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INTERNAL FAMIY SYSTEMS (IFS) THERAPY

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

Individuals' sub-personalities are constantly playing roles in our life as we experience different events that effect us. Much like Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), we have "alters" or "parts" of us that want to protect us or distract us from what emotions we feel. IFS has found a way to break down these "parts" so we can better understand how they play crucial roles in our life and how we can heal ourselves by learning to connect, communicate and support these roles into feeling safe enough to leave our mind/body and allow us to heal.


Much like Gestalt therapy- The Empty Chair Technique, which allows a dialogue between some aspects of yourself or someone you have unresolved conflict with but that person is not actually there. You speak to the empty chair and than change chairs to speak back to yourself as that "part" of you or as if you were that person.


IFS is similar in the sense, it allows you to speak to "parts" of you that are emotional, self critical, stuck, self destructive, etc. Each part has a secret history as to why it exists within you to protect the vulnerable parts of you. Each part BELIEVES wholeheartedly, it has an important role/ job in your life; which is why these parts of you are difficult to reveal and release. The parts need to release their belief system that you need them; in order for you to let go and heal. When they resist letting go of their role, it is because they fear worse will happen to you if they do not exist. If they are not there to protect you.


Give the part a name, age and describe the role they play in your internal family system.....


PARTS OF YOU


  1. Exile - This is the inner child part of you. The most emotional, vulnerable and fragile part of you. It is easily triggered. Raw emotions that consume you. These parts are the ones who are in survival mode or had to survive situations in your life and traumatic experiences. This part lives in fear and afraid to hurt again.

  2. Manager-They protect you from what might trigger you. They can criticize you (the firefighter part of you) to be better or do better or hold you back from being better; in fear of failure. Like a overprotective parent or a parent that is constantly criticizing you.

  3. Firefighters-They fight the exiles feelings to deal with emergency situations in the moment; Reactive, Impulsive. They try to get you away and distract you from the disturbing emotions you are feelings. The issue is, they usually choose unhealthy distractions such as; addiction, eating, shopping, numb, dissociative.

There is a hierarchy of things it tries to do to distract you or disconnect you from your emotions. The last result is usually suicide because they feel hopeless and no way out. That is when the therapist speaks to that part and asks, "Why do you want to die?" wait for a the response. "What would happen if you lived?" wait for response. It is usually a hopeless one.....the therapist will reassure client why they have reasons to live and how they can be guided into the healing process.


The therapist cannot speak to the Exile part of you, until they have permission from the protectors (managers and sometimes firefighters) The Exile needs to feel safe. It is similar to family therapy. Everyone has a different role and personality and sometimes you argue in session, or get angry or defensive and the therapist needs to reconnect you with each other. In IFS, the therapist is reconnecting all your parts within you, back to one. (SELF) Where everyone is at peace.


4. SELF- Your true Self cannot be damaged and it knows how to heal every part of you! It is your SOUL.

IT IS WHO YOU REALLY ARE-

It is the 8 C's-

  • Calm

  • Confident

  • Clarity

  • Compassionate

  • Connected

  • Curious

  • Creative

  • Courageous

HOW THE METHOD WORKS IN PRACTICE


  • Find the part that wants to speak and is protecting you.

  • Locate where in your body you feel this part

  • Focus your attention inward and describe how you feel about this part (hate it, fear it, depend on it)

  • Ask other parts to relax so you can focus your mind on this one part that wants to be present and share ( You might feel your energy change)

  • Connect with that part - speak to it - ask questions - be open minded- listen to it

  • If your protecter will not allow you to get anywhere, ask it why?

  • Ask it what it wants you to know and direct it to the part of the body that is feeling it

  • What is it afraid of will happen if it doesn't protect you?

  • Ask it-Do not force thoughts- allow it to flow and wait for an answer

  • Ask it permission if you can heal or change the role of those parts that are protecting you so they do not have to protect you anymore. What else might it like to do inside of you as a role?

  • Ask how old the part thinks YOU (Self) are? If it is wrong, let it know how old you really are and see how it reacts to that information.

  • Ask what does it need from you?

  • Thank the parts for sharing what you needed to know and give it gratitude for sharing with you.

  • Be present in the emotions

  • Witness if it is stuck in the past (If so, ask it to show you what happened during that time) Imagine - Guided imagery

  • If you begin to feel overwhelmed - do not "ground yourself" as most therapeutic methods teach you. Instead, stay with that emotion and do not suppress it.

  • Guided imagery from the therapist for allowing light into the body and healing.

  • Invite qualities into the body you would like to take with you (the inner child) into the future YOU!

  • Ask protective parts to see the "HEALED" you and show them that they are no longer needed for protection.

  • If you begin to dissociate - Ask those parts of you to step out and allow Self back in.

More direct Questions -


FIND

  • Who needs attention today?

  • What do you want to explore today?

  • Which part do you want to explore today?

  • Where do you notice it?

  • Where do you feel it in or around your body?

FOCUS

  • Can you turn towards that part?

  • What is it like?

  • How are you aware of it?

  • Can you deepen your access to that part?

  • Are you aware of it in other ways?

  • How close are you to it?

  • Can you ask it to give you some space?

  • What is its role?

FEEL

  • What do you feel towards this part?

  • Can you ask it to give you some more space?

  • Can you ask other parts to step aside?

BE-FRIEND

  • What is the parts role?

  • What is its intent for you?

  • How old does it think you are?

  • How old is the part?

  • What is the history of the part?

  • Is there anything else it wants you to know?

  • I appreciate you / what you did for me.

FEARS

  • What are you trying to do for me?

  • What are you afraid would happen if you did not do your job?

  • What is bad about that?

  • What would that mean for you?

  • CHECK IN with Self - Do you believe this is right?

  • Do you experience it like this right now?

  • How is that for you?

  • Are you willing to let me meet the other parts and maybe help them?

  • Let's assume we can do that.....would it let us connect with those parts?



CONTACTING AND HEALING THE EXILE


  • Contact the Exile by establishing a connection between the Self and the Exile in which the Self can be present with the experience of the exile.

  • Witness the Exile by inviting the Exile to show anything it wants to show so it can be seen, felt and understood - in what happened and how that made it feel. -Additionally supporting the Exile in understanding that this happened in the past.

  • Reparent the Exile by allowing the Exile to have a new experience. Either in the memory of the past OR in the present.

  • Retrieving the Exile by freeing the Exile from the situation of the past and bringing it into a better situation in imagination or the present.

  • Unburdening the Exile by holding a ritual in which the Exile can let go of the Burdens it has been holding.

  • Integrate Exile and Protector by finding a good place for both Exile and Protector in the system and life.






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