Overview of "parts work" continued - page 6 of 7

      An essential process in effective parts work is evolve a strategy to.....

Get Parts to Trust Your True Self

      For initial perspective, read this article about dis/trust. Then return here.

      Guardian subselves form in your childhood, because your true Self and other  emerging Managers haven't had a chance to learn about the world. Before recovery, this usually means the host person (you) is governed by well-meaning false selves who haven't learned to trust your adult Self as a wise, reliable leader.

      Here's a general way to get such subselves to trust your true Self and stop taking her or him over (blending). What follows is based on my experience with scores of distrustful Guardians and Inner Kids.

      In initial interviews, ask what year the subself thinks it is. Accept the first thing that comes into your mind. If s/he's not living in the present, invite the part to come live with you in the current time. Teach the part your current age, and stress you (your Self) know a LOT more than when you were young.

      Ask if the distrustful subself knows s/he's part of a family or group (of subselves). If s/he says "yes," ask "Who's in charge of the group?" Often the part will say "I am." Don't challenge or argue!

      Ask what the part's job is, and what would happen if s/he didn't do that job. Usually the Guardian will describe some unrealistic calamity. For example one such part - who was keeping the host person awake at night - said "If I didn't keep you awake to plan the next day, you wouldn't be prepared for work. You'd be fired, and you and your daughter would be homeless beggers!" The subself really believed that!

      Option: learn which Inner Child/ren the Guardian is protecting, and work with each such Child to bring it safely into the present under the expert care of your Nurturer. Then help your distrustful subself accept that each Inner Child s/he's concerned about is safe and well cared for by your Manager subselves.

      Avoid trying to use logic or reasoning to persuade the part that s/he's wrong. about the catastrophe. Instead, use empathic listening and ask if the part would be willing to relax for some period of time (10 minutes, three hours, a week, ) and let (your Self) demonstrate that s/he and your other Managers can reliably avoid the feared catastrophe. Be patient, and over time, show the Guardian and any other doubtful subselves like your Worrier or Catastrophizer that you're a wise and competent leader!

      As the part becomes willing to follow your lead, ask her or him to (1) advise you on potential dangers (i.e. to become a valued consultant), and (2) stop taking you over,  Alternatively, consider reassigning this valuable part of you to a different inner-family role.

      As your subselves come together in the present time and learn to trust in the leadership of your Self and other Managers..

     Another useful parts-work technique to learn is...

Using Inner-family Councils

      To handle complex personal problems or major decisions well (e.g. "Shall we conceive a baby?"), some experienced parts workers call inner committee or council meetings. Have you ever taken part in a productive group meeting? Shelves of books have been written on what makes an effective meeting. Here are some key ideas:

      Sites: All personality subselves agree on comfortable, safe outer (real) and inner places to meet. Your real site should be quiet, physically comfortable, and as undistracting as possible. Clients who have tried inner-family councils often evolve a preferred real location to hold their inner meetings, though such gatherings can take place anywhere.

      Some people will have their parts convene in a richly appointed (inner) Board room. Others will be more comfortable at an imaginary custom-designed retreat center by the water, or by a sacred rock on a mountain or shore. What kind of a setting would help your parts meet most productively?

      Empathic leadership: Your Self calls each meeting, and is clearly in charge of it. S/He may delegate portions of the meeting to another subself, and/or ask small groups to do some of the tasks at hand. Recall the premise that your Self is a naturally-talented group leader. For perspective on effective leadership, study this after you finish here.

      Clarity and Focus: Your Self decides who attends. S/He helps all attending subselves understand what the specific current objectives are, and keeps them on track throughout the meeting. Some councils can be to brainstorm or fact-find ("does anyone know about...?"). Others can focus on evolving plans, rebalancing subselves’ responsibilities or role changes, or evaluating complex life-decisions and options.

      Respectful Order, and Rules: Through experiment and experience, your subselves will learn that they each have contributions to make, and have a right to be respectfully heard by all. Your Self will have each part speak without interruption, and balance who gets "air time" (e.g. calmly confront any subself who hogs the meeting). S/He will invite the opinions of quiet subselves, and genuinely care about all subselves'’ ideas, anxieties, and needs.

      As with any gathering, some rules of order need to be observed for the group to get anything done. One key rule is that only one part talk at a time, and that all others really listen. Other rules are to respect all different viewpoints, and stay focused on the issues at hand, rather than on power struggles or criticizing parts’ traits and character. Each subself brings the potential for a valuable contribution!

      Clear Decisions and Outcomes: Using brainstorming, empathic listening, respectful assertion, and problem-solving skills, your Self and other Managers will lead the council to clear short and long-term decisions. If assignments and specific responsibilities are needed, all subselves will understand and agree enough with them.

