Let’s talk for a moment about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. At the expense of my son’s future dignity, I will reveal that he watched several episodes and a movie recently, and that provided me with the small amount of information I have here.
The Power Rangers were not all friends when they became a team of superheroes. Some of them were friends, others were in direct competition, some of them were in complicated relationships, a few of them withheld information from each other, and one of them was misunderstood and struggled to belong. If you have even a sliver of experience with Internal Family Systems (IFS), you may understand why I am now making the comparison between the Power Rangers and parts. Anyone else have an extremely complicated relationship with themselves outside of the knowledge of IFS?
And oh, while I am talking about complicated relationships with parts, let’s not forget the Megazord. When the boss enemy appears and the Power Rangers cannot individually beat it, they join to become a giant robot-type fighting machine. They each have their own strengths, and they use them as a singular, collaborative Megazord. When parts join up to become their own version of Megazord, look out.
Most of the time my parts are the complicated group of individuals who become the power rangers. They fight, compete, encourage, collaborate, and frustrate each other, among other things. Recently, my parts, who usually form the complicated and ever-changing high school cliques, joined forces to become the Megazord.
About six weeks ago, I was thinking about the progress I believed I was making with IFS. While considering distinct parts of myself that I had discovered and formed relationships with, I realized IFS was a win-win for me. I can’t fail with IFS. That comment is reflective of my own dichotomous thinking, but it is how I viewed my endeavors with CPT and EMDR—an epic fail. The belief “I can’t fail” is a bold thought for anyone who thinks they suck at everything.
My confidence in IFS “success” provided me with an idea one night during my “after-action-report” reflection. I needed therapy (IFS) to start with a similar but less distressing experience, and I had the experience already chosen. I NEEDED to share this with my therapist. This could be a skeleton key.
I am sure I am not the only one who struggles to communicate my needs in therapy (or anywhere), so I didn’t do so well in the session. It took me until the very last couple of minutes before I was able to start to discuss the direction I wanted to move. And when time ran out, I was frustrated by the lack of time and my inability to get my thoughts out before leaving. My frustration was obvious, but by the time I made it to the parking lot, I had already talked with the parts that were feeling upset. Not being able to adequately share what I wanted had nothing to do with whether my therapist wanted to hear it.
With some processing on my own, I used the next few days to prepare to express my thoughts for the next session. I checked in with various parts and gained permission to “go there.” I was ready. But first, I knew it would be a good idea to mention why I felt frustrated at the end of the previous session. Unfortunately, I had not prepared for or checked in with parts about that conversation.
Unpredictability can be triggering for individuals with PTSD. I am no exception. The conversation that needed to happen did, and it felt forced on my part. I tried to check in with parts but felt a switch flip when I once again struggled to think and speak articulately. Suddenly, the session was no longer going as planned. In fact, it went in a completely opposite direction. I felt ashamed for believing I would ever have success in therapy, let alone believing I couldn’t fail with IFS. I was confused as to how the conversation went so far off the path. I was hurt.
It was an all-out “parts storm.” A “parts storm” is comparable to a sh*t storm for those of you wondering. Each and every part was vying for my attention, and I was extremely dysregulated. Going back to the Power Rangers, my parts, like people dressed in dorky, colorful costumes, were flying through the air and landing with a thud everywhere, in an effort to fight the enemy (Rita something, I think). And then all at once, the Power Rangers (“Power Parts”) decided to work together. They turned into the Megazord and attacked Dr. Rita the therapist.
The first thing I remember saying when I finally started to use logic was something like “why would I talk to you if you lack competence.” I didn’t mean it quite the way it came out, but I said it, and I knew I couldn’t take it back many hours later when I realized what I had said. I crumbled. Firefighter parts jumped in with increasing strength as I realized how everything unfolded, and I needed help regulating myself. The very last person I felt I could talk with to get help was the one who I harshly insulted (probably multiple times).
Nonetheless, I reached out to my therapist. Initially, it was for ideas of someone else I could talk with, but the immediacy forced me to request help from her. I found myself getting more upset, and I knew I needed to do something different to help myself. To make a long story short, I worked through it all, mostly on my own. I noticed I needed to sit with each and every one of the parts to show them I was strong enough, old enough, and capable enough to deal with difficult things. It felt like it took forever, but part of the result was what I wrote about in “The Heavy Bag.”
I have written about ruptures (and repairs) before, but this one was vastly different. Half of the story is not mine to tell, so I will leave the story where it is. BUT, among MANY reasons I am grateful for that experience, I was able to step up to the plate for and with my parts while noticing my therapist, her parts, what she was trying to say, and her feelings. It sucked. All of it. And I did it. It set the stage for a *great discussion*, greater courage, a stronger relationship between my parts and self (and the relationships they have with each other), and an appreciation for others’ vulnerabilities, specifically my therapist’s.
*About that great discussion. It was heavy. But my SELF led the discussion. SELF explained, understood, showed compassion, apologized, listened, and shared a need. Sharing one need, while feeling shame for having one, has also given my parts greater confidence in ME to share other needs…