My upcoming book Being True is a guide to reconnecting to your core while taking good care of your many different ‘parts’.

In thinking about the different ways leaders can apply the principles and practices I share in my new book Being True, I asked the question: What do leaders really want to feel less of at work right now?  The answer that emerged very clearly was: I want to feel less overwhelmed. 

And so, I have developed a new ‘bonus’ evidence-based practice that combines many different elements of my upcoming book.

This practice empowers you to rescue yourself in moments of overwhelm.
It will get from overwhelmed to OK in six simple steps.

Over the last few weeks, I have shared the first 4 steps:

Now, we’ll learn Step 5: Caring for your overwhelmed part.

A coaching client recently experienced a big insight in one of our sessions. She realised that she’d been totally wrong about what she needed to do to get through an impending restructure at work. She thought that she needed learn how to do a better job at protecting herself, but what she really needed was to learn how to do a better job at taking care of the most vulnerable parts of herself.

In this next step, I’ll be inviting you to begin the practice of reassuring and caring for your overwhelmed part. You may soon discover that your overwhelmed part needs to feel reassured and cared for in a very specific way. And you are the only person who can care for it in the way it needs to be cared for. This is because you are the only person who understands what it has been through  – and what it is most afraid of.

We All Have Protective Parts

Protective Parts are a certain ‘category’ of inner parts. Their job is to keep us safe. Our Protective Parts come into existence when we are very young in moments when we did not feel loved and cared for. Because it would be too terrifying for our young minds to consider that grown-ups make mistakes (and are imperfect), we very naturally concluded that we were somehow the problem. That we needed to be more or less of something to be worthy of love. And so, our parts came to believe that there are certain conditions that we must meet in order to be enough. We’ll call this your Criteria for Enough-ness.

Often, our experience of overwhelmed is really the panic of a part that is utterly convinced that:

  • Everything has gone to cr@p (because you have fallen short of your Criteria For Enough-ness)
  • Things are going to be this bad (or worse) forever.
  • And, it’s all your fault (because you are not enough)

When we are small, our survival really does depend on not being rejected by our family or caregivers. This explains why, in moments when a part of us believes that we have fallen short of our Criteria for Enoughness, we may feel we are in a life-or-death situation (when in reality, we are not).

Here are a few examples of the Criteria for Enough-ness that our Protective Parts can become burdened with.

To be enough, to be safe and to survive I must…

  • Always be perfect
  • Work harder than anyone else
  • Always put the needs of others first
  • Be the smartest person in the room
  • Always look like I know the answer
  • Always have a plan
  • Always be immaculately groomed
  • Be slim and attractive
  • Always anticipate what’s about to happen
  • Always be included
  • Always be in control
  • Never, ever look silly or childish
  • Never show any sign of weakness

In the same way you would naturally know what to do to dial-down the panic of a lost, distraught child you encounter at your local shopping centre, you can dial-down the panic of an overwhelmed part. By playing with different ways to send silent messages of care and reassurance to your overwhelmed part, you will soon learn how to best soothe it.

Let’s Practice

To practice reassuring your overwhelmed part, start by taking a few deep breaths. You might find it
helpful to imagine yourself as small child. Or, simply focus your attention on any physical sensations you are experiencing.

Next, send caring reassurance to the overwhelmed part of you. You can try any of the following messages of caring, calming reassurace:

  • I see you – you matter.
  • There’s space for you here too.
  • I love you, and I am listening.
  • Just try to relax a little.
  • I’m here for you.
  • I can see that this is hard for you.
  • We’re going to get through this.
  • You are not alone.
  • This is not about you
  • It’s OK – you’re OK – We’re OK

Try to ‘stay with’ this part of you, in your inner realm, sending it your care and reassurance, until you begin to feel less overwhelmed and less alone.

To download a free sample of my latest book Being True