The Evolution of the Authentic Self and Parts: A Protective Compartmentalisation

Are there times in your life when you find yourself in connections, conversations, collaborations, or relational dynamics that leave you feeling like you could not show up as your authentic Self

For many of us there have been interpersonal interactions throughout our lives that seem to have this uncanny ability to leave us in completely confused states; we react in manners that we do not intend or express ourselves in ways that contradict our values.

Reactions and expressions that seemingly hold ungrounded swirls of energy and information that can become so confusing and overwhelming that we lose touch with any sense of who we are or what the interaction was actually about. 

Somehow in these connections, conversations, or collaborations we lose a sense of our authentic Self, perplexed by the intensity of the interaction.

An emotional storm that is all to discombobulating.

In coming out of the interaction, as the confusion and overwhelm subsides, we may begin to feel a return to our authentic Self where an emotive awareness arises with more clarity.

Such awareness may be attuned to a heightening anxiety: an apprehension or an ominous fear; a raising frustration, an anger, or a deepening rage; a sadness or a sense of despair; perhaps even a nuanced vulnerability that we had not noticed before. In attuning to the anxiety we sense a much deeper mixture of emotion that leaves us longing to know why. An ache that questions why we cannot always show up as the person we know we are deep down within our Self.

The silent scream that yearns to know why it is that we abandon our authentic sense of Self.

What if that ‘why’ were to have a response that allowed you to make sense of these interactions?


It is my wish here to offer a beginning
 to that sense making response.


This abandonment of Self can occur when there is something within an interaction that we sense as relationally threatening – we implicitly detect a danger (real or perceived), and our minds work to quickly discern what we are sensing and perceiving; our minds then conceive an interpretation of the situation.  This interpretation then allows us to quickly react in protection of our authentic Self.

You see, as we develop we innately begin to process interpersonal interactions, and the sensations, perceptions, and interpretations that they cultivate – specifically the associated affect (body to brain) and its effect (brain to body), so as to create internalised conceptions of how we must act in the World with Others.  These internalised conceptions are implicitly stored within us as a means to remain protected when connection with Others: the capacity to discern what parts of the authentic Self are socially safe to show, and which parts of the authentic Self are shut down and ashamed.

CoregulationThis discernment between the parts of us that are socially safe and the parts of us that are socially shut down is neurobiologically bound to our inherent mammalian motivation to survive by remaining safely attached to a primary Other in the World.

This mammalian motivation is an instinct of proximity-seeking that allows us to explore the World with the knowledge that upon return there shall be availability, responsiveness, stability, and support (safe-haven & secure-base).

Such an instinct allows the Self to remain safe, seen, soothed, and secure.  In this space Self is welcomed in connection and belonging: resonantly seen, heard, understood, accepted, valued, and delighted in.  There is a congruent felt sense of Self with unconditional worth and meaning.

But what happens to the authentic parts of us that are not welcomed in connection and belonging to the primary Other?  What happens when we have no sense that we can trust the primary Other to be available, responsive, stable, or supportive of the authentic Self?

When interactions with the primary Other leave an impression of the authentic Self as not welcomed in belonging and connection, an affective neuroceptive awareness of the authentic Self as vulnerable and threatened begins to emerge and embed.


This is the irreducible clash between two essential human needs – attachment or authenticity.


Does one compromise Self in order to sustain a bond or does one remain true to Self and risk the relationship and thus the capacity to survive?

When the authentic Self is left without a secure sense of trust that needs for attachment will be available, a process of protective compartmentalisation is initiated: we begin to disavow or bury the parts of our authentic Self that are deemed by Others (primary caregivers) as unacceptable or ‘bad’.  These may also be the authentic qualities of Self that we subconsciously deemed to be ‘at fault’ for creating repeated relational ruptures or disconnection; the qualities that thwarted a sense of safety in connection and belonging.

This process of protective compartmentalisation allows us to begin embody new ways of receiving acceptance and protection – the Self learns what is needed interpersonally in order to reduce the anxiety that arises from real or perceived threats to attachment. 

Self learns to exist in a World with Others through patterns of Self-protection.

Such protective patterning is twofold; there are the parts that instinctively know how to prevent ruptures that may lead to rejection and/or abandonment, as well as crisis-based parts that take over in sensed, perceived, or interpreted times of increased vulnerability or threat. 

