Shift stress to calm: An “inner family” affair

In the article: Meet your Inner Family, we introduced the new Harvard Health book: Organize your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, which in its simplest form can be described as an adult version of the Pixar movie Inside Out. We propose that the human psyche has nine life forces speaking as our “inner voices,” each with its own agenda and emotions. For four years I have been doing an early morning roll call to shift my stress to calm and balance. Today I asked my inner family what I could share with you. This is what they said.

Autonomy  Autonomy

Overall, I love this life because we have a lot of autonomy, but at the moment I’m irritated. We are always projecting a buttoned-up, professional vibe. We hide my swagger because it might seem unprofessional. Someday, please, I want to wear my leather jeans to work!

Body Regulator  Body regulator

I’m pretty happy about how healthy and balanced we are, but we could do better. I’m feeling ignored at the moment. Even after we wrote a confessional blog on brain breaks, I still can’t get us to do stretches and yoga poses a few times during the day.

Confidence  confidence

I do a good job of projecting confidence, and I’m feeling good about that. But frankly I’m nervous about all of us sharing what we are really thinking and feeling. I’m worried that people might think we’re crazy. Or they may be overwhelmed and anxious about dealing with their own inner team of nine.

Curious Adventurer  Adventurer

I feel excited about telling our story! Life is never boring with nine perspectives on everything. What a great adventure it will be for readers to have a map for decoding their own emotions. I look forward to hearing all the responses.

Executive Manager  Executive

I’m rather proud of my ability to organize the mind and emotions. It feels great to find order and clarity every morning, which gets me on top of things.

Creative  Creative

It’s true that Executive Manager has done a great job, but she shouldn’t get all the credit for our successes. She presses me to come up with new ideas pronto, and it’s a little overwhelming. I would really like some hip hop dance lessons to balance out the pressure. But there is always more work to do.

Relational  Relational

I feel some compassion knowing that not everyone in our inner family is happy right now. I am grateful, however, for how well we work together — even when there are a few gripes.

Hey Confidence — I want you to know that people won’t think we’re crazy. They’ll be glad for this new information and for learning how to put it into practice! As Harvard doc Eddie Phillips, our co-author, likes to say: Meeting your inner family is like finding an entire baseball team (nine players) on your side and in your mind. That feels manageable — inspiring, even!

Standard Setter  Standard Setter

I’m all for compassion and gratitude, but people need to know that I’m the one who presses everyone to reach peak performance. You know… maybe it would help to not always overrule the others. Maybe we could make time for brain breaks (when we finish writing this article), schedule hip hop dance lessons, and wear leather jeans to work — at least once in a while.

Meaning Maker  Meeting maker

Today is a good example of a mixed emotional weather report. Some irritation, frustration, worry and overwhelm, blended with excitement, pride, gratitude, and compassion. The inner taskmaster, the Standard Setter, had new insights about being a team-player. And an hour from now we’ll be talking about something different. Our positions change just like the weather. We could be hijacked by a negative comment to this article or warmed by someone who likes it. My wisdom (quoting Rumi) is to welcome every emotion as a friend and messenger.

Mindful Self (orchestrating the inner family)
mindful self

I say: Let’s appreciate every member of our inner family — along with each of its strengths, vulnerabilities, and good intentions. This is how we find balance and thrive. Most of all, sharing our inner world serves our calling to help others grow and thrive more, too.



  1. Melvin Foster

    This is pretty good, its very helpful for stress elimination.

  2. Tessa Sam

    “The inner slave driver”…? There are so many other ways you could have gotten that point across.

    • Margaret Moore

      Thank you Tessa. I used the term with the best of intentions. I changed it to taskmaster. My gratitude for your sensitivity to the term. Coach Meg

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