Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Ego State Therapy, also known as Parts Therapy is based on the premise that we are all made up of different ego states, or parts. There might be the serious part who likes to get on with the job, or the fun loving part that doesn't really feel like taking anything seriously to the part who feels sensitive to being left out and so on - you get the picture!
I think most of us can relate to this way of looking at ourselves and all the "me's" it includes which is perfectly illustrated in the way we speak. I know I have used the phrase "part of me wants this and part of me wants that" many times over, for example in the case of weight reduction - part of me wants to stop eating the chocolate so I can reduce my weight, and part of me wants to eat all the chocolate because it tastes nice and makes me feel good!
So how do these parts come about?
A new ego state is usually created when we are confronted with a traumatic event to which we have no ego state or part that can respond. Most of our ego states start in childhood when we are still learning how to respond and react to our environment, and over time as our number of different states increases we develop fewer and fewer new ones.
For example, if a child is living in a hostile environment with a lot of family abuse they may find that withdrawing and being quiet was helpful to become more or less invisible and thereby escape the abuse. This then becomes a coping skill that is used again and again throughout their lives, whenever confronted with an intimidating situation, they withdraw and become "invisible", (the unconscious mind doing what it does best, protecting us from perceived dangers). The adult may be aware of some of his or her surface states, but most often the deeper states are acted out from the unconscious mind, with the person left wondering what happened to the good mood they were in just a moment ago.
The trauma need not always be what an adult would think as traumatic, for example a child who does not get much attention (which to a young child could very well be traumatic) may find that telling a joke or doing something funny or silly gets him more attention. From this an ego state of "class clown" or "comic" may develop.
The average person has between 5 and 15 ego states that are used in the course of a normal week. These are usually states we are familiar with even if we've never heard of ego states, we are aware that we have these differing aspects of our personality. There are some states that we rarely use and we are unaware of.
Ego states are not the same as multiple personalities or dissociative identity disorder. This disorder develops in a small minority of cases where a young child experiences extreme abuse over an extended period of time.
What happens in an Ego State Therapy session?
A brief explanation of ego states or parts therapy is introduced and the client and hypnotherapist discuss the nature of the problem to be addressed, before inducing hypnosis. The parts or ego states responsible for the behaviour or problem to be addressed, are brought to the "executive" (to the forefront of the mind) individually so they can be communicated with and an agreeable solution can be found and implemented.
What's the benefit of this type of work?
"Working directly with the state that needs assistance provides the shortest distance between the goal and the solution." - Gordon Emmerson.
By calling to the executive the state that needs the healing, release, comfort or empowerment, can be highly effective in creating lasting change and integration of the parts so the whole is working in harmony achieving the outcome the client desires.