Multiplicity of the Mind – part 2


In an earlier post, I talked about the idea of the Multiplicity of the Mind and ‘parts’ or ‘subpersonalities’. In this post, I would like to talk about some of the examples of ‘parts’ which you may recognise and introduce the idea of how with every ‘part’ there is usually an opposite and look at the idea of ‘primary’ and ‘disowned’ parts; those that we are more aware of and others that think, feel and behave more unconsciously or in Jungian language, the ‘shadow’. 


Each of us has a number of subpersonalities, parts or  ‘selves’ that make up our whole personality together. Different selves assume our identity throughout the day, each one taking care of particular aspects of our lives. When you are at work your organised self might be dominant; when you are having a coffee or drink with friends a more carefree self emerges; when you are on holidays your lazy self has its turn; and when you are with your partner you probably access your sensual and sexual selves.


We all have our ‘favorites’ which are those selves we use most of the time and by which other people recognise us. These are called ‘primary selves’ while the parts of our personality we hide or are not aware of are our ‘disowned selves.’


All the selves within us have their own feelings, sensations, thoughts, opinions, and needs—and they do not always agree. This is why you might feel conflicted about your job, for instance. The part of you who likes order and predictability probably loves it that you work nine-to-five and do the same thing every day. This feels safe and comfortable for that part of you. In contrast, the part of you who loves adventure, excitement and constant change feels awful in that same job. The experience you get from this is that   sometimes you like your job while at other times you hate it—it depends on which self ’s thoughts and feelings are dominant in you at the time.

So sub-personalities always come in pairs. There is always a polar opposite to a sub-personality, although it may be so weak (a disowned self) that it is not noticed, and even when work is first done on sub-personalities it may be difficult to find. However, knowing that there is a polar opposite makes it easy to understand what the traits of the weaker sub-personality are likely to be.

It is due to this imbalance between the polar opposite sub-personalities that issues arise. The dominant one will take over at times when it believes it is needed (i.e. for survival), or at times it is in a situation where is recognises it can meet it’s needs. This can cause a conflict within the personality, where the weaker, polar opposite sub-personality also begins to try and achieve it’s diametrically opposed agenda. A pendulum type effect results, with each sub-personality vying for attention. It can easily be pictured in a classic type view of a devil on one shoulder, and an angel on the other, each whispering into an ear, telling the Self what needs to be done. Confusion results. This is the stage that sub-personalities are dysfunctional, being unbalanced. Often this can lead to an inability to actually achieve anything, where the mind is clouded with the opposing views of each of the sub-personalities, and we can end up “stuck” not knowing which actions are appropriate for us. This is, however, due mainly to the thinking process, where we can see both sides of the argument, both have some merit, but ultimately neither stands out as the thing that must be done for our happiness, welfare and survival. It is the reason why a creative solution must be found, and “And”, which allows us to meet the needs of both sub-personalities to some degree, and start off a transformation process to integrate and synthesis the sub-personalities.

Read some examples of opposite sub-personalities below and see if you can identify your primary and disowned selves. Both sides are described in the most extreme from to fully highlight the key traits.  


Rigid, unforgiving, inflexible, and tries to exert control as much as possible, over their own life, and those around them. Enjoys checking for mistakes. Needs rules for everything in order to cope with their fears and insecurities.

Someone identified with rules will follow the rules of their family and social group. They will choose a lifestyle that fits in with family and cultural expectations and they will do well in that field. Identifying with this subpersonality leads to acceptance by your family and the wider community to which you belong.


Feels entitled, wants to do things their own way, and can’t exercise self-discipline or set limits with themself. The rebel breaks the rules! This personality does the opposite of what is expected by their family and culture. Rebels find their own way of doing things and often rock the boat. The rebel likes to think of itself as having no rules but it does have one golden rule which is to break all the rules.



