“What’s the ‘H’ stand for, Kent H. Frazier?”
I used to never use the “H” in my name. Why? As a kid, I was embarrassed by my middle name. I didn’t think it was cool. Shit, I didn’t even feel it was normal. Which in some weird way, just having this thought about my name, made me feel “not normal.” And as a kid, at least when and where I was growing up, being normal was what I was striving for. That is to say, I wanted to be sure to fit in and belong.
Our primal orientation is one that prioritizes belonging.
Susan Anderson is a psychotherapist who has devoted the past 30 years of clinical experience and research to helping people resolve their underlying abandonment wounds and overcome their “outer child” patterns of self-sabotage.
She notes, “Our current abandonment fears are cumulative, reaching all the way back into our long lost childhoods. The abandonment wound is universal and consists of all of the little losses, disappointments, uncertainties, disconnections, and fears we experienced from birth onward (mostly forgotten or distorted by memory).”
This sensation is stored in the amygdala — a structure set deep into the brain’s emotional memory system responsible for conditioning the fight-freeze-flight response to fear, according to Joseph E. LeDoux in, “Emotion, Memory and the Brain.”
So, for a long time, I would tell people I didn’t have a middle name. While I thought I was protecting myself from being an outcast, what I’ve come to realize now, is that I was actually fragmenting a part of my self, a part of me that was not “good,” “cool,” or “normal”. And this practice actually created a fracture in my sense of self; my inherent “goodness” was now blemished, not by others, but by my own condemnation.
Many people choose to fragment parts of themselves in order to belong.
Perfectionists… are you with me?
We disown the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, aren’t proud of, or fear will leave us vulnerable to attacks from others. We cover them up. Bury them. Make them out to be “bad” parts of us that don’t belong.
Over a lifetime of experiences, the stories that we create about our selves and the “not ________ enough” parts of us accumulate and can lead to us covering up, disowning, and in some cases, even hating parts of ourselves.
Impact on Mental Health
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, as reported by the World Health Organization, estimating that it affects more than 300 million people worldwide — the majority of them women, young people and the elderly.
Depression has impacted my family and me, personally. My depression has been born largely out of my own homegrown stories of “not enough-ness.” Being willing to examine and inquire into these parts of us can feel brutally scary, but it’s not as scary as staring down the barrel at a lifetime of debilitating depression due to the stories I had been telling about my “unwanted” parts.
You can hear some of my story on a podcast interview I participated in with James Pratt, host and creator of Silent Superheroes. James started this stigma-shattering podcast to honor people who show up every day secretly managing a mental illness. Thank you, James, for your good work!
My intention for sharing this with you is to encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to know that it’s okay, you’re not alone, and there are many resources to support you in moving towards a healthy way of living.
The National Institute on Mental Health (NAMI) is a great place to start.
In the Workplace
Many corporations operate in ways where historically, showing any vulnerability, any “not enough” parts, would render us a target for termination, or at least that is an illusion shared by many. Cultures where brutal competitiveness, “up or out” mindsets, and talent management practices that focus exclusively on identifying and fixing “weaknesses” contribute to this dynamic, diminishing the integrity of what it means to be a whole person.
As a result, many people leave parts of themselves at home, further fracturing our identities into a “work me” and a “home me,” which can become quite exhausting to switch between, not to mention, creating a pattern where we routinely discount or even want to destroy parts of ourselves in order to belong.
So what’s the antidote?
Learning how to remember, re-claim, and re-own these disenfranchised parts of us into an integrated and healthier whole sense of Self. Too often, we believe the answers to our unhappiness and unworthiness lie somewhere “out there,” when in actuality, everything we need is already within us… including and especially these fragmented parts. The act of acknowledging and accepting these parts is a powerful step in creating our own internal happiness.
There is light and dark in each of us. Denying our dark, objectionable and unwanted parts creates more unnecessary suffering for ourselves, for those we care most about in our closest relationships, and in the world at large.
In a recent reflection, the co-creator of a therapeutic and developmental technique called Voice Dialogue, Dr. Hal Stone writes, “You can only shovel so much garbage under the carpet or into the basement — or even hide it in good deeds. Ultimately it begins to smell. We must embrace the darkness that holds so much of what we feel is unwanted and objectionable inside of us while, at the same time, we learn to discover and feel the natural love and compassion that is there.”
Failure to do so with and for ourselves prevents us from fully extending these acts towards others. Worse yet, we’re prone to projecting the parts of ourselves that we don’t like onto others, making them out to be villains, wreaking havoc upon others and ourselves. We heal this dynamic as we learn to reintegrate our unwanted and objectionable parts.
I highly recommend checking out Sidra and Hal Stone’s Voice Dialogue as a way to begin working on healing and integrating our disowned parts.
Our society is in desperate need of more love and compassion.
So where do we start?
We own our helm.
We take responsibility for steering our own ship, our own lives, in ways that calm the angry seas inside us by learning to love and accept ourselves fully− warts and all. We recognize that the human condition is perfectly imperfect just as it is and that we are all subject to this dynamic.
The fastest way to change the world is to change the way we see and feel about ourselves (and others) in the world.
We learn to make peace in our interior experience of self by accepting and even honoring our disowned parts. We become more able to see and accept the humanity in All of Us, which leads to a greater sense of belonging and a stronger sense of community.
So what parts of yourself do you need to remember, re-claim and re-own to arrive at a greater sense of enough-ness, whole-ness, and happiness?
Yours in Loving Practice,
K. Helm Frazier