Negotiating with Protectors for Healthy Behavior

Self-Therapy-Vol-2Negotiating with Protectors for Healthy Behavior is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 2, which describes this process in detail. I also teach about it in my Advanced IFS Classes.

In the standard IFS procedure, once you have gotten to know a protector and have developed a trusting relationship with it, you ask its permission to work with the exile or exiles it is protecting and then go through the series of healing steps with the exile, and then you return to the protector to see if it now can let go of its protective role.

However, there are situations in which it may take quite a while to heal the exile being protected. If you have an important situation coming up soon in your life in which that protector may act out, it can be very helpful to find a way to get that protector to relax even before all its exiles have been healed. This can sometimes be done by explaining to the protector how it is safe for it to let go of its role and allow you (in Self) to behave in a healthy manner in that situation.

Let’s consider the point in the IFS process when you have gotten to know a protector and have developed a trusting relationship with it. When a situation arises that activates this protector—such as meeting a new person, going out on a date, or interviewing for a job—the protector usually takes over and performs its extreme role. For example, it might make you withdraw, get angry, shut down emotionally, or please people. If it is an Inner Critic Part, it might start pushing and attacking you.

The protector performs its role because it is afraid of what would happen if it didn’t. For example, it may be afraid that you will be judged, shamed, rejected, or betrayed if it doesn’t do something. These fears come from childhood, when you actually were hurt in one of these ways. However, in the current situation in your life, it isn’t as likely that you will be hurt in the way the protector fears, so you can explain this to the protector and ask it to relax.

Ask the protector what it is afraid will happen in the upcoming life situation. When you learn what it is afraid of, explain that the current situation is different. The people you are dealing with today won’t hurt you the way your parents (or other people) did back then. In addition, you were under the power of adults when you were a child, but you aren’t under anyone’s power now. Therefore, the protector doesn’t need to perform its role. Explain to the protector that you can make good decisions and handle the situation successfully from Self. Describe the healthy way you plan to handle situation and the advantages of doing that. Ask the protector if it would be willing to relax and allow you to handle that situation from Self when it arises.


Witnessed IFS Sessions

What is a Witnessed IFS Session?Witnessed IFS Sessions

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW & Everett Considine, IFSCP, will be hosting Witnessed IFS Sessions.

Each session involves one person being facilitated through an IFS session, with the rest of the group witnessing, lending your compassionate presence, and giving feedback afterward. We also discuss the IFS process both during and after the session.

Witnessing an IFS session can be very powerful for both the people witnessing and the person who is doing the session. If you want a chance to have a free IFS session or just want to witness, please join us!

Many times the “parts” that the person is working with will resonate with you as you are witnessing. This leads to deep levels of healing for everyone in the group. Also the high level of Self (healing) energy in the group is palpable.

Thursdays 5:00 – 6:30 pm pacific (8:00 – 9:30 pm eastern)

9/10, 9/24, 10/8, 10/22/15: Bonnie leads

9/17, 10/1, 10/15, 10/29/15: Everett leads

Attend any sessions you like

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If you want to volunteer for a session, email
Everett at
or Bonnie at

NEW! Self-Therapy Workbook

WBK-004-SELF-THERAPY-WORKBOOK-cI am very excited to publish a workbook that goes with the Self-Therapy book (by Jay Earley). This book has been so popular that creating a workbook to go with it has been long over-due.

This workbook is a companion to Self-Therapy by Jay Earley. It is a clear and concise description of the steps in the IFS process designed for people using IFS to do personal work on themselves or professionals introducing the material to their clients. It provides written exercises that give readers a chance to process their experience and track their internal work. It includes sample answers that clarify how to do the exercises, and illustrations that provide a visual understanding the material. There are additional chapters on working with couples and dealing with polarization.

To order, click here

P.S. The Self-Therapy Workbook: An Exercise Book for the IFS Process a Perfect Holiday Gift for IFS’ers

What People Are Saying

“This book is so much more than a workbook! While capturing the key parts of Jay Earley’s Self-Therapy in a workbook format, it also elucidates IFS best practices and will be indispensable to IFS students, teachers, clients, coaches, and therapists.”
~Everett Considine, IFS Instructor and Certified IFS Practitioner

Self-Therapy Workbook by Bonnie Weiss, LCSW, is a comprehensive, thoughtful and well organized accompaniment for anyone working to build the capacities of self-leadership. The workbook is an exemplary introduction to the IFS Model for first timers, yet it also brings enough sophistication in detail and scope to benefit professional-level providers. As usual, Ms. Weiss brings a collection of excellent meditations to open the reader’s inner experience as well as plenty of room to record one’s own reflections and progressive growth. I highly recommend this workbook for individuals and professions as a valuable enhancement to the therapeutic process.”
~Roseanne Keefe, LICSW

“If you want an easy way to understand and effectively utilize the IFS process, this workbook clearly breaks down the steps described in Self-Therapy by Jay Earley. The exercises are clear, the images are helpful and well integrated into the text, and the examples make this workbook easy to use. I appreciate that it has expanded the original work to include chapters on polarization and couples work. I will certainly give this to my clients to both educate them about the IFS process and to empower them to use this process on their own.”
~Nancy Dagenhart, MFT, IFS Therapist

“This workbook is a very useful companion to Self-Therapy. It provides thoughtful step-by-step guidance through the IFS process. Its clarity and simplicity allow the reader to turn the theoretical concepts of IFS into practical, useful steps toward healing. A must-read for those who want to use IFS for self-growth and healing.”
~Ilyssa Bass, IFS Therapist, Jerusalem, Israel

“This book is a gold mine. It takes the excellent Self-Therapy book to the next level in terms of practicality. I’m convinced that this workbook will help its readers process and work through inner blocks and recurring pains. It is a reference I will use personally as well as recommend to my clients.”
~Ronnie Grandell, Psychologist, Finland


Negotiating for Self-Leadership

IFS recognizes that a protector can’t fully let go and transform until the exile(s) that it protects have been accessed and unburdened. However, there are situations where it isn’t practical to do this right away. Then you can connect with the protector from Self and negotiate with it to allow you to take the lead in a difficult situation in your life where this protector normally takes over and causes problems. This means that you can change your attitudes and behavior in some situations even before the underlying exile has been healed. Here’s how to do this with an Inner Critic protector:

First make a connection with the Critic but understanding what it is trying to do for you and appreciating its efforts. Then it will be possible for it to cooperate with you and learn a different way to respond when a situation triggers it. You can learn to negotiate with it to allow you to lead whenever such a situation arises. Explain that Self can handle this situation and make this decision. The Critic doesn’t have to be extreme about it. The Critic became extreme because it was dealing with a dangerous and harmful situation in childhood, and it believes that this is happening again. Furthermore, there wasn’t a Self there to help back then, and the Critic hasn’t realized that you have a Self available to help now. Or maybe your Self hasn’t been fully available. But now that you are doing this IFS work, your Self has been accessed and can help. And now that the Self and the Critic are connected, the Critic is more likely to listen to the Self and trust what the Self is saying. [Read more…]

Who Asks a Protector to Step Aside?

This questions was sent to me a while ago and I answered it by email. With Peter’s permission, I am including it on the blog. I encourage you to email me questions to be answered at

Peter asks:

I’ve purchased your book and am about a third in.
I wonder if I can ask you a question.
Who is it who is asking the protector to step aside. Is it another protector? Or does one move to Self before asking? It’s probably there in the pages I read but I’m still not clear. [Read more…]