Protectors in IFS: Manager-Firefighter Polarization

Managers and firefighters are the two kinds of protectors in IFS.Protectors in IFS

In IFS, two parts are polarized when they are in conflict with each other about how you will behave or feel in a certain situation.

This article is an excerpt from my new book, Self-Therapy, Vol. 2. I also teach about polarization in my Advanced IFS Classes.

Managers and firefighters are the two kinds of protectors in IFS. They are frequently polarized with each other.

Most firefighters tend to be oriented toward excitement and intensity, fun and thrills.

Most managers tend to be oriented toward control and order, especially if they are trying to stop the destructive activity of firefighters.

In fact, as a result of successful IFS work, you might experience a decrease in the thrills that come from firefighters and begin to feel that your life has become boring. This difference in orientation between managers and firefighters lends itself toward polarization.

Because firefighter activity is often dangerous and self-destructive, managers come forward that are judgmental of firefighters and try to limit their behavior.

In fact, for every harmful firefighter, there is usually a manager that is polarized with it which is trying to stop the firefighter from causing problems in your life.

When a manager doesn’t succeed in stopping a firefighter, it often becomes harshly judgmental toward you for engaging in the firefighter activity. It shames you in an attempt to prevent the firefighter from acting out again. For example, after you binge on food, a manager may arise that shames you for getting out of control.

When your life is being ruined by a firefighter, it is easy to think that you just need to work with this part and get it to change. However, because of the presence of polarization, it usually isn’t enough to only work with the destructive firefighter and the exile it protects. You often must also engage with the controlling manager and work on the polarization directly.



Food Addiction Quiz

We know more about diet and health than any population in the history of the world. Yet most of us are overweight or obese. Why?

According to the latest research, it turns out that many of us are literally addicted to food. Are you?

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson has developed a free quiz to help you find out how susceptible you are to food addiction.

Click here to take it now.

After the quiz, Susan will give you your score and a customized Food Freedom video to help you understand what it means for your life.

How you respond to sweet, snacky foods is deeply linked to your level of susceptibility.

In 2015, Dr. Susan helped people lose 43,00 pounds, and GAIN Food Freedom.

The first step is knowing how susceptible you are to the pull of addictive foods. Take her free quiz and find out how you score.

Our New Online Store

Jay Earley, PhD and Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

We have been working on our online store to make it easier for you to find the products you are looking for. We have: Products

  • Guided meditations, which lead you through part of an IFS session, help you to access an Inner Champion, or other formats.
  • Books – paperbacks, ebooks, and one audiobook
  • Demonstration IFS sessions, where you get to hear a recording of a real IFS session with commentary afterward
  • Recorded Courses
  • Webinars
  • More

If you are looking for products to help you with a certain psychological issue, you can browse the storePsychological Issues Products in that way. We have products to help with:

  • Procrastination, Perfectionism, or Striving
  • People-Pleasing, Passive-Aggressive, Controlling, Victim, Caretaking, or Rebel Patterns
  • Social Issues
  • Eating Issues
  • Depression
  • Inner Critic Issues
  • Anger
  • Interpersonal Conflict

If you are looking for a product to help you develop a certain healthy capacity, you can browse the Healthy Capacities Productsstore in that way. We have products to help with:

  • Assertiveness, Personal Power
  • Self-Esteem, Confidence
  • Intimacy
  • Self-Care, Self-Support
  • Aliveness, Pleasure
  • Work Capacities

ApproachesCertain of our products are for therapist, coaches, and other helping professions. You can browse this list as well.

We invite you to explore our store at


When to Switch Target Parts

BK001-Self Therapy-aThis excerpt, When to Switch Target Parts, is from my upcoming book, Self-Therapy, Vol. 2, which is an advanced book on IFS.

Let’s suppose you have chosen a protector to work on, called your target part. As you are getting to know it, another part may emerge. It is best to take a moment to feel the new part’s emotions or body sensations and perhaps ask it a question or two. Then make a conscious choice about whether to ask it to step aside so you can continue with your original target part or whether to switch and make the new part your target part.

The following are reasons why you might switch target parts:

  • A concerned part or protector won’t step aside.
  • An important new part arises.
  • A part arises that is usually not accessible.
  • A part insists on being heard.
  • The target part is afraid of another part.
  • The target part takes orders from another part.