      Inner councils help all parts to know and appreciate each other, and to build trust in the leadership skills of your Self and other Managers. Periodic meetings nourish inner-family morale and cohesion, and ensure that all subselves feel informed, important, and appreciated. Can you imagine a successful sports team, acting troupe, church, or business enterprise that didn’t have regular well-led staff meetings?

      Parts’ councils can provide unexpected opportunities. One of my clients would lie on her couch in the evening dark for 20" - 40" to conduct inner meetings. Soon afterwards, she wrote meeting minutes, and later read them to me in our work together. These became a kind of diary for her. Besides being of great mutual help in our ongoing work, her series of council meetings provided an important new role for a young part ("Little Curly") who had previously been a vexing Saboteur.

      As her inner team's coherence grew, this Guardian part agreed (with relief) to refocus her energy. The woman’s inner council decided that they needed a Prayer Director to bless each gathering. Little Curly enthusiastically took the job. The woman later reported that things were going "better" at work and in her social life. .

Build Inner-family Teamwork

      Have you ever experienced being part of a group of people who shared a common purpose and had an effective leader? Can you describe the differences between an effective (high-nurturance) team and a dysfunctional team? Recall that parts work aims to...

  • free your true Self to guide you (all),

  • reduce psychological wounds,

  • increase your serenity, wholistic health, and productivity over time, and...

  • help you identify and pursue your life purpose.

These happen naturally as you build teamwork, respect, and cooperation among your subselves via internal dialogs and negotiations. How can you judge the degree of teamwork among your personality parts? Use this checklist to identify and affirm your inner-family strengths and areas to improve:

__ 1)  _ each subself knows all the other subselves, and _ is living in the present time (vs. the past);

__ 2)  all subselves maintain a clear vision of, and genuinely desire, common goals (e.g. those above);

__ 3)  each subself stays clear on its own and others’ skills and roles. Boundaries between them and between the team and the "outside world" are consistently clear enough to all;

__ 4)  each Inner Child, Guardian, and Manager subself feels steadily recognized, respected, trusted, and valued "enough" by all other subselves;

__ 5)  each personality part is clear enough on, and willingly abides by, the team’s key rules;

__ 6)  all subselves communicate and problem-solve effectively with each other;

__ 7)  each subself steadily _ respects the true Self and other Managers, and _ trusts them to consistently...

  • provide clear focus, vision, goals and explanations; guidance; believable optimism; and steady inspiration and encouragements;

  • resolve major conflicts, and adapt creatively to unexpected life conditions;

  • recognize achievements, and forgive mistakes;

  • get effective help and protection when needed;

  • delegate responsibilities wisely and fairly;

  • set and adjust paces, balances, boundaries and limits, when needed; and...

  • stay fully committed to the team, the job, and the objectives, no matter what.

__ 8)  each subself stays clear on their group’s identity ("We are Juanita's inner family"), and feels satisfaction and pride in belonging.

      Reflect and edit this list to fit your experience and beliefs. Does your teamwork-trait list fairly characterize the "ideal" team you thought of before? Does it describe your present physical family? The family you grew up in? The schools and churches you went to? Your work situation?

      Notice your thoughts and feelings. Does this checklist honestly describe your inner team now? If not (yet), can you envision all your subselves closely fitting this list "sometime"? What would have to happen? Who’s responsible to see that it does? (I propose: your unhindered Self). What if your inner family never becomes a truly effective team?

      What if it does?

      If these inner-family teamwork traits seem attractive, what priority do you assign to achieving them? What do you typically do each day instead of working towards these personal objectives? By the way: which subselves set your daily priorities and goals these days?

      As a natural leader, your true Self is skilled at guiding the communication among your subselves into effective discussions and problem-solving. S/He can also improve this skill, and teach it to other subselves. Doing so is a key to successful inner teambuilding, for many subselves were never taught to communicate effectively.

      Evidence: our times of inner confusion and chaos. I suspect you've experienced what happens when two or more people ruled by conflicted false selves try to problem-solve. Lesson 2 in this Web site focuses on effective communication skills.

      See Dr. M. Scott Peck’s book The Different Drum for thought-provoking stories and ideas on the process of building a truly harmonious group. Though his book focuses on groups of people, I feel that most of his ideas apply to inner communities too. See what you think.

      Pause and reflect - how do you feel about committing to develop teamwork and harmony among your talented subselves over time? Option - try it to see what you experience...

  What to Expect from Parts Work

      This brief YouTube video previews what you'll read here:

      Typical inner-family work ("recovery") is organic. It evolves at it’s own pace, and - like grieving and embryo development, it can’t be rushed. Inner-family harmonizing can be divided into a beginning, middle, and end. You’ll develop your own profile of these. Here are some common stages I’ve seen my clients experience:

      These phases usually start in mid-life, and span several to many years - 

  Beginning Phase

  • Initially study the Internal Family System (IFS) concept, and...

