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.

The Exile Is in Charge of Reparenting and Retrieval

In the IFS model, in both the reparenting and retrieval steps, we always check to see what the exile needs or wants. This guides us in deciding exactly how to do the reparenting or retrieval. Exile in Charge of Reparenting

It isn’t a good idea to assume that you know what she needs. You can suggest options to the exile that she might not think of, but don’t you decide what she needs without checking with her.

She knows best. You may be very surprised to discover what she wants. The exile can sense more truly than you what would be most healing for her.

In addition, it is healing for the exile to be in charge of what happens to her. In the original childhood situation, it was just the opposite. She had no say in how she was treated, even though it caused her considerable pain.

This leads most exiles to feel powerless and helpless.

Now you can redress this by having her be in control. This will empower her and help her feel safe.

 

How to Safely Work with Exiles

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 they usually try to be heard by flooding you with their feelings, which means blending with you. This is all they know.

Blending

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. The intensity of reliving a trauma in this way could actually be harmful, 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 that are afraid of the pain, and for good reason; it really might be difficult for you to cope with.

Exploring an Exile’s Pain

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 all of the exile’s pain. IFS has discovered that emotional understanding is usually enough to set the stage for the rest of the healing steps.

Benefits

There are a number of benefits to this approach. Besides avoiding being re-traumatized, 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. In addition, from Self, you have the perspective to direct your own therapy process successfully.

Emotional Wounds Quiz

Childhood emotional woundsWhich emotional wounds do you have?

Learn how to understand and heal your underlying pain from childhood.

Do you wonder…

  • What happened to me in childhood that underlies my problems?
  • Which emotional wounds are most important for me to heal?
  • What childhood pain has been most problematic for me?

Do you have underlying wounds such as shame, abandonment, guilt, feeling unlovable, feeling worthless?

Were you judged, attacked, betrayed, or violated as a child?

Take this quiz to learn which wounds would be most useful for you to heal.

Take the Wounds Quiz for free.

Take the Quiz

 

 

It also shows you how to enroll for those wounds in Self-Therapy Journey.

Understanding The Wound Dimension of the Pattern System

In this article, I will focus on the Wound Dimension, which you can see on the next to bottom row of the chart below. In a previous blog, I discussed the Inner Process Dimension.

This dimension is about your attitude toward the way you were wounded in the past, usually in childhood. This is important because it is a central aspect of IFS work and of most forms of psychotherapy.

Wound Dimension

The two healthy capacities in this dimension are Understanding Wounds and Forgiveness.

With the Understanding Wounds Capacity, you are interested in discovering how you were wounded in childhood so you can heal these wounds. With the Forgiveness Capacity, you are able to forgive the people who wounded you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning the way you were treated. It means letting go of your resentment. Forgiveness is primarily for your well-being, though it may also enhance your current relationship with your parents (or whoever wounded you). Even though Forgiveness is an important part of healing, be careful not to push yourself to forgive before you are ready. Many people need to first feel their wounds and their anger about the way they were treated and heal their wounds. Then they are ready to forgive. This is fine.

The two problematic patterns in this dimension are the Angry Pattern and the Loyal Pattern. With the Angry Pattern, you not only feel and express your anger about how you were harmed or deprived as a child, but you can’t let go of the anger even after it has been fully expressed. This will ultimately get in the way of your healing because this defensive kind of anger often blocks your access to the pain of your wounds, which is necessary to feel into order to heal them. And it also blocks Forgiveness, which is important to healing.

If you have the Loyal Pattern, it means that you feel such loyalty to your family or to one of your parents that you are unwilling to realize how they wounded you. You may be afraid of hurting the parent or making them feel bad. You may be afraid of losing your connection to your family if you let yourself realize how they hurt you. You may be afraid of not pleasing them and losing their approval.

It is important to realize that understanding your wounds is not about blaming your parents. It is about seeing and feeling how you were wounded so you can heal your wounds. Your parents may have given you many positive things in addition to how they wounded you.

Recognizing the wounds doesn’t negate the positive. And it doesn’t need to undermine your current relationship with your parents, if that is now good. If you refuse to see what happened to you out of loyalty, it makes it hard to heal.

 

 

Course: Working with Self-Therapy Journey and the Pattern System

Hiker onlyWednesdays
March 5 – April 9 (6 meetings)
4:30-6:30 PM PST | 7:30-9:30 PM EST
Cost: $230
Register here

Self-Therapy Journey (STJ) is a new interactive web program that enables you to systematically classify, explore, and transform your psychological issues. You can think of it as a sophisticated and interactive set of self-help books, plus guided meditations and customized reports. STJ is based on IFS and the Pattern System.

What can STJ help you do?

  • Resolve problems like procrastination, shyness, or depression
  • Transform behavior patterns like dependency, controlling, or people-pleasing
  • Navigate through defenses
  • Heal emotional wounds
  • Create a complete psychological profile for yourself

How does STJ work?

  • It provides recorded guided meditations for deep exploration.
  • It generates a customized report for each of your patterns.
  • It guides you in creating homework practices.
  • It transforms problems into healthy capacities.
  • It helps you track your progress.

In this course, you will learn how Self-Therapy Journey works and how to get the most out of it.

The Pattern System is a systematic approach to understanding your personality that can lead directly to psychological healing and personal growth.  It also helps you to understand other people—why they respond as they do, what makes them tick.

In this course, you will also learn about the Pattern System—how to chart your personality, and how to choose which patterns and capacities to work on in STJ.

By taking this course, you will be able to get access to the Therapist-Guided Version of STJ that includes Stage 2 work on childhood wounds, if this is appropriate for you.