Cautious Observer

The observing and cautious self likes to suss out a situation before it takes action. It needs to understand how something works before it participates. It stands back and observes and can be seen as fishy but really just likes to know what is going on.


The spontaneous self jumps in and participates and then thinks about what it has done later, if at all. It engages with people instantly and takes action quickly. It does not plan or consider consequences of its actions. It is a very ‘enjoy the moment’ self.





The Pleaser is a great personality for others to have around because it makes other people feel so good. It is considerate, kind and helpful. However, it does not get its own needs met and can feel drained from all the energy it gives to others.


The selfish self considers only itself. It makes sure its needs are met – it always comes first. It does not care about other people’s needs and has no qualms about stepping over others for its own interests. The selfish self rarely becomes tired or sick because it makes sure its needs are always met, and it does set great boundaries.



This is the force which propels us to action. Someone with a strong pusher will get many things done. The pusher is constantly on the go and is always thinking about what needs doing next. Nothing is ever finished—there is always more to do on its list. It leads to high achievement and high energy but unchecked leaves a person stressed, tense and unable to relax. Pushers are unable to enjoy their achievements because they never stop long enough to do so.


The being self is still. It is focused in the moment. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go. This is a restful place where you can recharge your batteries. Time seems to stand still and you feel relaxed and alert if you are a being personality. This is a nice balance to the pusher but if you are always being you are not doing and therefore will not get much done.



The perfectionist makes sure everything is perfect. Perfectionists look over everything they do countless times and they keep improving. They can stand in front of the mirror for hours doing their makeup and they can get stuck on one task at work, redoing and revising until everything is just right. Perfectionists find it difficult to finish things and can take so much time doing one small thing.


The slob does not have any standards. Everything is fine as it is. Mistakes are not a problem, mess is not noticed. You would not want this self performing brain surgery but it is easy-going and relaxed compared to the uptightness of an absolute perfectionist.



If you are personal then you connect with people warmly and openly. You like being in close contact with people and you share your feelings and thoughts easily. People feel like

you are present with them. This can feel good but it also leaves you with no boundaries and can drain your energy.


If you are impersonal you are cool and more distant. You connect with people but on a more mental level. You can discuss ideas and share thoughts but not feelings. Impersonality gives you objectivity and allows you to maintain you own space. A great self to use in business and when you do not want to take on other people’s ‘stuff ’.



We all have one an unfortunately most of us become victim to our own inner critic. The critic points out our weaknesses, flaws, mistakes, and generally anything less than perfect about us—yet perfection, even by its own admission— we can never achieve. A great friend of the perfectionist and pusher, the critic keeps us trying harder and harder. Then directed outwards, this self is a judge. The judge looks on others and does to them what the critic does internally to us.

Inner Teacher

This part of us has wisdom, it is supportive and it is on our side. It sees the lessons we can learn from our lives and reveals these to us. Being identified with this self, you would be compassionate towards yourself and others. You might be seen as a wise being who is full of acceptance and good advice.



The spiritual self is concerned with matters of spirit. It may have experienced extraordinary things and have a connection with spirit, or it may have a strong desire for spiritual experiences and so follows particular practices to lead to such experiences, or it may be expressed in a more traditional religious way, following the rules of an organised religion. Either way, its focus is on a god or ultimate energy of some kind, and it often does not value very highly everyday matters of life on earth.


The earthly self is interested in the here and now. It is concerned with the material world, but is not necessarily materialistic, and usually identifies with being atheist. Philosophically it is more of an empiricist, valuing direct experience through the physical senses. The earthly self is also concerned with very earthly things like the environment, sustaining life, the practicalities of life such as food, shelter and family life.



The feeling self feels. It picks up what other people feel, it is affected by events and people, and it expresses emotions easily. The feeling self is more connected to the body than the mind – feelings are often felt throughout your whole body. The thoughts of the feeling self are mainly about feelings and they can be muddled by the feelings that accompany them.


