When I realized her purpose for smoking, I simply had her grow up that childlike part, and that was the last piece she needed to end her smoking habit. After all, she is an adult, and if she wants to annoy someone, she can do it without potentially harming herself or others.