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HOW MANY SELVES LIVE WITHIN US? The Theory of sub-personalities.

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Western psychology recognized the idea that we are made of several sub-personalities or Selves and have become the foundation for several therapeutic approaches.

In this article, I will refer to the Voice Dialogue system created by Hal and Sidra Stone.

When we are born, we came with a Self that has not been affected yet by the environment.

As infants, we learn we must establish a measure of control over the environment to avoid unpleasantness, such as not being accepted or experiencing pain.

This development of control is the evolution of personality and the disconnection from this True Self.

This personality, as it grows, it turns to be a system of

sub-personalities, or Selves, and each one carries its energy pattern, attitude, or view on life.

Let’s explore some of them.


Protector/Controller: As the name suggests, he wants to be in control and protect us, and in the act of protection, he prevents us from experiencing pain and disconnects us from our vulnerability.

As we grow up, the Protector developed by noting the different rules from the families and the social environment.

When we mature, the Protector/Controller functions as a director, who will use other selves to define us and how we behave and interact.

Most of the other personalities we develop function under the Protector/Control

The Inner Critic: As the name suggests, it criticizes us, and it does that before being judge by others.

It represents our parents' internalized voice, so the Inner Critic became a voice that tells us what we should do shouldn't do.

It is also the voice that criticizes others, so the outward critics became a warning about what we shouldn’t do.

I wrote an entire article about it, if you would like to know in more detail I recommend reading it: Perfectionism and the voice of the Inner Critic.

The Perfectionist: It set the standard by requiring to do things perfectly, and the Inner Critic monitors how things get done.

The problem with this personality began when the standard sets are too high, putting on us too much stress and pressure, preventing us from taking action.

The Pusher: this Self pushes us to get things done; it doesn’t allow us to relax, rest, or waste our time.

We can experience this personality if we stop for a moment, and we think about all things we need to do

The Power Broker: Power is an energy that finds its reality also within our psychic.

Those are a group of energy patterns that may include power, ambition, money, selfishness, and a variety of other voices.

Those Selves work alongside the Protector/Controller. The accumulation of wealth or power, for example, became something that makes us feel more secure.

According to each of us, those Selves/Energy I have just described are all inextricably interwoven, and they manifest differently in different degrees


The Inner child is made of many qualities, such as playfulness, creativity, and intuition, but is also the most vulnerable part of ourselves, storing all the emotional experience throughout childhood.

This part usually gets activated during an intimate relationship, and it affects how we reach when we get triggered.

Because it is vulnerable, as I mention, the Protector/Controller evolves to protect it, and it does that by disowned it.

In doing so, we get disconnected from all its qualities.

Losing the Inner child is one of the most profound tragedies of the growing-up process because it disconnects us from sensitivity.

So much of the destructiveness we experience to each other results from our lack of connection to our Inner Child's sensitivity.


The Inner Child is a disowned self, but also other parts of us remain partially or totally excluded from our lives during the growing-up process.

We can recognize the disowned selves through intense emotional reactions, such as dislike or irritation, toward certain qualities of other people.

The traits in the person who irritates us reflect an energy pattern we don't want to integrate within ourselves.

Although our basic tendency is to get repelled, there are cases where we feel a particular fascination towards peoples who are the manifestation of our disowned selves.

Usually, for a disowned self, we can find its opposite energy as one of our personality's fundamental characteristics.

For example, a person who has grown up in a conservative family or society where they consider sex as something impure might develop a sub-personality who has to repress its sexuality and judge sexually disinhibited people and, at the same, consider herself morally superior. Because of that, this person might develop and disown selves who are uninhibited sexually and grave for sexual contact.

The dangerous side in eradicating these selves makes them much stronger by driving them into the unconsciousness where they are free to operate beyond our control.

In Jungian terms, our disowned selves represent our shadow, but this is another topic by itself.

It is important to notice those rejected selves because they demand a certain amount of energy to keep it unconscious.

Mainly we cannot integrate some selves because there is a deep unconscious belief, which found its root in families or society, that those energies are bad.


It is essential to realize that those selves or energy patterns are not inherently positive or negative!

It's related to our awareness and the ability to direct energy through an aware ego to make real choices about what we do.

We can simplistically refer to the ego as the executive function of the psyche or the choice maker.

The problem is in the ego's lack of awareness: it succumbed to the will of different personalities by identifying with them, so the ego's function became a combination of the Protector/Controller, Pusher, Inner Critic, a Perfectionist.

We might believe in having a free will when in reality, we are controlled by those selves we identify with or by those we have disowned.

Developing a healthy, aware ego can enable us to step back from our usual pattern and make choices that don't come from those different part.


The problem began with the lack of awareness and cooperation between them, so the cure became not suppressing them but finding a better communication and relationship among the different parts.

In a multicultural society, we don’t seek the dissolution of the different ethnic and cultural groups into an undifferentiated homogeneous mass, but we want the proper relationship among diversities.

That’s the same attitude we need to adopt towards our different selves.

How well we get along with ourselves depends on our internal leadership skills, how well we listen to our different parts, make sure they feel taken care of, and keep them from sabotaging one another.

Recommend reading:

Embracing Ourselves: The Voice Dialogue Manual (1998)

-Hal Stone and Sidra L. Stone

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