Disowned Anger

In IFS, we sometimes encounter parts that have been disowned or exiled because their feelings or behavior are seeDisowned Angern as unacceptable. Because a part wasn’t acceptable in childhood, other parts of you banished it, and this dynamic has carried forward into the present.

A Disowned Part

I call these disowned parts. A disowned part can be a protector, an exile, or a healthy part. Anger is probably the most common type of disowned part. If you have disowned your anger, you tend to lack assertiveness or strength. You may even be passive, pleasing, self-effacing, or lacking in self-confidence and drive. This is because your strength (healthy aggression) has become disowned along with your anger.

Let’s look at an example:

Donna’s parents were judgmental and shaming whenever she got angry. They gave her the message that she was supposed to be a nice girl and not make waves or be aggressive. As a result, her anger was disowned, and this was enforced by managers who believed her anger was bad. Donna became meek and quiet, and had a hard time asserting herself.

If you have disowned your anger, you may occasionally have angry outbursts, due to the Angry Part breaking through. This anger is usually extreme and inappropriate to the context. You may feel ashamed of these incidents and believe they prove that you have an anger problem. However, the real problem is that your anger has been disowned.

Disowned Anger can come from a protector, an exile, or even a healthy part. When it comes from an exile or a healthy part, the part is just responding in a naturally aggressive way to childhood insults or deprivations. However, this anger can become extreme because it has been disowned. The Angry Part reacts to being disowned by becoming increasingly and irrationally angry.

Working with Disowned Anger

When working with Disowned Anger, your goal is to gain access to the disowned Angry Part and welcome it back into your internal family of parts and into your conscious life, where it can live and express itself. It is helpful to welcome even anger that is extreme, though it shouldn’t be acted out. Witness the part’s anger and encourage it to express the anger in whatever way it wants in a session. This is often a great relief since the anger has been repressed for so long.

When anger is disowned, there is a positive quality that gets disowned along with the anger, which I call the Strength. Strength means healthy aggression, aliveness, personal power, and the ability to assert yourself and establish healthy boundaries. It includes the ability to be firm, take risks, adopt a powerful stance in the world, and feel a zest for life. When our Strength is activated, anger is rarely necessary because we can call on our healthy sense of power, forcefulness, and limit setting to handle these situations. We can be strong and assertive without frightening or harming other people. However, when we exile our anger, we also exile our Strength, not because we intend to but rather because of the way the human psyche operates.

By welcoming back Disowned Anger, we take a step toward reclaiming our Strength. This is especially true if we welcome back the anger in an embodied way that includes feeling the anger fully and perhaps even expressing it. This helps us to embody our Strength and personal power.

This article is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 3. It is one of the topics covered in my Advanced IFS Classes.

Inner Caretaker Parts

BK001-Self Therapy-aThis article is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Self-Therapy, Vol 2.

An Inner Caretaker is a part that is overly invested in caring for your exiles. It is often a Self-like part, which means that you believe you are in Self even though you are blended with the part.

Since it is important and natural for Self to care for your exiles, it is easy to get fooled when an Inner Caretaker is blended with you. You might ask: What could possibly be wrong with caring for my exiles? Why do you say that caretaking isn’t coming from Self? How can I distinguish between Self and an Inner Caretaker? Here’s how.

When you are in the witnessing step (Chapter 12 of Self-Therapy), it is important to fully witness what happened in childhood to cause an exile’s pain. This opens up the exile for healing in the subsequent steps of the IFS process. However, sometimes a Caretaking Part steps in to care for the exile before the witnessing is complete, even sometimes before the witnessing has really begun.

Let’s see how this might happen. Janie was working with an exile who was deprived of the love and caring it needed. She accessed this Deprived Exile and asked it to show her how it was deprived in childhood. The exile began to show Janie how her mother was cold and distant. Then Janie jumped in and immediately started holding and nurturing the exile before she had understood the ways that the exile was deprived and especially before she had really felt its pain.

An exile does need to feel your compassion during witnessing, and it is often a good idea to directly convey your caring and compassion to the exile so it feels safe to open up to you.

Sometimes the exile may even need some direct nurturing to help it feel safe and connected to you before proceeding with the witnessing. However, this caring should not happen instead of witnessing. Janie’s Inner Caretaker jumped in to begin reparenting before the witnessing was complete. As a result, the witnessing didn’t fully happen and therefore the Deprived Exile wasn’t fully open for the reparenting, retrieval, and unburdening to follow. Therefore, it wasn’t fully healed.

Once you have expressed your caring for an exile and it feels good with you, then ask it questions so you can understand what happened to it in childhood and witness its pain. Don’t move on to reparenting until the exile has shown you all it needs to show you about its pain and the origins of its wounds. If you want to nurture the exile instead of witnessing its pain, then you are probably blended with an Inner Caretaker which can’t tolerate the exile’s pain and needs to take it away. This is not Self but a Self-Like Part.

This can also happen in the reparenting step (Chapter 13 of Self-Therapy). Once you (in Self) have gone back in your imagination and entered the original scene where the exile was wounded, you ask the exile what it needs from you for healing. However, sometimes you may start nurturing the exile without waiting to find out what it actually needs for healing. This would also be coming from a Self-Like Inner Caretaker, not from Self. This can result in misdirected reparenting, where you give the exile what you think it needs, not what the exile actually needs for healing.