Working Through Avoidance of IFS Work

You might decide that you want to do an exercise in my Self-Therapy book or you might want to do an IFS session on yourself, but you don’t follow through.

If you are stuck in this way, it would be helpful to explore what is going on inside you. Why might you want to do something and then not carry through?

Often this happens because a hidden protector doesn’t really want to do the exercise or session. In other words, even though a part of you has decided that working on yourself would be beneficial, another part of you is balking. This might be a protector that is afraid that if you follow through with an exercise, you will encounter strong emotions that you can’t handle. Or it might be a protector that doesn’t think you will benefit from this work and so doesn’t want to bother.

This avoidant protector is clearly in control (since you aren’t doing the exercises), even though it may be unconscious.

The best way to handle this situation is to commit to doing a session in which you work with this avoidant protector. In this session, check inside for a felt sense of not wanting to do the exercises.

You may even feel resistant to the session you are engaged in right now.

You might want to get up and leave, or you might tell yourself that you don’t have time, or you might feel generally uncomfortable.

Tune in to that feeling of resistance. It might feel like stubbornness or annoyance or defiance. You might sense apathy or anxiety. Whatever it is, this feeling will give you access to the avoidant part. Then continue through the IFS steps to get to know this part.

See what you can discover about why this part doesn’t want you to do the work and what it is afraid would happen if it allowed you to. Then see if you can reassure this protector that its fears won’t come true, just like you might reassure a concerned part. For example, you might explain that you aren’t going to dive into overwhelmingly painful emotions, and you won’t allow any dangerous parts to take over. Assure it that you will stay in Self while you become acquainted with your parts.

For this reassurance to be effective, you may need to develop a trusting relationship with the avoidant protector.

However, even one short session with an avoidant protector can make a big difference in your willingness to do the work. If you do such a session but your avoidance doesn’t change, it is possible that there is more than one avoidant protector.

Do another session in which you check for others and work with them. Since you are avoiding doing sessions, it may be difficult to do even this session on the avoidant protector. You might keep making excuses instead of doing it.

One way to make this session happen is to schedule it with a partner. If someone else is counting on you to be there, it makes it harder to avoid. Or you could do this session with an IFS therapist, who might help you get at deeper issues behind your avoidance.

Self-Therapy