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This Lesson-1 article describes an effective way to free your true
Self from false-self dominance and reduce psychological
- inner-family therapy
"parts work." This
is included in the Lesson-1
Running Your Life? (Xlibris.com
4th ed., 2011).
This brief video
overviews what you'll learn in this series of Web pages. The video mentions
eight Self-imprvement lessons in this Web site - I've simplified that
article assumes you're familiar with...
to this nonprofit Web site and the premises
from inherited psychological wounds
you're skeptical and/or curious about the reality of personality subselves,
read this letter to you and interview one of your subselves. Then return here.
I encourage you to read this entire
7-page article. With the resources above. it will provide an important
conceptual foundation for freeing your wise true Self to guide your days and
your psychological wounds, and protecting any young people in your life from
inheriting these wounds.
Parts-work strategies to solve
common psychological problems
Meet other people
interested in freeing their true Selves in this free (private) international FaceBook
These eight pages describe how
inner family of subselves to reduce key personal and social problems and improve your
wholistic health, serenity, productivity, and relationships.
In what follows, personality "parts," "subselves," and
"inner-family members" all mean the same thing.
The content here comes from the teachings of psychologist Richard Schwartz, Ph.D.
+ these authors + practicing inner-family therapy with well over 100 clients
with a quick summary of basic concepts and parts-work terms:
It's now widely accepted that the human brain is composed of many different
regions that function simultaneously like an interactive network of
mini-computers - e.g. one region decodes sounds, another colors, a third
area decodes smells, etc. These regions can be seen functioning in real time
via brain-scanning techniques like Positron Emission Tomography (PET). These
many neural regions work together below our consciousness to produce sensory events like
"I see and hear my child laugh."
implication is that human
personalities (traits + abilities + preferences + reflexes) are not
monolithic entities. They are the result of interactive "subselves"
or "parts" - brain regions - which can range from integrated and harmonious
to dis-integrated and conflicted. People with unusually dis-integrated sets
of subselves have been called "multiple personalities" and dubbed "crazy." .
advances in child-development and family-systems knowledge strongly suggest
that the degree and quality of
has a profound and lasting effect on how personality subselves develop and
function. Other Lesson-1 and
Lesson 6 articles describe in some
detail how parental neglect, abandonment, and abuse ("trauma")
unintentionally promote up to six psychological
in their vulnerable young children.
number of mental-health professionals believe - as I do - that these wounds
and a wide-range of psychological and social problems (symptoms) are caused
by dominant personality subselves + personal and public
unclear whether subself dis-harmony can promote some physical
illness and even premature
Our subselves have individual identities, and form alliances, coalitions,
and power hierarchies with each other. They each have a unique role or
"job," and interact according to group
rules. Our team of subselves interacts like a group of people functioning together. Hence the term
"Inner Family System" (IFS). One implication is that
therapy principles apply to our inner family too. My
experience from providing inner-family therapy since 1992 confirms this.
Each of our subselves has unique abilities, ages, goals, thoughts, feelings,
perceptions. They can be male, female, or neither, regardless of our
physical body. Partsí overriding aim is to keep themselves, certain other
parts, and us as a whole safe.Individual
subselves can be misinformed
memories and perceptions of past or current reality.
Our subselves can cause
us and others pain and harm because they see no better choices at the
time. We have no innately bad or evil parts, despite
appearances to the contrary. Each subself means us well - as it defines
"well." Their definitions often differ, and can change.
A universal Manager subself is our true Self (capital "S"). Its
unique talent is providing consistently effective leadership to
all other parts if they allow that
Some Inner Kids or Guardians distrust or donít know our Self.
disgruntled musician might wrestle the baton from a scorned
orchestra conductor, one or more distrustful subselves can
disable our Self. Such
distrustful parts are then called a "false self" here.
