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.


Summer 2019 IFS Exiles Course: Starts June 11

In the IFS Exiles course, you learn how to

  • safely access young wounded parts (exiles),
    how to stay in Self,
  • how to develop a healing relationship with your exiles, and
  • how to unburden the pain and negative beliefs of exiles so they are transformed.


This enables you to do a complete IFS session with yourself or a partner. You learn how to facilitate a partner who is working on themselves.

The prerequisite for this course is the IFS Basic Course or equivalent.

If you aren’t sure if you qualify, contact me.

June 11 – July 16 (6 meetings)
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
Cost: $300, $250 if enrolled by June 5
Click here to enroll

May 28: Webinar on a Social Movement for the Great Turning

In this free webinar, I will present a proposal for a social movement for the Great Turning.

We are undergoing a planetary crisis, hopefully leading to 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.

Even though there are underlying trends toward this transformation, we don’t have much time until our society breaks down. So, we must take action for our survival, and I believe that the best way to do this is by creating an organized social movement with the Great Turning as its goal.

Here is a 7-step vision for the movement:

  1. Wake people up to the danger and urgency of the moment.
  2. Provide a vision of a healthy, transformed society and how to get there.
  3. Continue protecting the earth, people, and democracy.
  4. Experiment with alternative social structures and restore local ecosystems to health.
  5. Develop a healthy movement culture with loving, empowered members.
  6. Collaborate with existing movements and grow to be large and powerful.
  7. Gain power and transform the government and economy.

The movement will be built on small study-action groups. These will involve not only political action but also consciousness raising and education, capacity development (such as leadership, communication, and collaboration), personal growth, group bonding, and support for each person finding their contribution to the Great Turning.

To read the proposal, click here.

Free Webinar
Tuesday, May 28
10 am – 12 noon pacific time
(1-3 pm eastern, 6-8 pm UK)
Click here for more information or to enroll

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


Conscious Blending in IFS

What is Conscious Blending

Normally, in IFS you must not be blended with a part when you work with it. There is an exception to the need for unblending with exiles. 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 directly because this helps her to feel fully witnessed by you.

Experiencing the Exile’s Pain

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 her know if it gets to be too much and ask her 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 titrate how much of her pain you take on.

This an excerpt from my book Self-Therapy.


A Social Movement for the Great Turning

 A free presentation by Jay Earley and Michael Goldstein
A Social Movement for the Great Turning
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Our world is in the midst of a planetary crisis leading to a historical transformation. The severity of problems we are confronting is staggering. But it is not chance that all these things are happening at this time in history. We have come to the end of a historical era, and our old ways of doing business are no longer working.

For the last 3 or 4 hundred years, the world has adopted a worldview based on science, rational thought, technology, and competition for power. We have treated the natural world as a machine to be analyzed and controlled. The tremendous explosion of our technical power, our population, and our ability to exploit the earth has brought a whole new set of issues which our industrial worldview can’t comprehend. Our current lifestyle of material consumption and personal ambition has also outlived its day and is now contributing to the problems and dangers we face.

Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of a new way of being that will transform society. We have hints that it will be built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, and an interest in the inner life, and that it will involve cultural diversity, social justice, human scale institutions, and reverence for the earth.

This transformation has been called the Great Turning, and it is the most important thing that is happening on the planet, though it is invisible to most people. We believe that the world needs to nurture a social movement for the Great Turning, for whole-system, life-affirming transformation—creating a broad, diverse coalition of groups, organizations, individuals, and movements that work together for the over-arching goal for society.

The beginnings of this movement already exist and are growing, but we need much greater involvement and the movement needs to be organized to work together for this larger goal. It also needs to birth small groups that are created to be part of the movement. These 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, spiritual aspects of the new society, and more), capacity development (such as leadership, productive conversations, collaboration, etc.), group bonding, mutual support for finding one’s personal/life purpose contribution, and preparation for action when the time comes.

Michael and Jay will discuss the parameters of such a movement. We will solicit your ideas on the best approach for this movement and how you might participate.

Thursday, April 25, 2019
7-9 pm, doors open at 6:30
At the Pachamama Alliance Office
1009 General Kennedy Ave., San Francisco, CA


Click here to read an essay on this.

Working Through Avoidance of IFS Work

You might decide that you want to do an exercise in my Self-Therapy book or you might want to do an IFS session on yourself, but you don’t follow through.

If you are stuck in this way, it would be helpful to explore what is going on inside you. Why might you want to do something and then not carry through?

Often this happens because a hidden protector doesn’t really want to do the exercise or session. In other words, even though a part of you has decided that working on yourself would be beneficial, another part of you is balking. This might be a protector that is afraid that if you follow through with an exercise, you will encounter strong emotions that you can’t handle. Or it might be a protector that doesn’t think you will benefit from this work and so doesn’t want to bother.

This avoidant protector is clearly in control (since you aren’t doing the exercises), even though it may be unconscious.

The best way to handle this situation is to commit to doing a session in which you work with this avoidant protector. In this session, check inside for a felt sense of not wanting to do the exercises.

You may even feel resistant to the session you are engaged in right now.

You might want to get up and leave, or you might tell yourself that you don’t have time, or you might feel generally uncomfortable.

Tune in to that feeling of resistance. It might feel like stubbornness or annoyance or defiance. You might sense apathy or anxiety. Whatever it is, this feeling will give you access to the avoidant part. Then continue through the IFS steps to get to know this part.

See what you can discover about why this part doesn’t want you to do the work and what it is afraid would happen if it allowed you to. Then see if you can reassure this protector that its fears won’t come true, just like you might reassure a concerned part. For example, you might explain that you aren’t going to dive into overwhelmingly painful emotions, and you won’t allow any dangerous parts to take over. Assure it that you will stay in Self while you become acquainted with your parts.

For this reassurance to be effective, you may need to develop a trusting relationship with the avoidant protector.

However, even one short session with an avoidant protector can make a big difference in your willingness to do the work. If you do such a session but your avoidance doesn’t change, it is possible that there is more than one avoidant protector.

Do another session in which you check for others and work with them. Since you are avoiding doing sessions, it may be difficult to do even this session on the avoidant protector. You might keep making excuses instead of doing it.

One way to make this session happen is to schedule it with a partner. If someone else is counting on you to be there, it makes it harder to avoid. Or you could do this session with an IFS therapist, who might help you get at deeper issues behind your avoidance.



New Date: IFS Basic Course Starts April 16

Introduction to IFSThis course is the beginning of learning IFS. It 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.

I have postponed the beginning of the course until April 16 to allow more people to enroll.

For more information, click

April 16 – May 21 (6 classes)
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
Cost: $300, $250 if paid by April 10
Click here to enroll

March 26: 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, March 26, 2019
4:30-6:30 pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)
Click here to enroll

Advanced IFS Classes: New Monday Class

A new Monday Class is starting f0r my Advanced IFS Classes where 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.

Click here for more information on the Advanced IFS Classes.

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-TherapySelf-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.

New Class
Second and Fourth Mondays of each month
4:30-6:30 pm pacific time (7:30-9:30 pm eastern)

Click here to learn about the other Advanced Classes.

To enroll, email me at to set up a short call.