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Parts Therapy Info on IFC

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by njoy, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    I was just on the chat where I offered to share some info about Internal Family Systems and two people took me up on it (I won't say the names here just in case that's a bad idea). With luck, they may read this post but I am not sure how else to get in touch with them.

    My understanding only! Internal Family Systems (IFC) posits that when we experience trauma (anything we can't deal with at the time) a "part" of our psyche splits off and becomes what we might later refer to as the "inner child" or a critical voice who criticizes practically everything we do (there are many possibilities, these are just two). These internal parts of us have relationships with each other and profoundly affect our lives. They can be worked with and used to resolve inner conflicts. Also, many of the parts hold painful memories.

    On the discussion/book study just prior to the chat, we talked about a woman called Ellen who spent 9 years in therapy to work with painful memories she had little or no awareness of at first. Obviously most people don't have access, so I'm thinking IFC is a good self-help way of approaching the problem.

    If the two people on the chat want to email me, that'd be great. Or anyone else who is interested.

    Or you could post here, of course.
  2. Pandagirl

    Pandagirl Peer Supporter

    Hi njoy! I (Mandi) was one that was interested!
  3. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Hi Mandi, it's good to hear from you. There is quite a lot of information online if you google Internal Family Systems, (Richard Schwartz and Jay Earley, in particular). I bought 2 Kindle books by Earley, as well. The first is called Self-Therapy and the second is a sequel called Resolving Inner Conflict, both available here:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=Jay Earley

    Also, I came across a youtube audio by Richard Schwartz (founder of IFC) that was long (1 hour 39 minutes) but well worth listening to for a good overview. You can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99HuL_Bk-SU

    As well as being "self-therapy", there are IFS practitioners available and, as I understand it, they work with clients for a few sessions while teaching the skills so you can carry on your own work, without a therapist. Gotta love that!

    Also, I've been listening in on a weekly conference call with some people, none of whom are certified practitioners, who have some basic training and share sessions with each other. They were very welcoming to me and most likely would be to you, as well. Let me know if you want more information about that.
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  4. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Sure sounds like the classic Freudian Id - Super Ego split to me. Ellen, if I still can recall, was compared during her childhood negatively to her old brother, a comparison that rippled through her marriage to Ted, her relationship with a married man, and on into other aspects of her professional and personal life, usually with overtones of self-destructive violence. I mean would you start a relationship with a married man you met in a singles bar fired up by the OJ Simpson murder case unless you were unconsciously looking for real trouble?

    I do know that the conflict between the inner child and the inner parent is one of things that supplies the psychological tension that creates the need for TMS symptoms as a distraction. This IFC seems to be another lens for examining that same underlying conflict. The more tools you have in your tool kit may give you a better chance of finding the emotional conflict behind your TMS symptoms.
  5. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Oops. It turns out I may have misunderstood the model. There is another IFS conference on youtube.com that states we are born with all our parts. They don't split off, as I said in my first post on this thread.

    Thanks for your comments, Bruce. Perhaps when we get ourselves into the same trouble over and over again (as Ellen seems to have done) it's because we are looking for solutions to a problem that appears to be dogging us. I love negotiating with my parts to find solutions to problems that, consciously, I didn't know I had but which are messing up my life.
  6. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, "irresistible" seems to rhyme with "obsessive", doesn't it? That usually gives you a clue there's something profound lurking beneath surface in the unconscious mind, I'd have to guess. Of course, Einstein once observed that if he woke up in the morning and felt he just had to do something, then, he'd go right back to bed and sleep another ten minutes. I can thing of plenty of times I should have taken Einstein's advice!
  7. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    There appears to be something to this idea that in IFS there is something, an emotion or memory, that we can't access. I agree that this is a lot like Freud's Id, Ego, superego, and I found the Wikipedia entry to be quite interesting. The page is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Family_Systems_Model . Here is a segment from the page:

    IFS sees consciousness as composed of various "parts" or subpersonalities, each with its own perspective, interests, memories, and viewpoint. A core tenet of IFS is that every part has a positive intent for the person, even if its actions or effects are counterproductive or cause dysfunction. This means that there is never any reason to fight with, coerce, or try to eliminate a part; the IFS method promotes internal connection and harmony.​

    Parts can have either “extreme roles” or healthy roles. IFS focuses on parts in extreme roles because they are in need of transformation through therapy. IFS divides these parts into three types—managers, exiles, and firefighters.​


