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JANNECKE: Hey guys. This is Jannecke and I’m sitting here with Kenneth Sørensen, who is a speaker, he’s an author, he’s Danish and he is a psychotherapist. And he’s quite known in Denmark for his work, and he’s also one of my speakers for my new platform on Wisdom From North. Kenneth, I wanted to make this video today to talk about subpersonalities because I know that is something you know a lot about. Also, in your own story, how you struggled within yourself with a lot of subpersonalities – and how you now have come to a point where you have the still point, you feel more wholeness. And I can just recognise in myself that I have many parts that are very contradictory: like one part can be, for instance, very sociable, love to be with people and love to shine and love to, you know, be extrovert and be seen; and another part wants to hide, re-charge the batteries, be alone and not be seen at all. And I’ve been wondering: so who is me, right? I know that I’m all these parts, but sometimes they can seem very polarising. And maybe you feel the same: that you have different aspects of you that are not in sync or collaborating. So what are your perspectives on subpersonalities?
Four different types of subpersonalities
KENNETH: Well, Jannecke, this is a huge question because it’s so large a topic. But, to start out, it’s obvious for everybody that we have many different voices within. And very often our personality is not a harmonious whole. We have all types of conflicting voices, conflicting impulses, conflicting desires. One part of us wants to take on new challenges, another part of us is afraid and just wants security and comfort. So the whole question about subpersonalities is that we have these different parts of us that have developed throughout our lives.
And, actually, we can discriminate between four different types of subpersonalities, and we cannot go into all of them because it’s a huge subject. The most important one is the type of subpersonality that relates to the different ages of our history. We have the infant, we have the child, we have the teenager, we have the young adult, we have the grown up, we have the mature man if you are of my age. At each of these different stages, or ages, we identified with different types of roles, and they all continue to live within us. So that’s why, when I’m in the world, I can sometimes feel my inner child coming up, for example if I’m confronted with something that is perhaps threatening my security. And I think the most important thing is to start to realise that I’m not these voices, you know. I’m actually the one, the observer, who is capable of serving them, by observing the different types of behaviour within me.
There’s another type of subpersonality that is related to our relationships – all the prominent relationships we have had throughout our time that are still living within us. Our inner father, our inner mother, our inner formal lovers, our siblings. So we have these multitudes of internalised personalities. There’s an image within me of my inner mother, and the strange thing is that this inner mother within me believes she is the outer mother. So she acts and behaves within me as though she was the outer mother. So that’s why sometimes I experience that, if I haven’t worked with this, I get in conflict with my mother’s values, or my father’s values, when I’m going to act from my own values. And this is part of what we’re working with in psychotherapy: to start to disengage or to disidentify from all these inner relationships that are still influencing us from within.
If we have had some kind of bully around us who has told us we are worth nothing, then we have both the internalised bully and the victim inside us. And they are still living as though the past is still the present. So it’s really a ménage inside of us.
We also have subpersonalities that are related to our former lives, earlier incarnations still living in us. And then we have all the archetypal subpersonalities related to different heroes or ideal models. If you have been very interested in Superman or Batman, or become identified with Superman or Batman, then you will have an inner Superman or Batman within you that is influencing your subconscious behaviour. So it’s a huge subject.
It all starts with finding a point of reference – finding a place within where you can start observing all those reactions – because we experience these subpersonalities through our inner reactions to circumstances. And sometimes when we are in some environment, some subpersonalities come up. Or if we encounter a very different type of person, we react to this person through our inner subpersonalities.
Subpersonalities and our projections
I vividly remember a client in one of my first sessions as a psychotherapist. In comes a new client, and he was a doctor within psychiatry, and I immediately had a reaction of anxiety. I was very afraid of this man. He was really stern, very unemotional, and very intellectual, and my reactions were inhibiting my free expression as a psychotherapist. I knew I had to work on this, so I went into supervision and we worked to find out why this client impacted on me in this way. And, of course, it was a child element in me who projected father onto this figure because there were some similarities in his qualities that reminded me of my father.
