Conscious Blending

When an exile is in a lot of pain or suffering from trauma, it is important to unblend from it so that you can work with conscious blendingthe exile safely, without the danger of being overwhelmed by pain or re-traumatized. However, there is an exception to the need for unblending. Sometimes it is all right to feel an exile’s pain. If you don’t feel thrown off by the experience and it doesn’t keep you from being grounded, you can allow yourself to experience it. In fact, sometimes it will feel right to you to sense this pain. And the exile may want you to experience her pain directly because this helps her to feel fully witnessed by you.

Experiencing the exile’s pain in this way means that you are simultaneously in Self and consciously blended with the exile. The exile is showing you her emotion by having you feel it. That is fine as long as you can tolerate this experience and you remain centered and able to be there for the exile, and as long as this doesn’t trigger any protectors. Often it is all right to experience the exile’s suffering up to a certain limit. Let it know if it gets to be too much, and ask the exile to contain the rest.

In some cases, you may be able to feel the pain fully and even express it. You will know how far you can go in this direction. This approach is similar to some cathartic therapy methods. However, in IFS, we only move in this direction if it is both safe and productive.

I call this conscious blending because you are aware that you are blended and are purposely choosing to allow it. This is very different from being blended without realizing it or being overwhelmed emotionally. By blending consciously, you know that, even while you experience the exile’s emotions, you are grounded in a presence (Self) that is much larger and stronger than she. This gives you the opportunity to tolerate how much of her pain you take on.

If you check inside, you will know whether conscious blending is the right thing to do—whether to unblend from an exile’s pain or allow yourself to feel it. The main criterion is whether or not you can tolerate the pain. The more fully you are in Self and the more compassion you feel for the exile, the more likely it is that conscious blending will be possible.

SElf-TherapyThis article is an excerpt from my book, Self-Therapy.


Free Drop-In Interactive/IFS Group: April 12

Interactive/IFS GroupThis drop-in group is designed to give you an idea of how Interactive/IFS Groups operate.

Thursday, April 12
10 am – 12 noon pacific time (1-3 pm eastern, 6-8 pm UK)
Click here to enroll

In a Drop-In Interactive Group, you can be totally honest about your feelings. Everyone is encouraged to share their moment-to-moment experience with the group. It’s a big risk but very exciting!

A small group of people meets to practice awareness, honesty, and connection. Using IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy), we practice speaking for our parts rather than as our parts. This means being in Self (a calm, caring place) and talking about how a part of you is reacting in the moment, as opposed to dumping your feelings on other people. This helps you to communicate in a more effective manner, and it also makes the group safe for everyone.

I facilitate the group, helping you to tune into what you are experiencing and speak your truth. You may tell others honestly and directly how you are feeling toward them. We create an atmosphere of caring and trust so that this can be done in a safe, connected way. You also have a chance to get honest feedback from people on how they are responding to you.

The group meets by videoconference, so we can all see each other.

Thursday, April 12
10 am – 12 noon pacific time (1-3 pm eastern, 6-8 pm UK)
Click here to enroll

I lead three Interactive/IFS Groups, one of which has openings now.

Click here for more information about them.

Interactive/IFS Groups

What Is Required for Unburdening to Succeed

What Is Required for Unburdening to Succeed

When the unburdening ritual is described, many people think:

“Can it really be this easy to change a long-standing pattern of behavior or feeling? I can’t believe that all you have to do is have a fantasy of letting go of the pain. It can’t be that easy.”

And, of course, it’s not. The unburdening ritual doesn’t achieve transformation all by itself; it only caps off the process. All the previous steps in the process are necessary and must be completed before the unburdening ritual will have the desired effect. You must work with the protector(s) to obtain unimpeded access to the exile. You must develop a trusting connection with the exile and witness the original childhood incident. She must feel understood by you. You must reparent her and, if necessary, retrieve her. And the exile must be ready to release the burden. Only after all this has been accomplished can the unburdening ritual work. This ritual is really the culmination of this entire sequence of steps; it solidifies the whole IFS transformation process.

In addition, you must do the entire sequence of healing steps for each exile and each important painful memory. When you carry out the unburdening ritual, it is for a specific memory and the burdens that came from it, not for every burden that exile might be carrying. The exile releases the burdens specific to that memory, which effects a certain amount of transformation. However, if the exile carries other burdens related to other memories, its healing won’t be complete until they are also processed and released. You must go through the healing steps for each important memory the exile carries.

