My Toolbox – Part 1 – Inner family system

As promised in my previous blog, here is the next in series on the tools I use for self-observation and of course the ‘how’ of it.  So to begin with, I need to answer two simple questions; what does ‘self’ mean to me and how do I differentiate between different parts of my own being as on the outside it all looks one. Do I limit my sense of identity to the description of the self I am aware of in my everyday life – my first name, family name, hometown, gender, education qualification, job profile, etc. which gives a good amount of idea who I am on the outside and to a great extent defines my roles and relation with the world or do I go a step deeper to find out what lies beyond. To have an in-depth understanding of anything it is very important to engage with the idea/concept systematically and sincerely. Before I begin to explain my ‘way’ of being, I would like to share a few lines from a passage by Sri Aurobindo that perfectly and beautifully describes what I attempt to illustrate in this blog.

In the outer surface nature mind, psychic, vital, physical are all jumbled together and it needs a strong power of introspection, self-analysis, close observation and disentanglement of the threads of thought, feeling and impulse to find out the composition of our nature and the relation and interaction of these parts upon each other. But when one goes inside…we find the sources of all this surface action and there the parts of our being are quite separate and clearly distinct from each other. We feel them indeed as different beings in us, and just as two people in a group can do, they too are seen to observe, criticize, help or oppose and restrain each other; it is as if we were a group-being, each member of the group with its separate place and function, and all directed by a central being who is sometimes in front above the others, sometimes behind the scenes. “

                                           -Sri Aurobindo, Letters on yoga, Vol. III; pg 197

When we are identified with our ego and work at the surface level, every action or emotion we experience, we become that, because there is no awareness of a deeper sense of “I” which lies beneath the surface action. We think we are that emotion or we are that action. Complete identification with it clouds our power of discernment and we become narrow in our perception of the situation which becomes the source of all our sorrows. It’s only when we step back and make the inner being our centre, can we see the movements of these parts for what they really are and act accordingly. I always see the functioning of the outer world as a means to go within, as the tools present in my surrounding that help me unravel the mysteries of my inner world and help me dive deeper into the functioning of the world within and, in that way, start understanding the processes that lie underneath the everyday working of the surface consciousness. One such tool that became a fundamental building block in my journey of integral yoga is what I call the ‘family system’. Like, how in a family we have different people playing different roles and interacting with each other, similarly there are different parts within us playing out different roles. While on the surface it looks united as “I”, deeper within the source is often made up of different parts not completely in harmony with each other and this is the reason why most of the times we feel divided within ourselves and struggle with our everyday life.

In my case, I label these emotions or actions as children who are members  of the same family but are different in their individual nature  and have a identity of their own but for the outside world represent one unit and any action from any one  of these children gets represented as the action or expression of the whole family and is taken as my identity.  In my everyday struggle, the part in me that has developed discerning power and feels closer and rooted to the central being holds the entire family and gives full support and space to grow and transform. This is more like a parent in the family who never rejects the weak or rebellious child but provides ways to help to become better. The desires and curiosities are my children who are neither to be suppressed / deprived of the experience nor are they supposed to be left all by themselves free to do anything; the danger lies at both ends and the ideal for me is a balance that comes from the parent part that understands a little better than the rest. The more I develop an understanding of my movements the more I realize how each part has a character of its own and the basic fundamental need is to unite all these parts in my aspiration for the supreme and, for that, being rooted and connected with the deeper part of my being is essential. Because then my suggestions / guidance are not governed by fear but by an understanding of the source of the desire of the child and I give it that comfort to see what’s in store. I connect with the wider picture of the situation and decide what works and what does not. It’s like the strong and the weak both form a part of my family and the idea is to always look within and establish that unity with my different parts that can help and strengthen each other in need and also do not shy away from asking help from outside in case the need arises because we understand that asking help is not a sign of weakness rather it’s being aware of the limitations of our own capacity and ability while continuing to build and strengthen them.

It’s a choice that I make at every step of my life in this journey of becoming self-aware and understanding the subtle processes that effect my behavior on the outside and get a better understanding of myself.  We can choose to be ignorant about the various possibilities and procedures within and continue to live a life of ignorance on the surface of our everyday life or, take a closer look at our being and step by step make an attempt to understand and then distinguish the various parts of our being and slowly  help them transform and become better at executing our life plan. I have begun the journey and hope to continue the same.


4 thoughts on “My Toolbox – Part 1 – Inner family system

  1. you hits a bulls eye when you explained the problem with the example of a family but rather i would suggest explain the procedure to improve the ruin child because we all have weapons to improve our emotions

    • Hi Prachi !
      Acknowledging is the first step and that is what I have written about here. . Once we begin on the journey with sincerity , the ”how”or the procedure unfolds in the process and varies as per individuals. But yes ,the basic as I mentioned in replying to Sameer “-Heard and directed rather than suppressed and commanded” is the basic technique for any part of the being to be open to the inner light and ready for transformation .

  2. How about applying this knowledge of the various parts of the being to explaining the common habits and problems seen around us.

    1. Why do people prefer to eat junk food when the body is tired ?
    2. Why does eating junk food stimulate the thought process in some intellectuals ?
    3. I have known people who cannot fall asleep without watching TV at night or overfilling their stomach. Why is that ?

    I have more, but we can start with these 🙂

    • Hi Sameer ! Interesting points ,as of now I would like to categorize them under ”Vital” child who needs to be more and more open to the inner light to guide. Heard and directed rather than suppressed and commanded .
      Let me know your view point as well.


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