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Okay, So What Does "Duty" Mean?



So, as an interesting follow-on from the last blog entry, a few days later I heard from the opposite part. I began to think about why I continue to go to work each morning, if I hate it so much.

The answer was, because I "should". It was only right, if I was going to expect to live the way I do. In fact, I "should" be a better employee than I am, or if I'm going to decide to change to a more laidback job, I "should" start looking. I "should" wash my car, exercise more, clean my apartment, do more to plan to move, and on and on.

In fact, this part feels completely hemmed in by "shoulds". I know that's not uncommon, and I've felt that way before. But I realized that this is the part who, at a certain time of each morning, decides that it's time I "should" be going. It stuffs the fearful part into its little room, and starts getting the job done.

This might be acceptable, if the job were in fact getting done. But as the list above shows, for each thing I "should" be doing, I can also say I "should" be doing better. Partly, this is due to perfectionism, but partly it's also due to rebellion. Despite the fact that I feel overwhelmed, I can clearly see that many people get much more done each day. But I'm much less efficient than I could be, precisely because I fight myself every step of the way.

Too, in the hierarchy of "shoulds", the ones where only I am involved, such as cleaning up my apartment or myself, come last. In some tasks that are "for others", such as work, the other people might punish me if I don't do what I "should"; in others, I would feel that I had let them down. When it's just me though, it seems okay to let myself down.

Another noticeable result of all this is that I feel bad about myself, as if I'm constantly failing, because I never reach a point where I've done all the "shoulds". Not only lower-priority ones; I shrug off pieces of even the most important ones, if I think I can get away with it. Then, I'm sure I'm letting someone down.

On the other hand, feeling like I owe everyone something that I'm not really giving makes me feel vulnerable, like they might find out and cut me off. Also, it feels like nothing I receive from others is unconditional, that there's always something more I need to do to deserve it.

Now, all this is coming from just one part of myself. These days, I don't feel the "shoulds" as strongly, as consciously, as I used to. They were a big drive for the part I call 'Censor', but now they come and go during the day. I'm more confident than I was, more willing to accept my humanity.

But I think these feelings come up, now, because I'm trying to integrate the fearful parts, and besides the fact that this part is their principal oppressor, it's just possible that this part is also fearful. What I have to work on is ... how to comfort them all.


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Well, it makes sense that every point of view has its opposite, and if I didn't have (at least) two conflicting ones, there would be no problem.

But what I'm hoping for is a less polarized approach to life. One possibility is that there could be a third party who gets involved, who listens to and accepts both opposites, and works on mediating between them. That's what "parts therapy" (formally called Internal Family Systems therapy) suggests: that there's a part they call Core to which one can go, a center from which a calmer perspective reigns.

It's worth a try, anyway.

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this part is also fearful...

...One possibility is that there could be a third party who gets involved, who listens to and accepts both opposites, and works on mediating between them.

do you know anyone that could mentor or be a role model for a third party that has insight into fear especially?

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It is odd, to me, that I see this in myself but...

Anyway, I hear and feel your pain. I do hope you find your core to go to where a calmer perspective reigns, or you find a mediator and a mentor.

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"do you know anyone ...?"

The Panda Warrior? Her bunny pupil? A part of me gets very sad when I ponder the meaning of true courage. Possibly, one who's been exiled for having it ... Nothing is more dangerous to a fearful leader than a follower with true courage.

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The leader, then, might have some vulnerability that he fears. Maybe there is room for all feelings and parts. The trick is finding a way to balance everything. Maybe embracing courage helps him rather than endangers him? No one has to lose a voice if we are open to all the parts. Anyhow, I've been trying that (being open to all of myself) and it seems to help me (when I am able to do it) feel more balanced and less conflicted.

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The leader is probably a pretty young child. To him, there's room for all the other parts, but they are rooms that lock from the outside, and he has the key.

Sorry to be sarcastic, because you're right, of course, about balance. Still, I don't feel ready for the high wire. ;-) And embracing courage isn't the problem for him, it's embracing danger. I'd do fine trying to balance on a wire three inches off the floor ...

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The danger!

Okay, so he's not that articulate, and he's probably aware that it'll seem small if put into words.

So it feels minimizing to be forced to do so.

I know I probably sound annoyed. It's just that it turns back to "comforting" again. It's not comforting to put your fear into words, to face it squarely. It's because of comforting, that a person can face it. But there's no comforting to start the process, and therefore no trust that there will ever be any.

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It would always be up to him whether to share or express himself. I would never want him to feel minimized in any way.

So maybe then the need to connect with comfort would be first?

Embracing vulnerability and confronting fears. I understand that's hard to do. I still find something beautiful about vulnerability, though. Seeing it in others evokes in me the very thing you're wanting to feel for yourself. The desire to comfort.

I don't know if I'm understanding exactly right, but I want to. I know things work differently for each person. Comfort is something that I can connect with so I was hoping maybe I could help.

I hope you find your way on the path to it.

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Possibly, he has never really felt anyone else standing with him. That might be one way of defining "comfort", after all.

Not that no one is standing with him, or trying. Just that the message hasn't got through.

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I keep looking back at this.

It's not comforting to put your fear into words, to face it squarely.

Maybe this is a place where another part of you can stand with him? Maybe 'comfort' is something that has to be cultivated as self-compassion does.

Your friends stand with you too. Perhaps when he's ready the message will be clearer to him. That takes as long as he needs it to. We're here.

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It's probably because I know my friends stand with me that I'm able to start into working with this guy after forty-plus years. So thank you, seddy, and everyone else who cares about me.

There's also a fear that the fear will turn out to be trivial when put into words, though. The fearful leader knows he'd be in disgrace if that happened. And so, he has yet another fear to work through.

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leader, are you clear on who you are leading?

there is such a sense of social context in your blog entry, yet at the same time so much aloneness

if you are alone, who are you leading?

if you are among friends, we walk side by side...

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The fearful leader (which is a pretty good part name, for the moment) probably believes we aren't completely safe unless alone. He even exiles parts of me that are too "other". When we were lost, back when I was six, his first thought was to hide rather than seek help.

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When necessary for safety reasons. So, under threat, or when confused or disturbed.

One of my behaviors, at extreme moments during marital fights, was to just start walking ... away. Direction, survivability, common sense realizations that I'd have to turn around and come back ... none of those were enough to suppress the impulse just to be somewhere else.

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"Him"? Attribution is difficult; not sure who led. But he didn't stop me from walking towards some someones. It probably only requires isolation when the threat assessment is higher.

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Then he might not survive.

I was six and lost, and the impulse, his impulse, was to avoid being found.

I've often thought that some other part took a hand, because I hid behind a clear glass door, but the impulse to be as invisible as possible during the danger period can't be denied.

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It's hard to say whether it's "dissociative". All parts work sounds a little dissociative, to me.

Dissociating from the rest of humanity, maybe.

Maybe he's hiding from punishment, from having gone too far and expecting the worst. Not totally sure that it's a punishment from the person he wants to find him (like parents in the childhood getting-lost scenario) or whatever bad thing befalls children who get too far from home. Hiding would be effective against both.

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