The following are reasons why you might stay with your origins target part:

  • You want to finish with the target part.
  • You haven’t finished with any parts.
  • The target part feels ignored by you.

How do you tend to deal with the question of switching target parts? There are healthy and problematic ways of doing this. One problematic way is the Scattered Pattern, which involves following each new part that arises without making a conscious choice to do so. Whenever a new part pops up, even if you are in the middle of working with a different part, you turn your attention to the new part without even considering whether or not this is a good idea.

If you do this very often, your work will end up being scattered. You will get pulled this way and that. Every new part will take you off in a new direction, and you won’t make much progress with any one part. You will bounce around in your psyche, not getting far enough along with the steps of the IFS process for real therapeutic change to happen.

The opposite extreme is the Rigid Pattern, which involves being so focused on staying with your target part that you ignore other parts that arise. You are like a horse with blinders on. Or, if you notice another part, you immediately ask it to step aside without acknowledging it or considering its importance.

Here are some of the problems that can result from the Rigid Pattern:

  1. You might overlook a part that is crucial to work on that day. For various reasons, a part that spontaneously arises might be important to deal with, and you won’t realize this because of your single-mindedness.
  2. A part may spontaneously arise that has an important relationship to your target part. It might be polarized with the target part. It might be an exile being protected by the target part. It might be allied with the target part. You don’t want to ignore a part like this; you want to get to know it because this will help your work with the original target part.
  3. The parts that are arising and being ignored might become resentful and sabotage your work with the original target part.

Self-Nurturing Meditation

hearts-154741_1280Self-nurturing helps you create a positive state of mind.

One of the practical benefits of the brain research information from the neuropsychology labs is letting us know that there are significant health benefits from having a positive state of mind.

When we feel good about ourselves, hopeful about our lives, and deserving of love and support, this resets our cardiac system, helps regulate our emotional state, and creates increasingly satisfying experiences.  

I have recorded this meditation as a delicious breath of fresh air for relaxing your mind and enlivening your soul and its innate possibilities. I invite you to receive these loving and nurturing affirmations before bed as a splendid evening treat.

The meditation takes you to an open, accessible place where positive statements can be absorbed into your consciousness.  It helps you to…

  • Love yourself and sense your preciousness
  • Feel deserving of the good things in life
  • Have permission to be spontaneous, playful, and joyous


Click here for more information or to purchase.


Beyond Eating Audio Course

Beyond Eating Audio CourseI am very excited to announce the Beyond Eating Audio Course.

It lays out a three-pronged model for helping people with food-related issues. The course will help you with food addiction, weight-related anxiety, and the hopelessness that comes from managing one’s relationship with food.

The program focuses on:

  • Understanding hunger
  • Identifying the parts of you that arise around food and developing a healing relationship with them
  • Developing self-nurturing practices

The package consists of:

  • 2 introductory tracks
  • 8 lecture tracks
  • 11 meditation tracks
  • 4 therapy session demonstration tracks
  • 1 Word document with homework, articles, graphics and forms.

It is linked with our on-line community of other journeyers where you can find support and homework partners.

It is geared toward deepening your understanding of your relationship with food and eating, and in addition, it has the potential to affect your sense of yourself in profound ways.

My wish is that you come away with more compassion for yourself, the ability to stand more separately from your parts, a greater capacity for making healthy choices, and a deeper sense of your own preciousness.

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW ♥

C05-Beyond-Eating-Audio-Course-1Click here for more information or to purchase it.

Bundles of IFS Guided Meditations and IFS Demonstration Sessions

In our online store, we have many different audio products, including IFS Guided Meditations and IFS Demonstration Sessions.

We have recently added a variety of new meditations and a few new demo sessions. In addition, we are now bundling together groups of meditations and demo sessions that naturally go together. This way you can purchase a bundle for less than you would spend if you bought all the meditations or demo sessions separately.

New Easy to Use Technology

In addition, we now have new technology in our store which makes it much easier to get these products with multiple audios. Instead of trying to download them, you can just log onto a part of the store where you can access your audios. From there, you can listen to any one you want or download it. You can log on as many times as you want to listen to or watch the products you have purchased.

