A subpersonality is, in humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology and ego psychology, a personality mode that activates (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][3] American transpersonal philosopher Ken Wilber and English humanistic psychologist John Rowan suggested that the average person has about a dozen subpersonalities.[1]

Stacking dolls provide a visual representation of subpersonalities.

Subpersonalities are able to perceive consciousness as something separate from themselves, as well as domestic image attached to these elements.[1] Ken Wilber defined subpersonalities 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 their own and/or others' fallibility, that is a subpersonality of the harsh critic kicking in to cope with the confrontation situation.[1]

Psychologist David Lester has reviewed the extensive literature on subpersonality and subself theory.[4]

In psychotherapyEdit

Many schools of psychotherapy see subpersonalities as relatively enduring psychological structures or entities that influence how a person feels, perceives, behaves, and sees him-, herself or themselves. Over the history of psychotherapy, many forms of therapy have worked with inner diversity representations or subpersonalities.[5][6] 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. Eventually, forms of therapy largely based on working with subpersonalities have arisen, such as Voice Dialogue, ego-state therapy, and John Rowan's work. A recent and widespread subpersonality method is Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS 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.

Recent studies have shown that subpersonality integration in the psychosynthesis therapeutic setting can help clients relieve anxiety and rebuild their identities when dealing with culture shock,[7] enhance creativity,[8] and help to awaken personal and spiritual growth in self-identified atheists.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  3. ^ Rowan, J (1990). Subpersonalities: The People Inside Us. Routledge. ISBN 9780415043298.
  4. ^ Lester, David. Theories of Personality: A Systems Approach. London: Routledge, 2019. (Ch. 8, Concept of Subselves).
  5. ^ John Firman; Ann Gila (26 September 2002). Psychosynthesis: A Psychology of the Spirit. SUNY Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7914-5534-0.
  6. ^ Nora Doherty; Marcelas Guyler (2008). The Essential Guide to Workplace Mediation & Conflict Resolution: Rebuilding Working Relationships. Kogan Page Publishers. pp. 88. ISBN 978-0-7494-5019-9.
  7. ^ Lombard, Catherine Ann (2014-04-03). "Coping with anxiety and rebuilding identity: A psychosynthesis approach to culture shock". Counselling Psychology Quarterly. 27 (2): 174–199. doi:10.1080/09515070.2013.875887. ISSN 0951-5070.
  8. ^ Lombard, C. A.; ller, B. C. N. Mu (2016-06-30). "Opening the Door to Creativity: A Psychosynthesis Approach". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 58 (6): 659–688. doi:10.1177/0022167816653224.
  9. ^ Lombard, Catherine Ann (2017-01-27). "Psychosynthesis: a foundational bridge between psychology and spirituality". Pastoral Psychology. 66 (4): 461–485. doi:10.1007/s11089-017-0753-5. ISSN 0031-2789. PMC 5493721. PMID 28725087.