(All stories in this article are composite sketches, compiled from real-life stories. None of these stories represents any one person dead or alive. But they are all true.)
Roni was a pastor’s wife. Unfortunately, this meant her life was lived in a fish bowl. Everyone saw her and everyone had an opinion on her behavior. People noticed how she dressed, how she responded to criticism, what skills she had and didn’t have, how her kids were dressed and behaved; it was an endless exam. But, she thought she handled criticism well and prided herself on not letting other people get to her.
One night, her pastor-husband came home from a board meeting. At the meeting, he had been attacked viciously by two board members regarding a story he had told in his sermon. They felt it was highly inappropriate and could lead to members of the church thinking he supported a particular sexual activity. He came home in tears and poured himself a large glass of wine.
Roni fought with herself about what to say. The problem was, she had told him during the week he was making a mistake with that story. The exact thing she predicted was what happened. She had a gut feeling people would misunderstand his point if he used that story from his childhood.
He also remembered she had told him this, for after sitting down, he looked right at her and said: “And you’re no better than all the rest. You’re just a big prude like the rest of the church.”
Panic struck Roni like a physical force of nature. She didn’t even know why she felt this panic. But it was so strong, she was still awake at 2 am, long after her husband starting snoring. She had thoughts of shame, guilt, insecurity, and doom. She was sure he was going to pull away from her. By 3 am she finally succombed to sleep, but was awake again at 4:30.
Over the next few days, she settled down emotionally, but then noticed an old habit was back. She was picking at the skin on her arms. She would catch herself doing it and then she would stop. But as soon as she stopped thinking about it, she would go back to picking at the skin. By the end of the week, she had several open sores that she had to put bandages on.
What had happened to Roni? If you haven’t already, go back to this first article I wrote in this series and review the basic terms I will be talking about in this article. Simply, Roni was seeing an Exile in her life manifesting herself. This Exile is a feeling and belief she had started to have as a young girl. She had tried to manage this old part of herself. She certainly tried to forget about this part. She did all of this without really knowing this Exiled Part existed.Over the next few days, she settled down emotionally, but then noticed an old habit was back. She was picking at the skin on her arms. She would catch herself doing it and then she would stop. But as soon as she stopped thinking about… Click To Tweet
Exiles are those thoughts, feelings, experiences, or reactions from our past that bother us so much we don’t ever want to re-live them. We create most of our internal family system to prevent the exile from showing up. In Roni’s case, the Exile showed up as soon as her husband accused her of being part of the group attacking him. At the end of the article, I will show exactly how this worked in her life.
First, let’s understand more about Exiles.Continue reading “Understanding Internal Family Systems – Part 2: Meet the Exiles”