Furthermore, when these are complete, that particular exile will be transformed, but there will be other exiles that must be treated separately. IFS is efficient and powerful, but it isn’t a quick and easy cure-all. You must take the time and energy to do the hard work of witnessing each important memory and healing each exile. You must follow up with the exile over the next few weeks after the session to consolidate the unburdening. It is helpful to check in with the exile every day or so to reaffirm your connection with her. If you don’t do this, the burden may return. Burdens can return for a variety of reasons.

Therefore, in the session after an unburdening, make sure to re-access the exile and check to see if the burden is still gone and the exile has really been transformed. If so, take a moment to enjoy the sense of freedom and the positive qualities of the transformed exile and to celebrate what happened.

If the burden has come back, explore to see why that happened. Usually it is because your internal system wasn’t fully ready for the unburdening. Ask your parts questions to find out why the burden came back; then address that issue in one of the ways you already know. Then do the unburdening again, and it should stick.

Even when an exile is truly unburdened, more is often needed to change a behavior pattern. After unburdening the exile, you must go back to the protector you started with and help it to let go of its protective role. Then your problematic behavior will shift.

This is an excerpt from my book, Self-Therapy. It is also one of the topics covered in my Advanced IFS Classes.


Disowned Anger

In IFS, we sometimes encounter parts that have been disowned or exiled because their feelings or behavior are seeDisowned Angern as unacceptable. Because a part wasn’t acceptable in childhood, other parts of you banished it, and this dynamic has carried forward into the present.

A Disowned Part

I call these disowned parts. A disowned part can be a protector, an exile, or a healthy part. Anger is probably the most common type of disowned part. If you have disowned your anger, you tend to lack assertiveness or strength. You may even be passive, pleasing, self-effacing, or lacking in self-confidence and drive. This is because your strength (healthy aggression) has become disowned along with your anger.

Let’s look at an example:

Donna’s parents were judgmental and shaming whenever she got angry. They gave her the message that she was supposed to be a nice girl and not make waves or be aggressive. As a result, her anger was disowned, and this was enforced by managers who believed her anger was bad. Donna became meek and quiet, and had a hard time asserting herself.

If you have disowned your anger, you may occasionally have angry outbursts, due to the Angry Part breaking through. This anger is usually extreme and inappropriate to the context. You may feel ashamed of these incidents and believe they prove that you have an anger problem. However, the real problem is that your anger has been disowned.

Disowned Anger can come from a protector, an exile, or even a healthy part. When it comes from an exile or a healthy part, the part is just responding in a naturally aggressive way to childhood insults or deprivations. However, this anger can become extreme because it has been disowned. The Angry Part reacts to being disowned by becoming increasingly and irrationally angry.

Working with Disowned Anger

When working with Disowned Anger, your goal is to gain access to the disowned Angry Part and welcome it back into your internal family of parts and into your conscious life, where it can live and express itself. It is helpful to welcome even anger that is extreme, though it shouldn’t be acted out. Witness the part’s anger and encourage it to express the anger in whatever way it wants in a session. This is often a great relief since the anger has been repressed for so long.

When anger is disowned, there is a positive quality that gets disowned along with the anger, which I call the Strength. Strength means healthy aggression, aliveness, personal power, and the ability to assert yourself and establish healthy boundaries. It includes the ability to be firm, take risks, adopt a powerful stance in the world, and feel a zest for life. When our Strength is activated, anger is rarely necessary because we can call on our healthy sense of power, forcefulness, and limit setting to handle these situations. We can be strong and assertive without frightening or harming other people. However, when we exile our anger, we also exile our Strength, not because we intend to but rather because of the way the human psyche operates.

By welcoming back Disowned Anger, we take a step toward reclaiming our Strength. This is especially true if we welcome back the anger in an embodied way that includes feeling the anger fully and perhaps even expressing it. This helps us to embody our Strength and personal power.

This article is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 3. It is one of the topics covered in my Advanced IFS Classes.

Depressing Protectors

Depression can come from either an IFS protector or exile. Let’s look at depressing protectors here.

Protectors That Block Hope

One common cause of depression is having a protector that doesn’t want you to feel hopeful. Such a protector doesn’t actually feel hopeless. It makes you feel hopeless in order to keep you from feeling hopeful and then suffering the disappointment of not getting what you were hoping for. Therefore, it is more accurate to call it a Depressing Protector rather than a Depressed Protector. It is afraid of your feeling devastated if you are disappointed. It believes that if you are hopeful and your hopes don’t work out, or if you fail at what you are trying to accomplish, you will be devastated. It isn’t just worried about your being disappointed; it is afraid you will be devastated in such a severe way that you couldn’t handle it.

Protectors That Depress Your Energy

A Depressing Protector may squash your energy so that you can’t feel the underlying pain or trauma of your exiles. This protector believes that you can’t tolerate this pain. It is stuck at a point in your childhood when you didn’t have the internal or external support to handle such pain. So it keeps your energy low to prevent this pain from coming to the surface.

