Self Community is a complicated analogy with many uses. I use it to explain confusing or upsetting human behavior to the kids I work with. For example, one child I work with, we’ll call her F, told me that her father gets very angry and scary and yells a lot. I explained that when her dad is behaving that way, his Angry Self is in control, not letting the other, more loving versions of him have any say about what he does or says. Those loving Selves are in there, but they are being silenced by Angry Dad.
I know she understood the metaphor because she said, “It’s like in your book when Sugar Dragon talks to Addiction Dragon” I was so happy that she made the connection, and it helped us to explore the idea further. We discussed how grownups come to have an Angry Self in the first place. Usually it comes from being hurt, often by a trusted loved one. We can use this understanding to turn our fear into empathy. Angry Dad is in pain. We can understand that when Angry Dad is in control, he is really trying to lash out at the person who originally hurt him. We also talked about cycles of pain an violence that get passed down through generations, but that is a separate lesson from Self Community.
Now F can see her father differently when he is angry. She can see that something is happening to him. The Dad she loves and trusts is not choosing to hurt her. That Dad is probably just as horrified by the decisions and actions of Angry Dad as F is. Loving Dad is a victim of Angry Dad as much as F is.
We also talked about F’s own Angry Self. We talked about what it feels like when it is in control, and how to respond in those situations, when Angry Self hijacks the body and the voice. The other Selves must move into action. They can’t lay dormant or cower in the recesses of the mind. The best strategy is to speak to Angry Self calmly like you would to a child having a tantrum: “Hey, I understand that you are angry, and I understand why. And it is okay to feel angry. But these choices and actions are only hurting others and your relationships with those others. So we’re going to need to make some different choices. Let’s work together so we can all get what we want.” It may seem like all Angry Self wants is to hurt others, but really, it just wants to heal. Soothing, empathizing, and validating are some of the best strategies for healing an Angry Self.