Discovering IFS therapy, discovering mySELF

This is a guest post from Kasia Galagus who described her own journey in search for a therapy model that helps her find her… self. Enjoy!

There are different paths of psychological process available out there for those looking to take on a self-development or therapy journey. Over the years, I have tried quite a few modalities in search for meaning, easing my internal pain and smoothing external chaos. 

"Talking" therapies

Most mainstream psychotherapeutic modalities I tried, like humanistic or psychoanalytic, focus on talking. During my talking therapy I was building intellectual castles of understanding. I was doing something to ease my pain. I understood “why and how” of my behaviour and matched it to all psychological theories out there. I was getting a seal of approval from a “professional”, an authority. And I had somebody on my side to dump all my life problems on, week after week. Yet, at the same time I came to realise that despite all that understanding I was not making much of a progress in real life. I was acting and reacting outside the therapy room in the same way as before despite months of weekly therapy, despite knowing better. I knew how to behave but my behavioural habits were impossible to break at the heat of the moment. 

Although there is undeniable value in talking and being heard, especially if we were denied this experience in childhood, personally, I came to realize that talking keeps me mainly in my head.

For those of us who were brought up in a culture that values intellectual expression and rationality over being true to our own experiences, being emotional is considered being neurotic. Talking rationalizes our emotions. In my case, it encouraged interpreting and intellectualizing. Talking scratched the surface of my mind but kept my deepest emotions locked away. Not only I was not accessing them, I did not have any idea they were there.

We learn to operate this way early in our lives. In our western world, we may accept or even expect an expression of so-called positive emotions but negative ones are less desirable by our society and us so already as children, we learn to cut off from this side of internal experience. We push it away from our conscious mind.

We learn to rely on an external voice to tell us how to interpret our internal world, how to live our lives and in the process, we ignore the locked away emotions. This covers and takes us away from our core, from our innate healing mode.

Sometimes challenges later in life shake us to the point where we are no longer able to contain our raw, unprocessed emotions inside and they spill out into consciousness. 

And we set on a quest to look for answers again, searching externally for instructions of how to clear out what has spilled out.

That was also my motivation on the self-development journey. I read, I explored. I knew I needed a guidance that would take me from my head into bodily feelings. I needed processing and releasing more than plain understanding. 

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Psycho-energetic and body therapies

In my explorations, I came across psycho-energetic and body therapies. The sessions were anything like “talking therapy”. I was out of my rational mind, and into feelings and sensations. I visualized, I imagined, and I sensed. The feeling was ecstatic and cathartic. After each session, I was leaving a heavy load of pain behind and making energetic progress. It felt like I am clearing my past from heavy accumulations. Yet, as the honeymoon period ended, I came to realize again, that my life outside the sessions was not much changed. During and immediately after sessions I felt lighter, yet as the time between sessions went by, the light feeling faded and usual patterns of behaviour were back. 

Both talking and energetic therapies worked short term, providing I was attending them regularly. But I did not want to be stuck in therapy for years. I did not want to spend my money on weekly sessions forever. 

IFS therapy

I was yearning for a more natural, intuitive process. A process that would empower me and hold during and after my sessions. 

There are many mainstream and alternative therapies and self-development techniques that promise to sail us through stormy waters of our lives and deliver us to calm shores but for me, the answer came when I discovered IFS therapy.

Reading about it in the book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk which explains IFS therapy briefly, I resonated deeply with the concept of the multiplicity of the mind. I instantly recognized my own mind as containing multiple personas. It made so much sense of my life experience. 

I could recall many times I met different facets of myself in a single day. I could remember many roles I played out on the stage of my life. I carried parts that were in opposition to each other; parts that were trying to manage my day to day life and parts that were coming to rescue when my pain spilled out. And now all these parts were validated.

Being in personal IFS therapy for a year, I have come to meet a whole array of little characters inside me. Each with a different understanding, different perspectives, and objectives. I recognize different parts present when I am meeting my friends and yet others are at the forefront when I am at work. My family knows my caring and compassionate parts well, but they also have a fair bit of experience meeting my managing ones. There are parts of me that only I know.

I am learning about myself. I am getting to know my internal family system. Some parts are shy, hidden from the view and I am meeting them for the first time after years out of sight. Others, more dominating and often in charge are better known to me but now fully appreciated. It feels good to know them, understand, embrace, and cherish.

Yet the biggest value that IFS therapy brought to my life was re-discovery of my own healing capacity, a reminder of my essence, my true SELF. The very Self that despite years of neglect is there, retrieved, and accessible again. 

The changes in me are no longer temporary. They carry through outside sessions since I am carrying my wisdom with me.

The process of IFS therapy is something of a quiet realization of coming home. Coming back after a long and tiring journey. Somewhere I can finally rest. Somewhere I can take off my life baggage, piece by piece, and rediscover its content. Somewhere I can reflect on experiences and rekindle my friendship with all my parts that carried me through my life.

Finally, I feel like I have arrived. There is no need to go anywhere, no need to search for anything, there is no agenda.

I am ready to embrace the richness of parts that created a unique mosaic called ME.

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