Learning to identify which part of us is reacting to a certain situation can help us resolve or find solutions to uncomfortable feelings. Using the Internal Family Systems Model (IFS), we learn our so-called parts can be in conflict with one another. According to Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, who developed IFS, our parts take on common roles and common inner relationships. Upon studying these inner roles and relationships, he discovered they were not static and could be changed if a therapist carefully and respectfully intervened.
Our parts consist of Messengers, Firefighters, the core Self, and Exiles. When working in conjunction with a therapist we can learn to identify which part assumes responsibility for what kind of action to take to protect the entire system. When working with a therapist we may come up against difficult situations outside the safety of their office. This can provide us with an opportunity for self growth.
Of course we are not therapists, but the practice of determining an inner conflict can still help, because we are practicing self control. We often have blocks for decision making. One part wants to go to the movies, but another is afraid to go alone. Our spouse wants to have friends over for dinner. A part doesn’t want company—we don’t like to go shopping and we don’t like to clean all the pots, pans and dishes afterwards.
Having a conversation with our parts can provide useful information. The Exiled part of ourselves that carries fear can tell us all the reasons they are afraid of going to the movies alone. Our core Self can speak next. He or she might say, I understand you are afraid, but can you trust me to take care and protect you? I will keep you safe, and won’t it be fun to have some popcorn and watch this five star movie?
Settling our internal conflicts is one thing, but we also need to practice working on conflicts that arise when other people are involved. Find some alone time and make a list of why we don’t want company for dinner. We previously told ourselves it was the dishes, but was that really true? Maybe the real reason is that we are feeling particularly vulnerable. Whatever the reason, the best approach is one of curiosity, calmness self-compassion, courage and connectedness.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”—Henry David Thoreau
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