    Managers are parts with preemptive protective roles. They handle the way a person interacts with the external world to protect them from being hurt by others and try to prevent painful or traumatic feelings and experiences from flooding a person's awareness.​


    Exiles are parts that are in pain, shame, fear, or trauma, usually from childhood. Managers and firefighters try to exile these parts from consciousness, to prevent this pain from coming to the surface.​


    Firefighters are parts that emerge when exiles break out and demand attention. These parts work to distract a person's attention from the hurt or shame experienced by the exile by leading them to engage in impulsive behaviors like overeating, drug use, fighting, or having inappropriate sex. They can also distract from the pain by causing a person to focus excessively on more subtle activities such as overworking, over-medicating.​


    IFS also sees people as being whole, underneath this collection of parts. Everyone has a true self or spiritual center, known as the Self to distinguish it from the parts. Even people whose experience is dominated by parts have access to this Self and its healing qualities of curiosity, connectedness, compassion, and calmness. IFS sees the therapist's job as helping the client to disentangle themselves from their parts and access the Self, which can then connect with each part and heal it, so that the parts can let go of their destructive roles and enter into a harmonious collaboration, led by the Self. IFS explicitly recognizes the spiritual nature of the Self, allowing the model to be helpful in spiritual development as well as psychological healing.​

    IFS Method

    IFS has a well-defined therapeutic method for individual therapy based on the following principles: (In this description, the term “protector” refers to either a manager or firefighter.)​
    • Parts in extreme roles carry “burdens,” which are painful emotions or negative beliefs that they have taken on as a result of harmful experiences in the past, often in childhood. These burdens are not intrinsic to the part and therefore they can be released or “unburdened” through IFS. This allows the part to assume its natural healthy role.
    • The client’s Self is the agent of psychological healing. The therapist helps the client to access and remain in Self and provides guidance in the therapy process.
    • Protectors can’t usually let go of their protective roles and transform until the exiles they are protecting have been unburdened.
    • There is no attempt to work with any exile until the client has obtained permission from any protectors who are protecting that exile. This makes the method relatively safe, even in working with traumatized parts.
    • The Self is the natural leader of the internal system. However, because of harmful incidents or relationships in the past, protectors have stepped in to protect the system and taken over for the Self. One protector after another is activated and takes over the system causing dysfunctional behavior. These protectors are also frequently in conflict with each other, resulting in internal chaos or stagnation. The goal of IFS is for the protectors to come to trust the Self so they will allow it to lead the system and create internal harmony under its guidance.
    The IFS method involves first helping the client to access Self. Then the Self gets to know a protector, discovers its positive intent, and develops a trusting relationship with it. With the protector’s permission, the client accesses the exile(s) it is protecting and discovers the childhood incident or relationship that is the source of the burden(s) it is carrying. The exile is retrieved from being stuck in that past situation and helped to release its burdens. Then the protector can also let go of its protective role and assume a healthy one.​

    One of the more interesting parts of this was when it said that the Self had to have permission from the protector to explore the exile (or repressed emotion/memory). This may be a reason why some people have resistance to exploring their emotions, and to take this a step further, perhaps why some people have difficulty accepting the TMS diagnosis. If your ego, or in this case protector, is threatened or afraid of seeing the truth, then it has no choice but to reject it.
  8. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Great find, Forest. Another helpful aspect of IFS is in interpersonal relationships. Not only do we fight with parts of ourselves (for example, a Busy part might bitterly disapprove of a Lazy part) but how often do we say, "I don't know what it is about Joe but I just can't stand the guy!" In this case, it just might be that my Busy part is not about to put up with Joe's happy relationship with his Lazy part.

    IFS therapists who work with kids say this is often the problem between parent and child. I ran into this many times when I worked as a professional foster parent. Several moms made no conscious connection between anger at a "difficult" daughter and the fact that the girl looked very much like her dad, the mother's abusive ex. The moms could quite honestly say, "I love her so much but she just drives me crazy".
  9. deborah a burns

    deborah a burns Peer Supporter

    Thanks Forest, It's kind of complicated but, true...especially the exiles.
  10. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

    Hi njoy,
    great tip, thank you! ifs seems very helpful, since the tms symptoms act as protectors and firefighters. Would you mind to give us an example of how you use the method for yourself?
  11. UnknownStuntman

