Your Parts

“Being able to identify parts of me and working out who’s in the drivers seat has been the most valuable part of this experience. Whilst all my parts are valuable, they might be taking me to places I don’t want to go.”

Self-Fidelity Mini-Retreat Participant

A few weeks ago, I wrote the post Little Cassie that spoke to the vital role the IFS model (pioneered by Dr Richard Schwartz) has played in my personal development journey. Yesterday, I ran a self-fidelity mini-retreat here in Melbourne. During the event we played with exploring our parts using nested-doll sets. Many of the participants shared in their feedback forms that this exercise was really insightful and helpful.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) supports people to heal by understanding and listening to their different “parts”—feelings or thoughts—and, in the process, unburdening themselves of extreme beliefs and emotions. In the words of Richard Schwartz “Your emotions and thoughts are much more than they seem [they] emanate from inner personalities I call ‘parts’. (…) What we call “thinking” is often our inner dialogue with different parts of ourselves.”

As we release our parts from their extreme roles, we are able to reconnect with our Essential Self, access our goodness and embody innate qualities such as; compassion, confidence, courage, playfulness, patience curiosity, and perspective (to name just a few).

IFS uses the following three-group model* to categories our different ‘parts’ and the roles they commonly play in our lives:

  • Exiles: Young, vulnerable parts that have experienced trauma and are isolated from the rest of the system for their own and the system’s protection. Exiles carry the memories, sensations, and emotions of the events and are stuck in the past.
  • Managers: Parts that run the day-to-day life of the person. These parts try to keep exiles exiled by staying in control of events or relationships, being perfect and pleasing, caretaking, scaring the person out of taking risks by criticizing, apathy, worry, and so on.
  • Firefighters: Parts that react when exiles are activated in an effort to extinguish their feelings or dissociate the person from them. Common firefighter activities include; all forms of numbing, drug or alcohol use, binge eating, social media, mindless content consumption or shopping, over-working, over-exercising and rage. Firefighters have the same goals as managers (to keep exiles away) but employ different, more impulsive strategies

*SOURCE: Introduction to The Internal Family Systems Model, Richard C. Schwartz, Ph. D

Self-Fidelity Practice To Play With This Week

Becoming Mindfully Curious About Your Parts

When you can become mindfully curious about your parts with the assumption that they might have something to tell you, you can begin to get to know them. From there, you can begin to understand them and appreciate them – and over time you can release them from their extreme roles.

When you work with our parts it is essential to work with just one part at a time. It is recommended that you start by getting to know your Manager parts. Your Manager might show up as your Inner Controller, Striver, Judge, Planner, Pessimist or Self-Critic . My manager is that part of me that often tries to convince me that I am way to busy to meditate, relax or muck about with my kids. It feels like I have never done enough.

If you can embody a state of mindful curiosity and genuinely want to get to know the Manager part of you, and show it some appreciation for at least trying to keep you safe – here are some great questions to ask it:

  • What role does it play in your life?
  • Is there something it wants you to know?
  • What is it afraid would happen if it did not take on this role inside of you?
  • What does it need from you in the future?

If you would like to learn more about IFS and your parts, listening to this recent conversation between Richard Schwartz and Tim Ferriss (or reading the transcript) is a great place to start.

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