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The Parts Model in NLP

In many contexts, it makes sense to assume that we are composed of several sub-personalities, what are also called “parts” in NLP. However, our parts do not always live in harmony with each other. Sometimes there are conflicts, and compromises have to be negotiated. We experience ourselves as torn.

In NLP there is the useful assumption that we consist of many sub-personalities that live in co-existence under the same skin. Each part tries to reach its own goal. The more these parts can be connected and work together in harmony, the happier the person will be. Often there are conflicts between the parts, although each part has a positive intent.

Example:

Smoking is bad for the body, but it relaxes you, engages your hands, and can lead to friendships with others. Giving up smoking without taking these other needs into consideration leaves a vacuum. To quote Mark Twain, "giving up smoking is easy, I do it every day." Instead of giving up habits using only willpower, we want to find a way of appreciating the partially inappropriate behavior. The idea of parts is, of course, just a model. These are not to be understood as areas of the brain. Parts are functional units whose task is to organize a certain area of our lives, e.g. a financial part, a part for our health, a creative part, etc. These parts can be defined in any way desired.


We find expressions of inner divisions in our language:

  • on the one hand – on the other hand
  • something inside me is forcing (stopping) me
  • in that moment I wasn’t myself
  • I’m of two minds
  • yes, but… etc.

When working with parts, the positive intention of the part that produces the undesirable behavior / response / emotion is identified and appreciated, so that reconciliation with the behavior (and the part that triggers this behavior) becomes possible. Thereafter, new possibilities are found for the behavioral expression of this positive intention.