If you are identified with the mind, you think. A mental person analyses, woks out solutions, thinks abstractly. The mind is impersonal and objective. It is not concerned with the experience of feelings and relating to others, but it can analyse feelings and relationships. We all have a mind but some of us are more mental than others—in more ways than one!


The outgoing self is focused outside itself. It interacts with people easily and talks out

its ideas with others rather than spending time looking inward. It is friendly and very comfortable with other people. It is confident and sure of itself. It has a strong, resilient nature.


The shy personality is not confident with other people or in groups. It is quiet and soft and more sweet. They shy self is introverted and feels as though it is hiding. It is often perceived more negatively than the outgoing self in our culture but it has the qualities of sweetness and sensitivity.


Perhaps you identify with some, perhaps not with others. Or perhaps they are out of awareness or disowned! Internal conflict often occurs when we deny, repress one side and stay too much in the other. As with most things, balance is the key and a compassionate attitude to all aspects of ourselves and others as unique and flawed (and uniquely flawed!) human beings. 

Brainspotting: Questions & Answers

Why use Brainspotting? What does it do?

When we experience an emotionally intense, frightening or traumatic event, it may overwhelm us.  If that overwhelm does not naturally resolve, the experience gets ‘stuck’ in the body (the central nervous system) leaving us overly-sensitive and overly-reactive.  It also then diminishes or distorts our sense of self. 

Brainspotting works with those stuck memories so they can resume being naturally processed and it seeks to repair and strengthen our sense of self.  In the end, you will still have the memories, but they will no longer be as upsetting; you may still have present-day situations which are challenging, but they will no longer be triggering; rather situations will feel more manageable because you will feel more grounded, balanced and empowered.




What issues can Brainspotting be useful for?

Although both EMDR and Brainspotting are best known for resolving traumas and addressing PTSD-like symptoms, they are now being applied to ease anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours.  Most recently, and in concert with positive psychology, both are being applied to enhance peak performance and boost self-confidence and concentration


Why use the Bi-lateral sound?

The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.  Our left brain thinks, uses language and solves problems. Our right brain is intuitive, emotional and involved in body functions. When we are overwhelmed with emotion and can’t think straight, our right brain has taken over.  When we are overly analytical and cut off from our emotions, we are stuck in our left brain.  But when we are feeling integrated and performing well, our right and left brains are interacting with each other effectively. The Brainspotting approach uses tactile pulsars or auditory recordings to provide the bilateral movement while finding an eyespot or Brainspot somehow connected to what’s being focussed on and which will enhances processing.


What is a “Brainspot?”

A “Brainspot” is the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic or emotionally charged issue within the brain, most likely in the amygdala, the hippocampus, or the orbitofrontal cortex of the limbic system. Located by eye position, paired with externally observed and internally experienced reflexive responses, a Brainspot is actually a physiological subsystem in the body and nervous system holding emotional experience in memory form.


How do therapists Identify “Brainspots”?

Brainspotting is usually done with both eyes but may also be done with one. A therapist identifies a Brainspot by waving a pen-shaped object in a specific pattern in front of the patient’s eyes, and when the pen-like object comes across a Brainspot, the deep brain will reflexively signal to the therapist that a Brainspot has been found. This happens outside of the patient’s consciousness. These reflexive signals can include (all without the patient being aware of these happening) an eye twitch, facial tic, brow furrow, facial tic, pupil dilation/constriction, swallows, yawns, coughs, foot movement or body shifting. Among these signals, facial expressions are the strongest indicators of a Brainspot.

The identification of a reflexive response that indicates a Brainspot hints at the somatosensory experience of the trauma, emotional or somatic problem. By finding these Brainspots, the therapist is triggering these somatosensory experiences in the patient. To access the Brainspot and the emotions that can follow, the therapist holds the patient’s eye position while the patient focuses on the experience of the symptom being accessed by the Brainspotting.

