Hello and welcome back to the Therapy Spot! Last week, a friend of mine directed me towards a piece written by Elizabeth Gilbert. Perhaps best known for her book Eat Pray Love, the prolific author discussed using the IFS lens in her recent piece on Oprah.com! I love seeing IFS in the media.
Elizabeth did some “deep diving” to examine the conflicting emotions she felt in reaction to a friend’s toxic behavior. Instead of lashing out or withdrawing from her friend, she named her parts and got to know them. This week, inspired by Elizabeth, I want to talk about some of the ways we can all use IFS to help ourselves.
You’re not crazy — you’re just human!
Elizabeth’s three parts all had different things to say. That’s perfectly normal! As IFS founder Richard Schwartz likes to say, having all these voices doesn’t make us crazy. It just makes us human. But if you’ve never done this before, you might feel like you just opened the door to a huge, loud party of parts. The noise can be overwhelming!
When you recognize that your parts are just parts, they become more manageable. You are not all sadness, or all anger. Of course, if you’re blended with a part, this can be hard to remember! Listen and learn how to recognize when you’re blended with a part, and how to unblend.
Sometimes, this might be as simple as practicing Self care. My daughter and her family just left yesterday and I felt a strong, sad part of myself come up. Walking home in my sadness, I wanted to immediately get on the computer and buy a plane ticket. I wanted to plan and I wanted to know exactly when I would see them again. Instead, I tried to take good care of myself and talk to my sad part.
Making your parts work for you
There’s a reason it’s called “Internal Family Systems.” Your parts relate to each other a lot like family members do. Some like each other a lot and hang out (or show up) together. Others, however, try to avoid each other at all costs.
For some of you, this might translate to you not liking some of your parts. Specifically, many of us try to bury or push away our young, vulnerable parts. The fact is, you’ll never get rid of your parts. Instead of hiding from them, you can get them to step back and even learn a new skill. All you need is Self.
Finding Your Inner Leader With IFS
I want you to think of your Self as the leader, while all of your parts act as advisors. That’s why it’s so important to listen to what your parts are saying! What you want is a cooperative democracy, not a dictatorship.
So, what does Self look like? We can see Self clearly with these seven qualities:
When you notice a part getting loud, meet it with those Self qualities. The part, being heard, will relax back so you can get better connected. In this way, you can notice the patterns of your parts. Personally, when my “missing” part gets strong, I don’t consciously think “I miss [x].” What happens instead? I crave mashed potatoes! When I notice this craving for my favorite comfort food, though, I know what’s underneath it.
Four Helpful Tools
Like anything else, IFS takes practice. That’s why I’ve developed a variety of resources to help people use this lens in their daily lives.
When you feel overwhelmed, and everything is just “too much,” use my infographic to take a time out. When you take a timeout, you can calm down and separate from your emotions. Then, you can return to the situation with fresh motivation for what to do next.
Do you keep getting blended with a strong part, over and over? Learn how to work with that strong part with my guided meditation. Once you get to know the part, you can learn what it’s trying to tell you, and how you can help it relax.
Both of my books are available on Kindle as well as paperback. My first book, Inner Harmony: Putting Your Self Back in Charge, covers a lot of the topics I discussed on the podcast today in greater depth. My workbook, Be the One to Heal Your Self, has helpful exercises for people who want fast results.
Remember, IFS isn’t just a way to help your relationship with yourself — it can also help improve your relationships with others. Because of the work she did, Elizabeth was able to draw on the strengths of each part and resolve the issues with her friend.
As always, thank you so much for joining me this week.