Ever found yourself saying to yourself “A part of me wants this, and a part of me wants that?” I believe this is a universal experience, because we have many parts, all with their own views, ideas, feelings, and goals for our lives. Without all our parts being aligned in our initiative to create change and be free from our compulsive cycles, I believe any efforts we make to create change will be short lived.
The Internal Family Systems (IFS) method helps us with this: we can befriend and get to know every part of us that is involved in keeping us caught within this addictive cycle. We move forward in our recovery when every part is on board and relieved about our initiative to change.
As a therapist and coach specialising in addictions and eating disorders, it was of huge value for me to discover and embrace a method of therapy which can so effectively create transformation in this notoriously tricky area of addictive attachments to things.
IFS has evolved over the past twenty years into a comprehensive approach that includes guidelines for working with addictive and compulsive cycles.
The method was developed by Richard C. Schwartz who began to experiment with individuals using techniques he had used as a family therapist. In so doing, he began conceiving of the mind as an inner ecology of discrete minds, each with its own viewpoint and qualities. This was not a new discovery, although prior to IFS, little attention was given to how these inner parts functioned in relation to one another.
IFS allows us not only to understand how these collections of sub personalities are organised, but to begin to develop personal relationships with these parts of ourselves from a foundation of curiosity and intimate care.
As we remain open to the process of IFS, we find that our inner system opens up to our awareness, and we often make the surprised discovery that, what we may have criticised in ourselves as a block holding us back from joy and aliveness, is in fact a part that is trying to help keep us safe. This changes everything for the better.
What is unique about IFS is that it allows for this awareness to go beyond a mere intellectual comprehension to a genuine understanding based on these parts of ourselves relaxing and opening up to us for the first time. The same process seems to hold true for both internal and actual families: parts or members are forced into extreme roles by external circumstances and, once it seems safe, they gladly transform into valuable family members. IFS allows for this safety to be created and thus transformation both within and without can at last occur.