Parts-work veterans often
report one or more
spiritual parts within or "nearby."
meditative or sensitive people know of this
One without parts work. This
subself ("the Spirit within")
gives wise, loving counsel at critical times if we get quiet and listen
for its "still small voice." Some feel it is the voice or
presence of a benign, loving Higher Power.
People have experienced spiritual subselves throughout eras and cultures,
calling them my "Higher Self," "indwelling Christ," "Great Spirit,"
"guardian angels," "sprit guide," "Old Ones," or the like. We each are free
to decide whether we have such a part and can access its caring strength and
guidance at key times. This spiritual subself and Higher Power play a
critical role in the efforts of most people who seek to manage a toxic
compulsion and/or to reduce psychological wounds
Each subself needs recognition,
appreciation, and respect. They react if they do or donít get these from
each other and other people. They also need to feel secure, important, and
useful (in that order), and they react if they donít. Some people who
had too little
young kids have subselves who have never felt recognized, valued,
protected, and safe. Over time,
therapy (parts work) can change that!
Subselves communicate with
our conscious mind in many ways: thoughts ("inner voices");
inner images or pictures; emotions (including
numbness); memories; senses; hunches and intuition; day and
night dreams; and body sensations. Our subselves can hide, camouflage themselves,
and/or avoid people and other subselves they see as unsafe.
Our "unconscious mind" may be the pool of knowledge, memories,
perceptions, and beliefs that are protectively repressed from our conscious
awareness by some
As our inner safety and clarity grows over time, some unconscious "content"
can be safely revealed to our conscious awareness.
Our subselves can be paralyzed,
exhausted, hysterical, repressed, or overwhelmed. They can't be "killed,"
"fired," or "ejected" because they're areas of
our brain. Early in parts work, most
subselves donít trust this, and fear losing their job and/or
being banished, "killed," "locked up," or exiled.
They can learn to do
different jobs for us, and often want to if it seems safe to do so. For example,
Saboteur subself can become motivated to
give us affirmations and encouragements, or to help us remember names and dates better. (Are you
Like plants seeking the
sunlight, our subselves seem to be primarily motivated to seek
wholistic health. Given safe new experiences, information, and perspectives,
our personality-parts can change their
values, attitudes, and goals - often quickly. Such changes usually cause
us to feel, think, perceive, and act differently.
Many psychological and some physical discomforts, like head
and stomach aches; muscle tics or spasms; tight throat, stomach, or
shoulders; tingling; numbness; coolness; flushing; etc.- may be
Some physical symptoms can also be caused by one or more
trying to "tell" us something. When they feel truly heard and
credibly reassured, such physical discomforts often recede, unless
there's an organic cause. There is little doubt now that
(subselves) affect our organs and body functions, and vice-versa.
When subselves feel safe enough,
theyíll reveal themselves to us (our true Self). They'll communicate,
learn, and eventually may negotiate for new inner-family roles. As with
physical people with common interests, this ability to "talk" allows trust-building, mediation, and conciliation.
Subselves' cautious openness to
change allows growth of inner- family teamwork and harmony over time. This is the
central goal of inner-family therapy (parts work).
Some Guardian and Child
parts have lived their entire life in terror, shame, hopelessness, and
silence. Like young Holocaust survivors, they initially may not be able to
even imagine safe, enjoyable inner and outer environments, because theyíve
never experienced that. To keep safe, such subselves use strategies like hiding, camouflaging, using false images, impersonating
other parts, pretending to co-operate, sabotaging inner-family work, and
disabling your true Self
The "seeds" for personality subselves seem to be natural components of our
DNA and neuro-chemical makeup from birth. From new radiographic technology (brain
scans), we now know that
different parts of our modular brain activate
in different situations, and that (b) our neurological system
constantly shifts its
electro-chemical connections (synapses).
As our brain
Manager parts (like our Achiever,
Judge, Explorer, and Creative One) seem to evolve naturally, unless blocked by our
environment. Inner Kids
Guardians appear to be
early-childhood trauma like
neglect, abuse, and
abandonment. They may or may not remember these
events vividly or tell us about them when they feel safe.
