Democracy Begins Within Each of Us

Democracy begins within each of us.

It is a mistake to think that we are unitary creatures, that there is just one aspect of ourselves that is real. We each have different ways of acting with close friends and with a boss, with children and with our own parents, in a public gathering and with a lover.

One way to think about these different ways of behaving (and feeling and thinking) is that we have different parts within us. Not different personalities, but much like computers that have different programs we can bring out different parts of ourselves depending on the circumstances.

Practical Democracy means respect for all of our various internal parts, even the destructive ones. In fact, practicing treating our different parts with respect is good training for treating others respectfully.

There is an old school of pop psychology that talks about there being three major parts of ourselves. You may have heard of this school (Transactional Analysis) which is still popular in drug treatment and other programs that work with the general public.

One major part of ourselves according to this school is called the Parent. The Parent is the part that makes and follows rules, that reveres tradition and that sets limits and boundaries. It is also the part that takes care of (protects) and nurtures others.

We find ourselves in our Parent when we are watching over small children or supervising a project. The operative notion here is that we are the ones responsible.

Another part of ourselves is called the Adult. This is the part that thinks, reasons, figures out, and problem-solves. We find ourselves in our Adult when we are fixing things, or planning events. This is not to say that the Adult is emotion-free, as many people doing their income taxes can attest. And people do crossword puzzles or sudoku or fun.

And the third part of ourselves is called the Child. The Child part of us is the part that feels, loves, fears, wants and generally holds our emotions and desires. The Child is also the part that is intuitive and connected with the spiritual. Children who have been loved and not abused generally have a good sense of whether adults are good people or not; often a better sense than other adults do. And that sense of awe at a beautiful sunset is little different from the feeling the experience most of us felt on first seeing Santa Clause in the mall.

Democracy begins within each of us. We can practice nurturing, creativity and protection towards each one of those parts within us. We can set firm boundaries but negotiate lovingly with the Child part. We can respect and nurture that Child part as well, since that is the part where our life-energy comes from. The Adult part of us can be infused with the creativity and spontaneity of the Child. And the Parent can use the wisdom, intuition and emotional depth of that Child in empathizing with and nurturing the world.

You get the idea. The goal is to have our different Parts cooperate and negotiate with each other. When we can do this with ourselves, we can begin to practice a healthy, balanced loving democracy in our social relationships and our political relationships.