Inner Critic Parts

Inner Critic Parts, which are protectors, can also create or add to your depression by attacking you so harshly and mercilessly that you feel bad about yourself. These Inner Critic attacks trigger exiles who already feel inadequate or worthless, and the attacks make the exiles feel even worse, which contributes to depression.

This is an excerpt from my book, Self-Therapy, Vol. 3

New Advanced IFS Classes

I will soon be offering two new Advanced IFS Classes.

In the Advanced IFS Classes, you learn intermediate to advanced techniques and understandings that go beyond what I teach in the Basic IFS Course. Therapists also have a chance for advanced training and consultation on IFS. I have taught these classes for many years and they have been very successful.

Format. The classes meet twice a month for two hours by video-conference. Each class includes teaching, lots of sharing and discussion, demonstration IFS sessions where I work with a volunteer from the class, and experiential group exercises. You pair up with each other between classes to practice doing IFS sessions with each other. This is a very important part of the class, and people tell me how much they get from working with each other.

Each class is limited to 8 participants, so we have a small cohesive group (especially since we can see each other by video-conference), where people feel safe to be vulnerable. The texts for the classes are my books Self-Therapy, Self-Therapy, Vol. 2 and Self-Therapy, Vol. 3. 

Professionals. Some classes are for therapists and coaches (and other helping professionals) and some are for everyone. These classes are approved by the Center for Self-Leadership for IFS CE credit.

Prerequisite. In order to qualify for the class, you must have taken my Basic IFS Course or equivalent, and I recommend that you also have taken my IFS Exiles Course or equivalent.

Class 2: Second and Fourth Wednesdays of each month
For therapists and coaches
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 eastern)
Starts Feb. 28, 2018

Class 3: First and third Tuesdays of each month
For everyone
10 am – 12 noon pacific time (1-3 pm eastern, 6-8 pm UK)
Stating date to be determined

Click here for more information on the Advanced IFS Classes.

If you want to enroll, send an email to me at to set up a short call with me.




IFS Introductory Seminar and Basic Course

The IFS View of the Human PsycheIFS Introductory Seminar

This free introductory seminar will introduce IFS and give you a taste of working on yourself using this approach. It will include experiential exercises and a demonstration IFS session. You can ask me questions about the model and about the upcoming Basic IFS Class.

Monday, February 26, 2018
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
Click here to enroll

IFS Basic Course

I will be offering a Basic IFS Course that starts a week later. This course teaches you how to access Self and work with protectors. It teaches you how to work on yourself using IFS and how to do peer IFS counseling with other people in the class. Therapists and coaches also take the class to learn about IFS, though it is not professional training in IFS.

The course is experiential; it includes practicing IFS sessions for homework in pairs, group exercises, and demonstration IFS sessions with volunteers from the class.

4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
March 5 – April 9 (6 classes)
Cost: $300, $250 if you enroll by Feb. 27
Click here  to enroll

IFS Firefighters

In IFS there are two types of protectors—managers and firefighters.

Managers are the more common type of protector. They try to pro-actively arrange our psyches and our interactions with the world so that our exiles don’t get triggered and flood us with their pain or trauma.

Firefighters have the job of squelching the pain that erupts from an exile when it does get triggered. Real-life firefighters will charge into a dangerous situation to put out a fire, sometimes without worrying about the consequences for their own welfare. Think of the firefighters who rushed into the skyscrapers during 9/11 without concern for their safety.

Our internal firefighters act in a similar manner. They fear that the pain of an exile will be overwhelming, so they ignore the possible destructive consequences of their actions and do anything they can to numb or distract us from that pain.

The following activities are often initiated by firefighters:

  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Sexual acting out
  • Overeating
  • Compulsive shopping, gambling, and other addictions
  • Anger and rage
  • Rebellion
  • Dissociation (spacing out, losing awareness, fogging out, falling asleep)
  • Thrill-seeking activities
  • Being deceptive
  • Being impulsive

In addition, more ordinary activities can be used by firefighters as distractions:

  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Headaches
  • Engaging in online activities

The activities listed above don’t always come from firefighters. If they are constant in your life, then they come from a manager.

And almost any activity or feeling state can come from a firefighter.

The crucial distinction is whether it is an ongoing, proactive activity (manager) or whether it is a sudden, impulsive reaction to exile pain (firefighter).


New Interactive/IFS Group for Professionals

An Interactive/IFS Group can help you . . .

