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Don't Sweep Your Burdens Under The Rug

Dear Reader:

Welcome to Lentz Letters! Sometimes showing up in relationships and all that is expected can feel like such

a burden. It reminds me of hearing the phrase, “it’s time to do your chores!” The expectation of learning responsibility at a young age was enough to get my hackles up, especially when I was young. The word “chores” seemed like such a burden to me. It interfered with what I believed to be much more important things in life. Afterall, my friends were waiting to climb trees and play softball, etc. On some occasions it caused me to try and rush through my chores as quickly as possible. Like the time I just swept all the dirt under the kitchen rug. As I was handed the broom my mind began to wander. I could imagine the sound of the crack of the bat or my cheering friends coaxing me away from the minutiae at hand. The next thing I knew, the broom and dustpan were dumped near where mom assigned the task. With the slam of the screen door behind me I could hear myself happily informing mom that I was done as I hurried off to meet my friends. As you can imagine, my careless attempt at covering up only became a bigger burden for me to deal with later!

How can burdens continue to show up in life?

Burdens show up in many ways. We can have emotional burdens such as disproportionate anger, distrust of others, fear of commitment, guilt, shame, worthlessness, and self-doubt. Other times we can have physical burdens, such as persistent headaches, tightness in our shoulders, knots in the stomach, tension in the jaw, or insomnia. At times we may not even realize how much these burdens interfere with daily living. Unfortunately, all these burdens can be draining emotionally and physically, and limit us from living our best life.

One area in which burdens are noticeable can occur when a child is exposed to developmental trauma. Developmental trauma is a term used to describe the impact of early, repeated trauma and loss which happens within a child’s important relationships. Children are left wanting a deeper connection with their caregivers. The resulting attachment void for the child often develops a need for some sort of protection from the resulting painful beliefs and emotions. Internal Family Systems Model refers to these painful beliefs and emotions as burdens that are carried by parts of the child’s internal system. These parts will try to guard the child from the pain, shame, and fear associated with the beliefs due to the disconnect with the caregiver. For example, if a self-absorbed parent was not available for a child, the child might begin to believe that the problem can’t be that something is wrong with their parent. They assume responsibility for the problem. The child might develop a part of their personality that strives to be perfect to earn love or validation from the parent or other encountered relationships. Dick Schwartz, the founder of IFS, would say, “any personal experience of being rejected, abandoned, shocked, scared, or abused can burden our most sensitive parts with fear, shame, and emotional pain.” And so, it becomes a vicious cycle. Left unhealed, the parts continue to hold the burdens and diligently maintain their focus with endless attempts at protecting from emotional pain even into adulthood. These attempts at protecting serve as a Band-Aid rather than healing for the wounded inner child’s needs that continue to hide and harbor the pain. You might be asking yourself, “is it possible to stop sweeping the burdens under the rug?” The answer is right under your nose. The reality is that your core self has what all the parts have been searching for through the years; true connection and ultimately healing.

In every person is their core best self. It may have been some time since you have been connected to your best self. As a child, you made the only choice possible. Either connect with the dysfunctional parent, or your authentic self. In the past, the possibility of having a healthy connection with self and parent may not have been possible. Safety, belonging, and connection are core needs for any child. As a result, connecting with the dysfunctional parent becomes the necessary quest. Parts are in place to ease the pain associated with this unfulfilling connection and help with surviving childhood.

Therapy can help your core self to take back the reins and steer your internal system towards unburdening and freeing your parts from the heavy weightlifting of unnecessarily holding on to burdens from the past. But true healing connection begins with getting to know the best parts of yourself. Reconnecting to yourself with love and acceptance, compassion, and curiosity. Therapy can help if this is a difficult process for you. This step of self-awareness and learning to be more mindful of who you are despite the voices from the past can’t be emphasized enough.

The next step is to connect the protector parts. Often people come to therapy when the protector parts don’t seem to be easing the pain in life anymore. The truth is that protector parts get a bum rap. Many people just think the answer is to make a quick extraction of these parts and all their problems will be resolved. The truth is that these parts have always had the best of intentions for you. They have helped you survive some of the worst experiences of your life. They just don’t know that there is a better way of helping the most wounded child parts. Therapy helps the core best self-build trust with these parts, so they understand that healing is possible. This can be liberating for these parts when they are given an option of assuming a role that works with the newly integrated system, not against it.

Finally, after the protector parts are on board and understand that they can rely on the support of the best self to have the same intention of helping the most vulnerable parts, then traumatized parts can be unburdened. It can’t be overstated how meaningful and necessary this step is. It can bring possible voice to what a child thought was never possible to verbalize. It can bring a sense of safety, connection, and personal power back where it rightfully belongs. It can reassure the inner child or exile in IFS terms that they never have to be alone again.

Working on unburdening your internal system requires patience, practice, and self-compassion. By implementing strategies towards reconnection of your best self, your protectors, and your most vulnerable parts, you can find relief from those symptoms that can be physically and emotionally burdensome. Remember, it's an ongoing journey, and each small step you take brings you closer to a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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