    UnknownStuntman Peer Supporter

  12. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Njoy this is so cool
    I used to study parts therapy in nlp- it was about asking what part agreed or disagreed with certain decisions or negative emotions
    Like if I was wanting to stop an anger issue I would get into a meditative state and ask what part of me is angry and why
    This part might not come through and say anything the first session but after a few sessions we would
    have parts explaining how to do all sorts of things.
    The objective was to ask what part disagreed with a decision and then the part that disagrees would say I disagree
    and then wed ask why?
    Then that part of our self would say why and we could always come up with solutions talking right to
    the angered or hurt or disappointed part ya know.
    Is this something like the way wed use ifs with Richard Schwartz and Jay Earleys theorys.
  13. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Yes, that's it. IFS has some good ideas about how to conduct these conversations but these are like any counselling or conversastional skills. They make the process of talking to other people more effective. Same with parts. They are "people", too, or (in my understanding) more like fragments of personality. They aren't full-blown, well-rounded personaliteis like you and me. They were born when we needed them and their job is to help us.

    Here's an example: a two-year-old really, really wants his sister's toy but mom or dad steps in and says, "No, bad boy!" And perhaps delivers a smack to back up the message. Not great parenting but stuff like this happens all the time and it can completely change a toddler's perception of his world. Suddenly, he doubts that he is safe. He thinks, "I'm a bad boy." Tere has been fundamental shift in how he feels about who and where he is. He feels separate from all that used to be secure and, perhaps on a deep level, he experiences what we might call existential panic. Is he going to die because he is bad and his mom or daddy is mad at him? It's very scary for a little kid to suddenly be on the outside looking in. In fact it's unbearable and he so he shoves those scary thoughts deep into his unconscious mind.

    With most kids, of course, one or two incidents is not going to make a huge difference. But what if they become more and more frequent? Mom is is unhappy. Dad is worried. Siblings are bullies or overprotective. Playmates take your toys and you aren't allowed to hit them! Teachers want you to sit down, shut up and learn something called reading and writing.

    Now, a "protector" is born. Next time, mom slaps or daddy yells or our boy is jealous of his sister's toy, the protector part intervenes on behalf of the traumatized "exile" who now hides deep in the unconscious, afraid to come out because the world is not safe. How this all plays out depends on an array of factors including what happens next and, of course, temperament.

    The boy may grow up to be a "people pleaser" or a perfectionist. He may fly into rages. He may cooly plot revenge against anyone who crosses his path. He may try to change the world for the better or he may try to destroy it. He may become apathetic because he truly doesn't care or caring seems pointless.

    It all depends on the nature of his protectors, the parts within who help him cope with life. Some will lead to tms. Others to failed relationships. Some may comfort him. If he is unhappy, he may ask, "Why do I react that way? Why can't I be happy?" but the answer eludes him because it hides within.

    Internal Family Systems, if I understand it correctly, is a way to access those answers. Luckily, protectors are not as unreasonable as they sometimes appear. They really are trying to help even when they argue with each other about what will help.

    So, why aren't we more aware of our "parts"? I think it's much the same as people being, in general, very reluctant to admit their physical pain might be tms. People like control and having to admit that who you are may not be who you think you are just doesn't feel like control. Who me? Parts? That's crazy! Sure, I drink too much, smoke, drop the nice girls and moon over the ones who don't like me, can't get along with my bosses because ... hey, that's just me. It's not my fault. It's their fault. Or maybe it's my fault but I don't like to think about that. I'm just no good but I'm in control. I overwork, overeat, oversleep, but I'm doing what I want with my life... Aren't I?

