You know that sense of inner conflict? That feeling when part of you is ready to make a choice or take a risk and another part of you offers a lot of reasons why that's dangerous to your status quo and why you should absolutely not do that thing. The key to moving through this is understanding each part's intent instead of focusing on the impact of its actions. Stay with me.
Today, I share one of the most important tools I've learned about on How To Befriend Every Part Of Yourself *Your* Way. I first learned about Internal Family Systems (IFS) through one of my trauma-informed coaches. The starting point is that we're multi-faceted human beings made of different Parts. Though I'm not a formally certified IFS practitioner, as a trauma-informed coach, I've found that understanding the basics of this modality has offered outstanding support for my clients professionally and for myself personally.
On a high level, IFS proposes that we have different Parts of ourselves. Each Part has a different job in making sure that we're not harmed today in ways that we were harmed in the past. Their key roles include: Manager, Firefighter, Exile, and Self. Again, on a high level, these 4 main categories can be described as:
Managers: protective Parts responsible for managing our thoughts and opinions about how we move through the world and why. For example, Managers can often take on the voice of our 'Inner Critic' with the intent of making sense of a situation. The impact, however, can sound particularly harsh and debilitating when trying something new or recovering from a mistake.
Firefighters: protective Parts that act when a situation has gotten "out of control" and there's a need to extinguish some form of pain. When these Parts are activated with the intent of suppressing our pain, the impact can be engaging in numbing behaviours such as bingeing drugs/alcohol/tv/work/food and/or restricting food/connection to others, for example.
Exiles: these tend to be younger Parts of ourselves that took on the burden of difficult and/or traumatic experiences to protect the Self and make sense of the world. When we hear about 'inner child healing' or 'inner teenager healing', we're often talking about getting to know and love our exiles. Manager and Firefighter Parts are responsible for protecting Exiles at all costs. This may sound like a really tough Inner Critic or look like engaging in high risk behaviours to keep us from feeling an exile's pain.
Self: this is the Part of yourself that has never been harmed or wounded. This is the part that all other Parts are working to protect. Even exiles are created through difficult situations in an effort to protect the Self from harm, typically when we're young. Depending on what you resonate with, this Self can be known as Higher Self, Soul, and/or Consciousness, for example.
Now, the 3 key ingredients to befriending every part of yourself *your* way are:
Practice noticing which Part tends to show up when and how. For example, when you're stressed, what does your Manager or Inner Critic sound like? When you're anxious, how does your Firefighter try to extinguish that sensation? When you're shutting down, how might an Exile be mimicking a behaviour that kept you safe when you were young? When you're feeling alive, what does your Self guide you to?
Practice paying attention to the physical sensations and where they show up in the body when certain Parts are leading. What does it feel like when a certain Part is activated?
Practice assuming positive intent and ask yourself: What's the unmet need here? Chances are that, whatever the impact of their actions, different Parts have the intent of meeting an unmet need. By understanding a Part's intent, you can develop a relationship with it. By understanding what that need is, you can tap into Self and meet it differently.
Remember that practice makes possible. Ultimately, we're working towards creating an internal family system that allows us to live into our truest and most beautiful life. With that in mind, what might become available to you if all Parts of you were working together towards your deepest desires?
For coaching support on bringing every part of you along the way as you connect to purpose, passion, and potential, book a Discovery Call with me today!