By Barnes Boffey
As we get clearer about our sub-selves and what they need, we can look at our lives and decide whether we are doing and being things which nourish them, or there big gaps? Is one nourished a lot and the others ignored? Are we trying to pretend to ourselves or others that one of our sub selves does not really exist and therefore does not need to be attended to?
Nothing good can come of ignoring or disavowing the pieces of ourselves. The same is true in loving those pieces of ourselves. If we hate one of our sub selves, are simply doing harm to our self. It is like taking poison and hoping someone else will die. The goal is to appreciate each of the pieces of ourselves and to nourish that sub self in appropriate ways.
How can I arrange my life to take into account both the “Warrior” and the “Artist? If I am too old to play football, or wrestle around or drink too much and dance the night away, what can I do to take care of that “Warrior?” If I am not in an intimate relationship, how can I nourish that “Artist/Lover?” If I have limited mobility, how can I give the “Cowboy” the fun and freedom he needs to be strong and healthy?
Part of being happy and healthy is knowing the answers to difficult questions about life, relationships, work and growing older. But another big part is getting the questions right. If we have the wrong questions, we will get the wrong answers?
Part of what I am encouraging you to do is to think about the major sub selves in your personality. Think of them as actual people who have needs and wants. Think about how much you have accepted them as part of who you are and how much you treat them as really good friends. If they were friends, you would do different things which each of them; some you would go to museums with, some you would play sports with, some you would plant a garden with. Give yourself the time and flexibility to treat these “friends” well, and remember that there are consequences if you do not.
There is a story of a wise shaman who spoke to a young man which reminds me of some central issues in the thoughts above.
A young Cherokee man was going through a difficult time in his life. In search of guidance, he went to the Elder of his tribe.
After sitting with the young man for a while, the Elder spoke. “A fight is going on inside you.” He said to the young man. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.” The first wolf is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego” “The other wolf is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This is the fight going on inside you – and inside every other person too. This is the struggle you feel.”
The young man thought about it for a while and then asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
When you think about your sub selves, the ones that will be healthy and happy will be the ones you nourish.