We all have “parts”

One of the most useful and true-to-life theories I have found in psychotherapy is something called Internal Family Systems developed by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D..  Simply put, it is this:

  1. We all have characteristic feelings and thoughts within us that act in an enduring manner.  “Part of me wants to go out tonight, but part of me hates going to parties.”  These aspects of our personalities act as “sub-personalities” of a sort.
  2. We can’t help but have relationships with these parts.  “I hate the part of me that binges on food.  I just can’t stop eating.”
  3. Three kinds of parts come into play during therapy:
    1. Some parts carry memories of hurts, and they suffer great pain.  We try to keep a distance from these part so we don’t feel the pain they carry.  They are called Exiles because we attempt to send them away.
    2. Other parts try to keep the Exiles from disrupting our lives by preventing us from having feelings or by being our task masters and organizers.  “You’ve got to lose weight!”  “Don’t let anyone get angry at you.”  “Don’t think about what happened with that person.”  They are called Protectors or Managers.
    3. A third type of part is a specialized kind of Protector that has the role of trying to calm down Exiles when they are triggered and the Protectors can’t keep things under control.  They are called Firefighters.  They often use compulsive/addictive behaviors as their “water” to put out emotional fires.
  4. The parts always mean well.  In fact, each of them is doing the best they can to keep you happy…it’s just that they see things from a very limited perspective, much like a child who offers a simplistic solution to a problem.
  5. You also have a Self, a different level of entity than the parts.  Your self is a spiritual being who is more mature than any of the parts and calmer.  It is your Self that needs to calm and help the parts be more adaptive in their responses.
  6. Therapy involves working with these parts, essentially building a coalition among them.  It is similar to the work done in Family Systems therapy, thus the name Internal Family Systems.
  7. This work does not pathologize people…it is kind, effective, and creative.

I won’t go into this any more at the present time, but from time to time I will write other entries related to it.  For the time being I suggest you read an article or two if you are interested.  Click on either of them below or go to the website of Internal Family Systems and have a look around.

Wikipedia also has a good article at:  https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Internal_Family_Systems_Model

If you’re really interested in pursuing this line of thought Dr. Schwartz has also written an excellent introductory book of about 175 pages: Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model.  It is written with language that works for lay people and professionals alike,  and is available on his website at a modest cost.  Click on the title above if you’re interested.


This entry was posted in For the professional, Healing, Internal Family Systems, Relationships and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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