After a delayed start to our book study For Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown, we finally got together to explore our reactions and reorientation to the language of emotion in our lives.
After reflecting on the book as a whole and looking at aspects of Chapter 1, the themes we focused on were:
The image of maps and us as Map Makers
Power of language and its impact on our perception,
How our position/location on the map influences perception [which led to realising this could also mean our actual literal posture],
Our biography, biology, behaviors and backstories.
We could have talked for hours!
Towards the end, I offered those attending a chance to explore a part of themselves and the emotions experienced at a certain time or event in life. The exercise/reflection is included below. You will need a pen and paper and a good 20 mins for reflection.
This “MAP” should help you to locate several parts of self – formed in childhood development and still active today. It speaks to how our biography shows up in our biology, informs our habitual responses and behaviors, because we are being influenced by our old often subconscious experiences. My own example is of my 7yr old self, sick at school, who got sent to the principal’s office and at that time perceived the experience as a punishment, and it turns out it has sat in my subconscious, running an operating program for the best of 45 years.
Although not the only reason, exploring my experience and parts at that time, helped me to identify why: 1) I carry a strong sense of shame about being physically unwell (the irony was that I _was_ an asthmatic child), 2) I freeze inside, and potentially dissociate when under stress, particularly when exposing my vulnerability to others, like those in authority, 3) I struggle to trust older women who are aloof with me, 4) I rarely ask for help (although, this is getting better).
Parts often work in groups… and are embodied as sensation… and although we are reading a book about the language of emotion, neuroscience and neurobiology teach us that emotion, long before it was thought, began as a physical impulse (energy in motion) in the body.
Richard Schwartz's Internal Family Systems therapy influences the way in which I use this tool. IFS is known to increase Self-Awareness, helps people understand each other’s emotions, helps with Self-Acceptance, reduces stress and anxiety, enhances relationship skills, helps address trauma and PTSD symptoms and helps to build resilience, and we all could benefit from more of these!
Richards book No Bad Parts is worth the deep dive and reflection, and also speaks to religious identity development in relation to parts work.
So have a go at the tool, take some time to ponder and reflect on what you encounter and how you are living from that time and space today. If you feel overwhelmed or confused by your reflection, please reach out to your therapist, pastoral caregiver, or trusted safe person.
Hope you learn things about yourself… whenever you can’t quite locate what’s going on inside, this exercise helps to map out your experience and the other supporting (often unconscious) parts at play. Let me know how you go!