Parts Integration (or ‘Visual Squash’)

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You can usually tell when someone is incongruent about something. The incongruence will show up in their voice tone, their facial expression, their body language, or their behaviour. Some parts of one or more of those just won’t seem to go with some other parts. Also, they may use some of the characteristic expressions that indicate incongruence – things like:

“Part of me wants to and part of me doesn’t”

“I’m in two minds about it”

“On the one hand I want this, on the other hand I want something different”

There’s a process called Parts Integration, or sometimes the ‘Visual Squash’, that we can use to reconcile or heal inner conflicts, including things like values clashes, dilemmas, and sequential incongruence. This is a deep and powerful process which can get dramatic results for a client; this article describes it as a process that you can use to sort out inner conflicts within yourself, although you will have the opportunity to practice guiding someone else through the process if you attend a good live NLP training.

The idea of the process is that sometimes parts of ourselves can form within us – not necessarily entirely separate from the rest of us, but recognisable as a part in its own right, with its own way of seeing the world, its own aims, and its own kind of behaviour. Sometimes these parts form as a result of long practice – like a soldier might have a ‘tidy part’ that means he keeps his room clean and tidy no matter how tired he is, because that’s how he’s been trained. That’s not necessarily a problem.

Or sometimes the parts form as a result of significant emotional events – and then usually, there’s a mirror image part that forms at the same time, that is its opposite. So, for example, a child who is constantly told at school that she’s lazy may internalise that belief – part of her will believe that she’s lazy and act accordingly. At the same time, another part of her may be absolutely determined to work really hard and prove the teachers wrong. So there’s an inner conflict set up, and she grows up with these two parts.

When one part is at the controls, as it were, she acts lazy; when the other part is in control she works hard, maybe too hard. Each part is acting from a positive intention – there’s something they’re trying to achieve for that person, but they have opposite ways of going about achieving it.

Both parts have access to different resources, and as long as they’re separate, she won’t have access to a full range of choices in any given situation.

If one of the parts is responsible for behaviour that’s judged to be a problem, usually the person will demonise it and wish they could get rid of it. Think of how smokers often talk about their disgusting habit, and try all kinds of ways to stamp it out.

The thing is, the part is naturally going to resist being got rid of. It will dig its heels in. The more the person tries to get rid of it, the more attention it’s getting, and the more obstinate it becomes.

A better way of changing behaviour would be to find out the positive intentions of each of the opposing parts. Remember that you chunk up for agreement? If you chunk up high enough, you’ll find that both parts want the same thing – whatever is most important to that person as a whole. They just have very different ways of trying to get there when they chunk down to the level of behaviour.

And once they recognise that they are both came from the same place and they both want the same thing, they will be more prepared to work together rather than wasting energy in conflict. And if they are prepared to dissolve the boundaries and reintegrate, the person can access all their resources and make the best choice available at any time.

There are different ways of doing the process. I’m going to talk you through the most powerful way, but there are other ways of doing it that we’ll talk about afterwards.

If you have some inner conflict or dilemma that you want to resolve, try this now. This is also a good process for addressing unwanted habits, feelings for behaviours. If you don’t actually have any issue of that kind at the moment, just read through the process and remember it when you need it.

  1. Identify the conflict and the ‘parts’ involved. Remember that these parts are just a metaphor that we’re using temporarily to make sense of the issue. Having said that, metaphors are a great way to communicate with your unconscious mind.

    Quite often there will be one part that you identify as the source of the problem, and another part that your conscious mind pretty much agrees with. That’s fine if that’s the case.
  2. Hold your hands out in front of you, comfortably, palms upwards. Ideally your elbows will be resting against your body, so your hands could just kind of float there and you could keep them there all day quite easily.
  3. Both of the parts are parts of you, of course, so they can hear anything you say to them, and can communicate back to you. So ask the Part that represents the unwanted state or behaviour to choose which hand it wants to come out and stand on. Or just let whichever part wants to, come out first.