But to discover all these different subpersonalities we have to go inside and start observing and start accepting all the different voices we have within. But also find subpersonalities that are based on false self-perceptions. For example, if we have been around a bully, and the bully has told us repeatedly “You are stupid, you’re stupid, you’re stupid”, then I start identifying with being stupid. And this is a false identification. But it’s a voice within me, a pattern within me that I have to discover, identify, disidentify from, accept but also change, in order not to be ruled or dominated by this subpersonality. So the concept of subpersonalities is also about how to liberate ourselves from all these voices, how to become whole, how to make them a collective whole, an inner team of collaborators.
Finding our authentic roles
We have to find authentic roles. We have to play roles in life but, for the roles to be authentic, we have to qualify the roles with what we believe are true qualities, true values. When I became a dad, it was very difficult because I didn’t know who I was as a dad. What should I say as a father? So, of course, I repeated some of the behaviours of my own dad and from all of the male generations within my family. But I’m very different from my family, so I really had to take charge of this and find out for myself who I was as a dad. And I remember vividly having such a bad conscience around being a dad. I felt very frustrated. I felt not good enough in that role. And then I had a therapy during which I talked with my inner dad. And suddenly I had this image of a mother in the 1960s and a father from the 1960s, and the father was smoking a pipe and polishing his Volvo – he was a very material father – and I suddenly realised I was identified with a father figure from the 1960s. This was a really liberating moment for me because I knew that it’s impossible for me to live up to that type of stereotype and culturally-based image of a father figure. I had to find my own way to fatherhood, and I struggled with this for some years, and then more and more I came into accepting my version of a good father and what type of qualities I authentically identified with as a father.
We have to do this type of work in all areas. What type of man am I? What type of teacher do I want to be? What type of psychotherapist do I aspire to become? They are all roles we play in life, but we can make them authentic roles – because the roles are masks we wear and express ourselves through, because our true being is pure awareness. Our true being is loving awareness and will. But when we express ourselves in the world, we have to express ourselves through all these different roles, and we have to make sure that they are an authentic expression of who we are. It’s a continual development throughout the years to really bring that soul consciousness through the different personas that we act through.
JANNECKE: I think it’s so interesting because I’m noticing with myself, with starting a new platform now, that I’m looking for an answer on how to do it: I’m looking for the recipe all the time in my head, so I’m, like, ‘How am I supposed to do this task? How am I supposed to do that?’ And then I’m thinking: ‘I haven’t seen this been done before, Jannecke, so you have to go inside and use your creativity.’ The answer is not there. I can ask many people, but it’s still my project, so I have to figure it out, and I feel like it’s the same with becoming a father or a mother or doing something new in a relationship – there is no, ‘Yeah, this is the way you’re going to do it.’ But that’s what we usually do: we go on autopilot, we see how others did it, and do it the same way – and that’s the way we usually live life, just going on autopilot, reacting to situations instead of responding. But when consciousness and awareness come in, you actually have to observe: how would I like to do it? But that’s the real work, that’s the process – you have to discover, ‘So how is it like being a mother for me? How is it natural for me to be?’ And I think it has to do with stopping a bit, you know. Yeah, it’s all back to awareness.
How to change and transform our subpersonalities
KENNETH: And I think there’s a couple of steps when we discover a part of us that is inauthentic. The first step is to be aware of it, and bring the light of awareness to it, study it and, at the same time, also disidentifying from it. But disidentifying and looking at it as an observer is not enough. We also have to accept it. Because we cannot work with a part, we don’t accept. And sometimes it is really hard to accept it because it’s not all nice stuff that we have inside. It really takes a big heart to embrace the most vulnerable, or perhaps destructive, parts of us, the “demons” inside. So the next level is acceptance. When we can hold, or when we can accept or embrace, that part of us, then we have created some kind of a space where we can start to be creative with it; we can start speaking to it.
JANNECKE: Speak with the personality?
KENNETH: Yes, exactly. We can have an inner dialogue. Sometimes I have sat in front of my computer – if I have a very stubborn part or a pattern that has been very difficult to change – then I’ll ask my inner subpersonality, “How are you doing now?” “I’m very angry.” Ok, why are you angry?” So I have a dialogue between me as the observer and me as the subpersonality. And through that dialogue, healing can occur. It’s very important to be very honest about it and really listen to the answers and hear what type of needs the subpersonality has.
