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Internal Family Systems

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

IFS shows us: the mountains are separate, but one.

A highly effective and relatively new form of psychotherapy called Internal Family Systems, or IFS, is becoming more commonplace in today's growing list of tools to combat mental illness. It draws ideas from Jung and early Freud as well as a variety of other modalities, while charting into new territory: the overarching idea being that the self is comprised of many sub-level parts.

The best example of a part would be your "inner child" or the "over-worker." Apparently we can have more than a dozen parts working in cohesion.

What are your main parts?

Try to name a few, then locate them physically in the body (is there a tingling in your ribs, or a weight in your gut?) then connect with and listen to these parts.

The biggest gift for me was the notion that we are comprised of many subpersonalities which each have their own motives and tendencies. If we treat them with the right amount of respect and honor, we can learn what they have to teach us.

The parts are not meant to be nullified or fixed, but rather thanked and honored.

I'm looking at inner conflict with more curiosity and compassion thanks to this way of thinking about our minds.

Turns out a completely unified self is harmony between these different parts and you can have them speak with each other, to find resolutions to inner conflicts.

It now feels ok to have parts that are in conflict. I thought we had to have this perfectly unified mind, but it turns out we might be a lot more complex that we even realize.

IFS founder Richard Shwartz explains.

I've wanted vital parts of my own self to just poof and vanish, but IFS shows us that the more we try to ignore or cut out a part, the likelier that part will be to grow strong and get nested in the unconscious mind, where if can do some real damage.

Instead, we seek harmony between the parts, rather than repression, removal, curing and fixing ourselves. And apparently each part of you "self" is trying to help you.

The book below has been a valuable resource for IFS. Special thanks to my friend Benjamin for the tip.

Let me know what your experience might be with IFS. I hope you get something out of this post.

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