FEATURE - October 2015 - Santa Fe
Accepting and Loving All Our Parts in the Journey Toward Spiritual Growth
By Elaine Casquarelli, LMHC
“When we practice Radical Acceptance, we begin with the fears and wounds of our own life and discover that our heart of compassion widens endlessly. In holding ourselves with compassion we become free to love this living world.”
The focus of many spiritual and contemplative traditions is to help their followers move away from attachments to the ego and live in higher or more loving states of consciousness, which has been called by many names throughout the world. In Buddhism it is referred to as No-Self; Hinduism calls it Atman; and Christians address it as the God Seed, Holy Spirit, or the Christ Spirit within. Psychological disciplines also speak of this state of consciousness and have called it the Transpersonal Self or merely Self. Regardless of the name we give to it, this state of being is described with similar qualities by the various traditions. It is a state in which we experience love, compassion, understanding, peace, curiosity, non-judgment, confidence, clarity, creativity, and greater connection toward ourselves, others, the world, and that which we hold sacred.
On the other hand, the ego is described in a very different way. For many of us, it is what we experience as our identity. It consists of what we have come to understand as our personality, as well as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the larger world. As such, the ego houses our fears, insecurities, and limiting beliefs. It houses the lessons and messages we learned from family, friends, and the larger cultures of which we are a part. Oftentimes, it is our attachment to these experiences, stories, and beliefs that keep us from living our lives in more loving and expanded ways. In other words, when believe in our limitations as experienced through the ego we keep ourselves from experiencing greater joy, intimacy, and expansiveness available to us when we see through the eyes of the spiritual Self.
Unfortunately, many of us try to live more fully in our spiritual Self by denying, avoiding, or somehow caging up our ego. In psychological language, we repress those parts of us we don’t like or that cause us pain. The problem with this approach is that denying a part of our experience doesn’t necessarily make it go away. Alternatively, and as so beautifully stated by Tara Brach, accepting and loving all the parts of us leads to greater love and compassion for ourselves. In other words, it leads us to more easily access our spiritual Self and all of its wonderful qualities.
A relatively newer form of psychotherapy, called Internal Family Systems (IFS), also recognizes the importance of loving and accepting all the different parts that make up who we are: the parts we like as well as the parts we want to avoid or deny. IFS was developed by Richard Schwartz and recognizes that when we live a greater part of our lives from the spiritual Self, we are able to live a more fulfilled and authentic life and be of greater service to others. A unique feature of IFS is that it provides activities that guide us in establishing a relationship between the various parts of our ego and the spiritual Self. In the process, the qualities of the spiritual Self can help the ego to experience healing and transformation. In other words, IFS helps a person to become Self-led, a state in which the spiritual Self is leading your perceptions and experiences instead of being led by elements of the ego. It does this by bringing love and acceptance to all parts of you, which in turn can help you to bring more love and compassion to yourself and others.
For more information on how IFS can help you on your personal or spiritual journey, check out the workshop entitled, “Living From the Spiritual Self” listed on the Events page.
Elaine Casquarelli, LMHC is co-owner of The Gloaming at Santa Fe, LLC, a counseling and life-coaching practice. She is a mental health counselor, educator, and workshop facilitator specializing in spiritual issues in counseling as well as emotional and relational concerns. For more information, visit www.thegloamingatsantafe.com.