Benefits of Witnessing an Exile in IFS

Witnessing and Exile is one of the steps in healing an exile, where she shows you what harmful situation happened in childhood to cause her to be in such pain.

There are a number of important benefits to be gained from this witnessing process.

(1) It opens up hidden memories so they can be healed. When an exile and her memories are deeply buried in the psyche, healing isn’t possible. A wounded part needs the light of day. If you have a purely intellectual understanding of the memory, that probably won’t lead to healing. The memory must be opened up emotionally and intellectually, so it is both felt and understood.

(2) The memory is metabolized under the guidance and support of the Self, so the experience is completed and integrated and the physiological stress reaction can subside.

(3) The exile gets to be fully understood by the Self. There is a crucial difference between what happened originally and what the exile is experiencing now as she relives and shares the memory. This time the exile is not alone. The original incident was especially difficult because the exile had to deal with it all by herself, with no help or understanding from another living soul. I hear this all the time from exiles; they feel completely alone, having a reaction that they cannot share. Now in the therapy session, the Self is there to witness the experience and provide understanding. This is healing for the exile and creates a greater bond between her and the Self, which sets the stage for the Self being the agent of further healing as we progress in the IFS process.

(4) The exile understands that the burden she is carrying is from the past and not intrinsic to her. For example, a child part who feels worthless learns that she was made to feel that way in her family. In this way, she can see that her feeling of worthlessness isn’t the truth; it is a burden that she took on in childhood that doesn’t really belong to her. Therefore, it can be released, and she can experience her intrinsic worth.