The therapist and patient can also work together to find the Brainspots. The patient participates in this by letting the therapist know, during the Brainspotting scan, when he or she feels any heightened intensity, either physically or emotionally.


How Does Brainspotting Act as A Healing Agent Against Trauma?

The way that Brainspotting heals is that it helps the person process the trauma, or overhwhelm that lies within him or her. When the therapist accesses a Brainspot, the person experiences the distress that is associated with that Brainspot. The person then experiences the physical or emotional pain that presents itself, and the person can experience it in a safe, comfortable setting in the presence of the therapist. Over time, accessing this trauma in a safe environment will help the brain to break away from the associated trauma.

Within the field of psychology, professionals have come to realize that when someone experiences trauma, whether it be emotional or physical, it is held in the body. This trauma, potentially caused by a variety of events, such as a serious physical illness, acute or chronic pain, or life trauma in general, can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and one way that professionals can help to target and locate that pain is through Brainspotting.  Therapists use Brainspotting to target these areas of trauma stored in the body from previous traumatic experiences.

These traumatic experiences become stored in the body typically because the traumatized person has not had the means to properly deal with the trauma that he or she has experienced. Because the traumatic experiences have not been properly dealt with, they become a part of the person’s “trauma reservoir”, which can manifest in other physical and emotional symptoms.


How does a typical session go?

Here is a basic description of how Brainspotting works. The therapist acts as a guide, but you are in charge of your own process. You might begin with a few minutes of relaxed breathing and listening with headphones to BioLateral sound. You pay attention to the place in your body where you feel the most distress. You give a ‘0 to 10’ rating for the level of distress you feel, and then the therapist helps you find an eye position (“Brainspot”) – a point in front of you where the eyes naturally focus when your pain feels the strongest.

The therapist acts as a support and facilitator in helping you to slowly and safely move through the awareness that unfolds inside after finding the Brainspot. You and the therapist focus deep moment-to-moment attention on the troubles presented by this one neural pathway. What comes up? This is different for every individual and in every session. It may be visual images, memories, a few words, sensations in the body, forgotten sounds, and various feelings.

The point is to allow and witness these natural “leftover” responses from the trauma to surface. The individual is free to just experience the associations or they can share it in words with the therapist as they go along. You may periodically re-rate the distress and shift to another Brainspot. By the end of the session, your rating of the distressed state is most often lower and your “felt sense” of the suffering is lessened. A gentle release of energy happens with the process, which may be felt physically as tingling, slight shaking (like from a chill), or a need to stretch. This is the body’s natural response to “unfreezing” what was held from the past. You are also likely to experience a lasting mental relief upon realizing that this disturbance from long- go is no longer upsetting to you.

An after-sense of change stays with you outside the session in everyday life. When Brainspotting is facilitated within the context of a caring therapeutic relationship, it feels safe, non invasive and contained.


The Impact of Brainspotting

Brainspotting does not require “reliving the trauma” as much as it “releases the trauma from the memory.” After a number of Brainspotting sessions, it is possible to no longer see the images of any disturbing traumatic memories or feel the pain, upset and distress from the chronic or acute incidents of trauma. As a result, many signs and symptoms of trauma in the system eg. depressed and fluctuating moods, excessive anxiety, flashbacks, and dissociation – gradually became resolved and disappeared.

Afterwards you can learn to practice paying attention to what is happening inside at each moment (called mindfulness) outside of sessions. This gradually helps to end the need for defensive dissociation (cutting off from feelings, emotions, bodily sensations). An ability to safely re-associate thoughts, feelings and sensations becomes more of a continuous state of being.

If you would like to try Brainspotting, you can book an initial ‘experiential’ session at £25. Fill in the form on the contact page to make a booking.


Don’t feel like going to therapy? Tell your therapist

There will come a day, after months of waiting, desperate for some kind of help, that you won’t want to do therapy.

This might coincide with the time you decide to stop taking your meds, out of some mixture of not feeling that they’re working anymore, the return of your self-destructive impulses, and your self-reassurance that actually you’re fine.