  • have a protective false self reject it as "stupid," "ridiculous," "too weird," "dangerous New Age silliness," or "for other people"; or...

  • Start exploring and experimenting slowly, skeptically, and intellectually; or...

  • Start quickly, with intuitive, complete acceptance of the inner crew, or...

  • Start somewhere in between.

      A few women or men with overly "male brains" may not get into parts work because they’re too logical and intellectual to feel or sense their subselves' communications and reactions. They probably dominated by protective, rigid Analyzer/Thinker and Skeptic/Doubter subselves. Other kinds of personal-growth work can be effective for them.

      Typical people who are motivated for personal growth have accumulated years of frustrations, confusions, and pain. They have often experienced disappointing "trial (pseudo) bottoms,'' and may have found conventional counseling or therapy to be of little lasting help.

      For some people, parts work provides a credible new way to understand their chronic unhappiness, and provides initial hope for real relief and a genuinely better life. That may include hope for improving chronic marital stress, and/or for understanding and grieving relationship failures. Parents can see parts-work as a viable way to help guard their descendents against iinheriting psychological wounds. Here's what one parent wrote about experiencing the early phase of parts work.

Middle Phase

      There is no clear boundary between the beginning and middle phases of this self-healing process. After some weeks or months of experimenting with subself dialogs and growing self-awareness, these are typical recovery experiences.

  • "Catch on," and put moderate to intense energy into exploring and meeting your subselves. Begin to experience individual inner energies and/or voices (i.e. parts) as real. Start to "see" and intuit the personal implications and possibilities of this work. Tell other people of the concept, and get various responses. 

      At this point, some other-focused people stop their inner team-building work because of social disbelief or disapproval. Others continue privately - perhaps with some added anxiety, skepticism, guilt, and/or ambivalence. Self-led ("centered") people feel less of these.

  • One or more "Aha!" or "Wow!" experiences occur along the early way. In them, people experience clear physical, emotional, and/or behavioral changes unmistakably related to their parts work. Ambivalence shrinks or vanishes. Inner family enthusiasm may surge, then settle back. People at this stage may try enthusiastically "selling" others on parts work (go easy on this!);

  • Begin to notice evidences of people's subselves at work in the media and real life. Become aware of how often our English language refers directly or indirectly to normal subselves (e.g. "Marta tends to be two-faced.").

  • Experience and skill grow with inner communications, re-doing, rescuing, conflict resolution, and learning to recognize free vs. disabled Self-states. Initial enthusiasm and wonder mellows, and the work becomes more methodical. Expectations become increasingly realistic. Patience, self-awareness, and compassion grow.

  • Depending on their goals and experience, people may elect (i.e. their Self chooses) other forms of therapy instead of, or along with, inner-family work. These might include massage or group therapy, chiropractic treatments, meditation and retreats, exercise and/or dietary programs, changing or joining a church, and attending a support group.

      And typical mid-phase recoverers experience...

  • Periods of inner calm, balance, and productive serenity gradually increase. Other-focused people (e.g. codependents) become more equally self-focused without crippling guilt. Habitual self abuse and neglect, and reflexive blending become conscious and noticeably fade. Physical and emotional symptoms related to these may decrease. Calm, natural assertiveness and boundary-setting and enforcing grow.

  • Spontaneous self-care, acceptance, and self love replace life-long attitudes of shame and self- neglect. Old anxieties subside to normal, and personal peacefulness grows in many settings and relationships. Stressful obsessions and compulsions (e.g. "OCD") gradually dwindle.

  • Parts-workers may grow towards calm vocal or written confrontations with people who’s actions were traumatic recently or earlier in life. The outcome of such events is (usually) a marked release of old resentments, guilts, and frustrations, and an increasing focus on the present, vs. obsessing about - or avoiding - the past. Ripples from these confrontations may extend to other similar relationships.

      Genuine compassion and forgiveness of yourself and others grows. Some of these relationships improve, others decline. Former criticism, scorn, or bigotry toward some people (e.g. harsh, critical, disinterested, or neglectful parents) shift toward genuine acceptance and empathy. ("Now I see how wounded and unaware Chris is.")

  • Other people may comment on "the new you," "something’s different about you," or question "what’s gotten into you?" Patterns of impulsive conflicts with or avoidances of certain other people shift. Sleep, eating, worship, meditation, and/or dream patterns may change subtly or obviously as your work progresses.