JANNECKE: And not judging it.
KENNETH: And not judging, exactly. And when we come into an intimate relationship with it, we can differentiate between what a subpersonality wants, it’s immediate behaviour, and what it really needs. Very often a subpersonality needs love but says it wants revenge. So we’re not giving into the revenge impulse, but we are giving in to the deeper need of love. So we also have to analyse and penetrate into the call of the subpersonality and, when we meet the innermost need of a subpersonality, it starts to change. It’s not necessary for us to take revenge to have an experience of love – we can have that experience without being destructive towards ourselves or others. So, this is actually a very deep process in which we change the subpersonality from within its essential core. Every subpersonality carries a light because it is a reflection of our transpersonal Self or soul, even though it can be a very distorted reflection. It has light at its core because it is created out of my light nature. The subpersonality can be very dark and destructive on the surface, but when we penetrate into the core of the subpersonality we actually find light. We have to name that light to claim its essential nature: it can be truth, it can be love or wisdom, it can be a warrior. You could also call it an archetype. There’s a divine archetype within even our most destructive parts. So finding that divine light is the way to really reveal the true nature of that subpersonality, to liberate it from its imprisonment in the form it has taken.
JANNECKE: I love how you just mapped that out from the beginning, from the awareness. What was after the awareness?
JANNECKE: Acceptance, right. Because, I mean, sometimes I’ve been so angry that if I spoke to that person I would like to hit her. But, of course, I don’t do that – but then it is important not to judge that impulse, not to sweep it under the carpet. I listened to one of your podcasts you did where you spoke about how we all have this villain inside, or this darkness, that also needs to be acknowledged. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Connecting with the inner villain
KENNETH: Yes, you could say that everybody has the potential for wreaking havoc in the world. We all have a dangerous part. But it’s not everybody that is connected with it or has done any investigation into it because it really frightens us. But it is part of human nature and, you know, we carry a long evolution where we had to fight with wild animals and very primitive societies. At that time, we really needed to fight for our lives. We still have these impulses to kill within us. Everybody has. Now, the first job I had when I was 17, I joined the army, and I was five years in the army, and it really taught me a lot about these destructive energies. Learning to shoot, learning to kill. This is actually what you learn as a soldier. Learning to fire battle tanks, learning to engage in combat in different situations, it’s really tuning you into that destructive potential. And I think that if you’re not in connection with that part of you, it will actually at some point destroy you because you will be afraid of yourself and of what you are capable of doing. But if you really open your heart for that part of you then you will know it is not necessary to bring it out – it is a kind of figure or energy that you will only use when your life is threatened or when there is something you need to take care of.
JANNECKE: But is it right to compare this with when there is a wasp and you kill it, and you’re just ‘Urghs!!’ I mean, we do kill.
KENNETH: It’s aggression. But there’s also a deeper level. We have the ability to kill and to bring death. That’s part of human nature. We have the ability to bring death, and a good way to bring death is to release and let go of habits within that we no longer use. If you have some kind of attachment to something that is very bad for you, then it’s a really good idea to say ‘I will not do that anymore’. It’s a kind of death energy that you can use. If you are confronted in the city at night and you have access to that destructive part of you, you can express it through your eyes and the tone of your voice. If somebody threatens you with violence, you can access and express that power. The bully will know he will get into trouble if he fucks with you because you can bring it out. It will give you a sense of security and power. And also humility because you know that you have something inside of you that is potentially very dangerous. So when you look at people who cannot control it, you know that…
JANNECKE: They haven’t owned it.
KENNETH: They haven’t owned it. They are slaves to that force. So they get into gang violence or abuse of all types, in all manners of ways.
JANNECKE: And I was just thinking of ‘I am that I am’, that we have everything inside us, the potential to do anything, and just to accept that, to own that, and not present ourselves to other people as if we could never do that because, well, there’s a part of you that might if you were in the same shoes, you could have done it. And that’s honesty. We make a choice who we want to be. But knowing and accepting that – that’s human
KENNETH: Actually, we call it the archetype of the inner warrior. And the inner warrior in its pure essence is good. We need an inner warrior. But often we don’t know it. Or if it’s in the shadows, then the warrior becomes a demon and it really can do a lot of damage.