Subselves may live in the
present or the past. Against all logic and
experience, some still believe the traumatic conditions that activated them
may happen again "today." Such Guardian and Child parts are
forever on guard against a danger that hasnít existed for years.
Proactive parts work can free these subselves to live safely in the present and redirect their
energies in healthier ways.
These are key components of the inner-family system (IFS)
concept. Now letís review some basic...
Parts-work Terms (alphabetically)
you're new to subselves and parts work, invest time in getting clear on the
basic concepts and terms below. As a self-check, imagine defining each term below to an average high
by psychologist Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., this describes an excited subself infusing
your true Self with its feelings, views, and needs.
When blending happens, you
(i.e. your true Self) experience what that other subself feels, thinks, and
believes. You are then controlled by a ''false self.''
Your Selfís calm, balanced, far-seeing leadership is usually lost until the
excited part calms and/or unblends. A skill that increases
during effective parts work is learning to persuade blending parts to "step
aside" from (free) your Self, without losing their intense feelings or
needs. Then they can be respectfully heard, and their needs filled.
Blending happens in situations that Guardian
subselves and/or Inner Kids believe are significantly
threatening. Any subself can blend with
(take over, disable) your Self, but
Guardians are specially adept at it. People who seem "childish"
or naive at times probably have a young subself whoís often blended with their
"Direct access" happens when an outside person (e.g. a therapist or other supporter) speaks
directly with one of your subselves.
The alternative is indirect access, which
feel safer during
early inner-family work. This happens when the outsider asks your Self to ask or
inform the part in question - so "You" (your Self) acts as an
intermediary. When subselves trust the parts-work process and certain
outsiders, theyíll usually communicate directly, unless other parts
object and interfere.
Disowned parts are aspects of our personality that we
reject or deny. For example, if you have a (young) part who really wants you to focus
only on its needs or to act violently, your inner
Critic will probably
have been trained by your parents to see that selfish part as "bad." Once so
labeled, other subselves will work fiercely to block, paralyze (repress), and ignore
such "awful" parts, causing us
Psychologists Sidra and Hal
Stone propose that we feel most intensely attracted to or repelled by
people who act out their version of our disowned parts. Have you ever met
someone you "couldnít stand"? The reason your subselves intensely dislike
them is probably an instinctive recognition of part of yourself that you
"canít stand" which is displayed by the other person. In later parts work,
we come to calmly accept ("own") all our subselves
and the array of gifts and limitations they bring us.
Dissociation / Dissociative Identity
disorder (DID) - this term denotes involuntarily defocusing from current
inner and outer environmental events and realities. Common examples are
daydreaming, fantasizing, and trances. DID is the updated psychiatric term
for "Multiple Personality Disorder" (MPD). I believe dissociation is caused
by protective subselves disabling the true Self in the present moment See
Blending, Multiplicity, and Splitting.
False Self describes a
mind-body state where a person is
controlled momentarily or steadily by one or more
Inner Kids and/or
Guardian subselves. Some people call this common state
Many adults who were traumatized as
kids have never experienced their Self in consistent control. Such people
(i.e. their dominant subselves) are
skeptical that they have a gifted, reliable inner team-leader and a
more serene and productive way of daily living available to them.
I, Me, and
my Self) can refer
your active true Self, or...
the other subselves currently controlling your Self (your false self), or...
your whole mind-body self (little "s"). See
Because of these several meanings, early
parts-work ideas and conversations can be confusing.
