Who is the inner rebel? She is our internalized rebel archetype; a Firefighter in Internal Family Systems terms; the Diet Rebel in the Intuitive Eating world. The inner rebel stays up long past the point we should be in slumberland; eats a whole bucket of carbs; and encourages us to pour ourselves that second glass of wine on a school night (and then maybe another). She’s in touch with difficult emotions just long enough to know that she doesn’t want anything to do with them and she has plenty of suggestions for how to skip out that usually involved some kind of “naughty” behavior (and who doesn’t love a bit of naughtiness in their day 😉 ).
This feisty little sweetheart develops because, at some point in our life, we didn’t have a voice to express ourselves outwardly so we started to express our protests internally. She gave us a sense of power and control when our external environment didn’t actually award us much power and control. She’s like the teenager who never gets to do all those things teenagers are meant to do to be initiated into adulthood, like being given permission to take risks, develop a sense of self-sovereignty, and feel respected by those around her. So she internalizes those rebellious stances she actually needed to take in the world to develop fully.
She is also a response to internalized critics and internal authority figures. We internalize these messages as a way to keep ourselves safe, but at some point they cease to keep us safe and continue to thwart our development unnecessarily. One part of us is criticizing us, another part is being criticized, and the inner rebel is rushing into the scene to insert some distracting behavior to interrupt the process.
While the inner rebel feels powerful and in some ways protective, she’s often also reckless and not that concerned about things like physical health, following sensible guidelines, or ramifications of actions. She’s about trying to feel a sense of independence and avoiding feeling pain, which is really important, but her strong personality can overshadow other parts of our internal psyche that are concerned about our long-term wellbeing (like our inner compassionate wise women).
So what can we do? Well, firstly, we can pay attention to her and give her a desk to herself with a better view and a decent salary (she does not want a full-time gig though, and she certainly needs flexible hours). She’s got good information about boundaries that we’d do well to listen to. She’s a great advisor, but not a great leader. Let her shine as an advisor. She will most likely start to assert herself less recklessly once she’s given some respect and is seen and heard.
One way to respect her is to take action on her advice through setting boundaries for ourselves and then verbalizing these to anyone in our external environment who is stepping over these boundaries, or any internal parts that are crossing our boundaries. Turn her advice into action. It will chuff her no end, and will start to give her (and you) more of a sense of authenticity in the world. Setting boundaries can set off other parts of our internal family and players in our external environment, but this is part of the work of reclaiming our sovereignty and moving more creatively, courageously and freely through our life.
We can also acknowledge the pain that has lead to her feeling so unseen and unheard. Practices like Soften, Soothe, Allow from the Mindful Self-Compassion program can help. I have some practices in the upcoming Thriving Woman Toolkit that can help you to be with the inner rebel, find out what she’s going through, see and hear her, then recruit a wise woman part to help initiate her into her own beautiful fullness.
All of our internal parts are sacred and special. Turning toward them is a challenge. Mindful Self-Compassion and Thriving Woman Toolkit are great resources for doing this. Go on, you’re worth it (and so is she!).
- Awareness of Sound (21 minutes) - July 19, 2021
- Podcast Episode 9: Compassion in a T-Shirt: In Session with Kristy Arbon - June 13, 2021
- Somatic Self-Compassion Tree of Practices and Neurochemicals - May 2, 2021
- Podcast Episode 9: Favorite Things on my Morning Walk - January 27, 2021
- Podcast Episode 8: Slow News Days and Companioning the Neutral - January 22, 2021