Updating Protectors about Your Capacities

The following is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 2. 

Updating Protectors about Your CapacitiesUpdating is a standard IFS technique which is used to help a protector to trust you so it will step aside or give you permission to work with an exile.

Our protectors are stuck in the past; they believe that we are little children who are vulnerable and have few internal or external resources for handling problematic situations. This is how we all were as children. Another way to say this is that the protector is protecting a young, vulnerable exile, and it thinks that you are the exile. It doesn’t realize that you have a Self with many more resources than when you were a child.

When you are preparing to do the process of updating, ask the protector how old it thinks you are. If it thinks that you are a child, tell the protector how old you actually are. 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.

Even if you haven’t had much access to Self in the past, your Self is probably starting to become available because of your IFS work. However, the protector may not realize that your Self is now available to help, so you need to make this clear to the protector so it will be willing to cooperate with you.