Emotional Fragment Recovery
Do you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by emotions when confronted with certain objects or memories? Or do you find yourself relying on codependent relationships, substances, or food to fill a void inside? If so, you may be struggling to reconnect with emotional fragments that have been trapped in the past.
These emotional fragments, which may be evoked or attached to items such as photos, objects, or clothing, can be difficult to confront due to the trauma they may bring. We may be unwilling, unable, or not ready to face the feelings that come with recovering these fragments and so we are left with memorabilia that we just can't let go of.
When we do come across these items, our emotional fragments may be hoping for connection, yet often the emotions and feelings associated with them are too difficult or too painful for us to face. This can lead to a sense of shame, and can create an even bigger emotional mess.
But what if we choose to accept these emotions? This article explores the concept and process of emotional fragment recovery.
One idea of what happens when we experience trauma is that the trauma impacts our psyche, and we detach (dissociate) key components of our psyche that have been damaged by the impact. To oversimplify as an example: trauma may cause us to lose our innocence, our hope, or our willingness to trust.
But when this happens these components of our psyche don't just vanish. They actually go away, as in they either run away, or they get stuck in space & time as we move on without them. They're still connected to us, even though we're pushing them away because they are now associated with something painful.
Sometimes these fragments of our psyche are associated to or attached to an object. Say a wedding ring after a traumatizing divorce. All the hopes, dreams, love, etc. of a new marriage may be associated with the ring even though they got separated and lost a long time ago. The divorcee doesn't have those feels anymore, but those emotional fragments still belong to them.
Now this person moves on and tries to find new relationships, but something keeps holding them back. The ring is buried in a drawer somewhere. And when they see it, they shove it back further in the drawer. But there are emotional fragments attached to the ring. They're just emotions. But they're also part of this person's psyche. Those emotions being pushed away hurts both the divorcee and the emotional fragments. The attachment bungee cord is getting stressed in a painful way. This person can neither look at the ring without pain, nor pawn it, give it away, sell it. Because those emotional fragments are asking to come back home. The person doesn't understand why they can't bring themself to get rid of this thing they don't need anymore.
We'll often push away these emotions thinking it's the emotions themselves that are painful, when usually it's the lack of processing the emotions, owning them, accepting them, and cherishing them for what they are that's the painful issue at hand. In other words, it's being separated from our emotional fragments that can be even more painful than the emotions themselves.
Then we can end up with many things — objects, photographs, sometimes just memories — that we're pushing away in order to disown and put off processing a loss, or owning the way we used to feel before something traumatic happened. This usually isn't serving us after a while. At first, when the trauma is new, it may make sense. But we've got emotional fragments that have been waiting decades to come back home.
There is a process for discovering these fragments and reuniting with them that we've been working on with others.
It's possible to look around one's home and figure out some of the little treasure troves of lost emotional fragments we've been "saving" because we're afraid of throwing a part of ourselves out. For us, it's a trove of old photos we never look at, and a big box of memorabilia like tickets to theater shows and travel tickets that we never open to look at.
Having lost fragments that we haven't reunited with can also lead to hoarding, as well. It may not be one of an object that has become associated with a lost fragment — it can be collecting the objects associated with it. We collect writing tools. A lot of pens, markers, paper, notebooks, journals, etc. We will want to figure out why we're quite so emotionally attached to collecting writing tools.
See also the parallel neoshamanic idea of soulloss — parts of our life essence having fled from traumatic impacts that are trapped or hiding either in another time and/or another place that are not ready or able to return and rejoin our spirit cf Neoshamanic Perspective New.
There's also associations with shame. Shame is the feeling that monitors threats to belongingness. When we exile our own emotional fragments, they experience shame, and that's where the pain comes from. They want to belong to us, to ourself as individuals, or to our system as a whole.
So we come across an item, and that emotional fragment is there hoping to reconnect with us. When we're not ready to attach to them yet we end up pushing it away. The part or fragment reacts with pain which we feel too (because no one wants to be pushed away. Everyone wants to belong.). Thus may become shame-triggered by looking at our own collected objects that have emotional fragments attached. This pain reinforces rejecting the fragments again.
Preparation Idea: Making Space
In working your way up to the following exercise, consider the idea of decording or doing a cleansing process to remove unwanted energies or connections from your life, and make it easier for emotional fragments to come back home.
