You’ve probably said something like this before: “Part of me wants this, but another part of me wants that.” Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an evidence-based therapy based on the understanding that our personalities are made up of “parts” that hold our different—and often contradictory—feelings, beliefs, memories, and thoughts.
These parts were developed when we were children. They get “frozen in time … and keep doing whatever extreme things they did to protect [us] when [we] were young,” says Dr. Richard Schwartz, the therapist who developed IFS.
Some of our parts are afraid of being hurt or feel the shame of having been hurt, so they hide. Others are like little managers trying to get us to behave. These managers are “like internalized children who are in over their heads and don’t know how else to run the whole [internal] family other than by yelling and criticizing,” says Schwartz.
For example, maybe you have a tendency to work almost constantly, to always be checking off your to-do list, to worry about getting enough done. Through the lens of IFS, this tendency to hustle, strive, and grind would be viewed as coming from a part of you. It’s not all of you. You have other parts that want to relax, have fun, connect with others, and veg out. It’s just that the part of you that worries about getting enough done is the loudest—it often takes the steering wheel of your life.
How I use IFS
I use IFS to help you map your different parts, relationships between those parts, and how they interact with your true, authentic self. We will get to know your parts and help them release their childlike, extreme beliefs about how you need to be.
IFS is very anti-shame. There are no “bad” parts of you. In fact, your parts are trying to protect you. They just have rigid, extreme, misguided ways of trying to do that—like children.
My goal is to help you get to know and even appreciate your parts. Once you get to know them and the conditions in your everyday life that cause them to show up, you’ll have more freedom and choice over what to say and how to act. In my experience—just like children—when our parts feel seen, accepted, and appreciated, they tend to calm down and stop being so extreme.