Note: You may want to read the post on “We all have parts” before reading this one to understand what’s going on here.
I continue to find the Internal Family Systems, or “parts”, way of working to be amazing. Recently I decided to try it out on myself regarding my eating habits. I’m always wanting to lose a few pounds, but find it very hard to do. So, I went “inside” myself and asked, “Is there anyone here who wants me to eat a lot?” Much to my surprise I immediately “heard” a response, “Yes, me, right here!” It came with promptness and clarity.
I waited a few minutes, then asked that part of me, “What is your concern about my eating?” Again, much to my surprise, I got a response that said, “I want you fat and safe.”
Well, I’m not what I would consider “fat”, but I got the message. After a couple of minutes I asked another question: “And what is your concern about me being fat and safe?” The response also came clearly, “Do you remember those pictures your dad had?” I said, “Yes.” Since this part was inside me, I knew he was referring to pictures my dad had in an album from World War II. He had been sent into a concentration camp when the war ended to document what was there.
The album contained picture after picture of piles of dead, emaciated bodies. As I remembered those pictures, my “part” said to me, “See, if you’re fat you’ll never end up in one of those piles.” I was stunned. I would have never connected those pictures with any motivation to eat in my present life. But clearly it was there.
I found those pictures when I was a child, and they obviously scared me and had a lasting impact on me–a kind of small trauma. My thinking and logic about the pictures was childlike also–another sign of trauma. And the most surprising part was that the information had been there all along just for the asking.
I went on to reassure that part of me that we would talk about the people in the pictures in the upcoming weeks, and he would learn that “we” were safe from that happening to “us.” That part of me seemed to calm down some at that point.
Of course, there’s lots more to my eating habits than this, but this did come up first. And there’s more to this story about what helped calm down my “inner kid” and what I learned from this incident. But, this is at least a start in understanding how this type of work occurs. “Parts work” in therapy is not always this simple (or this calm), but it does work.
As always when I talk about trauma work, please read About Trauma in the menu above or “Growing Safely” in the column to the right. You don’t want to do trauma work on your own.