The term “Internal Family Systems” (IFS) is becoming more common and utilized. This approach to healing believes that we are composed of different internal parts or sub-personalities. We may not like parts of ourselves, parts that get in our way, or parts we choose to ignore. Every part of us means well and is a cry within us that aches to be heard and tended. These cries can be fears emerging when something core is threatened. They may be longings wanting to be satisfied. They may be aching wounds that are tender and have pain. They can also be gifts that are stifled and yearn to flourish.
For brief background, Psychology Today (link below) shares IFS was developed in the 1990s by family therapist Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. He created the concept of an undamaged core Self that is the essence of who we are, and he identified three different types of sub-personalities or families that reside within each person, in addition to the Self. These families include wounded and suppressed parts called exiles. The protective parts called managers keep the exiled parts suppressed.Other protective parts called firefighters distract the Self from the pain of exiled parts when they are released.
To create internal freedom, we have to access the best of ourselves which means we need to hear the various parts within us. We need to engage each part to hear the deep intention underneath and what it values. We need to embrace the “Self”, our inner life, light, and essence. I like to visualize the Self as the pilot light of our soul that is always there but at times might be dimmed.
So how do we move into this internal freedom and nurture our core Self that is calm, clear, connected, creative, courageous, curious, confident, and compassionate?
A first step is to be compassionate with ourselves and have no judgement with our parts. This is combined with being curious about ourselves and seek to connect with ourselves. The parts of myself I described earlier this month are how I have personalized the internal family systems concept. I am offering some of my “parts” but please add ones that are particularly core to who you are.
My child self
My sacred self
My courageous self
My wounded self
My protector self
As we enter this exercise, know it will be deep, reflective work so take three, deep cleansing breaths and settle into your space.
Pick a “part” you would like to consider. See that part in your mind.
Is there an image that comes to you to represent that part of you? Maybe it is a symbol? Maybe just a color? If something comes to you, maybe you write or draw it in your journal.
Now welcome that part by asking whichever question feels most right:
What is it you want me to know?
What is it that you need?
What are you afraid of?
How can I love you?
Where do you feel the most vulnerable?
What is your hidden gift that needs to be known and claimed?
How can I be present to you?
Reflect on how you want to engage this part going forward. What will the next healing step be?
If you liked this exercise, perhaps you choose another part to embrace.
Extension of this exercise.
A tangible way to engage with your parts is to buy a bag of multi-colored glass pieces. Choose a different colored piece for each part of you. If you find yourself wanting to connect to that part or if the part gets triggered for some reason, hold that piece of colored glass in your hand and seek to better understand it with the questions above.
To learn more about IFS or to know how to engage a therapist around this topic, here is a helpful link: www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/internal-family-systems-therapy
The 2015 Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out, is also a fun way to understand how our parts exist within us and can interact with each other.
At Survivors to Thrivers, we seek to find ways to help you explore and embrace your beautiful self and move towards Thriving. Let us know how you liked these activities so we can offer ones we know will be helpful to you.
Here’s to Thriving!