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February 20, 2018

The Ego States, In It's Parts

By Dr. Richard Boyum

Often in counseling, we hear clients say, "A part of me thinks", or "A part of me feels". What is occurring here is a statement of one of the individual's ego states, which is literally trying to make a statement. In order to help clients attempt to understand how various thoughts and feelings interact, we can explain to them the concept of ego states. This can often be done through a concrete metaphor. For example, just as a bicycle has many parts, so does our personality in order for it to work. Just as a client may be able to list the different parts of a bicycle-such as the seat, wheel, handlebar, spokes-they may be able to list different parts of their personality and/or ego states.

Most of the ego states can be listed in terms of thoughts or feelings. Counselors can help clients describe some of their ego states by beginning the list: "the sad part of me", "the glad part of me", "the scared part of me", "the angry part of me."

The ego states can also be defined in terms of cognitions, thoughts, needs, or motivations. "The part of me that wants to achiever", "the part of me that wants to be lazy", "the part of me that wants to be in a relationship", "the part of me that likes solitude." These can help clients explore how these various ego states can create a more powerful and directed whole person.

One of the activities that counselors can suggest is that various parts of the ego communicate with each other. For example, the part of the ego that wants a relationship can communicate with the part of the ego that is afraid and that part of the ego that is courageous. Conversations between these parts can be written and spoken.

It is important for counselors to explain to clients that even if at times it may seem difficult to understand that all parts of the ego are meant to be helpful (some of these parts may need to be tamed or controlled, and this is usually done by communicating with other ego states to find out their true purpose-for example, rage may be tamed into constructive anger).

Finally, like the bicycle metaphor, ego states can be experienced in a variety of ways. Sometimes you can just let them sit. Sometimes you can go on a slow, leisurely ride with an ego state, stopping to admire the view and resting whenever you feel like it. Other times, you may choose to go fast with your ego states for a thrilling ride. Or, there may be a push uphill that is difficult or a situation where brakes need to be applied for a level of control that is needed.

By using ego states, clients become more wholesome with their parts, and life's ride can indeed become more pleasurable.