JANNECKE: I was just thinking about your story, too, that you’ve been searching yourself a lot. You were in the military, you were in contact with that height of masculine, and you also said that you had this mask on – you were very vulnerable inside, but the outside was really hard. And then you went to school and met people who were totally different. It was a culture shock and you started opening up to spirituality. Can you share a little bit about what changed?
From Working Class Boy to Spiritual Teacher
KENNETH: I come from a very traditional working-class background. I lived a very ordinary life and was very unhappy because there was not much in that environment that could really stimulate me or see me for who I am or who I consider myself to be today. So I was very lonely and almost had no friends for many, many years. It was not until 17 or 18 years of age that I started to have friends, and I found my first friends in the military. I always knew that I would not be able to have a long life in the military, but I had five good years there. Then I went into a big depression after I was left by my first girlfriend. I went into a depressive stage for some years until I discovered I was able to move from the city to Copenhagen.
There, I found something in Denmark called a folk high school where you live together with other young people and you could study astrology, psychology, all types of exciting things. In that place I found many totally different types of people, you know, left-wing oriented, and I was quite ring-wing. I was very tough, with a hard shell around me. But it really changed me and opened me up to a whole new dimension of my being. I was really fucked up as a person. I was so vulnerable inside, but I was not able to express myself. I had this self-image of being John Wayne or something like that, that old Hollywood movie star that is very conservative and harsh; a Clint Eastwood type of person was my ideal model. And then, when I started to open up to spirituality, I became the absolute opposite, I became able to express my vulnerability. Everything was about love. I became this New Age guy in pink dresses!
KENNETH: Yes, really! I went to an extreme for some years. I really needed to go out and explore that and, at some point, I found the middle way between these extremes. So I have had many different personalities in my life, from the Soldier to the Social Advocate. I worked ten years within social psychiatry and helped to start a popular magazine in which the mentally ill wrote their own stories and empowered themselves. And then, later, I became the Theosophist and, later, I became the Psychotherapist, so I have had many different types of personality coming out throughout my life.
JANNECKE: You have also practised meditation for 30 years – I’m pretty impressed – one hour every day, and that has helped you find that inner point.
KENNETH: It was out of utter necessity. I had so much pain and so much self-hate, so I just had to find a way out, to lift the dark clouds and the atmosphere of despair. It was really hard for me to be with people and to have a conversation because I was so vulnerable. There were so many wounds within, but meditation helped me to find a place within where there was a gentleness and a kindness and a self-love. And it started there. So meditation has, I would say, saved my life. And a lot of psychotherapy, too. And, actually, this has been perhaps the most authentic part of my life, this continual urge to transform myself, or to bring that light and love through my persona. And it’s still a huge work. I still go for psychotherapy, I still meditate, because I know we have so much love and light and power within that wants to be expressed through us. But we need to do the work and create ourselves anew, create a new personality, discover new abilities to express all the different aspects of us.
JANNECKE: And I love that we can always change because I feel like we have been taught the opposite: that we are like we are. Yes, it’s difficult to change because it demands awareness, it demands practice, but it is possible. People have done it before, and we see that. How some people really change and find this still point of happiness – the restlessness can dissipate after meditating, for instance, or after finding something else. And I love what you’re doing. And in the autumn, for my new platform, you’re going to teach us how we can observe ourselves, how we can discover we are not our emotions, we are not our thoughts, we’re not our bodies, and how we can let that soul energy come through. And you will also share with us two of the meditations that you’ve been doing now for 30 years that have really helped you. So, I’m excited about that. And if you [the reader] want to know more, and follow my new platform and not miss anything, you can sign up for my newsletter. Alright, it was delightful to speak with you. You have so much wisdom to share, Kenneth, and you have just come out with a book on the seven personality types, and it’s coming out in an English version. We’re very excited about that so thank you so much and good luck with your work.
KENNETH: Thank you! Bye bye!