What is Ego State Therapy

Ego State Therapy is a powerful therapy that deals directly with the individual parts or states which experience the emotion. This is a very different and unique therapy as we access that actual part that carries the trauma, the conflict or the behaviour that does not fit the situation, rather than speaking to another, maybe intellectual part, which is attempting to explain to the therapist how another part is feeling. As ego state therapists we see each individual as consisting of many different parts. We all speak in terms of parts, for example part of us wants to go on holiday, part of us wants to stay at home, so we address the part directly that is experiencing the emotion. We need to bring that part into the therapy room, so as we can address the specific needs of that part directly. We do not want another part to be explaining how another part is feeling, as this can be like one person attempting to explain how the person across the road is feeling, naturally to find out how that person really is feeling, one needs to go and speak directly to the person who is experiencing that feeling. Sound strange and unusual, yes admittedly it does, until you stop and think about how we all talk about ourselves and what we do and do not like in terms of “parts of us”.

Most of our parts, or ego states are formed in our developmental years, as we learn, grow and develop. Some can be formed in later years, if there has been a major event or trauma in one’s life, however most are formed before the age of twelve. Some parts are strong, whilst others are childlike or fragile and there is a place and a role for all parts of us. For example if we are heading to Disneyland, we want a fun and maybe childlike part to be present and to enjoy the fun. If we are in a training session, then we want and need a learning, focused part to be present and then if we are loving our partner, we then need a meek, loving and vulnerable part who enjoys cuddling to be present. Sometimes we have a vulnerable part attempting to execute the role of a strong part, which is not suitable and this is an example of when speaking to and negotiating with the ego states to have a stronger part engage in that role can really assist with internal resolution.

There are four types of states, Normal, Vaded, Retro and Conflicted. In an ideal situation a person functions best having all normal functioning states, these are states that are balanced and operating in a positive manner for the emotional health and well-being of each individual person. A state is considered to be functioning in a normal way, if the emotion fits the situation. For example if you are having a conversation with someone about a warm and sunny day, and you feel a wave of sadness flow through the body and begin to cry, then the emotion does not fit the situation and it is obvious that some part is likely to require some healing and attention. However if you are grieving the loss of a loved one and whilst thinking of them, even on a warm sunny day or during a conversation and again you feel the wave of sadness and begin to cry, well this is normal, the emotion does fit the situation, as you are grieving. We need to acknowledge that as humans we have a wide range of emotions and some of those emotions are uncomfortable, and even though they are uncomfortable they are natural and when they arise and the situation fits this is normal. As human beings we experience happy, glad, sad and mad and we must allow room and time for each of these emotions when the situation fits.

Vaded States

The first of the states, that can benefit most from the assistance of seeking therapy are Vaded States. A Vaded State is unable to perform its role and is holding onto a stress or an anxiety, which creates a level or fear, rejection and/or abandonment. Vaded States are often the cause of many addictions, fears and panic disorders, they are insecure states and often reactive states within the personality that experience feelings of being out of control. These states need to be healed in such a way that they feel safe, heard, validated, supported and most importantly loved.

Retro States

The next type of state is a Retro State and these are states that have adopted a behaviour or coping skill, often as a child, that no longer works or is inappropriate behaviour as an adult. An example of a Retro State could be a young boy, throwing himself on the floor of the supermarket when shopping and throwing a tantrum, because his mother would not allow him to have a lolly or a bag of chips or something similar. If the mother gave in to this tantrum, that state learns that behaviour works for him, so he may carry that behaviour through to adulthood and he may find himself in all types of trouble and often anger and rage, when that state is not getting what it wants. A prime example of this type of behaviour is road rage. In Ego State Therapy we negotiate with that state and have the state alter its role for the benefit of that person, and have another part take over the role of coming out when someone cuts them off whilst driving.

Conflicted States

Other types of states are Conflicted States and whilst it is a normal balance to have one ego state wishing to spend money and another wishing to save, they are considered conflicted when the level of conflict between the two states increases to a level that a state develops a level of anxiousness or anxiety. One clear way to identify a conflicted state is when a person makes a statement something like “I hate myself when I do that”, or “I don’t know what came me” that is one state, expressing it is not happy with the behaviours of another state.

Ego State Mapping

Everything we do or say comes from a state, whatever state it is.It is a great resource to learn your own internal states and know the roles and emotions associated with each state, that way you know where they are and what to call them, when you need them to come into the executive. Mapping your internal states, is an extremely empowering process and one you may wish to explore with a therapist so as you are able to call upon the best internal part of you to assist you with the presenting task.
Naturally, we expand a lot more when we are working with our clients in a therapeutic setting. However you can start today, by identifying your own states, name them when they come out, maybe names like Happy, Glad, Sad or Mad, notice when they come out and identify their role and what they are doing for you at the time plus notice how you feel on an emotional level. Beginning to get to know your internal map will assist you in identifying your own states that may require heeling if they are impacting upon your life in a negative way.

If you would like assistance with Ego State Therapy, please call our centre to book your appointment.All of our therapists have a clinical qualification and are able to assist you with this excellent therapy. If you are not in our area, please feel free to contact us and we will direct you to a qualified therapist in your area.

aca Cas_Willow_AAOS_Member Cas Willow Supervisor AHAMember.