Updating an IFS Protector

Our protectors are stuck in the past; they believe that we are little children who are vulnerable and updating protectorshave few internal or external re­sources for handling problematic situations. This is how we all were as children. You can ask a protector, “How old do you think I am?” Very often, the protector will mention a childhood age—two or eight, for example. Notice that this is a different ques­tion from the one you might ask an exile. You ask the exile, “How old are you?”

Update The Protector to Your Current Capacities

Once you have found out how old the protector thinks you are, tell the protector how old you actually are. Then show the protector a series of scenes from your life that include growing up, maturing, accomplishing things, handling difficulties, and reaching your current age. This updates the protector as to your current capacities.

When you were young, you were vulnerable and under your parents’ power. However, now you are autonomous and in charge of your own life. In childhood, you didn’t have a mature Self present to help, so your protectors often had to handle painful situations on their own. Now that you are an adult, you have a competent, perceptive Self to help in difficult circumstances.

In addition, you probably have many strengths and capacities as an adult that you didn’t have as a child. For example, you are prob­ably more grounded and cen­tered. You may be more assertive, more perceptive about interper­sonal situations, better able to support yourself financially, and so on. You have probably accomplished things in your life and overcome obstacles. You are an adult with much greater ability to handle yourself. As part of the updating process, you can also show the protector your current life arrangements and the various people who will support you when needed. You probably have friends, family, maybe a spouse or lover, perhaps a community you belong to, or a support group you can rely on.

This is an excerpt from my book Self-Therapy, Vol. 2. It is one of the many topics we cover in the Advanced IFS Classes.





Basic IFS Course Starts October 15

Basic IFS CourseThere is a new start date for the Basic IFS Course: Oct. 15

The Basic IFS Course was originally scheduled to start on September 17. I have put off the start of this course for a few weeks to allow more people to enroll. It will now start on October 8.

This course will teach you how to use Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) to resolve psychological issues and heal underlying pain from the past, to enhance your self-confidence and well-being. IFS is a powerful, user friendly method of psychotherapy and personal growth work. IFS is a recognized, proven method for individual psychotherapy with a robust training program and thousands of certified therapists. It will help transform stuck parts of yourself into inner resources of strength, love, and freedom.

This course teaches you how to access Self (that core aspect of you that can heal your parts) and work with protectors (parts that defend us from pain and danger). It is the most basic course on IFS. 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.

The text for the course is my book, Self-Therapy.

The course will be taught by videoconference, so we can see each other, which enhances the group connection, making it safe for you to be open and vulnerable in class. Each class is recorded, so you can watch the recording of any class you miss.

4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
Oct. 15 – Nov. 19, 2019 (6 classes)
$300 ($250 if paid by Oct. 9)
Click here to enroll.

Finding Your Life Purpose as a Contribution to the Great Turning

Great Turning Webinar Series

Finding Your Life Purpose as a Contribution to the Great Turning
Monday, September 23

Things are really bad in all sorts of ways right now, but this isn’t by chance. We are at the end of the Modern/Industrial Era because it no longer works. We are moving toward a whole-system transformation of society, which has been called the Great Turning.

The best way to find your contribution to the Great Turning is by exploring your life purpose. You have a mission, a calling, and unique gifts to give to the world, based on your particular talents and personal qualities, your lifetime learnings, and your heartfelt concerns and passions. When you discover your passion and your purpose in life, you will have found the key to a meaningful, happy life and to making your greatest contribution to healing our planet.

If you are concerned about the planetary crisis, your life purpose will naturally be related to the Great Turning. It may not look like something “political,” but it will be the most valuable help you can provide. After all, you will be using all of you. What could be more potent than that? And by making your contribution as part of the larger social movement for the Great Turning, you can redouble its impact.

In this webinar, you can begin to explore your life purpose.

