The Advantage of Working with a Buddy
We human beings are social creatures. Even when we are doing deep inner work, we yearn to be seen and understood. When doing IFS work on yourself, it feels supportive if you have someone listening to you who cares about your feelings and concerns, and is interested in your personal journey to wholeness. It isn’t easy to open up deep places of pain in yourself, even with the powerful and respectful IFS method. When someone is there to witness you, it makes the whole exploration more inviting. It provides a holding environment for your wounded and defended parts. Even a silent witness provides presence and support that is very helpful for most people.
A big advantage of a buddy is that they can help you stay with STJ. You tell them that you are planning to work with Self-Therapy Journey on, say, Tuesday and you make plans to talk with them that night or the next day. This will help you follow through and do it. This accountability will especially be helpful when you are doing the homework practice that you set up in Stage 5. If you find yourself avoiding Self-Therapy Journey or getting too upset emotionally, your buddy might help you stay with the process.
Ways to Work with a Buddy
There are three ways to work with a buddy:
1. Your buddy could be with you as you work on Self-Therapy Journey on the phone or by Skype. They can follow what is happening on your computer by using a program that shows it on their computer. This can be done through Skype screen sharing or one of many other screen sharing programs. This way they can provide emotional support and be a sounding board as you are using the application.
2. You could connect with each other while both of you work on the same segment of your week’s work. So you can share with each other what is happening as it happens.
3. You could talk with your buddy after each STJ session (and possibly show them your reports) to share with them what you did and how it affected you.
How to be a Good Buddy
Your job as a buddy is primarily to listen to your partner as they share their inner work. Make sure not to say anything that could be experienced as judgmental. And don’t offer advice unless your partner asks for it or unless you check with them to see if they want it.
Your main job is to really understand what your buddy is going through and to let them know that you do. One way to do this is through what is called active listening. You feed back to your buddy what they tell you they are experiencing, so they feel seen and understood. You can do this with the exact words the explorer used, or you can paraphrase. Strange as it may seem, it can sometimes be useful to reflect what a person says in exactly the words she uses. For example, if she says, “I am feeling tired and upset,” you say, “You are feeling tired and upset.” You might also reflect what a part is feeling. If your buddy says, “The critical part says it is trying to protect me from failure,” you might say, “It is trying to protect you from failure.”
It can also be helpful to rephrase what your buddy says to reflect the meaning as you hear it. For example, suppose they say, “This part of me is feeling tired and lonely. No one appreciates or understands it.” You might reflect, “It feels alone and unseen.” By paraphrasing you may bring out something that was implicit in what your buddy said that they didn’t consciously realize was there. Often your buddy will say a whole paragraph, but you might reflect just the essence of what you heard.