Table of Contents
- Understanding Internal Family Systems
- The Three Types of Inner Parts
- Connecting with the Self Through Parts Work
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a psychological and spiritual tool that can help create inner balance and rediscover our spiritual wholeness. Developed by Richard C. Schwartz in the 1980s, IFS, also known as Parts Work, focuses on reintegrating and harmonizing the different inner parts of ourselves, also known as subpersonalities. This approach is based on the idea that we all have an inner family composed of various parts, with a wise, calm, and loving Self at the core. In this article, we will explore the basics of IFS and how it can be used to practice mindful self-compassion and soul retrieval.
Understanding Internal Family Systems
The Inner Family
According to professor and author Tom Holmes, we all have an inner family composed of different parts. These parts can be referred to as mental formations, schemas, subpersonalities, or ego states, depending on the psychological framework. Some of these parts help protect and motivate us, while others can be destructive and dysfunctional. The goal of IFS is to bring harmony to our inner family by reinstating the wise and loving Self as the head of this internal system.
Common Inner Parts
IFS helps us identify and work with our inner parts so that we can approach life mindfully from our wise and compassionate center. Some common inner parts include:
- Magical child part
- Wounded child part
- Motherly/fatherly part
- Sensual part
- Angry part
- Rebellious part
- Insecure teenage part
- Lazy part
- Practical part
- Gluttonous part
- Problem-solving part
- Innocent part
- Judgmental part
- Self-destructive part
- Adventurous part
These are just a few examples, as there are countless parts that we contain within us. While only a handful of parts may be active at any given time, it is essential to recognize and work with them to create balance and harmony.
When Parts Become Destructive
When our inner parts become destructive, it is as if we become possessed by them. This state is known as blending. Blending occurs when a part overtakes our consciousness, and we temporarily become identified with it. For example, in a moment of anger, we might say, “I want to KILL him,” and genuinely feel that desire. In IFS, the goal is to become unblended, stepping back from the part and perceiving it from the viewpoint of the central Self.
The Three Types of Inner Parts
Managers are parts of us that organize and protect our system. They aim to shield and safeguard us from the external and internal world while suppressing the pain of our inner Exiles. Manager parts tend to be controlling, perfectionistic, critical, emotionally detached, and suffer from anxiety and depression.
Firefighters are parts of us that will do anything to make the pain go away. They go to extreme lengths to extinguish the fire of pain within us, even if it means destroying the whole house in the process. Firefighter parts tend to be impulsive, addictive, and destructive.
Exiles are the lost and buried parts within us that carry trauma. They are suppressed by our inner Managers and forcefully withheld by our Firefighters. Exiles long to be loved but are frozen in the past, defined by feelings of terror, rage, helplessness, and collapse.
Connecting with the Self Through Parts Work
The goal of Parts Work is to connect with our Self, which is our true center and the source of wisdom, compassion, and wholeness. To achieve this, we need to become unblended from our inner parts and learn to operate from the Self. Here are some practices to help you connect with your Self and create inner balance:
1. Become Familiar with Your Inner Family
Start by identifying the different parts that dominate your internal landscape. Reflect on situations that trigger strong reactions within you and notice the thoughts, feelings, and images associated with those parts. Journaling can be a helpful tool for exploring and understanding your inner family.
2. Name and Greet Your Inner Parts
Develop the habit of pausing throughout the day, connecting with your breath, and noticing which part is active in the moment. Greet that part with kindness and acknowledge its presence. This practice helps create awareness and prevents blending with the parts.
3. Connect with Your Inner Self Daily
Make time each day to connect with your inner Self or Soul. You can do this through practices such as loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness of breath, mirror work, art expression, introspective journaling, self-forgiveness, or guided meditations. Cultivating a relationship with your Self will help you live from a place of balance and clarity.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) or Parts Work is a powerful tool for achieving psychological and spiritual balance. By working with our inner parts and connecting with our Self, we can create harmony within ourselves and rediscover our spiritual wholeness. While it may take time and practice, the benefits of IFS are invaluable on our spiritual journeys. So, take the time to explore your inner family, name and greet your parts, and connect with your Self daily. By doing so, you can find greater peace, joy, and freedom in your life.