Multiple personalities can mean multiple skills!
No, I’m not talking about so called disorders that seem to come to mind when we use phrases like ‘Multiple Personalities’ – although it is interesting to perhaps think about these differently once you have read this piece?!
I want to share a concept that I personally found transformative when I first discovered it during my QTT Practitioner Training, and that is the fact that we are all made up of hundreds if not thousands of ‘Mini-personalities’ or ‘Mini-Miens’ as we call them in QTT. These are whole characters that we have created as a result of different circumstances or events or on-going situations, in order to best navigate those parts of our Life in the best way possible at the time. Although they can become whole mini characters, they only exist as part of the whole of us, they are not all of us despite it feeling like they are sometimes.
What’s the dictionary definition of a ‘Mien’? A ‘Mien’, is someones general appearence, manner & expression that combined with their inner thoughts & feelings projects a personality type. So, very much like acting, choosing a character & inhabiting that character fully until they are not needed on stage or on camera any more. There’s one big difference though – actors are consciously choosing to become someone else (although interestingly many report that they often draw upon their own experiences in order to be as authentic as possible). When we slip into one of our Mini characters mostly we do it unconsciously and because it is something we may have been doing habitually for years, we can either not really notice, or if the result of this character coming ‘on stage’ is that they are preventing an outcome that the conscious mind desires, then we can have a feeling of conflict or stuckness. Often we may feel that one part of us wants something & the other part doesn’t…….and the result is often that there is an inability to make any progress – there may be procrastination or a feeling of resistence to something that cognitively we know will help us to grow & thrive…….
I used to be a TV Producer in a former life so I find it helpful to think of how many people, all with essential skills, are needed both on stage & off, to create a brilliant production. How every person, no matter how old or how experienced or whether they are cast or crew is an essential part of that integrated Production. How, also a successful production always needs someone in charge, someone with an overall vision & someone who understands each persons skills as well as how long they are needed for, and when they need to get off stage! A character who is part of an ensemble piece & brilliant at their role can easily become boring, exhausting or destructive to the production as a whole when he or she stays out too long!
I became a TV Producer because it filled a need, or needs, in me. It helped me to create a well rounded ‘Mien’ & I got stuck in her for far too long, because fulfilling so many deep needs in me, became addictive & I didn’t know how to achieve that in any other way.
I was perfect for the role – efficient, organised, responsible, great at co-ordinating people to get the best possible results, a people pleaser who focused almost entirely on the end outcome of whatever project was being worked on & getting recognition for a job well done. I felt needed, in control (mostly), significant, influential, part of an elite team and very well rewarded financially – lots of needy ‘boxes’ ticked! The hours were long & unpredictable so it became easier to stay in this role 24 hours a day 7 days a week and it was exhausting, for me & for my family. I literally found it harder & harder to keep up with myself. Having to control everything & micro-manage did not make for a happy family and I eventually became chronically ill which was a turning point for me.
Once I recovered I slipped into another ‘Mien’ – My Self loathing part – “How could I let that happen”/”I was so destructive”/”I’m never doing that ever again” etc etc & I didn’t really like myself very much & felt fearful around anything that might mean I would be like that again…..
It wasn’t until I discovered QTT that I could recognise the incredible skill set I have as my ‘Producer’ Mien & how helpful she can be, at times, when I have a very busy schedule & need to get things done in a finite amount of time. It’s only when she’s out too long that the trouble starts so now I am able to consciously call upon her at these times & then send her off into the wings again once her skills are no longer appropriate. On the rare occaisions that I may forget to send her off, now another ‘Mien’ comes out – My ‘Poor Me’ – feelings of being put upon, of being needy, of indulging myself/ soothing myself with ‘treats’, being a bit weepy & pathetic…..This Mien allows me to realise that I’ve been in ‘Producer’ too long & I’m heading for burn out unless I self-care. Again very handy for a short time, after a day or so, she starts to annoy me & others and is not at all productive. Nb. She’s not at all the same as my ‘Spiritual’ Mien who plays a major, ongoing role in my current production and knows how to self-care in an ongoing, integrated way that is both sustaining & substainable.