"Go inside" means
"get quiet and undistracted, breathe easily from your belly, and focus steadily on your current thoughts,
emotional and physical feelings, senses, needs, and any inner images." The
alternative is focusing your attention and on things outside your physical
body. Going inside can range dynamically from shallow to deep trances, and
describes the mind-body state resulting from effective meditation and self
Hit bottom -
reachinga point of accumulated weariness, desperation,
hopelessness and making permanent changes in key attitudes, priorities, and
Common examples are ending addictions, toxic relationships, and other
unhealthy behaviors. This is different than experiencing a "mid-life
crisis" (like a career change) because it is driven by pain, weariness, and
despair. Frequently, people will not commit to parts work until they hit
true (vs. pseudo or trial) bottom. This seems most apt to occur in mid-life
Inner family denotes
all your subselves as a group. You may prefer another term, like
troop, squad, community, tribe, clan,
gang..." Experiment, and use what term emerges as most comfortable to (all of) you.
Inner-family system -
includes all your personality subselves plus the rules and
boundaries that govern them and the partsí
dynamics that result. Similarly, your outer (physical) family system
refers to all the people you designate as "family" + the boundaries that
separate them from other people-groups (systems) + the
roles, rules, and dynamics that regulate
usuallyrefers to a conscious thought stream. It may also denote
hunches, intuitions, "feelings," premonitions, "senses" (as in "I sense
that you're bored"), and expectations. Inner voices and physical and
emotional feelings are major ways your parts express themselves. Itís normal to have several inner voices going at once ("self
Job retraining refers
to negotiating with a subself to shift its goals and
energies to a new role in
your inner family. This happens only after the part comes to trust that your
true Self, and perhaps other parts, can reliably provide the protection for other
subselves and you
(the host person) that it has worked at all its life.
"Living in the past"refers to a subself who is sure s/he lives in the calendar time and
situation where the host person was originally traumatized. Such
subselves are usually Inner Kids
their devoted Guardians. Dr. Richard Schwartz calls such parts "exiles."
Thus a grown woman may have a young part who
believes that any moment her (remembered) drunken father (or any
man) may barge into her bedroom and molest her, and that thereís no one around who
believe or protect her. Reasoning with such parts usually does not help them change. Experiencing, like
and rescuing (below),
If such subselves feel secure and are
respectfully asked "what year is it?," they will often
quickly name a date many years
ago. After trust and security-building, such terrified, misguided parts can
eventually visit the present ("time travel"), and when feeling safe enough, come to stay.
This causes observable mental, emotional, and behavioral shifts.
denotes the normal human trait of having...
a many-sided "self,"
"psyche," personality, or "character;" and...
(conscious, semi-conscious, and unconscious).
Multiplicity is now
observable in real time: Radiographic and thermal
brain scans reveal that up to
a dozen or more brain regions activate concurrently for what we experience as a single event like
"stroking the cat."
Part or subself
to a functionally-unique brain region in a normal infant, child
or adult. Average people seem to have 15 to 25 or more subselves without being "crazy" in the least. Each
subself brings us one or
more unique abilities, is basically benign, and can communicate with our
true Self and each other in various ways.
Writers throughout history have
described our parts as sides ("she has a witty side"), aspects,
alter-egos, subselves, (inner) voices, inner demons, moods, subpersonalities,
in me,"character defects and flaws, talents, ego states,
archetypes, complexes, potentials,
gifts ("Noriko has a gift for music"), and personas.
Parts work is the intentional
process of meeting, assessing, owning, rescuing, re/training, and
(eventually) harmonizing all your subselves under the
leadership of your
talented true Self. Parts work is also called
Family-System (IFS) therapy here. Some related clinical schemes are called
Imagination, Gestalt therapy, and
Personality or psyche
is the mix of your attitudes, beliefs, values, associations, reflexes,
limitations ("I can't cook"), habits, talents and gifts, dreams,
abilities, and traits. These are all caused by your subselves, genes, and
occurs when distrustful, misinformed subselves artfully fake recovery
beliefs and behavior but really don't trust the Self and a Higher Power to
guide the host person safely. Until these Guardian and
feel safe enough, they will
deny or justify this protective pretense. Over time, effective parts work can reassure
such subselves and begin true recovery (inner-family reorganization)
permanent (core value) change.
refers to the proactive process of
empowering your true Self to
lead and harmonize your inner family of
time, and to (b) reassign and retrain some subselves to new roles.
