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How IFS can help us reintegrate ostracized parts of ourselves. (10min Read)
***Today’s Blog Disclaimer: Today’s blog contains conversations about anxiety, depression, self-harm, abuse, sexual assault, and suicidal ideations. These conversations and relative language choices may be triggering for some readers. Please proceed with caution and care. If you are experiencing emotional distress or are feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org***
What is Self Energy?
Unblending from your Parts
2 Tools for Unblending
Becoming Friends w/ our Parts
How to Talk to Your Parts
Protector Interview Process
What about Exiles? (Be Careful)
Welcome back, everyone! How are your Parts doing today? Were you able to start building a relationship with them?
If you haven’t already, make sure to read Part 1 of this post, here’s a link.
Today we will be talking about how to do this using IFS concepts!
IFS is a bottom-up, internal process because you begin with a focus on your inner world and on how your parts are feeling.
It becomes a top-down process when you shift into the role of Self and you have an overview, from a broader perspective, of how the Parts function in your mind/body.
You could think of your inner Parts as being “on a lower level” in the mind compared to the thinking mind.
You enter a higher level of awareness (top-down) once you are in Self, because at that point you are operating from your true Self rather than the Parts.
This is blending of Top-Down & Bottom-Up methodologies very important because 80% of the information we receive from our environment comes from our Body, or “Bottom-Up.”
Let’s dive in.
What is Self Energy?
Last week we talked about the “Self” being like an inner parent or leader to all of our other Parts. Its job is to keep the peace & balance the system.
When we are living “from Self” we have these 8 qualities, called the 8C’s of Self in IFS: Curiosity, Compassionate, Calmness, Connectedness, Creativity, Courage, Clarity, & Confidence.
“Self Energy” can be thought of as an inner sense of aliveness and vitality.
It’s a vital quality that animates a person and is experienced as a powerful, magnetic force.
When you are living “from Self” and embodying self-energy, you are fully alive, fully present, and fully capable of taking the appropriate action.
The goal of IFS work is to live in this state as often as possible. So, how do we get there?
Unblending from Our Parts
You become blended with a part when you lose the distinction between yourself and the part.
It is a feeling of being merged and of feeling and thinking as if you are the part and believing that the part is you.
It’s a state in which you lose contact with your true Self and feel totally identified with a particular part.
For example, say you feel rejected by someone and you identify with the Part that fears abandonment which puts you into a fight or flight mode that can appear like defensiveness
This is an example of being stuck in “Part mode,” and you have lost the capacity to see things from Self.
This is a dangerous, dysfunctional place to be in and this is one of the first things I work on with clients.
To unblend from a part, you have to become aware that you have lost contact with your Self.
One way you can do this is by simply taking a step back and asking yourself, “What part of me is talking right now?”
The 2 most critical elements of unblending from our Parts are:
Recognizing the Part
Getting curious about it
2 Powerful Unblending Tools
Now that you get the basics, Dr. Schwartz (Founder of IFS) suggests two powerful techniques for this unblending process.
One of them is called the “step-back tool.” This involves literally taking a step away from any person or thing that is triggering you.
Give yourself some space to get your bearings and notice what Parts come up for you. Just be aware of what you are feeling and thinking.
You may be surprised by how powerful even a small amount of space can be.
The other method he suggests is just taking a few deep breaths into your belly.
This helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and creates some physiological distance, which can be a good platform for getting grounded and moving into Self.
Once you’re unblended from your Parts, you can start to form a relationship with them!
Becoming Friends with Our Parts
After learning to unblend & identify our Parts, you will start to see this internal landscape of Parts inside of you.
This isn’t just limited to the Parts we talked about last week either, our Managers, Exiles, & Firefighters, it includes all sorts of different Parts.
For example, there are also teachers (wise figures), clowns (parts whose job it is to make you laugh or make people around you feel happy), rescuers, helpers, and tons more.
Dr. Schwartz says there is no set number of Parts per person, but the numbers are typically somewhere between 30 and 50 or more, depending on the person.
By unblending from these parts we open up the space to get to know them, and even befriend them.
Why Are Exiles, Managers, & Firefighters Special?
Great question! IFS focuses on these types of parts because they are typically the parts that run the show and cause the most problems in a person's life in terms of their mental health and their overall functioning.
This is why if you’ve heard of IFS, you’ve probably heard about these Parts more than any other.
Working with, and healing them allows you to create the greatest sense of inner safety.
Working w/ Managers & Firefighters
Last week we talked about how our Managers & Firefighters get created and started to learn that they have our safety in mind, no matter how detrimental they may appear on the surface level.
Today, I’d like to help you open up a dialogue with these Parts of yourself.
It’s imperative to remember the 8C’s as you start to have these conversations, here they are again: Curiosity, Compassion, Calmness, Connectedness, Creativity, Courage, Clarity, & Confidence.
While talking with any of our Parts, but especially our Protectors, it’s important to stay in “Self.”
This allows you to understand and work with your Managers & Firefighters in a gentle and compassionate way, recognizing that these parts are only trying to protect you from past traumas or negative experiences.
This creates a safe and healing space for you to start to communicating with your Protectors so that you can understand the reasoning behind their actions.
Through this process, you can learn to challenge the limiting beliefs that are holding you back and instead develop new, more compassionate, and empowering ways of thinking.
