IFS Capacities

For those of you who are IFS clients or have learned to practice IFS of self-help or peer counseling, it can be useful to be aware of which capacities or skills you have developed and which need more work. Here is the beginning of a list of such capacities:

Getting Started
Understanding what parts may be involved in an issue you want to explore
Understanding relationships between parts involved in an issue—protection, alliance, harm, polarization
Ending the preliminary story telling and starting experiential work
Accessing a part thru image, internal voice, body sensing, emotions
Accessing all parts activated at the moment one at a time
Accessing all parts related to an issue
Choosing a target part to work with

Getting to Know a Protector
Detecting when you are blended with the target protector
Unblending from the target part
Knowing what you feel toward the target part so you can tell if you are in Self
Unblending from a concerned part
Asking a protector questions to discover its role and positive intent
Allowing a part to come into focus gradually
Developing a trusting relationship with a protector by appreciating it
Working through mistrust with a protector
Working with a non-verbal part
Knowing when to listen to a protector’s concern and work with the protector it is worried about
Discovering the exile that is being protected by a protector

Guiding the IFS Process
Differentiating parts: How to tell when you are hearing from a different part than the target part
Naming parts
Being aware of other parts that arise while you are focused on the target part
Detecting when you are blended with a concerned part that emerges later in the process (judgmental, distracting, confused, doubting, etc.)
Detecting when you are blended with any other part that interferes with the process
(impatient, insecure, intellectual, etc.)
Detecting when you become blended with a part while you are getting to know it
Staying with the thread of a session
Choosing to change target parts
Recognizing when you are no longer in Self
Keeping on track with witnessing a specific memory/situation when many memories come up
Seeing all parts that are activated in a given moment from Self in order to unblend


Unblending from an Inner Critic

At any given moment, you are either in Self or you blended with a part—a protector or exile. When you are judging yourself, you are blended with an Inner Critic part. When you are feeling bad about yourself, you are blended with a Criticized Child part. In fact, you are often blended with both the Critic and the Criticized Child at the same time.

You can only work successfully with an Inner Critic if you aren’t blended with it or the Criticized Child. When you unblend from a Critic, it doesn’t mean that the self-judgment disappears or you stop feeling bad about yourself. It means that you aren’t completely taken over by these feelings. You have some space inside that is separate from them. You don’t fully buy into the idea that you are inadequate. You can see that this is just a part of you that is attacking you rather than believing it is the truth about you. For example, if your Inner Critic says that you are a loser and will never find love in your life, you recognize that this is simply an attack from this part of you. It isn’t the truth.

Though you may still feel sad or ashamed, when you are unblended with the Criticized Child, you aren’t dominate by these feelings. You have a place in you (Self) that is feeling solid and OK. From this place you can view these feelings and understand these attacks and work with them. You may feel hurt to hear this message that you are a loser, and you may feel some hopelessness about your love life, but that isn’t all you feel. You reside in a place that is deeper than those emotions, a place of calmness and curiosity.  This is not the final solution to your Inner Critic problem. It is just a preliminary step that gives you enough space to deal with the problem.

Your Inner Critic isn’t as Powerful and Frightening as You Think

Inner Critic parts often seem to be very powerful and frightening, but this is often a front they put up to be able to do their job. When you get to know them, you view can often change dramatically. Here is an example of this:

Sarah was really frightened of her Inner Critic. It screamed and yelled at her and crushed her with its attacks and it power. It told her that she was worthless and would never amount to anything. She visualized it as a huge powerful monster with great muscles and a loud voice that was beating at her. However, once she got into Self and was openly interested in getting to know it and its positive intent, it gradually changed. It became smaller, less threatening and more reasonable. When she came to understand what it was trying to protect her from, her image of it morphed again; now she saw it as a frightened kid who was doing its best to act tough to prevent a terrible tragedy. It was afraid that if she felt OK about herself, she would put herself out in the world and get shamed. Therefore, she felt compassion and caring for it. She saw that the real Critic had been revealed, like the little man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.

Becoming Open to Your Inner Critic: Unblending from Concerned Parts

Your Inner Critic really has a positive intent for you. It is trying to protect you from pain, though it often does this in a distorted, destructive way. In order to get to know your Inner Critic and find out its positive intent, you must be open to it rather than fighting it. In IFS terminology, this means you must be in Self. Here is how to achieve this.

Check to see how you feel toward the Inner Critic part. If you are feeling curiosity, openness, compassion, or the like, then you are in Self and you can proceed to get to know the Critic. If not, you are probably blended with one of these four Concerned Parts. These parts are not Self because they have a negative attitude toward the Critic. They won’t be helpful in transforming the Critic.

a. Wary Part. Wary of the Critic. Afraid that it will do damage if you engage with it.
Validate that fear because the Critic has done a lot of damage.
However, assure the Wary Part that you won’t let the Critic take over and harm you or the exile.
Explain that you are going to get to know the Critic from Self and you are strong.
Remind it that the Critic has a positive intent, so you can connect with it and help transform it.
Ask it to step aside so you can do that. [Read more…]

Accessing Self in IFS Work

Anne writes:
I think that your description of the Self in your book is eloquent.  However, unless I missed it, there doesn’t seem to be much about how to access that Self.  For people like myself whose Parts are so active, it can be difficult to be centered.  I’ve done lots of meditation work, which has helped, but there are still lots of times when I find myself in what I call the “spin cycle” of lots of voices, most of them not very positive.  What are the most prevalent ways that your clients access the Self?  That information would be helpful.

Here is my response:
All of Chapters 5 and 6 is about accessing Self. And I deal with the situation you are referring to in Chap. 9 on p. 171 in the section called Dealing with Overwhelm (see below). Let me know if that helps or if you have more to ask.

Dealing with Overwhelm

Your inner world can be a garden of riches, but at any moment it can also erupt in a chaotic confusion of intense feelings. Sometimes when a loaded issue gets triggered, instead of parts appearing one at a time, which would be more workable, they all become triggered at once, vying for control and attention, and fighting with each other. Suppose that, in the example above, as soon as you hear your lover threatening to leave, many parts come up at the same time. You feel terrified, defensive, self-judging, angry, ashamed, and abandoned, all in one intense moment. At first, you may not be able to distinguish these individual feelings; you may just experience inner confusion, conflict, or chaos. You might feel overwhelmed and flooded with emotion. [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 jay@earley.org.

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…]