Getting to Know the Exile

We all have different parts of ourselves: wounded child, inner critic, brave warrior. We can be in therapy or not and still recognize those parts.

And then there are the parts we don’t recognize or have cut out from most parts of our lives: the exiles.

I have a part like that, the part that shows up when I’m sexually aroused. I’ve known about her for a long time, I guess, but I never thought about her or cared about her. If anything, I was ashamed of her: ashamed that she existed, ashamed of the way she thought and behaved.

Flashback to a therapy session some weeks ago, when E and I are approaching the topic of this exiled part. E thinks it could be helpful for us to get to know her better. I’m not so sure.

“What is she like?” E asked me.

“She’s passive, receptive I guess. She allows things to happen. She doesn’t have any boundaries.”

E wants to know what that means, “She doesn’t have boundaries in how she interacts with others, not respecting their boundaries? Or she doesn’t define her own?”

“The latter,” I say. I try to think of words to describe her. It’s hard because I don’t know her well. It’s also hard because of the shame I carry. “It’s like she is empty, and she can be filled up with the intention of others.”

I can see why that kind of description doesn’t help E very much, but it makes sense to me. This part receives the sexual desires of others and becomes what they want her to be. Except I don’t manage to come out and say it like that. Instead I flail about, unable to find the right words.

“She has trouble maybe knowing her own mind and saying what she wants?” E asks. She stays calm and non-judgmental, but I grow increasingly uncomfortable. Talking about this part doesn’t feel freeing at all. I want to change the subject.

I nod, yes, right, she doesn’t know her own mind. Or doesn’t have one. I look at my piece of paper, where I am trying to take notes. I scribble a little. I don’t know where to take this conversation.

E waits for me to say something. Then she asks, “Are you feeling shame? That’s what I am sensing.”

“Yes,” I say. “That is exactly what I’m feeling. It makes me want to pull back.”

“Right, I can feel that,” E says. “So let’s take a step back. We don’t have to push on this part. What if instead we welcome her? And let’s try to make it feel safe…”

She reminds me to put a hand on my heart, to breathe. Then I rub my neck, touching my own skin, which can help release oxytocin. From this calmer, more settled place, E says, “We can tell this part that she is welcome to join us. We are happy to have her here. We invite her to share with us, if she wants to.”

I can feel right away that this is a better approach. Yet I remain tongue-tied. There seems to be a wall between me and this exile.



  1. I am glad that I read this post right before my therapy session today. When I started to feel unhinged, I rubbed the back of my neck and started feeling calmer and not do far away from my therapist.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate so much to the feeling of being tongue-tied. I have experienced this a lot lately with my therapist. Shame keeps me from speaking. Fear keeps me from speaking. Anxiety keeps me from speaking. Not knowing how to articulate what’s happening inside keeps me from speaking. I can also relate to the topic and how you described this exile/part of you. This is a part of me too. In your fumbling to describe her you gave me a description I didn’t know I needed until I read it. I always felt it and knew I wasn’t whole in this area of me, and now I understand more. When you said “It’s like she is empty, and she can be filled up with the intention of others.” and “This part receives the sexual desires of others and becomes what they want her to be.” and “she doesn’t know her own mind. Or doesn’t have one.”, I knew exactly what you meant. I just wanted to tell you that. It makes sense to me and I wanted to thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this.


    • Thank you for saying you recognize this. It can be very helpful to know that others can relate (it kind of normalizes the experience). Are there things your therapist does to make it easier for you to talk? E pushes a little but then when she sees it’s not helping, she often backs off and tries a different angle, something that seems safer and slower.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome, it’s helpful for me too. Sometimes my therapist just patiently sits in my quiet with me and lets me try to get things out on my own. If I can’t get it out, he may ask me questions to get the words flowing, or he may choose a different subject all together, or go extreme diverting by commenting on something like my shoes. It pulls me out of my stuck place when he distracts me away and he’ll rebuild the safety and then try to steer me back or abandon altogether until another time. I appreciate the most when he sits with me and lets me process, he intuitively knows when I might be stuck there, though, in fear, shame, or anxiety. I appreciate being pushed sometimes too, but it’s not always helpful for me either. It can shut me down further. E sounds so caring and wise and intuitive as well with her approach with you. I’m glad I found your blog and we are able to share with each other. This is hard and the opportunity to share with someone who understands or can relate is really helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. e reminds me so much of my own therapist eileen. she has a lot of the same approaches. welcoming parts, hand on heart, etc. I’m glad your welcoming her and I hope she starts to feel safe soon. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, from the way you describe Eileen, I think she and E do have a lot in common. They are both compassionate and skillful, the perfect combination.


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