It’s important to make the distinction between Archetypes, (a concept familiar to many Talking Therapies), and Mini-miens. Archetypes are general personality types, symbols of an amalgamation of traits combined into a ‘type’ that most of us can recognise. They include our ‘Queen/King’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Child’, ‘Hero/Heroine’, ‘Mediator’,’Protector’, ‘Saboteur’, etc etc – they are not personal to us but are symbolic of parts of us. Mini-Miens are much more personal to us & integrally linked to whatever we feel is lacking in our basic human needs in terms of feelings. For example, I might experience, growing up, that every time I feel unsafe, perhaps when there’s alot of conflict around me, parents arguing that if I can tell jokes or make people laugh, that everyone seems to feel better & laugh & I can feel safe again. So my sub-conscious self, always trying to protect me, will store that ‘character’ and push her out on stage every time I feel un-safe. This may work brilliantly to dissipate a situation when a child has very few other choices available to her & she may decide to become ‘The Family Joker’. It may not work quite so well as an adult or even as an older child, when she has to negociate other situations that may feel un-safe, because they are new or unfamiliar but are not inherently dangerous. Turning everything into a Joke in can become annoying & inappropriate and can become a block to us ever being able to look deeper, have meaningful conversations orconnections & thus miss opportunities to evolve & grow.
Well, how can I possibly change these aspects of me, I hear you asking, they are part of who I am, surely I would become someone else without them?
No, that’s not my experience or the experience of all the Clients I have worked with. Actually really understanding these parts of us, what triggers them, what they are ultimately trying to do for us and whether that way of achieving something is the most appropriate way for us at this stage of our lives, is often the key to feeling wholely ourselves. It’s when we reject these parts or ignore them and they are not integrated within us that they will continue striving to remind us of their importance in the production by wandering on stage when they aren’t actually needed and speaking when it isn’t their ‘turn’. It’s when we can speak to them, thank them for everything they have been trying to do for us over the years and reassure them that they are valued but not ultimately in charge any more, that they don’t need to come out unless they are called. Then they can finally take a well earned break and wait in the dressing room until needed or even sometimes retire completely!
Actively stepping into certain Mini-miens can enable us to find strengths & skill sets that are needed for us to expand ourselves or navigate situations that we can’t really avoid. I have one Client who spent years adopting all kinds of strategies (& mini-miens), in order to avoid part of a job that she loves – public speaking. When we worked together to enhance a Mien of hers that she already had but had forgotten about, she is able to consciously step into that Mien, that role & become a really effective public speaker in a way that suits her not anyone else.
Often as Parents we are called upon to do all sorts of things, take part in all sorts of activities or perform roles that we may not feel are totally us, choosing an appropriate part of us that can sometimes even have a particular costume or prop can be helpful. One Client of mine used to find the transition from CEO of her own company & then coming home to be ‘Mummy’ almost impossible & she often chose to stay late in order to avoid the feelings of discomfort & then felt guilty & lacking for having done so. Once she was able to use her journey home to gradually get into ‘Character’ as ‘Mummy’, feeling all the feelings of Love & Joy & playfullness that part of her felt with her children, she couldn’t wait to get home & be that happy woman. For her, part of getting into her role was a change of shoes & removing her earrings.
A friend of mine often uses the expression – ‘Putting on my Big Girl Pants’ for feeling brave & powerful, stepping into work situations that take her out of her comfort zone. Another friend of mine steps into her ‘Therapist’ self to enable her to listen to her teenagers without judgement & without giving advice.
We all have these resources within us & the key is to make friends with them, become familiar with their habits & what they can do for us and most importantly when that balance gets tipped and they become counter -productive.
I would like to invite you to start making a list of your top 3 to 6 Mini-Miens, the ones that you recognise come out more than others, whether you like them or not.
Ask how old they are, when did they get created?
What triggers them to come out?
What are they trying to achieve for you, what are they attempting to protect you from?
Do they work for you or might there be a more appropriate way to achieve the same outcome?
Can you say thanks for what they are trying to do for you, take control & send them off stage for a rest?
Can you assume the role of ‘Director’ or ‘Producer’ and decide who does what, when & how?
Can you be the ‘Director’ of your own unique, entertaining production & feel proud of having created such an array of skills all in the same place?