Modes in Blending in IFS

This blog is a more technical than usual and aimed at IFS therapists. In IFS a part is “blended” with someone when they ARE the part as opposed to being in Self. This could mean that they feel the part’s emotions, they hold its beliefs, or their behavior in the world comes from this part. Recently I have realized that these represent three different modes of blending, and that a part may only be blended with someone in one or two of these ways. Furthermore, someone can be blended with two parts at the same time using two different modes.

The three modes of blending are as follows:
1. A person is feeling the part’s emotions to such an extent that they don’t feel much else. For example, a sad part takes them over so that they are flooded with sadness.
2. A person is identified with the part, in that they hold its beliefs and see the world from its perspective. For example, a man is blended with a paranoid part that believes that people are out to hurt him.
3. A person’s actions derive from a part. For example, because a woman is blended with a judgmental part, she makes contemptuous comments to people.

Where this becomes interesting is when someone is blended with two different parts using two modes. Suppose a client is being judged by an Inner Critic part, which tells her that she is incompetent and worthless. There is another part of her that is affected by these judgments and feels depressed or ashamed, which we could call the Criticized Exile. In this situation, she is blended with both parts. She is blended with the Critic because she hold its beliefs (that she is incompetent/worthless), and she is also blended with the Criticized Exile because she is feeling its emotions (depression or shame).

Here is a second example. A client is behaving in a passive-aggressive way in his marriage. He agrees to do things that his wife asks him to do, but then he does them in backward, distorted way so as to frustrate her. This is because he is blended with two parts at the same time. He is blended with a People Pleaser part that wants to make his wife happy and doesn’t even consider his desires or boundaries. He is blended with this part by identifying with it (wanting to please her) and acting from it (agreeing to do her tasks). He is also blended with a second part that resents his wife for her requests. This Rebel part perceives her as telling him what to do and feels angry and defiant. Not only does it not want to do what she says, it wants to get back at her. This part is totally unconscious, so it can’t express these feelings directly. Instead it complete the tasks in a frustrating way. He is blended with this part in the action mode; his actions come from this part. However, he is not identified with this part at all; he believes that he wants to please her.

By looking at the mode of blending of a part, you can get a more accurate sense of how it operates in a client’s life, especially when there is more than one part blended at the same time.