    It really is much better, in my mind, to admit to conflicts and work at resolving them. It doesn't matter if the conflicts are in our relationships or within our own self. Conflicts hurt and get in the way of peace. Sometimes, shoving them aside and trying to forget them just doesn't work.
  14. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is an awesome explanation njoy, so its like getting to repression too and also finally understanding or taking back control over why I act the way I do if its not helping me get ahead in life.
    I like the way we can learn from ourselves just what we need to know. like I was around 30 and I was already preaching and going for home visits, to the hospitals and all -I was humble with my eyes on the people and all and that's a good thing- no issue there, but I kept telling myself (1 day your going to be a great public speaker- 1 day )and all of the sudden "a part of me spoke up and said you already are."
    I was like wow where did that come from, that's when I decided to look deeper and learn more about this 6 part reframing as its called in nlp- im sure their different in some respects and I will learn more of the ifs systems as I go along but it has to do with disassociation and understanding if some instances in life are to bad or traumatic too remember or think about.
    Say in ifs id assume if you were hurt as a child you could go back or go to and comfort that child, build them up and help them become strong again as you grow up with them right. I believe you said this above or on another thread.
    Any ways I've done this type of self help therapy which as I said probably has some different aspects to it but I've helped friends that have had nightmares and very bad past episodic experiences- loose the fear of the experiences and move on with their lives as if nothing had ever happened.
    It was where wed go to the part that had the child that got hurt, then wed build power and strength into that child and ask questions till there was no more fear.
    I hope im on the same page as im very new to ifs but ill catch up and really learn this well, thanks for your explanation.
    I have this question Njoy- I've seen folks do parts therapy in nlp and when they were done loosing the fear or getting the unaware circumstance finally understood and complete- often they would loose various pains in their body too.
    Have you seen this happen any when folks get resolution.
  15. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Exactly, Herbie. Sometimes the part only needs to have its story heard -- no longer separated from the conscious mind, no longer an "exile". It will usually help to recognize the suffering the part has kept away from us. A thank you goes a long way! Other times the part needs reparenting which is what you've just described. I've noticed these lost ones often need to to speak about how they wished they'd been treated. You may have to help them "confront" the person who hurt them even if that person is long dead. This may help them stand up to a boss or a partner who is treating them in a way similar to their childhood abuse.

    Dick Schwartz was a family therapist so the way he looks at psychology is from that perspective. He says that many relationship problems are a matter of (for example) my "take it easy" part clashing with your "up tight perfectionist".

    No one has asked yet, but I feel the need to answer the question: "Who is the 'you' that works with the parts?" Most people call it the Self. I (not sure why) call it my Aware Ego. Maybe some might feel it is Soul. Anyway, whoever it is, it's a more aware part that is able to rise above all the squabbling. It is the essence of "me". It's a part but it is the leader. When parts disagree, this is the part that decides what I will do. I once read that British kings and their lords, dukes, etc. were "equals" but the king was "first among equals".

    That's how I think of my Self, or my Aware Ego. It is, according to IFS theory, "curious" and "compassionate" about the other parts, even if they are causing difficulties. Isn't that wonderful? Like a good parent. Then, if I feel judgmental or whatever I know for a fact that two or more parts are "blended" (enmeshed) with me. In IFS, I (whatever I call it) simply asks that blended part to step back a bit ....

    I am getting into too much detail! Jay Earley's books put it all together nicely and I highly recommend them. Here's
    A List on Amazon .
  16. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is a very good finishing explanation, thank you so much Njoy.
    I love the style and grace of this theory
    I will get some books on Schwartz's style for sure.
    Id always known this was going to be a special theory,
    I bet theirs lots of negative energy release with this style.
    Thanks a million
    Bless you
  17. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Herbie said:
    The short answer is yes, I have, especially with myself. I'm new to IFS, too, but it has made a huge difference to me. That's why I am hopeful that other tms-ers will get to know their parts. It's so much easier than years of therapy or having NO idea what unconscious material your pain is repressing.

    Of course, I'm not saying it will work for everyone, on everything. We need all the wonderful ideas on this forum and in Dr. Sarno's writing and the other tms books. Some of us need one thing, others something very different. I need IFS and that probably means there are others here who will benefit as well.

    Maybe I should give you an example. I have a tendency to have down moods. They used to descend into depression but they don't anymore. I use my tms tools to haul myself back into the light! Well, a few days ago I started feeling upset but I didn't want to use the IFS process to find out what was going on with me -- or, I should say, a PART of me didn't want to. This went on for awhile, getting worse, until I was quite anxious and, last night, I couldn't sleep. One of my tms trouble spots, my right leg, felt very cold and just wouldn't warm up. I fought against insomnia (a truly useless thing to do) for hours and finally realizeed I had to get up and try to talk to the part that was so upset.

    By 6:30 a.m. I had accessed a part so hidden, so repressed, that I'm still surprised it was willing to talk. I felt great! My leg was fine so I went back to bed and slept for a few hours before getting up again. If I'd had to go to work, I could have done that, too, and felt okay about it.

    Dr. Sarno says anxiety is a tms equivalent. My neuropathy in my leg is certainly primarily tms. So my answer is "yes, it helps tms".

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