Psychology Wiki

Stacking dolls provide a visual representation of subpersonalities.

A subpersonality is, in transpersonal psychology, a personality mode that kicks in (appears on a temporary basis) to allow a person to cope with certain types of psychosocial situations.[1] Similar to a complex,[2] the mode may include thoughts, feelings, actions, physiology, and other elements of human behavior to self-present a particular mode that works to negate particular psychosocial situations.[1] The average person has about a dozen subpersonalities.[1]

A subpersonality is distinguished from a Dissociative Identity disorder (formerly: Multiple personality disorder) in that subpersonalities are merely personas or pieces of a whole, whereas DID is characterized by (at least) two separate and distinct personalities who have their own patterns of interacting with the environment. Subpersonalities are able to perceive consciousness as something separate from themselves, as well as domestic image attached to these elements.[1] American transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber identifies subpersonality as "functional self-presentations that navigate particular psychosocial situations."[1] For example, if a harsh critic responds with judgmental thoughts, anger, superior feelings, critical words, punitive action, and/or tense physiology when confronted with her own and/or others' fallibility, that is a subpersonality of the harsh critic kicking in to cope with the confrontation situation.[1]

Subpersonalities in Psychotherapy

For a somewhat different viewpoint: Many schools of psychotherapy see subpersonalities as relatively enduring psychological structures or entities that influence how a person feels, perceives, behaves, and sees him- or herself. Over the history of psychotherapy, many forms of therapy have worked with subpersonalities. Early methods were Jungian analysis, Psychosynthesis, Transactional Analysis, and Gestalt therapy. These were followed by some forms of hypnotherapy and the inner child work of John Bradshaw and others. More recently forms of therapy have arisen that are largely based on working with subpersonalities—Voice Dialogue, Ego-state therapy, and John Rowan’s work. The most recent and widespread subpersonality method is Internal Family Systems Therapy, developed by Richard C. Schwartz. He sees DID alters as on the same continuum as IFS parts (subpersonalities), the only difference being that alters are more polarized and split off from the rest of the internal system.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Fall, Kevin A. (December 9, 2003) Theoretical Models of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Page 444. Publisher: Routledge. ISBN 1-58391-068-9
  2. Kivinen, Michael K. (November 1, 2007) Subconsciously Speaking. Coming to terms with past life regression. Volume 22; Issue 6; Page 10.