You will consider not showing up in your counsellor’s office or in the online waiting room.

You’ll try to come up with excuse beyond ‘I don’t have the energy’, ‘I just don’t want to’, and ‘I don’t want to be told that what I’m doing isn’t healthy, because right now I don’t want to be healthy.’

You’ll want to avoid your therapist for all kinds of reasons that you don’t entirely understand.

There will be days when you’re tired of admitting that you’re struggling, tired of being a ‘person in therapy’, and you’ll want to just sack it off and do something fun, ‘normal’.

There’ll be days when you genuinely think you’re doing brilliantly, and really don’t see the point.

There’ll be days when you’re at your lowest, and you can’t stand the idea of having to admit that to the person who’s working hard to help you get better.

These days will come after months on waiting lists, of searching for therapists, of ranting about how much you need some care.

You’ll grumble at yourself for being unappreciative. But the therapy-dread won’t budge.

Sometimes you’ll explain that something came up at the last minute. Other times you’ll push yourself through the dread and get your butt to therapy – usually because you feel too guilty about letting your therapist down rather than any sudden excitement about working on your mental health.

Most of the time, when you do end up going, you’re glad you did afterwards.

Therapy’s a lot like going to the gym.

You know you should go. You know it’s good for you. But you also know it’s bloody hard, and the sweet relief of putting it off and doing something unhealthy instead is brilliant enough to make you think skipping it is a good idea.

But when you do push through, lace up your trainers, and work out, you feel brilliant afterwards.

And it’s the same with therapy.

It’s okay to sometimes dread it. It’s okay to resent having the commitment, especially when you find yourself turning down fun plans because you have an appointment at 6pm.

But it’s the days when you dread it that you likely need therapy the most.

Therapy isn’t easy. It can sometimes feel like a chore, and it’s a weekly reminder that while everyone else seems (emphasis on seems, because it’s rarely the reality) to have everything together and be able to go forth and live without any baggage, you’re reliant on some extra help.

It’s easy to convince yourself not to go.

You focus on the unpleasant bits – the awkwardness, the tears, the frustration of having to put in work when all you want it to just hurry up and be better.

You tell yourself it’s not working. You tell yourself it is working, but you’ve already learnt everything you need.

You bend over backwards to justify not doing therapy, because your brain, as it so often does, tells you not to take care of yourself.

Remember that when this happens, it’s not the logical part of your brain that’s talking, or the part that actually cares about your wellbeing.

It’s the bit you’re working on, the bit with the destructive impulses, and the patterns that you’re trying to break down, and all the negative stuff.

This bit of your brain doesn’t want what’s best for you.

It wants you to sit out therapy so it can step in and make you feel rubbish, uninterrupted. It’ll tell you you’re a mess because you need therapy, and that you should feel guilty because you didn’t go, and that you don’t need therapy all in one spiral of crap thoughts.

That part of your brain can be tricky to ignore. But you have to try to drown it out.

Remind yourself that just like working on your physical health, working on your mental health gets easier as you go – but you have to keep going. Otherwise you don’t get the benefits, and it seems like a massive waste of time.

Know that pre-therapy dread is normal, but remember how much more positive and equipped you feel after a session.

If you find yourself dreading it week in, week out, and end up miserable after every session, that’s a sign you may need to change things up and talk to your doctor about getting a different therapist.

But if it’s just the occasional pre-therapy dread, don’t worry too much – you’re not failing and you’re not being unappreciative, it’s just that natural human impulse we all have to avoid doing something we know is good for us because it requires some effort.

Push through. Force yourself to do therapy even when you’re really not feeling keen, because at the end of the session, you’ll be glad you did.

And hey, feel free to bring all these feelings up in your therapy session. That’s kind of what it’s there for.

This article is part of Getting Better, a weekly series about a journey through getting help with mental health. 

Read more: