Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Parts Work

A split-person pot from the "boneyard" (discarded pottery) room at the Arrowmont School of the Arts
Though of course, memoir is not therapy, there are natural overlaps between the two. Just like there are natural overlaps between mindfulness/meditation and memoir.

Because I am a contemplative psychology nerd, on occasion I like to bring out that side. And one of the most helpful tools I have found for memoir writing - for writing in general, and in fact, for life - is parts work.

Parts work stems out of Gestalt Therapy (we consist of many parts that fit together) and Internal Family Systems Therapy (we have internalized our family situation and have aspects of us that speak to each other in those same dynamics). Teaching writing, I encourage students to explore these, because they represent our natural range of voice (not to say our only range, but our natural starting) and developing compassion for all these inner parts (whom I sometimes call our "inner others") really helps us meet the outer others - strangers, friends, lovers.

Not to mention, of course, that due to projection we often actually see outer others as playing a role for us that is actually coming partly from us.

Parts work, when combined with creative process is less about answering questions or figuring out who to blame. It is less about the past and more about the present - all the parts of the present moment. Less about deprivation and more about complexity.

I've made suggestions before for Rita Carter's book Multiplicity. It remains a great tool. I also recently got turned onto a book and set of cards made in Michigan which are wonderful tools. Kazoo book makes and distributes this book and these cards. Combined, they allow for playful and profound exploration of inner and outer relationship dynamics.

When approached with curiosity and mindfulness, this parts work assists in your present writing, as well as deeper and more complex understanding of past inner and outer dynamics. A win-win for memoir, with a side, incidental helping of therapeutic healing.

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