By understanding the underlying causes of their behaviors, you can learn to develop healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions and traumatic experiences.
How to Talk to Your Parts
When talking to your parts, it’s best to put on your “nurturing parent” or “compassionate leader” hat.
This is because self-compassion is one of the most important parts of talking with your Parts.
This is the ability to be kind and understanding toward oneself, which is a tall order for most people.
We tend to beat the shit out of ourselves mentally, myself included!
Through self-compassion, you can learn to treat your different Parts with compassion, rather than judgment or criticism, even that Inner Critic I mentioned above!
This self-compassion will allow you to access the "Self energy” I talked about earlier so that you can work to resolve your past traumas and wounds.
This can be done through different techniques such as guided imagery, journaling, and visualization.
By doing this you can identify and understand your different parts, as well as the roles they play in the person's life.
As you do, you’ll come to understand that some parts may have formed as a result of past traumas or negative experiences and that these parts may be causing problems in the present.
Protector Parts Interview
This is all fine and well, but how do you do this? I’m glad you asked!
Below I’ve outlined a basic Protector Interview that you can walkthrough.
This is something I take my own clients through all the time. If you’d like some help, and would like me to help you, feel free to book some time with me below, happy to help!
For this exercise, think about a Protector you want to change your relationship with.
Maybe it’s your Inner Critic, People Pleaser, Overeater, etc, it’s up to you!
After you’ve found the target Part, take a moment to get into a mindful state. That could mean taking some deep breaths, closing your eyes, etc.
After you do this, walk yourself through these questions.
Where is this Protector in or around your body?
How do you (the Self) feel towards this Part of you?
At this point, if any emotion or feeling other than 1 of the 8C’s comes up, ask this Part of you if it would be willing to sit on the sideline while you get to know the target Part, and see if it would be willing to do that!
Here are the 8C’s again: Curious, Compassionate, Calm, Connected, Creative, Courageous, Clear, Confident)
If the Part says it doesn’t want to step back, continue the process with this new Protector Part instead
How old does the Part think you are?
If it thinks you're younger, update it and see how it reacts.
Ask the Protector what it wants you to know or understand about it? Wait for an answer from Body, and try not to “think” too hard about this.
What is it afraid would happen if it didn't do this job?
Show appreciation & compassion for trying to protect you in this way
If you could heal or change what it protects so that it was freed up, what would it like to do instead inside of you?
Meaning, if it knew that you, the Self, could keep it, and all the other Parts safe so that it didn’t have to play this role anymore, what would it rather do?
What does it need from you in the future?
Come back into your Body
As you go through this, if at any point, you start to overthink, ask the Intellectulizer to step back, or if you start to criticize that Part you’re talking to, ask the Inner Critic to step back.
Again, if you’d like help walking through this, I’d be happy to help!
What About Exiles?!
Exiles are very intense emotions that typically take over our entire body, and can be very overwhelming to experience.
This is why they are locked up & exiled in the first place! This can make chatting with them pretty intense as well.
Not only that, but Exiles have Protectors guarding their cages which can make it tricky to actually talk with them.
These Protectors have been doing their job for a very long time generally, and don’t like when anyone comes in and messes with the Exile they’re protecting.
That being said, if you try to talk with an Exile, but don’t get permission from a Protector, some wild things can happen.
By going right to this Exile first, the old patterns of behavior you used to use to keep them locked away could resurface, like binge drinking, doing drugs, self-harm, dissociation, etc.
This can make talking with Exile challenging, and something that should be done with a professional that can help you:
A. Regulate your Nervous System as they take over
B. Help you navigate & form relationships the Protectors guarding them
C. Deal with any rogue Protectors that pop up.
Again, if you’d like support, I’d be more than happy to help out, please be careful as you navigate this inner landscape of Exiles!
That being said, by recognizing and working with the Exiles we can start to understand the underlying causes of these issues which can help resolve them.
It is important to note that healing Exiles is not about "fixing" or getting rid of them, but rather understanding them, giving them a voice, and validating their feelings and experiences.
By doing this, we can heal the old wounds, and help the Exile escape the cage they’ve been locked up in for so long.
When we do, the Protectors who have been guarding this cage get to pick new roles, and won’t show up in your life in the same way anymore!
Give It A Try!
Working with your Parts is a powerful way to start to heal them, and your Self, I highly encourage you to start this dialogue internally.
I suggest starting with Protectors that came to mind as we talked, or that you thought of last week as we describe common types of Managers & Firefighters!
These conversations can be very therapeutic & relieving even when had alone.
Again, please be careful when working with Exiles, I suggest doing this with a professional so that they can be there for you during and after the session.
I’ve found the IFS methodology to be a unique, powerful, and holistic way of viewing yourself & others.
It helps us understand that we all have different parts of ourselves that make us who we are.
It teaches self-compassion and helps my clients find inner peace by resolving past traumas.
And it has been found to be effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction.
Overall, the Internal Family Systems method is a unique and powerful approach to mental health that can help individuals to understand and work through their inner conflicts, and improve their overall well-being.
If you’d like to try it out me with, here’s 1 more link to book some time with me!
Otherwise, I will see you next week!
Until then… Live Heroically 🧠