These ever-emerging processes of protection exists not only to reduce the anxiety that indicates possible relational rupture, but so too allows us to exile the pain held by our rejected or abandoned younger-self parts.

This is ultimately a process of proactive survival whereby, when the authentic Self senses, perceives, and interprets a social threat will send out a part that shields the authentic Self from any harm.  We protect ourselves (our authentic Self) relationally by using the past to predict the future and to protect ourselves within a present-moment interpersonal interaction.

As we mature and interpersonal interactions begin to expand and complexify, the Self may become in need of stronger and more defined dynamic modes of protection.

That is, in order to survive in a World filled with an array of paradoxical assumptions and expectations, patterns of Self-protection (parts) begin to adapt and recursively maximise their own complexity.

Meaning, sometimes our parts may become dynamic beings within themselves; this in turn generates the inner conflicts that often leave us feeling confused and overwhelmed.

As each part embodies a defined yet dynamic mode of Self-protection, we are often unaware of the multiplicity of our mind – each part holding their own unique set of assumptions, expectations, and motivations: each sensing, perceiving, and interpreting Self, Others, and the World with different lenses.

Importantly, as parts may not hold any contextual or spatiotemporal awareness – and with each of their assumptions, expectations, and motivations reminiscent of a paradoxically unsafe past – when there is a threat to the authentic Self, multiple parts can become activated.

As above-mentioned, this activation is the inner conflict that often leaves us feeling confused and overwhelmed. There may potentially even be an inner battle between the authentic Self and multiple activated parts.

We may even conceive this as the multiple protective parts that lead us in many directions, each direction often disagreeable to the true values of the authentic Self.

Multiple compartmentalised parts pushing and pulling dichotomously in times of relational stress, each attempting to protect the authentic Self and any reminder of past pains.

In these moments of relational stress, any sense of the authentic Self can be lost in the ungrounded swirls of energy and information; these storms of discombobulating emotive content arising and taking over.  Parts mobilise familiar patterns of Self-protection.

Confusion and overwhelm abides.

Yet parts are simply working from the developed embodied wisdom that arises when the authentic Self is not safe.

With this in mind we can begin to see that when we lose our grounded sense of authenticity, when we feel like we have reacted in manners that we do not intend, or that we have expressed ourselves in ways that contradict our values, we can come to acknowledge that there were parts of us that implicitly believed that the authentic Self was not safe. That somewhere deep within there may be a painful reminder of times when the authentic Self did show up, yet was rejected or abandoned – shamed for simply being ones Self.

More so, when we appreciate the concept of protective compartmentalisation we can being to understand the lost sense of Self in interpersonal interactions.

Indeed, it is with compassion for all the protective parts of us that we can learn to recognise that when we are faced with a storm of confusion and overwhelm, it is that conflicting parts have taken over in the service of protection.  We have been shielded from perceived threats and from the pain of our past.

Finally, it is vital to know that it is possible, with time and patience, to learn to recognise the parts of us that have developed in protection, as well as the younger-self parts of us that hold the pain of the past, and to come to understand the traits of our authentic Self that have been hidden.

We each hold the capacity to come back to our authentic Self in grounded awareness, to cultivate and internal sense of safety, connectedness, belonging, and a knowing of our innate worth.  In turn offering us the capacity to respond from a place of authentic knowingness.

Ultimately, we each have the capacity to know that we are ever-emerging creatures who can come to differentiate and integrate all the compartmentalised parts of our Self’s; to grow to validate, appreciate, and nurture the parts of our Self that have never had the opportunity to hold a felt-sense of worth; and to live a life of potential and fulfilment.

A life lived in alignment with an authentic sense of Self and a compassionate knowing that no matter how we react or respond, we make sense.

Welcome, my name is Chele, I am a therapist primarily specialising in Trauma &  Burnout.   As a psychotherapist & PACFA registered Counsellor I work individually with beautiful humans such as yourself who feel alone, lost, confused, & overwhelmed; those of you who are longing for something different.

As such, I offer my knowledge, skills, and inherent gifts with ears that listen to hear, and a heart open to receive who you are, no matter the suffering you bring; to support you in an exploration of how your past has impacted you and the ways that shows up presently. Together we will rediscover your hope and your sense of Self; we will reconnect you to what matters reclaiming the joy and delight in life you so deserve.

I welcome you to view my services or connect with me to explore how I can assist you in your journey.