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Conflicting Selves and Internal Family Systems

By Megan Murphy, Co-Founder of Expansive Therapy

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is having a moment.  A big one.  In his theory,  Richard Schwartz believes that we have not one solid self, but instead, many selves.  Sometimes these selves have jobs that compete with each other.  In his therapy approach, Schwartz helps the client identify the different ‘parts’ of themselves and then talks to them one by one.  We need to understand the conflict and to sit with it, in order to heal it. Or as he says, relieve it of its burdens


Most therapy sessions consist of trying to understand what the conflict is, why we have it, and how to resolve it. 

For an overly simplistic example…  Someone knows that they are attracted to the same sex, but have not revealed this to anyone.  On the one hand they are clear about who they desire, and on the other hand they feel unsafe when thinking about coming out.  Now we have identified two of the ‘parts’.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is having a moment.  A big one.  In his theory,  Richard Schwartz believes that we have not one solid self, but instead, many selves.  Sometimes these selves have jobs that compete with each other.  In his therapy approach, Schwartz helps the client identify the different ‘parts’ of themselves and then talks to them one by one.  We need to understand the conflict and to sit with it, in order to heal it. Or as he says, relieve it of its burdens


Most therapy sessions consist of trying to understand what the conflict is, why we have it, and how to resolve it. 

For an overly simplistic example…  Someone knows that they are attracted to the same sex, but have not revealed this to anyone.  On the one hand they are clear about who they desire, and on the other hand they feel unsafe when thinking about coming out.  Now we have identified two of the ‘parts’.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is having a moment.  A big one.  In his theory,  Richard Schwartz believes that we have not one solid self, but instead, many selves.  Sometimes these selves have jobs that compete with each other.  In his therapy approach, Schwartz helps the client identify the different ‘parts’ of themselves and then talks to them one by one.  We need to understand the conflict and to sit with it, in order to heal it. Or as he says, relieve it of its burdens


Most therapy sessions consist of trying to understand what the conflict is, why we have it, and how to resolve it. 

For an overly simplistic example…  Someone knows that they are attracted to the same sex, but have not revealed this to anyone.  On the one hand they are clear about who they desire, and on the other hand they feel unsafe when thinking about coming out.  Now we have identified two of the ‘parts’.

The work consists of learning to love all of your parts

Being angry at one or both of these parts will only solidify their need to defend their position, keeping the conflict in place.  Both are operating on fear.  Perhaps the fear of rejection or the fear of always living unauthentically.  The aim of IFS is to have real conversations with the different parts, listening from your 'higher' self.  This is the self that is pure awareness.  Some might say this is the God in you.  

One part might say,  I won’t be accepted if I come out.  I won’t be loved.  My parents will disown me.  I can’t take any of these risks!  The other part may feel angry, sad, or shut down by not being able to express desire and love in a way that feels authentic.

How do we love our parts?

Listening with compassionate attention is love itself. Each of your parts is trying to keep you safe, having its own belief system that was built from experiences in your past. 

I love watching Richard Schwartz in action with a client.  He is sort of nerdy, not really showing a lot of ease himself.  But when he begins to talk directly to the client’s parts, the questions and the curiosity emanate deep caring.  He is not talking to pretend parts, but fully engaged with parts that he knows are real in the client's experience.  Love and attention is healing.

All of the parts inside of you need love in order to relax, so that your higher self can make the decisions in your life and ease yourself out of inner conflict.  

Your parts never really go away, but with enough validation they can relax and use their energy in healthier ways.

No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz

If you want to know more about this theory, there are several IFS books that are wonderful.  No Bad Parts is Schwartz' main work and has exercises that you can do to begin to discover your own parts.  They are waiting for you to see them!

Our therapists here at Expansive have trained with Richard Schwartz and many utilize this theory in their work with clients.  If you are curious about your own conflicts and would like to explore this with a therapist, now is the time. 


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© 2023 EXPANSIVE THERAPY | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Stay in the Know

Join our newsletter to get mental health tips and promotional offers delivered to you weekly.

Drop us a line.

Questions, concerns or need support?


info@expansivetherapy.com

(917)426-1521

© 2023 EXPANSIVE THERAPY | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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