Here are the bundles:

All Demonstrations of IFS SessionsIFS Demo Sessions

  • Inner Critic Sessions
  • Steps in the IFS Process
  • IFS Sessions
  • Eating Issues Sessions
  • All IFS Sessions


Meditations for Steps of the IFS ProcessIFS Guided Meditations

  • Eating Issues Meditations
  • Pattern Meditations – Interpersonal Patterns
  • Pattern Meditations – Non-Interpersonal Patterns
  • Inner Champion Meditations
  • Inner Critic Inner Champion Meditations
  • Steps in the IFS Process Meditations

Keeping It Real: A Therapist’s Guide To Working With Couples

Marla Silverman PhDMarla Silverman, PhD

Dr. Marla Silverman is a consummate professional who specializes in work with couples. She is a wonderful teacher who embodies the groundedness, clarity, and openhearted wisdom that we all strive for. We are excited to be able to offer her new video on couples’ therapy, Keeping It Real: A Therapist’s Guide to Working with Couples in our store. This teaching is appropriate for beginning and experienced therapists as well for couples who are working on their relationship. We hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity at a 10% discount for a limited time.

Marla’s video set is a fabulous teaching tool for beginning and experienced therapists. It is very well done. It is clear, professional, and addresses all the issues that a therapist needs to know to work with couples in a precise, personal manner. After watching it, I have found that my work with couples has markedly improved. I’m structuring the sessions a little bit differently and watching with more acuity.

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

In this 3 DVD set Dr. Marla Silverman shares principles and methods of working with couples gleaned from 40 years of experience. In a 2 1/2 hour interview she answers 51 questions therapists need to know about doing couples work. There are 2 demonstration sessions which can be watched with and without commentary by Dr. Silverman:

Demo 1: Regulating Wounded Young Parts in a Seriously Dysregulated Couple

Demo 2: Moment-to-Moment Work with a Highly Reactive Couple

Keeping It Real - Marla Silverman PhDClick here to learn more or purchase.


Webinars Now Available in the Self-Therapy Products Store

I am pleased to announce that many of the webinars I have taught are now available through our store inexpensively. And more will be added in the future.

Here is the current list of available webinars:

  • Beyond Eating (co-led with Bonnie Weiss, LCSW). How to deal with food addiction and self-nurturing issues
  • Overcoming Depression
  • Working Through Procrastination
  • Understanding and Transforming the People-Pleasing Pattern
  • Striving and Being. Letting go of striving and learning to accept yourself as you are
  • IFS Real-Time Practice. How to engage in a practice of working with your parts in your life
  • Problematic Attractions. Understanding how you might be attracted to people who aren’t good for you and what to do about it.
  • Reparenting in IFS. For professionals. How to reparent an exile as part of the unburdening process.
  • Advanced IFS Reparenting. For professionals. Advanced topics in IFS reparenting of exiles.

Click here to read about or purchase the Webinars.

New Pattern Guided Meditations

Guided Meditations For the Victim, Taskmaster, and Destroyer Patterns

Our online store has had a number of recorded guided meditations that take you through the first part of an Internal Family systems Therapy (IFS) session, and now we have added quite a few more.

Each guided meditation is designed to work with a certain pattern. You access the part of you that enacts that pattern, get to know it, find out what it is trying to do for you, and develop a trusting relationship with it.

IFS has discovered that every part has a positive intent for you. This makes it much easier to connect with the part and help it to let go. In this meditation, you will discover the part’s intent and connect with it. This is a crucial step in transforming the pattern.

We have now added three new pattern meditations—for

PM22-IFS-Pattern-Meditation-Victim-PatternThe Victim Pattern:  If you have the Victim Pattern, you see yourself as being wronged by someone or in an impossible situation. In other words, you believe that your problems exist because bad things were done to you.



PM21-IFS-Pattern-Meditation-Taskmaster-PatternThe Taskmaster Pattern:   If you have the Taskmaster Pattern, you have an intense focus on hard work or discipline. You may have this because you want to be successful and thereby gain the satisfactions of success—money, praise, power, freedom, or admiration.



PM19-IFS-Pattern-Meditation-Destroyer-PatternThe Destroyer Pattern:  The Destroyer makes pervasive attacks on your fundamental self-worth. It shames you in such a deep way that you feel intrinsically flawed.




Click here to learn more about these and the purchase them.