Welcoming blaming parts


When people come to therapy, we help them feel safe cognitively before guiding them to experience more embodied levels of safety. Bringing much-needed support to blaming parts is a way to establish calmness and trust.

In the presence of overwhelming suffering, each person in a close relationship usually has two judging parts—one that blames oneself and one that blames others. Typically, they are in conflict internally and interpersonally.

Using a typical scenario from couple’s therapy, I invite you to put yourself in the therapist’s shoes. Notice the client’s blaming parts and how welcome you feel toward them:

Fred sat comfortably in the therapist’s chair. In front of him, Marla and Sheldon looked at him with anticipation—Marla with incredulous frustration, Sheldon with defeat.

A couple of moments earlier, Sheldon brought up a fight from the previous evening. “Last night, I was trying to finish my work so I could put it aside for the night, and Marla got so angry she erupted in front of the kids.” Sheldon’s tone was logical and reasonable.

Marla jumped in, irritated and defensive. “Yes, I was angry. I got home late because of an important project at work. He picked up the kids but didn’t help them start their homework. I was doing everything that had to be done to get dinner on the table and respond to the kids’ crises. Sheldon just sat at the dining room table, ignoring everything but his emails.”

Fred took charge of the session, leaning in and facing Marla with a sense of support and understanding. “That sounds so frustrating. As you saw Sheldon sitting at the table, ignoring you and the kids, what message were you hearing?”

When Marla answered that it made her feel unimportant, Fred validated her. “It makes sense that you got angry when you heard you were unimportant to him. Is it OK if we slow that down to what it’s like for you to get the message from Sheldon that you’re unimportant?”


How do you sense Fred feels toward Sheldon and Marla’s blaming parts? How do you imagine this went?

From my experience, Marla would likely get angrier and take more control immediately or later in the session. Rather than staying with and bringing resonance to the part of her that seems critical and blaming, I sense that Fred is working to get past Marla’s other-blaming part to a more vulnerable part of her. It’s likely that Marla’s other-blaming part is sensitive to that, will feel judged and dismissed, and will work even harder to be heard.

We therapists are often taught how to understand and guide couples through distress using an attachment lens. However, interventions backfire when we don’t fully resonate with the client’s parts in the room. On the other hand, when we wholeheartedly welcome and appreciate them, our presence can be remarkably soothing.

As I tune into Marla, I am grateful for and understand the part of her that sees others as selfish, uncaring, and responsible for the distress. Right now, this part is focused on Sheldon. Marla fully expects this part of herself to be disliked rather than appreciated. I resonate with that and admire the parts of her that are defensive around it. They stand up for her experience, regardless of others’ reactions.

As I tune into Sheldon, I value and want to validate the part of him that blames others for the distress—that sees them as demanding and unreasonable. I also sense a more dominant, self-blaming part behind this one. This part tells Sheldon he is inadequate—there could be acceptance and peace if only he were more. I feel tenderness and admiration for this part and his hard work to protect Sheldon and his relationships.

Currently, Marla is the focus of these parts. Based on his experience, Sheldon doesn’t expect either of them to be seen as valuable or supported, so he has other parts around to hide and defend them. Inwardly, I’m smiling and appreciative of these defensive parts, too.

Can you sense all of these parts in the room? Do you view them differently?

In recent years, I’ve felt awe and gratitude toward blaming parts as I’ve come to see people more clearly. Almost all of us carry far more generational and attachment trauma than we realize. When blaming parts speak non-defensively, they resound with the truth. “Others are incapable of seeing, appreciating, and supporting my burdens. Because of that, I have to protect rather than share the most lovable and capable parts of myself.”

Blaming parts refuse to give up hope for the understanding and support needed to heal generational and attachment trauma. They look for that in the safest and most likely place—within the self and the person they see as most responsible for providing care.

The alternative to fighting for the resources needed for healing is to give up hope. In the face of overwhelming suffering, giving up and giving into hopelessness can feel like death. Blaming parts actively maintain hope, aliveness, and search for healing.

The fact that Marla and Sheldon are here, in Fred’s office, is a powerful testament to their dedication to finding a path from suffering to thriving. It’s also a testament to their blaming parts, which have kept their relationship alive, fighting for healing and connection.

I tune into the blaming parts and applaud what they fight for. Despite a lifelong experience of being judged and attacked, like dandelions growing in the cracks of the pavement, they have not given up.

I start with emotionally corrective messages: “I’m so glad you’re here.” “You are so right to be feeling what you’re feeling,” and “I’m excited to get to know and support you.”

How do you welcome blaming parts?

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