Overcoming Depression with IFS

In studying how to work with depression using IFS, I have seen that a depressed part can be either a protector or an exile. In this article, I’ll just look at protectors.Overcoming Depression

Protectors That Block Hope 

One common cause of depression is having a protector that doesn’t want you to feel hopeful. Such a protector doesn’t actually feel hopeless. It makes you feel hopeless in order to keep you from feeling hopeful and then suffering the disappointment of not getting what you were hoping for. Therefore, it is more accurate to call it a Depressing Protector rather than a Depressed Protector. It is afraid of your feeling devastated if you are disappointed. It believes that if you are hopeful and your hopes don’t work out, or if you fail at what you are trying to accomplish, you will be devastated. It isn’t just worried about your being disappointed; it is afraid you will be devastated in such a severe way that you couldn’t handle it. Its fear probably goes back to times in childhood when you were hopeful and then your hopes were dashed and you were devastated.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your hopelessness is realistic or that your Depressing Protector feels hopeless. It is purposely trying to make you feel hopeless to protect you from devastation. However, even though it is causing your depression, its heart is in the right place; your Depressing Protector is trying to protect you from pain. So you can get to know it and connect with it.

Of course, the pain this Depressing Protector causes you is far greater that the actual disappointment you might feel if your hopes failed to materialize. But your protector doesn’t realize that.

Protectors That Depress Your Energy

A Depressing Protector may squash your energy so that you can’t feel the underlying pain or trauma of your exiles. This protector believes that you can’t tolerate this pain. It is stuck at a point in your childhood when you didn’t have the internal or external support to handle such pain. So it keeps your energy low to prevent this pain from coming to the surface.

A Depressing Protector might also suppress your energy so you won’t assert yourself or take risks, which the protector believes will lead to failure or trouble. It thinks that if you took a risk and failed, you couldn’t handle the disappointment. Or it may believe that if you asserted yourself, you might be attacked or abandoned.

In most cases, the depression that such a protector causes is much more painful than what would happen if it allowed you to feel an exile’s pain or if it allowed you to assert yourself in the world, but the Depressing Protector doesn’t know this. It believes that it must make you depressed to protect you from overwhelming pain or from the negative consequences of being powerful and visible in the world.

Inner Critic Parts

Inner Critic Parts, which are protectors, can also create or add to your depression by attacking you so harshly and mercilessly that you feel bad about yourself. These Inner Critic attacks trigger exiles who already feel inadequate or worthless, and the attacks make the exiles feel even worse, which contributes to depression.

Self-Therapy, Vol. 3This article is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 3.

The Destroyer Inner Critic

Destroyer Inner CriticThe Destroyer Inner Critic is one of the seven types of Critics. It makes pervasive attacks on your fundamental self-worth. It shames you in such a deep way that you feel intrinsically flawed. You believe you cannot be redeemed. The Destroyer launches very primitive attacks on you that may not even have much content. Your Destroyer may not communicate in words but rather in body feelings of shame and depression.

Your Destroyer Critic may make you feel that you don’t deserve to exist. It may try to destroy or annihilate you. It may cause you to feel very depressed and hopeless about yourself and your life.

The Destroyer is the most harmful and debilitating of all the types of Inner Critics. It usually originates very early in your life, often from the first year or two when you didn’t have much in the way of words available.

However, like all protectors, the Destroyer Critic is actually trying to protect you either from underlying pain or from what it perceives as attacks from other people. It is stuck in the past and doesn’t realize that you aren’t in danger now and you could handle the underlying pain better than its attacks. So, using IFS, you can get to know your Destroyer and develop a trusting relationship with it rather than fighting with it. This allows you to ultimately heal the exiles it is protecting and transform it.

For a detailed story of someone with a Destroyer, look at our book, Freedom from Your Inner Critic.

Self-Therapy Journey, my interactive online tool, has a module for working on the Destroyer. Click here to learn more about it.

Read more about taking an Inner Critic quiz, click here.