This is Us: Navigating Your Inner World with IFS

Imagine the following conversation:

Person A says, “You should totally dump him! He’s a total disaster.”

Person B responds, “No way, you should stick with him! You’re just expecting too much.”

Person A counters, “I don’t agree. You can definitely do better.”

Person B retorts, “Thinking like that, you’ll end up alone forever! Your mom’s right, you’re way too choosy.”

Imagine if this conversation wasn’t between two pals but was actually a debate happening inside your own head. The dialogue above illustrates the kind of internal conflict many of us experience. When we find ourselves at odds internally, the struggle is real, leading to feelings of exhaustion from decision-making, shame, anxiety, guilt, uncertainty, and even burnout. These are signs of someone who’s struggling with Self Leadership. This blog will introduce you to how Internal Family Systems, or IFS (a therapy approach backed by science and informed by understanding trauma), can help people find more peace within themselves by connecting with their core “Self.”

Understanding Our Inner World

The movie “Inside Out” by Pixar (Docter, 2015) is a great way to understand this therapy approach. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a young girl’s mind where five emotions – anger, fear, joy, sadness, and disgust – are personified. IFS uses the term ‘part’ to describe similar inner characters. These parts, like the emotions in “Inside Out,” are complex and have their own values and fears, showing us that parts are more than just the feelings or thoughts they represent.

IFS emphasizes the importance of connecting with the Self. In “Inside Out,” the Self is represented by the main characters, like Riley, the young girl who doesn’t realize these parts are influencing her emotions and actions. She’s made up of these parts but is also separate from them. IFS suggests that we can regain control over our inner world, avoiding the negative outcomes of internal conflicts.

How Do We Achieve This?

The first step is to get to know these inner parts. By understanding them, we can start to lead our internal system, using these parts as advisors rather than dictators. IFS categorizes these parts into three roles based on their functions: Managers, Exiles, and Firefighters.

Managers are the parts that strive for control, keeping us feeling competent and preventing unwanted emotions.

Exiles carry the weight of past hurts and traumas, often overwhelming us when they surface.

Firefighters jump in to distract or soothe us from the pain, sometimes through harmful means.

Balancing these parts is key to self-leadership. The “Self” in IFS is seen as a spiritual essence, possessing qualities like creativity, calm, and compassion. When the Self leads, parts can relax, providing a more balanced and directed inner world.

What’s Next?

By reading this, you might already recognize some of the internal conflicts within you. Acknowledging these parts is a significant first step towards accessing more “self.” If you’re struggling with symptoms stemming from internal conflicts and want to take action, consider consulting an IFS-trained therapist. Therapy can help you understand that there are ‘No Bad Parts,’ easing the need for control, changing harmful behaviors, and healing your inner wounds. IFS has been proven effective for various issues, including PTSD, depression, and more. If you’re interested in exploring how IFS can help you, I’m here to support you on your journey. Book a free consultation here.

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