INTERNAL FAMILY SYSTEMS THERAPY
How can we help the system come back into balance? Through coming into contact with what in IFS we call the Self. Self is our core, our seat of consciousness, our truest and most pure way of being. We can tell when Self energy is present through the presence of qualities such as calmness, compassion, curiosity, confidence, courage, creativity, clarity, and connectedness. When we have Self energy present, we are able to help the burdened parts who are in extreme roles heal, bringing the system into greater balance. From this place of balance, we can then live from a place of Self instead of feeling hijacked by a part of ourself that is activated.
What does this look like in session? It can vary, but we’ll often map what parts are present or have been recently activated. Even just naming the parts can help bring some Self energy into the system. We’ll sometimes then explore the different parts present. During this time, some find it easier to close their eyes to shift the focus to their internal world; others find it easier to softly look at something in front of them. From there, we get to know the parts and, through building relationships with them from a place of Self, we can help them unburden and heal.
Seems a bit woo, no? If there’s a part of you that’s thinking that, you’re not alone. The work in IFS takes place in the right part of the brain, where emotions and symbol and metaphor live. It’s okay if all of this doesn’t make logical sense. Much like how I don’t have to understand or know exactly how every bit of machinery in a car runs in order for me to drive it, I find that the modality still works even if that specific logical connection is not there. In fact, IFS was listed in the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as evidence-based in 2015. Clients who have utilized IFS to support their healing often tell me some variety of the following: “This is really weird, but it really works.”
If you’re interested in learning more about IFS as an approach to healing, check out the Internal Family Systems Institute at www.ifs-institute.com. A really fantastic and easy to understand book that goes into detail about IFS is Richard Schwartz’s “No Bad Parts”.
If there are any parts of you resonating with anything I’ve written here, I invite you to contact me to set up an appointment or a 15-minute consultation call.
Have you ever noticed that you have different personalities you take on in the different arenas in your life? Your talking-with-your-boss personality is likely very different from your hanging-with-your-friends personality. Your artistic personality is likely very different from your running-late-and-stuck-in-traffic personality. If you’re sitting with a decision of some kind, we see this as well. When you say, “Part of me feels this way while part of me feels that way,” that’s acknowledging these two different personalities.
In internal family systems therapy (IFS), we call these personalities “parts.” From an IFS perspective, we are made up of a great deal of different parts that have different jobs in our system. However, when we experience intense life events or trauma, those parts often take on extreme roles in order to keep the system safe. This often has ripple effects on other parts in the system, and can lead to a system that’s pretty out of balance.