Updating an IFS Protector

Our protectors are stuck in the past; they believe that we are little children who are vulnerable and updating protectorshave few internal or external re­sources for handling problematic situations. This is how we all were as children. You can ask a protector, “How old do you think I am?” Very often, the protector will mention a childhood age—two or eight, for example. Notice that this is a different ques­tion from the one you might ask an exile. You ask the exile, “How old are you?”

Update The Protector to Your Current Capacities

Once you have found out how old the protector thinks you are, tell the protector how old you actually are. Then show the protector a series of scenes from your life that include growing up, maturing, accomplishing things, handling difficulties, and reaching your current age. This updates the protector as to your current capacities.

When you were young, you were vulnerable and under your parents’ power. However, now you are autonomous and in charge of your own life. In childhood, you didn’t have a mature Self present to help, so your protectors often had to handle painful situations on their own. Now that you are an adult, you have a competent, perceptive Self to help in difficult circumstances.

In addition, you probably have many strengths and capacities as an adult that you didn’t have as a child. For example, you are prob­ably more grounded and cen­tered. You may be more assertive, more perceptive about interper­sonal situations, better able to support yourself financially, and so on. You have probably accomplished things in your life and overcome obstacles. You are an adult with much greater ability to handle yourself. As part of the updating process, you can also show the protector your current life arrangements and the various people who will support you when needed. You probably have friends, family, maybe a spouse or lover, perhaps a community you belong to, or a support group you can rely on.

This is an excerpt from my book Self-Therapy, Vol. 2. It is one of the many topics we cover in the Advanced IFS Classes.