Internal Family Systems - a way in and out
This image is an info graphic of sorts on the IFS model designed by Toni Herbine Blank. IFS (internal family systems) believes we come into being sub-divided, with both parts and Self. One not better then the other, both important. Without parts I wouldn’t have known how to make lunch for my kids or how to drive them to school this morning. And without Self I wouldn’t know or have the deep connection to myself and all living things that is inherent to being.
As we experience life things occur in the outside world that, as children, we make meaning of. Depending on what happens in us, in relation to those experiences, burdens in our system develop. Out of survival, parts of us will become protective, protectors. They will do everything they can to help us survive in the moment, and as we go about our lives they manage how we live to make sure we never feel those hurts again. And if that hurt does show up, parts of us will react in extreme ways to put out the flames of emotion. And the more protective our system gets, the less we can access our Self energy. Our perception of ourselves, our relationships, the world, is now experienced through the lens of these beliefs.
“Don’t be too smart or you’ll be made fun of.” “Don’t take a break because you don’t want to be lazy. Only useless and worthless people are lazy.” “Don’t be too sensitive. Something must be wrong with you if you can’t just get over it.”
These burdens, beliefs that were formed out of survival get stuck. In our thought stream, in our physical shape and movement patterns. In our energy.
Maybe we stay small, hiding our understanding so we don’t appear too smart. Try that. What movements instinctively happen in your body when you try not to be seen?
Maybe we squelch how we really feel so no one knows that we’re sad, touched, angry. Try that. What changes in your body do you notice when you try not to cry or hold in anger or frustration?
The examples are as numerous as breaths a human takes. Resmaa Menakam says, “Trauma decontextualized in a person can look like personality. Trauma decontextualized in a family can look like family traits. Trauma decontextualized in a people can look like culture.”
This is how much influence our traumas have on the collective understanding of humanity. It’s heart breaking, mind blowing, but also gives me resolve to stay with the unraveling. This is where we can hope and take action. Starting within our own bodies and following it out into the world.
Our practice is to begin to learn the language of our parts. To get curious with what they have to say. And become familiar with what being you feels like outside of our ideas, identities and collective agreements to how things have been. As we meet and befriend these parts of us, we lift the veil of how we’ve come to know ourselves and others. We can un-know the labels we’ve assumed or given out and start to meet what is revealed underneath.
Perhaps these experiences, traumas, wounds of being in the world have a benevolent intent too, however buried that may be. To feel unlovable sets us on a path to know the breadth of love. To know our own worth through being deemed unworthy by others? I don't believe that we need to be treated poorly in order to feel good. But perhaps we call to us that which is ours to heal for ourselves, our ancestors, the collective.
This path is not always comfortable. Its not always pretty. You get really familiar with the kind of ugly cry/hysterical laugh that happens when you touch something so deeply and at the same time feel the joy and epiphany of the release. As we know all of ourselves through loving presence, as loving presence, perhaps we can perceive all of the world in loving presence too.
May you be know in your head, and heart, and gut that you are held in love and all of you is welcome.