In addition, this exercise is best done when you have been working on staying present with emotions and ideas that come up, so that you can stay in the Here & Now in spite of what comes up when accepting back your emotional fragments.
Entities - for this exercise, the emotional fragments or "feel entities" in question may also be parts, people, stowaways, subsystems, emotional parts (EPs), memories, or "just" emotions. The best way to treat them is as living feeling entities (perhaps "stowaways" or refugees) that are attempting to reunite with us. We've found that when we treat these entities as refugees returning after exile with compassion and warmth and welcoming that magic can happen. Please try to reframe these painful feels that come up like someone who was lost for a long time, scared and frightened of being abandoned or left behind — and is finally able to come home. They're asking to be accepted and embraced. Please enter the exercise prepared to be compassionate with yourselves and with your feelings.
Probably best done from a safe emotional space, but if you can do this it may provide a safe emotional space if you don't already have one.
- When going through things (photos, memorabilia, paperwork…) and feels start to come up — pay attention to the painful feels. Anxiety, anguish, regrets, guilt, fear, recoil, nausea, insecurity, etc. Stay in the present and lightly detached from the painful feelings through the exercise.
- Normally we shy away from these feels. When we have painful feels, we often push them away, we may hide, run, repress, reject, hate (the feeling), etc. Reframe this reaction and switch to looking at the situation from a plural paradigm. These rejected and repressed emotions are entities coming back to us, asking to be reunited with members of our system. The pain is because these feels are afraid of being hurt, rejected, pushed away, locked up, or excluded again. This is why the feelings hurt. They have been lost, stuck, abandoned, exiled…before.
- React — once you see this feel entity as both other and as a nameless member of your system in its own rights, welcome it home and allow it entry. For now, suspend all judgement, all labels. Like a refugee, this entitiy is knocking on the door — travel worn, exhausted from a long journey, starved for affection & belongingness. The only things it needs for now are welcome and warmth, to be fed with compassion, to rest and recuperate, to find a place where it belongs, the acceptance to find itself truly home again. So allow the feel entity in, with open heart and open arms.
- Refuge & Recovery. Newly recovered feels need time to adjust. Be extra compassionate with yourselves and the new entities in your& system. If you& are always selves-compassionate, this will be easier. It would be a really good practice too, as you& then will be gentler & kinder to all your& system entities.
- Continue to practice this mindset with going through "things" at first, and practice being constantly compassionate with yourselves.
Expanding to Intermediate Practice
Branch out this practice of welcoming "feel entities" back home to other pained & exhausted feeling refugees who knock on your emotional door: they may come with memories, or events. Keep practicing accepting back your& own lost/stuck or painful feels.
Note - An Important Follow-Up Skill
Do an occasional housekeeping session practicing "decording". In case any feels have returned with unhealthy attachments to people in tow — you want your own feels, spoons and essence back home in your system, but you do not want external energetic siphoning or for external manipulative or abusive people to gain purchase on y'all. Cleaning up your attachments (literally & figuratively) by decording is an essential emotional/energetic hygiene practice. Crisses on Cording
If you want a better "order of operations" then decord before a session of welcoming back emotions and bringing them back home. Alternating between getting rid of unwanted connections and welcoming back the connections to lost parts of yourselves is a terrific way to increase your emotional range, boost confidence, restore presence in the Here & Now, and become more emotionally secure.
Background About This Exercise
What are emotional parts? They're energy or essence that we have pushed away (dissociated) in the aftermath of trauma, or (different perspective) were knocked out of us by a traumatic impact. This results in being unable to normally experience something, and a painful gap where it used to be.
We often fill these gaps one way or another, and often in toxic ways. We might fill it with other people (or try to) — the sense that someone else might "complete me" and "make me whole" is definitely a sign that something was missing in the first place. Filling holes in yourself with someone else is not a healthy relationship paradigm. Some turn to drugs, food, gaming, work, etc. basically anything to fill emptiness inside of them. If enough of this emotional essence is lost, people become despondent, burned out, deeply depressed, fatigued or lethargic, completely unmotivated, and it can also result in chronic illness flares, and so on. Basically with losing so much emotional essence, some also lose their will to live.