    You will have a sense of what that part is like. If you could see it, what would it look like? If it had a colour, what would that be? If it had a weight, how heavy would it be? If it had a texture, what would it feel like? If it had a voice, what would that sound like? Get some kind of image of the part sitting or standing on the palm of your hand, whether that’s what it looks like, what it sounds like, or what it feels like.
  4. Now get the opposing part to come out and stand on the other hand. Get an image of what that looks like, or sounds like, or feels like as well. Thank each part in turn for coming out onto your hand and being prepared to communicate with you. Sometimes just thanking a part is enough to start changing its attitude.
  5. Now choose one of the parts to start communicating with. This part knows that every behaviour has a positive intention, because it’s been listening to the NLP course with you. Ask the part this question – in an accepting and non-judgemental way: “What is the intention behind what you’re doing?” and leave some space to listen for the answer.

    The reply you get may be something you can recognise as positive straight away, or it may not. In either case, ask this question: “And what’s the highest purpose of that?” – or another way of asking would be “What does that get you that’s even more important than that?”

    Keep asking that question until you’ve chunked up to the very highest purpose. Thank the part, and now turn your attention to the other part, and repeat the process with that. Usually you will find that when you chunk up high enough, the highest purposes of both parts are the same. At the very least you will find some of the purposes on the way up used the same words, or have some similarity.
  6. Ask both parts “Do you realise you both came from the same place?“ – because they did. They’re both working on the same team. Ask them “Do you realise you both want the same thing?”
  7. Since they both want the same thing, wouldn’t it be great if these parts could work together, rather than wasting energy in conflict? So they could get what they both want, and have been trying to get in their different ways.

    When the parts realise that they both want the same thing, open a channel of communication between the two hands and allow the two parts to communicate with each other. Now your conscious mind may not be aware of everything that they say to each other, but you can encourage the communication process in a spirit of reconcilation and healing. And I wonder what’s about to happen between those two hands?
  8. It may be a little soon for this to have happened just yet, but you may already have noticed that the hands want to move together, without any conscious movement on your part, as if magnetically attracted, or as if they had a mind of their own… and they do… your unconscious mind. And you will find that the hands move together now only as quickly as the two parts are prepared to reach out to each other… to embrace… and to merge with each other, into one greater wholeness that is more capable of achieving the highest purpose that both parts wanted. Take as long as you need to allow that process to happen, and when your hands have moved all the way together, you’re ready for the next step.
  9. And when you’re ready, take that new, integrated wholeness back inside you by pressing your hands against your chest and your stomach, and take as long as you need to allow it to rejoin and integrate with the whole of you, all the way through your body. And take a little while to just rest and allow that to happen, until you’re ready to come back into your normal everyday awareness and deal with the world again. People often feel a bit spacy after this process so give yourself a minute or two to come back to full uptime.

Now, assuming that your hands moved and that process completed, how do you feel about the dilemma, or the issue, or the habit now? Usually, you should find you have more choices around it and you feel more resourceful, so you can make the best choice to fit the situation.

This is one of those processes that are much easier when you have someone guiding you through it, at the pace that you’re ready to go at. So if your hands moved and you got the resolution, you can really congratulate yourself and thank your unconscious mind.

Quite often, you may just find that the hands moved a little closer, or that they stayed where they are as the parts just started exchanging information. Integration is the optimum outcome, but the parts may not be ready to merge yet. This is fine, and you can still make progress – if they end up just a little closer to each other or a little more accepting of each other, you’re still better off.

Other questions you could use if the parts don’t go for integration straight away:

  • What does one part want to say to the other part?
  • What does it want the other part to know?
  • What would it like the other part to do?
  • What would it like the other part to stop doing?
  • Would it be OK to work together so they can get what they both want, instead of wasting energy on conflict?

And of course, if either part would find it useful to have more options, you could do a six step reframe process with it, checking that the new choices are OK with the other part.

If you’re not going for complete integration in one go, you could use alternative formats. For example, you could assign a chair for each part, and sit in one of them to communicate with the part you’ve associated with it, then move to the other one when you want to communicate with the other part.

You could even do the whole exercise on paper. Take some time to associate into each part in turn, and write your answers to each question. It’s always going to be quicker and easier to have someone who knows what they are doing guiding you through the process, but you can achieve a lot on your own, and that may well be enough.

This is an extract from my book Practical NLP 6: Parts, Frames, and Reframing. Order it here

© 2024, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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