True (vs. pseudo) recovery produces
significant emotional, mental,
spiritual, behavioral, and sometimes physiological changes in the host
Re-doing is a powerful
parts-work technique. It involves planning and rehearsing, then vividly
recalling a past real-life trauma, and revisiting it with your present Self and any
other desired healthy parts and/or people. The goal is to intervene safely in
the remembered traumatic process and help affected subselves experience a
safer outcome in the present.
Rescuing is a form of
redoing, and is a key parts work technique. It
involves identifying parts living in the past, patiently gaining
their trust, preparing a safe, nurturing (inner) place for them in the
present, and helping them transfer safely out of their traumatic environment
to join other subselves in the real present. Rescuing paralyzed or exiled parts can help thaw
frozen grief, heal toxic old
shame, and see the world as it
really is. A symptom of a successful rescue is having life-long
fears, anxieties, and frustrations permanently recede.
self (small 's')
physical body and all your subselves and spirit together. Your self is the whole person
who is called by your name, including all partsí dreams, genes, hopes,
fears, skills, limitations, and history. Thus your true Self (below) is one
element of your self.
(capital 'S') refers here to the
Manager subself that every person has (including you) whose
natural skill is consistent, effective leadership of all other
Your true Self calmly assesses, prioritizes, problem-solves, delegates, motivates, affirms, encourages, co-ordinates, facilitates, negotiates, and makes wise,
wholistically-healthy short and long-term decisions. Do you believe you have
a true Self?
Your Self will help all other
parts develop and use their individual skills and gifts, adapt to their
limitations, and develop stable
senses of safety and individual and inner-family purpose and pride. Your
Self is not more "powerful" or important than any other subself. S/He
is vulnerable to being
disabled or paralyzed by other mistrusting, anxious,
reactive parts. Your Self's wisdom and competence
develops as you age. It may relate to your soul.
When your true Self is
trusted and free to guide your inner family, you feel notably confidant,
alive, aware, serene, calm, clear,
grounded, centered, alert, "up," confident, focused, resilient, motivated, energized, light, compassionate, patient, and "in the flow." When did you last experienced that state of
Being? Can you imagine feeling that way most of the time?
Effective parts work promotes this!
Split and Splitting refer
to the process or state of having one or more subselves (a false self) take
over and disable your true Self. It
can also refer to the reality of having dynamic subselves. When you're "split," youíll experience life as
your dominant subselves do,
feel what they feel, and act the way they want you to. Progress with parts
work allows you to become aware of being split, and free your Self to
Splitting is a reflexive way of surviving
emotionally-intolerable situations. Some mental-health workers call this
common process and state dissociation and work to reduce "dissociative
disorders" - i.e. false-self dominance and inner-family
anarchy and chaos.
time, subselves' increasing trust in the wisdom of
their resident Self reduces their need to take over (blend). The term
personality" affirms the reality of subselves in typical wounded (vs.
crazy) kids and adults. Also seeBlendingand
your unblended true Self, or...
the subselves currently
controlling your Self
(a false self), or...
your whole (mind + body +
spirit), depending on the current context.
reviewed some key inner-family concepts and terms in preparation for
learning how to do effective parts work.
Pause, breathe, and reflect: how do
these ideas feel to you so far?They probably differ from your prior beliefs about personalities.
Skepticism, scorn, and
cynicism are usually caused by scared Guardian subselves defending against
new information and possible change (fear of the unknown).
for the open "mind of a student" and learn more about working with your
busy subselves before making up your mind. Option: if you
haven't yet, try this safe, interesting experience of
or more of your subselves, and then read my letter
to you.Then return here.
next six pages describe a powerful, practical way to increase
your true-Self leadership and reduce your psychological wounds - "parts work."...