  • Develop your capacity for intimacy and learn how to make a love relationship work
  • Become more assertive
  • Become more outgoing and socially comfortable
  • Learn what you may be doing to keep your relationships from being satisfying
  • Understand and trust people of the opposite sex . . . or of the same sex
  • Learn how to deal with anger and conflict constructively
  • Become part of a loving community of people
  • Raise your self-esteem
  • Get in touch with your personal power

You can learn these relationship skills:

  • Being in touch with your feelings and expressing them
  • Speaking for your parts, not acting them out
  • Reaching out to others confidently
  • Saying ”No” firmly
  • Allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable
  • Expressing yourself forcefully and spontaneously
  • Being comfortable relating to a group of people
  • Asking for what you really want
  • Having the courage to bring up difficult issues
  • Empathizing with others

What Happens

  • You work directly on how you are relating to the other group members . . . in the moment. Instead of just talking about how you relate in your life, you practice interacting with others right in the group and get help as you do.
  • You get direct and honest feedback on how people are reacting to you.
  • The group provides a safe place for you to try out new, healthy ways of relating to people.
  • You learn how to feel your emotional responses and identify the parts that are activated while interacting with people
  • You learn how communicate openly, clearly, and assertively.
  • You learn how to access and work with the parts of you that get triggered in interactions with people, using IFS.
  • You discover your ways of relating that aren’t working for you , so you can experiment with changing them in the group.
  • You can share your life issues and struggles with the group.
  • You see other people struggling with problems similar to yours, and through this you learn about yourself and others.
  • There is a strong sense of support for each person and a warm feeling of community in the group.


The group meets by videoconference, so we all can see each other, which enhances the group connection.

The ongoing group meets twice a month, and you meet with me for an individual consultation on the group every 3 months.

Each meeting is recorded, so if you miss one, you can watch the recording.

Cost: $120/month, including consultations
The groups are limited to 8 people.

First and third Wednesdays of each month
10am- 12 noon pacific time (1-3 pm eastern, 6-8 pm UK)

This group will start on Feb. 21, 2018

For more information, click

Getting Started

You meet with me for a free pre-group interview to see if the group is a good fit for you.

For a free pre-group interview, email me at

An Interactive Group Story

Interactive GroupThis is the story of Sharon’s work in one of my Interactive Groups. Sharon is a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for over a decade with the help of AA and therapy. In that time, she had worked through enough of her issues that she was not in much emotional pain. She was a successful management consultant, had some close friends, and an active social life.

Her major unresolved problem was lack of intimacy. She tended to keep people at a distance and avoided a committed love relationship. Since her marriage ended many years before, she hadn’t allowed a man close.

We all want to be liked; we all want closeness with others.  To express these desires directly to other people puts us in a vulnerable position. We fear that they might not reciprocate, or they might even reject us or put us down. So we develop defenses against our own desires and the accompanying vulnerability. In an Interactive Group, I encourage people to reach out to connect with those group members they are drawn to—to take the risk to make themselves vulnerable in this way.

How an Interactive Group Helps

The group helps people to become aware of their defenses against vulnerability and risk. If they defend by being nonchalant, someone in the group will probably point it out. If they defend by being judgmental and arrogant or by being distant and cold, they will probably get feedback about it. This gives people a chance to discover how they are defending against their desires, and to try out different behavior.

When Sharon joined the group, she had a tendency to defend against her softness and openness. She didn’t feel safe to show her desire for other people for fear of being rejected or shamed. Instead she adopted an internal stance of arrogance and judgment. “There’s something wrong with you. I’m not sure I’ll let you in.” It was a way for her to feel better about herself.  She also pretended not to need others. “I don’t care. I don’t need you.”  She wasn’t aware of these attitudes and rarely expressed them, but it would leak out in little ways, and they kept her from being vulnerable.

As the group developed, Sharon got feedback from time to time when her judgmental style would leak out. She was very aware and dedicated to her growth, and she had a courageous way of acknowledging difficult things about herself without being defensive. So when she got this feedback, she was not only willing to acknowledge that she had been judgmental but also to explore what she was defending against. She often discovered that hidden beneath the judgment was a desire to make contact with the person.

For example, in one early group, Jill was telling the group about her anger and desire to pull away from a friend. When Sharon pushed Jill hard not to do that, I encouraged Sharon to explore why she was doing this. She realized that she saw Jill as doing something similar in group, and she didn’t want Jill to pull away from her. When she told Jill this, Jill took in the feedback, but then Jill also told Sharon that Sharon had told her in an aggressive manner that made Jill pull back.

Knowing that she felt good about Jill, Sharon was surprised to hear this, but she took it seriously and became interested in changing this way of relating. I encouraged Sharon to show her positive feelings directly to Jill, and she was able to express some affection in a soft, open way. This enabled the two of them to make warm contact.

Click to read the full article.