The theme for Day 15 of the Build a Better You Advent Calendar is: recognizing when someone is “in” a part of themselves.

When you can recognize that, you realize it’s not necessarily about you, it’s more about them! This realization and the action you take immediately reduces conflict.


There’s no better place than the airport than to see what it looks like when a person is “in” a part, or blended with a part. In an airport you can see large groups of people with all their parts up. It’s a party of parts!

I’m talking about parts in the Internal Family Systems (IFS) way. The IFS model describes everyone as having a core Self – the “you-est” you – and then the parts. You can think of your internal world as an orchestra. The Self is the conductor, and your parts play the instruments. When Self is in the lead conducting, the music is just beautiful.

When Self is not in charge, the band falls out of tune. Imagine the tuba player deciding to be the conductor and lead the orchestra. Being great at tuba doesn’t mean you can lead the rest of the orchestra. The other instruments don’t feel heard or recognized. Disharmony.

Stress or being tired lowers our tolerance threshold and make it easier for us to be in parts of ourself. Which brings us back to the airport. Watch stressed out people deplane. They’re not looking where they’re going so they collide with one another, and then can quickly get irritated. If the airport gate has 100 people there, you have 100 people plus all of their parts. It’s crowded, to say the least.

Learn to recognize when someone is in a part

You may have started to understand when you yourself are in a part, and you may be able to understand the party of parts taking place in an airport, traffic jam, or emergency room.

When you’re one-on-one with someone, or in a small group of friends or family, people can get quickly triggered emotionally. It can be more difficult to take that step back and recognize when someone close to us is in a part because we are also feeling emotional. 

A great clue that someone is in an exaggerated emotional part is that most likely you will feel some strong emotions coming up. Anytime you have a huge reaction to someone else it is most likely their strong exaggerated part they’re leading with that you are feeling strong about. They are in a part. Their behavior is a lemon and you’ve bitten in. And how sour it is!

You can feel your reaction want to bubble over. Your triggered up part might want to yell, throw something, cry, hurl insults, or drive away and never look back.

Their orchestra is out of tune and the noise is grating on you. If you yell or otherwise respond badly, your parts will get up and you will also fall out of tune.

There is no need for you to sacrifice your own harmony and well being for this.

How do you respond when someone is in a part?

The more you can recognize that your big reaction means someone is in a part and not in charge of their own orchestra, the less awful you’ll feel. It may look personal but this is not about you.

The first step is to recognize that your partner, friend or co-worker’s has been hijacked by a strong emotion and his/her internal self has been taken over by a strong part: It is like the tuba player is now leading their internal orchestra. Be aware they’re in just a part and not all of themselves is available.

The next step is to extend your Self energy. Breathe calm back into your body. You’ve been practicing extending Self compassion towards all your parts. Sense the calm in your body and stand firm in your deep breathing.

The last step for you is to make a choice not to be in reaction to this person’s part. Your reaction is a part of you telling you to go out and do something now! Remember, you don’t have to do what your reaction is telling you to do. Separate yourself from the reaction and choose your action calmly.

Take a moment now to think about your own parts. When they feel your attention and feel heard, they seem to fade back as you calm down. You can feel yourself calm down and unblend from your reactive part.

You know how to relate to your own parts, so you can relate to your friend or partner’s parts the same way you relate to your own. Be Calm, Compassionate, and Courageous. As you do this you can watch your friend or partner’s part fade back too.

book-IH-coverSelf leadership is essential to building a better you

Your Self is a natural conductor and is always there. It is so helpful to have this broader lens so that you can also see you have many different parts that want to lead sometimes. There are ways to help them step back when they are over eager. I wrote this book, Inner Harmony, as a short primer on how to grow your Self energy so you can feel more balanced and harmonious in your life. My book is for sale on Amazon.