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.

Self-Therapy

Unblending from an Inner Critic

At any given moment, you are either in Self or you blended with a part—a protector or exile. When you are judging yourself, you are blended with an Inner Critic part. When you are feeling bad about yourself, you are blended with a Criticized Child part. In fact, you are often blended with both the Critic and the Criticized Child at the same time.

You can only work successfully with an Inner Critic if you aren’t blended with it or the Criticized Child. When you unblend from a Critic, it doesn’t mean that the self-judgment disappears or you stop feeling bad about yourself. It means that you aren’t completely taken over by these feelings. You have some space inside that is separate from them. You don’t fully buy into the idea that you are inadequate. You can see that this is just a part of you that is attacking you rather than believing it is the truth about you. For example, if your Inner Critic says that you are a loser and will never find love in your life, you recognize that this is simply an attack from this part of you. It isn’t the truth.

Though you may still feel sad or ashamed, when you are unblended with the Criticized Child, you aren’t dominate by these feelings. You have a place in you (Self) that is feeling solid and OK. From this place you can view these feelings and understand these attacks and work with them. You may feel hurt to hear this message that you are a loser, and you may feel some hopelessness about your love life, but that isn’t all you feel. You reside in a place that is deeper than those emotions, a place of calmness and curiosity.  This is not the final solution to your Inner Critic problem. It is just a preliminary step that gives you enough space to deal with the problem.

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. [Read more…]