Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
Have you ever had two goals that directly contradicted each other? An example would be wanting to get a secure job, settle down and start a family, while simultaneously dreaming about traveling the world and volunteering for various humanitarian projects.

Or this divided self could manifest in your personality. In some instances you're upbeat and extroverted, whilst other times you're more shy and reserved.

What's going on there? And how can we reconcile our antagonistic parts?

Let's first establish that it's natural to experience these conflicts in us. They reflect not only our fragmented self, but also the intricate web of experiences and attitudes that make us us.

What exactly is a part? A part is a perspective or role that has evolved in the landscape of our psyche for dealing with different situations. Parts are akin to a dynamic set of specialized memories that "come online" whenever we find in a situation that warrants their presence. For example, if you've internalized a specific way in which you respond when your partner is criticizing you, then you will adopt a certain psychological stance that comes with its own characteristics: defensive or aggressive for example.

It's easy to visualize these different parts within you if you think about the many roles in your life: son/daughter, lover, student, sibling, working professional. Each of these have a unique nature, and they activate different modes of being.

One way in which we can know ourselves (our our selves) better is to recognize the multiple parts that dwell within us and let them communicate. This ability of the self to integrate numerous perspectives originated in the dialogical self theory.

Psychologist Hubert Hermans, who developed the theory of the dialogical self, writes in his influential paper that he conceptualized the self as a multiplicity of autonomous I-positions. The position changes based on situation or time. He proposed that parts can enter a dialogue with each other. These voices are similar to characters in a story, each with a unique point of view and distinct experiences.

This view of the self stands in opposition to the Cartesian Self, which is a monad, as presupposed in the famous adage "I think". The Cartesian Self also disregards the body as a component of the it. As opposed to that, the dialogical self contains I-positions that can come "alive" in a time and place, and which can enter a nuanced dialogue with other "positions." There is no "God's eye view", as Merleau-Ponty would say.

The dialogical self is ‘social’, not in the sense that a self-contained individual enters into social interactions with other outside people, but in the sense that other people occupy positions in a multivoiced self. The self is not only ‘here’ but also ‘there’, and, owing to the power of imagination, the person can act as if he or she were the other and the other were him- or herself. [...] Rather, I’m able to construe another person or being as a position that I can occupy and as a position that creates an alternative perspective on the world and myself.

The ultimate goal of getting your parts to talk and understand each other is not to have any of them "win" the argument or finish on top, but to get a line of communication going and learn to navigate the complex dynamics that are at play in your psyche.

By allow your parts to communicate, you can resolve inner conflict and bring harmony to your internal family. That doesn't necessarily mean that you arrive at a solution, but that all your parts understand what their role is in the broader ecosystem of your psyche.

Timeless Content

Whatever the Problem, It's Probably Solved by Walking
Andrew McCarthy | 3 minute read
Hippocrates proclaimed that “walking is man’s best medicine.”

You probably don't need anyone to tell you walking is good for you. It's not only a way to keep your body fit, but it also cultivates an alertness and spring-like quality in your mind. However, if you'd like to renew your appreciation for going for a stroll, then I recommend Andrew McCarthy's short opinion piece.

Picture of the Week

Image generated with Bing AI. The prompt was "the universe as a mind".

Quote I'm Reflecting On

Humanistic psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman on the nature of the self:

If sometimes it feels as though there are multiple personalities within you that are constantly warring with one another, well, that’s because there are multiple personalities within you that are constantly warring with one another! Each of us contains a bundle of dispositions, emotional tendencies, values, attitudes, beliefs, and motives that are often contradictory and incompatible. (...) However, it’s important to recognize that the more we engage in a particular “sub-self”—or evolved component of the mind—the stronger that sub-self becomes and the quicker it is to activate in the future. Vice versa, the less we engage in that corner of the mind, the weaker the signal.

Source: Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization

Questions For You To Ponder

What are some of the different selves that dwell within you? Are you on "speaking terms" with all of them?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
Diana
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