Basic Assumptions of the IFS Model
It is the nature of the mind to be subdivided into an indeterminate number of subpersonalities or parts. Everyone has a Self, and the Self can and should lead the individual’s internal system. The non-extreme intention of each part is something positive for the individual. There are no “bad” parts, and the goal of therapy is not to eliminate parts but instead to help them find their non-extreme roles. As we develop, our parts develop and form a complex system of interactions among themselves; therefore, systems theory can be applied to the internal system. When the system is reorganized, parts can change rapidly.
Subpersonalities are aspects of our personality that interact internally in sequences and styles that are similar to the ways in which people interact. Parts may be experienced in any number of ways — thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, and more. All parts want something positive for the individual and will use a variety of strategies to gain influence within the internal system.
General Groups of Parts
EXILES: Young parts that have experienced trauma and often become isolated from the rest of the system in an effort to protect the individual from feeling the pain, terror, fear, and so on, of these parts.
MANAGERS: Parts that run the day-to-day life of the individual. Attempt to keep the individual in control of every situation and relationship (in an effort to protect parts from feeling hurt or rejection) through a combination of strategies such as — striving, controlling, evaluating, caretaking, terrorizing.
FIREFIGHTERS: Group of parts that react when exiles are activated in an effort to control and extinguish their feelings. Can do this in any number of ways, including drug or alcohol use, self-mutilation (cutting), binge-eating, sex binges.
Different level of entity than the parts — often in the center of the “you” that the parts are talking to or that likes or dislikes, listens to, or shuts out various parts. When differentiated, the Self is competent, secure, self-assured, relaxed, and able to listen and respond to feedback. The Self can and should lead the internal system. When completely differentiated from all parts (Self alone), people describe a feeling of being “centered.”
Strengths of the Model
Focuses on strengths: the undamaged core of the Self, the ability of parts to shift into positive roles. IFS language provides a way to look at oneself and others differently. Language encourages self-disclosure and taking responsibility for behavior. IFS language is powerful. Provides a way to work with “resistance” and denial. Ecological understanding of entire therapy system, including therapist. Respect for individual’s experience of the problem. Client is the expert on their experience and they author the therapeutic narrative from within. Therapist looks at client’s Self as “co-therapist” and trusts the wisdom of the internal system.
With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.
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