Accessing an Exile Safely in IFS

Working with ExilesWhen working with childhood wounds there are two dangers. One is that you will be flooded with pain; the other is that you will avoid the exile because you are afraid of the pain being too excruciating.   Exiles want to be heard and healed, but unfortunately, they try to be heard by flooding you with their feelings, by blending with you. This is all they know. Blending can be frightening because it draws you into the exile’s vortex of helplessness and you might become increasingly buried in the pain or chaos.

Intensity of Reliving a Trauma

The intensity of reliving a trauma in this way could actually re-injure you, and if this begins to happen, protectors will usually react by stepping in and blocking access to the exile. Keeping you from this suffering has been their job for years so they will react automatically. You will find yourself going numb or spacing out; you might become distracted or angry. These, and other, reactions all come from protectors who are afraid of the pain, and for good reason; it really might be too much for you to cope with.

Explore an Exile’s Pain Safely

IFS has discovered a way to explore an exile’s pain safely. You stay in Self and relate to the exile; you don’t become the exile. If you merged with the exile and lost contact with the Self, the pain really could be overwhelming. However, the Self, when it is differentiated and separate from the exile, can deal with anything. When in Self, you sit in a calm, grounded place, and therefore you aren’t threatened by pain and trauma. If you start to be overpowered by the exile’s emotions, which means that the part is blending with Self, IFS has effective techniques for unblending and returning you to a grounded place.

This approach is workable because, in most cases, it isn’t necessary for you to directly feel the exile’s pain. IFS has discovered that witnessing is usually enough to set the stage for the rest of the healing steps.

Benefits to this Approach

There are a number of benefits to this approach. Besides avoiding being retraumatized, you aren’t confronted with an armory of defenses to keep you from the exile. Since you aren’t threatened by the exile’s pain, protectors don’t feel the need to interrupt the process. This saves time, and sometimes it is the only way to work with an exile because otherwise protectors continually throw up obstacles and may permanently block the process.  Furthermore, by remaining in Self, you can be a compassionate witness to the exile’s pain and the agent of healing and transformation for the exile.