The model of IFS proposes that we are made of many parts. Many different agents (inside the one body) with slightly different goals and intentions, all trying to complete their tasks. Sometimes these parts can come into conflict with each other, or in traumatic moments these parts can decide to make strong commitments to a specific way of existing in the world. Often when we re-examine the moments in our history that caused strong commitment to a behaviour, we can let those parts choose different behaviours – now that we have a better (and safer) perspective.
The two most valuable methods I get out of using Internal Family system therapy are:
- Embodiment and the channels
- The qualities of the higher self
Embodiment And The Channels Of Sensation
When working as if we are composed of many parts, we need a way to get in touch with a specific part of ourselves. For me, a focus and emphasis on the channels of information has been incredibly valuable.
Specifically the four channels:
- Body sensations
When I imagine the part of me that wants to exercise, I let my mind wander to a visual image that represents this part of me. The visual is a really buff guy! But it could show up as any symbol, for example, the landscape that I might see when I exercise.
Then I check for an audio sense of this part. Is it saying something? Does some particular sound represent this part? For example, the sound that comes to mind is the sound of being out of breath (puffing), or the sound of a voice saying “you can do it”.
Next I check for an emotion and it feels like excitement! The thrill of being fit and running places (because running is my main form of exercise).
Lastly, I check in with my body’s sensation of the part. For me it feels a bit like my heart beating faster. Other parts might show up like a lump in my throat or tightness in my chest.
Once I have the connection to the way this part of my mind appears down all these channels, it becomes very easy to stay in touch, relate and offer an invitation for that part to show up differently through the therapeutic negotiation conversation.
Oftentimes, the part of me that likes exercise will pop up and distract me in a particularly boring conversation. Its motives are pure- it wants to relieve me of my boredom and make sure I’m fit and healthy at the same time! This isn’t always appropriate though, so I can therapeutically get in touch with the part and negotiate. I can ask the part to remind me to go for a run in the morning when I wake up. This way, I’m not escaping a boring situation with exercise, and my part still gets to fulfil its purpose. Next, I’ll listen to the part. If it’s willing to comply, my work here is done. Of course it’s not always simple. Exploration, openness and curiosity is key.
The golden rule for IFS is to make use of the qualities of the higher self when working with your parts. The higher self can be thought of as “the best version of myself”, “my better judgement”, “my future self”, or can branch into spirituality and be represented by a higher being.
The qualities are also referred to as the 8 C’s and 5 P’s of self:
For any part of me that comes up, I want to relate towards that part with the essence of all these qualities. If I accept my parts, whatever they may be, they will feel welcome and willing to integrate. If I fail to welcome them, it’s likely that they will become defensive and will endlessly bug me.
If I invite subjective experiences in, and space to exist, they will also leave of their own volition. I don’t have to worry about being permanently in pain because I trust that these sensations arise and pass as they have in my past experience.
If there is a part of me that feels momentarily like I am unworthy, if I resist it, if I don’t tolerate such experiences, they will stick around to nag me, becoming the echo in my head. If I invite it in, recognise that I’ve put myself into a tricky situation, then that feeling can pass and leave me space to examine reality and honestly see what’s going on around me.
With the perspective of the higher self I can relate better to myself and my parts as they show up.
I work with internal family systems as a coach, if you would like to get in touch and see if we can find a therapeutic fit, please reach out via email and we can set up a zoom call… I charge $160 an hour and I will meet for a free 30 minute intro session.
You can get in touch via:
- Facebook messenger: https://www.messenger.com/t/699720198
- whatsapp: +614 38 48 11 43
- Email: Eliot(at)bearlamp.com.au
- or you can book a time to see me on https://bearlamp.youcanbook.me/
In internal family systems, we start to think about “trailheads”. The place where I start walking down the trail to my problems. The problems, the parts, and the situation might be entirely different but the “trail head” can start anywhere that I seem to have a problem. While you are getting in touch, feel free to ponder the question of where the start of your trailheads are? When do you act in ways that have you wonder “what was I thinking?”. There are also general positive qualities that can be worked on, for example – “how do I be more free?”