Updating in IFS

updating protectorsProtectors Stuck in Past

Our protectors are stuck in the past; they believe that we are little children who are vulnerable and have few internal or external resources for handling problematic situations. This is how we all were as children. Another way to say this is that the protector is protecting a young, vulnerable exile, and it thinks that you are the exile. It doesn’t realize that you have a Self with many more resources than when you were a child.

Ask the Protector

You can ask a protector, “How old do you think I am?” Very often, the protector will mention a childhood age—two or eight, for example. Notice that this is a different question from the one you might ask an exile, which is: “How old are you?”

Once you have found out how old the protector thinks you are, tell the protector how old you actually are. Then show the protector a series of scenes from your life that include growing up, maturing, accomplishing things, handling difficulties, and reaching your current age. This updates the protector as to your current capacities.

Competent, Perceptive Self

When you were young, you were vulnerable and under your parents’ power. However, now you are autonomous and in charge of your own life. In childhood, you didn’t have a mature Self present to help, so your protectors often had to handle painful situations on their own. Now that you are an adult, you have a competent, perceptive Self to help in difficult circumstances.

In addition, you probably have many strengths and capacities as an adult that you didn’t have as a child. For example, you are probably more grounded and centered. You may be more assertive, more perceptive about interpersonal situations, better able to support yourself financially, and so on. You have probably accomplished things in your life and overcome obstacles. You are an adult with much greater ability to handle yourself.

As part of the updating process, you can also show the protector your current life arrangements and the various people who will support you when needed. You probably have friends, family, maybe a spouse or lover, perhaps a community you belong to, or a support group you can rely on.

Self-Therapy-Vol-2This article is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 2. It is also one of the topics I teach in my Advanced IFS Classes.