Foundations for Self-therapy using the IFS model

This is a guest post from Kasia Galagus. Enjoy!

Reading about IFS model and exploring it will give you a great insight into your inner workings. This may be enough for you at this stage. However, if you would like to engage further and work with your parts in more experiential way, you can do that in two ways. First is to approach an IFS trained Practitioner who will be able to facilitate a deep exploration of your parts and assist you in releasing pain.

However, there is also a second option of doing some self-therapy work on your own if the therapy route is not available to you or simply if you would like to continue the work in between sessions. Self-therapy in the IFS model is also a great primer before you embark on a deeper therapeutic journey facilitated by a Practitioner.

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Building Your Awareness with IFS model

The fundamentals of the IFS model are very simple to learn and apply. To start with, all you need is a basic understanding of the principles: the multiplicity of your psyche and different states of your being i.e. different parts of you. This is your “building awareness” stage. You learn to become your own inner observer, interested in what is happening inside. In everyday interactions, try to look for part’s messengers: your thoughts, responses, feelings, bodily sensations, or even visual cues. Paying close attention is all it takes. Initially you may remember to tune in internally only few times a day. Thanks to practicing IFS model, you will become more mindful and aware most of the time.

Life Practices That Support the Self

What is crucial at this initial stage, is a recognition of when you are in Self. Here, it may be important that you determine life practices that open you up and bring you safely into the Self-energy, especially if you are accustomed to living your life from other parts. This will train your mind “muscles” to centre yourself whenever you need it. Different people may find different life practices that work for them. They could be as varied as meditation, journaling, walking in nature, listening to music, painting or other creative endeavours, practising yoga, praying, or any other focused practice, that brings you back to your core and facilitates “flow”.

Not only it is very important that all work you do on parts is done from that Self and grounded place but also, the more you are familiar with Self-energy, the deeper and effective your self-work will be. If you find it difficult to connect readily with your Self, you may want to consider starting your journey with a therapist working in IFS model, even for a few sessions, as you will be guided and supported to peel off the layers of different parts that may cloud your view and see the world without distortion they inevitably bring. That would give you an anchor, a “memory” of what Self feels like. Something you can come back to on your own, at any time.

These steps will be your “baby steps” that will lay foundations for further explorations. Once, you know well what your Self feels like, you can progress.

Engaging in Dialog with Parts

The next step is to be curious and reflect deeper to differentiate between protecting parts (Managers), painful parts (Exiles) and your supressing parts (Firefighters) further. At this stage of practising IFS model, you may start tuning into parts’ stories and noticing when and how they habitually show up in your life. You may also glimpse when they were set in their roles and even start a conversation with them. Remember to scan all your perceptions both body and mind, and genuinely listen to your parts, rather than relying on your intellectual understanding. Keep checking frequently that you are in Self. As you attend to parts from the Self regularly, they will get to know you and trust you even more.

It may be helpful to carve out daily time for focused inner work in the IFS model and write down your conversations and realisations in a journal.

Using IFS model, you are now discovering your Internal Family and bonding with them. What is healing and therapeutic to your parts is your Self-presence and being listened to. The most precious gift that you can give your loved ones is your full presence… Love is Presence… Being in presence is where the self-therapy happens.

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