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Who is Driving Your Bus? How to Understand Your Psyche and Its Parts

Did you watch Inside Out and see how Riley’s different emotions took turns driving? You may have thought it was simply a cute Pixar movie, but it is actually based on psychodynamic theory and the creators consulted with leading IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapists. Of course it is a children’s movie, so while it is extremely well done, your psyche is a bit more complicated than what was portrayed by the animators.

Ideally your Self is driving your bus. The Self is the soul, higher self, enlightened self… It is your best self, your core. When self is driving you are calm, curious, clear, compassionate, confident, creative, courageous, and connected. But the calm self can get elbowed out of the driver’s seat by some of the passengers - various parts of your psyche. 

This may be the first time you have considered your psyche as having parts. We like to think we have a single personality which can be described by a type or a few letters. If you think personality is about a type, you are missing the real power of personality testing and understanding how you process information and approach the world. However, nearly every one of us has used the phrase “ a part of me…” and can identify two parts of their mind/psyche/thoughts which are at odds. A part of me wants to travel, a part of me wants to save money, a part of me wants some time off, and a part of me loves working. Most working mothers are very familiar with this internal conflict between our various parts. An even simpler example might be having a part of you that wants to go to brunch on Saturday morning and another part that doesn’t want to get out of bed and put on pants to do that. 

Most of us have a judgmental part that likes to drive in the negativity lane. The judgmental passenger probably thinks it is an easier and more efficient lane because there are fewer people who can even find that lane. Your judgmental part may not care about what people wear or how they clean their house, but perhaps he jumps to attention when he sees people eating "junk food", convenience foods, or non-organic vegetables. Or perhaps your judgmental part activates when people are not polite and friendly with wait staff. Or maybe your judgmental passenger is triggered by smug Facebook posts about going to the gym. 

When the judgmental part is driving your bus, your facial expressions change, changing how people perceive you, perhaps the judgmental part decides now is a good time to leave a long rant on Facebook. You are probably feeling a bit superior but this may cause you to slight someone. When a part of the psyche takes over the driver’s seat from the self the difference may be slight or it may be extreme. 

The individual who lost important people early in life may have a passenger that still feels like that young child and is very scared of losing people. When there is even the possibility of losing someone, this young part may activate perhaps even acting like a young child. Or as this part activates in fear, you may have developed another part of your personality to soothe or protect this part who is so afraid of more loss. The protector part may buckle in the fearful part and take the wheel and take any number of roads to keep the fearful passenger in check. You might choose the tunnel road, ignoring what is going on around you. You might chose a road that takes you away from the person you are afraid of losing, causing you to reject them before you can experience the sting of loss. You might choose a road full of distractions or a road that causes sleepiness to avoid reality or a road that goes straight to the donut shop. As you can see, much of this can happen without conscious thought. 

So who is driving your bus? Is it your higher self or has one of the passengers taken over and altered the route or speed slightly (or not so slightly)? When was the last time your self was allowed in the driver’s seat? I think it is good for me and all those around me when my self has the wheel. 

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