Disowned Anger

In IFS, we sometimes encounter parts that have been disowned or exiled because their feelings or behavior are seeDisowned Angern as unacceptable. Because a part wasn’t acceptable in childhood, other parts of you banished it, and this dynamic has carried forward into the present.

A Disowned Part

I call these disowned parts. A disowned part can be a protector, an exile, or a healthy part. Anger is probably the most common type of disowned part. If you have disowned your anger, you tend to lack assertiveness or strength. You may even be passive, pleasing, self-effacing, or lacking in self-confidence and drive. This is because your strength (healthy aggression) has become disowned along with your anger.

Let’s look at an example:

Donna’s parents were judgmental and shaming whenever she got angry. They gave her the message that she was supposed to be a nice girl and not make waves or be aggressive. As a result, her anger was disowned, and this was enforced by managers who believed her anger was bad. Donna became meek and quiet, and had a hard time asserting herself.

If you have disowned your anger, you may occasionally have angry outbursts, due to the Angry Part breaking through. This anger is usually extreme and inappropriate to the context. You may feel ashamed of these incidents and believe they prove that you have an anger problem. However, the real problem is that your anger has been disowned.

Disowned Anger can come from a protector, an exile, or even a healthy part. When it comes from an exile or a healthy part, the part is just responding in a naturally aggressive way to childhood insults or deprivations. However, this anger can become extreme because it has been disowned. The Angry Part reacts to being disowned by becoming increasingly and irrationally angry.

Working with Disowned Anger

When working with Disowned Anger, your goal is to gain access to the disowned Angry Part and welcome it back into your internal family of parts and into your conscious life, where it can live and express itself. It is helpful to welcome even anger that is extreme, though it shouldn’t be acted out. Witness the part’s anger and encourage it to express the anger in whatever way it wants in a session. This is often a great relief since the anger has been repressed for so long.

When anger is disowned, there is a positive quality that gets disowned along with the anger, which I call the Strength. Strength means healthy aggression, aliveness, personal power, and the ability to assert yourself and establish healthy boundaries. It includes the ability to be firm, take risks, adopt a powerful stance in the world, and feel a zest for life. When our Strength is activated, anger is rarely necessary because we can call on our healthy sense of power, forcefulness, and limit setting to handle these situations. We can be strong and assertive without frightening or harming other people. However, when we exile our anger, we also exile our Strength, not because we intend to but rather because of the way the human psyche operates.

By welcoming back Disowned Anger, we take a step toward reclaiming our Strength. This is especially true if we welcome back the anger in an embodied way that includes feeling the anger fully and perhaps even expressing it. This helps us to embody our Strength and personal power.

This article is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 3. It is one of the topics covered in my Advanced IFS Classes.

The Inner Critic and the Criticized Child

Critized ChildWhenever we are being attacked or judged by an Inner Critic part, there is always a second part of us that is receiving this attack and feeling hurt, depressed, or worthless.

We call this part the Criticized Child. This is an exile who believes the attack and feels ashamed or guilty, bad, or inadequate. Many people, at first, don’t make a distinction between the Critic and the Criticized Child, but doing so is crucial to unraveling this difficult issue.

There are always two parts involved. One part attacks us, and a second part feels attacked.

For example, suppose your Critic sneers at you and tells you that you’re so shy that you’re a loser and no one likes you. The sneering Critic feels harsh, judgmental, and dismissive toward you.

There is a second part of you (the Criticized Child) that believes this attack and feels rejected, ashamed, and worthless. You will need to work with both parts, but in very different ways.

The Inner Critic is an IFS protector that is trying to protect you by attacking you, as strange as that sounds. The Criticized Child is an IFS exile who already feels bad about itself, and the attacks from your Inner Critic make it feel worse.

If you haven’t already, you can take a quiz to learn which Inner Critic is more trouble for you.

In a 9 week on-line course learn how to Transform Your Inner Critic using IFS and Self-Therapy Journey

8 Types of Self-like Parts

Self-Therapy-Vol-2Self-Therapy, Vol 2 devotes an entire chapter to Self-like Parts which describes each of these types in detail.

Some parts think they are the Self.  This means that when you are blended with such a part, you think you are in Self, and you don’t recognize the limitations of the part you are blended with.

These parts are called “Self-like” not because they necessarily have more of the qualities of Self, such as compassion or connectedness, but instead because they appear to be the Self.

If you are blended with a Self-like Parts and don’t realize this, your IFS work will run into trouble. You will get stuck in a variety of ways or your work will be flat and not very healing. So it is crucial to be able to recognize these parts and unblend from them.

Here is a list of the most common types of Self-like parts:

  • Subtly Judgmental Parts
  • Intellectualizers
  • Impatient Parts
  • Agenda-Driven Parts
  • Pretend-Therapy Parts
  • Guarded Parts
  • Inner Caretakers
  • Dominant Self-like Parts

There may be others. Be on the lookout for one of these parts because it can sabotage your IFS process.


The Defensive Pattern

The Defensive Pattern Self-Therapy JourneyThe Defensive Pattern is one of the patterns in the Conflict Dimension of the Pattern System. You can work on transforming it using Self-Therapy Journey. Click here for more information on this.

When a person challenges you, if you have a Defensive Pattern, you tend to defend yourself against their accusation instead of listening to what is important to them. Of course, if the person accuses you of something that isn’t true, it does make sense to straighten them out. However, if you come from a Defensive Pattern, you tend to assume that any accusation isn’t true or look for ways that it isn’t true rather than considering ways that it might be accurate.

Even more importantly, you don’t really take the person’s concerns seriously. It is most helpful to really hear the person and validate their feelings so they feel understood. Then, if necessary, you can explain the way they have misunderstood you and the way their accusation may be untrue. Because you have validated them first, they are much more likely to respond well to what you have to say.

If you have a Defensive Pattern, it may be very hard for you to admit your part in a problem that the person brings up. You may avoid looking at yourself and instead focus on defending yourself from criticism.

If the person is angry or harshly judgmental toward you, it does make sense for you to protect yourself from being treated this way. However, this is best done by setting limits on the person’s anger and judgment rather than by arguing that you haven’t done anything wrong. In addition, you may perceive someone as being very judgmental when they really aren’t because of your sensitivity to being criticized.