Integration means the ‘unification of parts into a totality’ (APA dictionary of psychology). In this context, I am using it to mean both:
- integrating new information into our whole selves and
- the integration of parts of our Self that have been disconnected to some degree, into the rest of our whole Self.
And it’s a big topic. Huge in fact.
Before we start, I need to give this disclaimer: that you should work with a trained therapist if you need to. Also, I mention different kinds of therapy in this article, if you try them please note I can’t take responsibility for the quality or practice of any other therapist or practitioner, so please do your due diligence and involve your therapist and/or doctor in your choice.
OK, with that said, let’s begin.
We all have many different working parts that make us, us. Our body and physicality, our emotions, our thoughts and mind, our energy, spirit and soul, our desires, our habits, our way of being. And a lot more.
All of our parts are connected and interrelated. When one changes, others are affected. But these changes don’t always naturally spread throughout our whole Self and this can cause us to get stuck.
So when we learn something new, or experience growth in an aspect of our self, how do we cement that by connecting it to the rest of us? AKA – how do we integrate the changes?
In this article, we’ll explore a few different ways of assisting integration, starting with my favourite: using activities and practices.
- Activities for Integration
Let’s begin with an example.
Sandy has made a lot of progress in changing some old limiting beliefs and finds many opportunities are opening up to her, but there is always a sticking point. She can only get so far before she finds herself lapsing into old behaviours and thought patterns, even though she knows and understands what she “should” be doing.
So she decides to explore different ways of staying open. She tries an art class, she travels a little, she starts to dance and she also goes for energy work.
In their own ways, each of these things helps her to connect aspects of herself to her new understanding of how she wants to live and be in the world. She couldn’t just tell them to change, though, she had to involve them more actively.
If you want to try this method, I wouldn’t normally recommend trying a whole bunch of things at once, like she did, but one at a time, or maybe a couple, so you know what they’re doing for you.
You also want to try to be in the moment instead of being too fixed on bringing that new learning into the experience. So you wouldn’t want to go to a dance class and constantly be thinking, am I doing this right? Am I avoiding having limiting beliefs right now? Rather, you would want to go and immerse yourself in the experience, whether that means having fun or being creative or being peaceful, or other.
But perhaps once or twice wonder if there is a difference, or a way of allowing yourself to feel or act differently to your norm. In the example of dance, you might wonder if you are moving the way that feels right for you, now that you have fewer limiting beliefs.
It’s also helpful to pay attention to how you feel afterwards and even journal. But when you’re doing an activity, try to be in the moment. Analysing it can just be a way of keeping ourselves safe and at a distance so we don’t really change.
I would also recommend doing the thing you are most drawn to first. Unless–and this is important–it is one of your default ways of doing things. For example, if you are great at over-thinking, don’t try to use that method to integrate things – you are almost guaranteed to already have used your default method enough. But if you have a strange urge to try drawing or train spotting, or other, listen to that impulse as it may be your deeper intuition speaking to you.
Interestingly, almost any activity can be a tool for integration, including simply living our lives. But trying new things can really be helpful, and having an open and grounded attitude helps a lot too.
Self-development through doing and being is very powerful. So often we try to explain or think our way forwards. But through doing, we get an immediate experience of who we are in that different context, and we directly engage many or all parts of ourselves (some more than others usually). And this engagement really helps with integration.
Journaling/ Keeping A Diary
A tried-and-true method, this doesn’t really get your body involved that much, but it is a wonderful way of acknowledging what you have learned, how you want to change, or how you have already changed.
This is useful for integration because sometimes we don’t really know what we know, or what we’re feeling. By freeing ourselves to write whatever comes out, we can discover what’s on our minds and how we really feel. This method of integration is also good at telling us what the darker corners of our minds are thinking.
Journaling is even better if you write by hand, but typing is also good.
In theory, if you wanted to bring physicality into it, you could try a video blog instead and say “today I feel” and make a movement with your body and a sound. Most people stick with the conventional writing method, though. I know some people post on social media in a way that almost feels like journaling. I don’t recommend this, because you will always edit yourself a bit for how other people are going to perceive you, and it’s better to get raw, unfiltered “you”.
Different Kinds of Therapies and Tools
There are so many out there, I am going to start by saying maybe just try one or several and see what works for you. But don’t try too many new ones at the same time or you won’t know what’s working.
To help with physical integration, you can try bodywork, like massage or getting stretched, or a movement-based discipline, such as Feldenkrais, stretching, yoga or other. The effect in terms of integration can be different depending on whether you need to feel nurtured and receptive, or if you need to create new physical patterns and experiences more actively through movement. They are both great in their own ways, with their own strengths.
For your mind and thoughts there’s obviously a wide variety of talking therapies, which will help you to explore your emotions and understand what’s going on and build a relationship with your Self. In addition, you can also try meditation, which also has myriad formats. Reading can also be great, but sometimes taking in additional new information doesn’t help with integrating something you’ve recently learned. That is, unless it specifically allows you to unlock a different aspect of that learning, or connect to it in a different way.
Emotions also benefit from talk therapy of course, but you can also try other types of sessions such as breathwork (of course you could put that in the physical category too – we’re holistic beings so none of these divisions (mind, body etc) are absolute. They just help us to think about things). Or you could also try something like play therapy, art therapy or mask work.
In terms of shifting your energy, a simple healing session can be very useful. Energy healing comes in a wide variety of flavours, including reiki, shamanism and other disciplines. I usually recommend choosing both the method and practitioner you are drawn to. There are some self-guided practices you can also do in most disciplines if you prefer not to work with a practitioner.
And if you are already benefitting from one type of therapy, it’s often useful to have another quite different one that complements it. For example, if you’re having talking therapy, I recommend getting body work because that will ground you down into your body, helping you to work with that aspect of the emotions that are coming up. It will likely also help you to feel safer and stronger in yourself.
Energy work can be useful, but sometimes it’s unhelpful if you tend towards intellectual bypass, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from spiritual bypass. But it is really great for shifting things when you feel like you’ve already done the work and you can’t figure out why your new learning still doesn’t feel settled or easy to embody.
If you do have two different types of therapy at once, have them on different days if possible, as it takes time for the changes from one to settle in. It’s also easier to see what each is doing for you if you leave at least a full day between them.
So, this has been a quick review of some things I believe may help you integrate parts of yourself or a learning across all parts of yourself.
When we’re integrated new information becomes a natural part of us, making it much easier to act in a way that incorporates it. As well as other huge benefits, integration can also help us to think more clearly and be more connected with our desires and inner truth.
Like I said, integration is a huge topic, so this article may just be the beginning for you, depending how deep you want to go. But I hope it has given you some ideas you can use to feel more at ease in yourself and, well, integrated.
As always, take care!