I am currently undertaking some further training on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model. IFS is an evidence-based model of psychotherapy that is based on the idea that the human mind is naturally multiple – it has many ‘parts’.

IFS practitioners believe that our inner parts contain valuable qualities and our core Essential Self knows how to heal, allowing us to become integrated and whole. In IFS all parts are welcome. Drawing on the IFS model in my approach to coaching has enabled me to gently guide my clients to understand and harmonise their inner systems.

The more I work as a guide in my clients journeys of self-discovery and self-healing, the more I am blown away by the transformative potential of the IFS approach.

I have come to understand that the emergence of ‘parts’ within us is a natural response to an overwhelming and often heartbreaking world. Our parts don’t reflect some sort of dysfunction or calcified pathology. They are a protective adaptive response to the challenges we have faced (and continue to face).

Our parts may feel it is essential to hide. They may have been working away in the dark for decades.

When, with permission and respect, we gently illuminate these parts and help them to meet, and over time, trust in the current-day version of ourselves healing naturally occurs.

The essential ingredient in this natural process of self-healing is a connection to our Essential Self, allowing us to meet and welcome our parts of with a genuine sense of curiosity, compassion, understanding, patience and appreciation.

I recently had the privileged of guiding a client through the meeting of a younger protector part that had been working hard for decades out of her conscious awareness. I supported her to have a conversation with this part, appreciate the job it did, and why it felt this job was necessary. I guided her to explain to the part that she was now a full-grown women and that it was no longer alone. As disbelief became recognition and finally overwhelming relief, the process of self-healing ad self-transformation naturally occurred. The part was able to let go of the belief that was all alone and that no one was paying attention. It understood that it no longer needed to remain in it’s hard-working, exhausted state.

Just 20 minutes of skillful, gentle, compassionate enquiry and guided conversation with the part, seeking permission every step of the way was all that was required to begin to dissolve the heavy burden this part had been carrying for so long, working alone in the dark.

Like it or not, in our most disempowered moments at work, often, a vulnerable, less mature ‘part’ of us has taken control of the wheel. These parts have the very best intentions and have served us well in the past, they may be true inner hero’s – but they are way too immature to be calling the shots at work. Because they are hurt, they can cause hurt. And of course, our less empowered, hurt, scared parts need to be ready to come out of hiding. They must trust that we will take good care of them. They must sense our genuine appreciation of them and the difficult jobs they so diligently perform.

As leaders, we all have a choice.

We either find the courage (and the support) to gently get to know and begin to work with these parts of us with curiosity and compassion. Or, we continue to suffer in silence with our secret inner struggles, perhaps living on a round-about of regret and shame, perhaps living with heavy burdens – such as the false belief “There is something wrong with me and I must hide it from view at all costs…”

My aspiration for my upcoming book is to share a simple & gentle (yet powerful) approach to truly bringing your whole self to work – your most empowered parts and your less empowered parts – to build a harmonious inner team.

Burning Question

What new possibilities might emerge for you if your most vulnerable parts could see that they were not alone?

“Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. (…) Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence.”

David Whyte

A few words about the image.

This image shows the “Love” sculpture created by Ukrainian Artist Alexander Milov, displayed here at Burning Man.

Image credit Vitaliy Deynega