Learn to Love Every Part of You: Internal Family Systems Therapy (Part 2)
This is the second part of a two-part series on Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. You’ll want to read the first post before diving into this one.
Understanding IFS Therapy + Parts Work
So what are we really talking about when we talk about being made up of a multiple parts? Within the IFS model, there are three main types of parts:
Exile parts tend to be your inner child. Though this part of you starts out as trusting, open, and playful, it becomes frozen in the experience of the wound or rupture it endures.
This is a sensitive and tender part who shifts from believing “I am loved” to “no one loves me, I’m worthless.” As Richard Schwartz suggests in his book No Bad Parts, “Burdened exiles will keep us feeling vulnerable, anxious, worthless, ashamed, lonely, and empty.” Other parts are often oriented around protecting exile parts.
Manager parts carry a heavy load of responsibility. Their mission is to protect and contain exile parts through control, disconnection, and pleasing. They work proactively to mitigate situations that could trigger the exiles.
Some managers are inner critics that try to protect by managing appearance, relationships, or performance. As Schwartz explains, the inner-critic manager doesn’t “want us to feel good about ourselves for fear that we’ll take risks and get hurt.” Some managers are hypervigilant. Some are hyper-intellectual and focused on disconnecting from the body. Some take on a caretaking role.
Firefighter parts are the first-responders after an exile is triggered. Their goal is to extinguish the “flames of emotion bursting out from the exiled place” as Schwartz describes. They’ll do anything to get away from the pain and intensity of emotions connected to a traumatic experience. They may do so through distraction, suicidal ideation, or addictive patterns.
Finding Your Way Home
IFS therapy is not solely about managing your parts. It’s also about expanding your connection to your authentic Self. The more you can access Self energy, the more healing you’ll experience.
The Self is considered the authentic and true essence of a person. You’re born with it. It’s the wise, grounded, core of you that is composed of the 8 C’s and 5 P’s:
Parts are our protectors, swooping in to help us survive and avoid suffering. Their goal is to create safety and security, even if the way they try to protect comes out sideways. They play such an important role in our wellbeing and are filled with good intentions.
But they don’t serve us best when they’re in the driver’s seat, and it’s a process getting them to take a backseat. So IFS therapy is the process of expanding the Self and helping our parts soften so they don’t feel like they have to work so hard.
The invitation within this process is not to get rid of these parts. It’s to unburden them from the roles they’ve taken on that are no longer allowing you to live fully. As Schwartz explains, “once they are free, they transform.”
IFS therapy helps you restore harmony among your parts and reestablish trust with the Self.
Next Steps: Explore IFS Therapy in Colorado
Interested in deepening self-trust and feeling more connected to yourself? Follow these 3 steps to get started:
About the Author: Ali Arteaga, LPCC
Ali Arteaga (she/her) is a trauma therapist and the founder of Fio Counseling, a mental health therapy practice in Colorado. With a passion for connection, compassion, and curiosity, Ali is dedicated to helping her clients reclaim their lives from trauma and live abundant, authentic lives.
Embracing her own healing journey through complex trauma led Ali to devote her life to helping others feel at home within themselves. She’s been there (personally and professionally) and is a gentle, compassionate guide helping you find your way back to you.
Ali honors the uniqueness of your story and meets you where you’re at. She weaves in evidenced-based modalities such as Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy and somatic therapy into her work with clients.