Monday, Sept. 23
12:30 – 1:30 pm
(3:30-4:30 pm eastern, 8:30-9:30 pm UK)
Click here to enroll


Webinar: Feeling Your Love for the World

Feeling Your Love for the WorldWhat do you love that impels you to contribute to changing the world? Is it your children and grandchildren? Is it Gaia, the living earth? Is it humanity? Is it your people? Is it a local mountain, river, or forest? Is it the divine or the flow of evolution? Can you feel this love deep in your heart?

In this experiential webinar, you will discover and work through psychological blocks to accessing this love and then go deep in your soul to feel it fully. You can explore how this love inspires you to take action for social transformation.

Monday, Sept. 16
12:30 – 1:30 pm (3:30-4:30 pm eastern, 8:30-9:30 pm UK)
Click here to enroll

This is the first of a free webinar series at this time on social transformation. Each webinar can be attended separately, but some of the webinars will build on each other over time.

September 10: IFS 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.

The IFS Idea

IFS is based on the idea that the psyche consists of sub-personalities, called parts, which make up a Introduction to IFSkind of inner system. Parts often get into conflicts with each other and act in dysfunctional ways in an attempt to protect us from pain. All of this happens largely outside our awareness, and when we do see what is happening, we frequently try to banish the parts that are causing the difficulties. Yet this is hardly ever solves the problem.

IFS, on the other hand, teaches us to relate to our parts with openness, curiosity, and compassion, not judgment, which allows each part to reveal its hidden agenda and the pain it defends against. This paves the way for healing and transformation, which can be accomplished by following the detailed IFS procedure.

The psyche is largely organized to protect itself from pain, which is why IFS makes a distinction between parts that are in pain and parts that protect us from it. Protectors are parts that handle the external world and protect against vulnerability and pain. Exiles are young child parts that are in pain from the past. Protectors try to arrange our lives so that people can’t hurt our exiles, and when this does happen, protectors shut us down emotionally to keep us from feeling the pain. This noble effort doesn’t really work; the suffering still leaks through at odd moments. Furthermore, the defenses instituted by protectors make us relate to the world in problematic ways, or they blunt our aliveness or rob us of important capacities.

IFS is able to transform the psyche by relying on the healing power of our true Self or spiritual center, which has these important qualities–connectedness, curiosity, compassion, and calmness.

The seminar will be recorded, so once you are enrolled, you will receive an email afterwards with a link to the recording.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019
4:30-6:30 pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
Click here to enroll

The Basic IFS Course will follow this starting Sept. 17 at the same time and run for 6 weeks.

August 8 Webinar: Great Turning Groups

I envision Great Turning groups as being the backbone of a new activist organization, the Great Turning Network, which is dedicated to whole-system social transformation.

These groups will be cohesive, committed, and long term. They will involve not only political action but also consciousness raising and education (about the current state of the world, the prospect for transformation, the evolutionary perspective, and more), capacity development (such as leadership, communication, and collaboration), group bonding, and support for each person finding their contribution to the Great Turning based on their life purpose.

In the Great Turning Groups, we will be fostering the regenerative culture that we want for society—a culture of caring, mutual respect, connectedness, cooperation, empowerment of all, generosity, love of nature, appreciation of diversity, and active hope.

These must not just be intellectual ideas but deeply felt values. This way they will infuse the organization as it gets larger and must deal with more difficult conflicts and temptations. The Great Turning groups will also provide a deep sense of community, which has largely been lost in the developed nations as the Modern Era has progressed. I envision the Great Turning groups being self-propagating with aid from the organization, as some people from successful groups start new groups.

Thursday, August 8
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 eastern)
Click here to enroll

To read more about the Great Turning Groups, click here.

This webinar is the third in a series of three.

The seminar will be recorded, so once you are enrolled, you will receive an email afterwards with a link to the recording.

Webinar: Visions of a Regenerative Society – August 6

We are undergoing a planetary crisis, which is moving us toward a historical transformation of society, which has been called the Great Turning.

Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of this new way of being, built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, and an interest in the inner life and spirituality. It will also involve cultural and racial diversity, social justice, human scale institutions, and reverence for the earth.

Aspects of this new world are increasingly being called “regenerative,” meaning the restoration of new growth or spiritual rebirth.

In this webinar, we will explore visions of what this healthy culture and society might look like. Many of these visions are already being implemented on a small scale. Come and be inspired about what is possible, and also develop your own ideas about a healthy world. This may help you to see how you could take action to bring this about, especially by contributing to the social movement for the Great Turning.

Free Webinar
Tuesday, Aug. 6
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 eastern)

Click here for an article on this topic.

Click here to enroll.

Feel free to enroll in this webinar even if you can’t make it. I will send out a replay afterwards.

This webinar is the second in a series of three.

The third webinar will be on the small Great Turning Groups that are the foundation of the Great Turning Network.

Webinar July 30: A Social Movement for the Great Turning

In this free webinar, I will discuss the social movement for the Great Turning, and how it can be more potent, coordinated, and known to the public.

Planetary Crisis

We are undergoing a planetary crisis, which is moving us toward a historical transformation of society, which has been called the Great Turning. Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of this new way of being, built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, and an interest in the inner life and spirituality. It will also involve cultural and racial diversity, social justice, human scale institutions, and reverence for the earth.

Vision of the Movement

There is a social movement with the Great Turning as its goal, but it is not coordinated or widely known. Many of the groups who I see as part of this movement don’t see themselves this way.

Here is an 8-part vision for the movement:

  • Wake people up to the danger and urgency of the moment.
  • Protect the earth, people, and democracy.
  • Provide a vision of a transformed society and how to get there.
  • Develop a regenerative movement culture with loving, empowered members.
  • Aid in the transformation of worldviews and values.
  • Create social, ecological, professional, and economic alternatives.
  • Collaborate with movement organizations and publicize the movement.
  • Transform governance.

A Social Movement for the Great Turning

Great Turning Network

I have started the Great Turning Network, whose mission is to train people for this movement, and also to provide vision for and catalyze the movement. You could get involved with this organization.

Free Webinar
Tuesday, July 30
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time
Click here to enroll

Feel free to enroll in this webinar even if you can’t make it. I will send out a replay afterwards.

This webinar is the first in a series of three. (2) will be on visions of a transformed, regenerative society. (3) will be on the small Great Turning Groups that will be the foundation of the Great Turning Network.


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.

Benefits of Witnessing an Exile in IFS

Witnessing and Exile is one of the steps in healing an exile, where she shows you what harmful situation happened in childhood to cause her to be in such pain.

There are a number of important benefits to be gained from this witnessing process.

(1) It opens up hidden memories so they can be healed. When an exile and her memories are deeply buried in the psyche, healing isn’t possible. A wounded part needs the light of day. If you have a purely intellectual understanding of the memory, that probably won’t lead to healing. The memory must be opened up emotionally and intellectually, so it is both felt and understood.

(2) The memory is metabolized under the guidance and support of the Self, so the experience is completed and integrated and the physiological stress reaction can subside.

(3) The exile gets to be fully understood by the Self. There is a crucial difference between what happened originally and what the exile is experiencing now as she relives and shares the memory. This time the exile is not alone. The original incident was especially difficult because the exile had to deal with it all by herself, with no help or understanding from another living soul. I hear this all the time from exiles; they feel completely alone, having a reaction that they cannot share. Now in the therapy session, the Self is there to witness the experience and provide understanding. This is healing for the exile and creates a greater bond between her and the Self, which sets the stage for the Self being the agent of further healing as we progress in the IFS process.

(4) The exile understands that the burden she is carrying is from the past and not intrinsic to her. For example, a child part who feels worthless learns that she was made to feel that way in her family. In this way, she can see that her feeling of worthlessness isn’t the truth; it is a burden that she took on in childhood that doesn’t really belong to her. Therefore, it can be released, and she can experience her intrinsic worth.