Having filled the holes where they belong with other things, we can avoid or ignore the tug by those lost parts to return home. We associate those emotional parts with pain. When we get closer to painful memories, these parts overlap with our energetic body, looking for the hole they came from that we have filled with something else, and they are rejected, which adds to their pain. Generally they communicate with us through that pain which increases when we don't listen. We feel that pain and push them further away. We walk away from or bury the object associated with the parts, we push the memory back, we reject the traumaholder who is experiencing the pain of a rejected part of themself, and doing so we have also hurt that part again — potentially hurt the traumaholder too — and delayed our own healing again.
We can be bombarded by painful memories that have emotional fragments attached to them — this isn't ideal. Flooding is always a potential issue if we keep pushing things away and then suddenly get reminded of too many things at once. It's easier to clear the way for emotional fragments that come up to return to us when we're in a more calm space, where we can be mindful of what we're doing.
While emotional fragments may not be fully self-aware and conscious like our system mates, it's still important to treat them like sentient beings and greet them with compassion and love, acceptance and belongingness. The pain from these fragments isn't because of the feelings or parts of our essence or psyche that they represent — our "innocence" isn't painful in itself, because it's innocence — these emotional fragments are painful because they have been estranged, disenfranchised, exiled or lost. We feel pain when these emotions try to come up because we have been rejecting, pushing away, or disowning these emotional parts or emotional memories. They are sentient enough to feel pain.
These emotional fragments may be lost in the there & then — the same types of spaces that some traumaholders are found in. They can belong to any system member, and you usually don't have to worry about running around with them and trying to figure out who they belong to — once accepted back into the system, they know where to go, like a magnetic connection back to where they came from. The magic is that whomever the emotional fragment(s) belong to becomes a little more whole in themself, a little more solid or complete, a little more self-assured, authentic, grounded, oriented to the Here & Now. Sometimes we can't rescue a traumaholder because they're not ready yet. Reuniting with emotional fragments that belong to traumaholders can help them become ready.
In the meat world, we will often come across emotional fragments that have attached themselves to objects, photos, journals, reminders of past relationships, etc. These may be items you historically have had a hard time looking at, handling, and have tucked away someplace so you don't have to come across them by accident. If you want to do rescue missions for emotional fragments, you might go through a photo album, a box of memorabilia, or re-read an old journal. Do so when you're in an open mindset, when you're ready to react to the initial pain with welcome and acceptance. As you get better at it, it becomes easier. You both build a skill in recognizing when this is happening and accepting the feels, but also over time there's more of you (you as a system member become more solid and grounded/present) to welcome those fragments, and they know that you're trying to help them.
Another result of this is not only an increased emotional range, but more emotional stability and tolerance.
New traumas can always result in "splitting off" new emotional fragments, but if you remain mindful about this process you can reunite with them more quickly — this increases resilience for new traumas and lessens the recovery time when dealing with painful or tragic life events.
This idea is inspired by the neoshamanic perspective New or paradigm of soulloss, and our experience that all system members can individually experience soulloss and the teachings in that paradigm that lost soul (emotional & spiritual essence) parts may want to reunite on their own. They may be trying to do so. These recovered entities may be parts of existing system members — everyone both singular & individual system entities can experience soulloss. By accepting these lost entities back into the system, it will help repair boundaries, help with insecurities, repair emotional experience & range, and help individual system members feel more whole as discrete individuals.
For more about how this paradigm works for plurals, see neoshamanic perspective New regarding soul-loss.
The idea is that traumatic impacts cause parts of ourselves as individual system members (say our innocence, our self-esteem, the ability to be hopeful, security, elation, wants/desire, excitement and so on) to get lost or stuck in time & space (the There & Then).
This leaves holes in our energy body or emotional boundaries that may fester or be filled by negative attachments (hence the reminder to decord after the practice).
Parallel this idea with the idea based on an expansion on structural dissociation theory that individuals in a plural system (parts, and people) themselves have their own emotional parts. This idea goes into our proposed theory on Quarternary Structural Dissociation (long presentation, almost an hour).
Decording is a way of removing unhealthy attachments, including codependency, and more. Taken together as a whole, the practice of accepting back our own feels & essence plus ejecting negative external attachments has the overall effect of fixing broken boundaries and restoring lost emotional range, increasing confidence and emotional health.