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Parts Therapy or Internal Family System (IFS)
The House in Your Head
Imagine a house within yourself that is full of people, animals, plants, electronic devices, monsters, just like any average household. The house has many levels with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, garage, basement and a deep dark fall-out shelter, just like any average house. Only this house has a central core, the wisdom room. This core connects like WIFI to all of life on calming waves of compassion, courage, and caring and guides the inhabitants through life internally as well as in the external world.
You’d think that the inhabitants (lets call them “Parts”) of your internal house would allow the Central Core of Compassionate Wisdom (lets call this “Self”) to run the household, but often times the Parts, take control because they believe they know better.
When something threatens you in the outer world, your inner world can be thrown into chaos, requiring a “Manager” to emerge from the basement and ascend to the living room (your waking consciousness) to get things in order. “Protectors” may rise up too and whisk your Child and other Vulnerable parts down to the basement, or fall-out shelter. Self, also seen to be imperiled, is sent along to safety with the other vulnerable parts. These Parts may author a script about what they believed happened and develop rigid roles and behaviors to ensure survival of your inner household. Self may be excluded from this exchange because the Managers and Protectors perceive Self as being to vulnerable to lead in a crisis. While their intentions are honorable, the results may be devastating.
In this illustration of the “Your Internal House”, you see someone from the outer world approaching you. Imagine he is there to serve divorce papers, or a maybe he works for a bank or the government and is there to repossess your car or collect back taxes. Or maybe he is a person from HR come to tell you that you’ve been fired from your job because of the nude pictures posted on Facebook. Some wild part took over your living room at the Christmas party and now you’re in deep trouble. No wonder there’s a Policeman, a Critic, a Boss, and an Analyzer gathered in the living room while a Multi-tasking Part carries on like everything is under control. A Self-righteous Part will soon join them to compensate for any shame that might creep in and Anger is ascending the stairs and will soon be on the scene to lash out at the accuser.
And look at all the Parts that are being suppressed in the basement; Children, Creative parts, Caring Parts and a Free-spirit part. Maybe it was the Free-spirit under the influence of too many tequila shots that posed for those nude pictures. And look at the Exiles in the fall-out shelter. Who knows what painful burdens they hold. Even you don’t remember, but sometimes you find yourself in the kitchen eating a quart of ice cream and a box of pop tarts to quell the anxiety that makes you feel like you’re going to implode. And your body is breaking down. Although your central nervous system is working overtime to make the necessary repairs – like the car in the garage – your lifestyle contradicts what you know is good for you. You have high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes, but you’re too busy multi-tasking to do anything about it. You just can’t seem to focus.
Most Parts cooperate with each other and the inner family works with varying degrees of Self-leadership, however some Parts can become extreme, believing they know what’s best, and although their intentions are meant for the benefit of the system, they can do more harm than good.
It's time to a find therapist who practices Internal Family Systems or Parts Work and Inner Active Cards can help.
Parts therapy can be done on a 1-2-1 counselling basis as well as under hypnosis.
Click on the pictures for a larger version,which will help you to better understand the explanation.
My thanks to Sharon Eckstein, Master MFA who created the illustrations and provided the explanation above, which is so much more eliquently described than any attempt of mine would have been.