  • Parts-work slows and integrates comfortably into a larger personal-growth process. Parts-work habits, rituals, and reflexes develop. Language may shift (e.g. saying "we (subselves)" increases, and "I" shifts toward "a part of me..."; 

          The word "Self" takes on new meaning. Inner-family terminology weaves naturally into normal thinking and conversation ("I took several excited subselves with me on vacation, and left the anxious ones at home.") For many people, spirituality (the awareness, appreciation, and attention to one or more spiritual parts and a Higher Power) deepens as inner harmony grows;

  • Some personal behaviors and traits shift naturally, as true-Self personality guidance increases. If wound-recoverers put in equal effort on practicing Lesson-2  communication skills, their thinking and communication effectiveness - and daily satisfactions - improve significantly.

  • social relationships alter gradually or suddenly, as recovering people meet others who share their interest in (or are powerfully threatened by) this work. Informal or formal parts work sharing-groups may form for a while. Key relationships often become more or less stressful, as awareness of the dynamic interplay between "my parts and yours" grows. 

       Key relationships often improve if both partners are self-motivated to (vs. "have to") try out their own inner-family explorations. Family relationships can be enhanced, if kids are encouraged to meet their inner families, and members become comfortable talking about everyone’s subselves. Some recoverers experience a new capacity to empathize with and love other people.

      These middle-phase inner and outer changes manifest gradually and simultaneously over time. To validate them. it's useful to ask periodically "How is the quality of my life now compared to ___ months ago?"  

Ending Phase of Parts Work

      People end (vs. pause) parts work at any point along their path. If they work to "completion" (a relative term), some normal occurrences are:

  • If a person has been using a professional parts-work coach or guide, they eventually phase out and continue or stop parts work on their own. They may return for a brush-up or consultation on a special situation. They may or may not refer special others to their guide.

  • Parts work becomes automatic, like tying shoe laces. It becomes integrated into normal living patterns, and dwindles as a distinct conscious activity. Veterans of this work become selective teachers and facilitators for others who are ready to free their true Self and harmonize their inner families.

  • Recognition of psychologically-wounded people (GWCs) becomes automatic, and compassion for them replaces irritation, blame, and scorn. Friendships with wholistically-healthy people and others in true recovery deepen.

  • Using some version of The Serenity Prayer becomes automatic in sorting out and managing life problems.

  • People my become clearer on, and/or increase the priority of, their life purpose. Some recoverers change occupations and/or locations, and seek a simpler, slower, quieter lifestyle. 

  • Concern and conflicts over money, debts, prestige, appearance, power, and possessions dwindle.

  • Serenity, appreciation and reverence of Life and Nature, and compassion for living things, increase; and an "attitude of gratitude" becomes automatic. 

      Each person will evolve their own profile of recovery traits like these.

How Long Does Parts Work Take?

      Early in her parts work, one client’s young subself kept asking anxiously "How long will this take?" She was frustrated by my saying "Sounds like you’d feel better knowing you’d be done with this work by a certain time. All I can say is ‘It take as long as it takes.’" Two years later, we both smile as we recall that Anxious One. Feeling far safer, she’s stopped asking awhile ago.

      Some people use parts work for a particular situation, or for a few months. Others find it helpful for several years. Generally, it seems the more trauma people experienced as kids, the greater their inner-family chaos and wounds as adults, the higher their denials and protections (distrust), and the longer their work toward increasing inner harmony takes.

      A key time-factor is how motivated and successful you are in at least stabilizing current external stressors (e.g. work, money, relationships, and health). Until our outer life is consistently calm "enough," it’s hard to find time and opportunity to get quiet, and do meaningful inner focusing, calming, and healing. Growth towards inner and outer harmony seems to be interrelated and to happen in small, irregular steps.

Measuring Your Progress

      The yardstick for deciding "Is parts work helping me?" is in noticeable, persistent, desired change. I see clients try out parts work because some aspects of their life don’t feel good enough, despite attempts at improvement. These aspects range from chronic physical problems (like head or body aches, sleep or digestive problems, and addictions) to the gamut of emotional discomforts: depression; anxiety; emptiness; confusion; excessive shame; recurrent "failures;" and cyclical relationship, security, or work troubles.

      Like other therapies, parts work does not help everyone. Some people do find (in my experience) that the stressors that caused them to start exploring clearly do shrink (and stay shrunk), over time. Feeling worthless shifts towards self appreciation, acceptance, and even self-love. Primitive terror of abandonment shifts toward peacefulness, as lonely Inner Kids leave the past and hesitantly accept the glad care of Nurturing and Spiritual subselves. "Victim" thoughts and actions dwindle, and effective assertions (vs. aggression or submission) and resulting satisfactions increase.

      The best measure of parts-work effectiveness is in how often you experience your true Self guiding you. The symptoms are unmistakable periods of clarity, groundedness, "lightness," relaxed energy, calmness, optimism, focus, and peacefulness. In other words, episodes of deep serenity, contentment, and productivity. 

      Veteran parts workers come to know immediately if their true Self is in charge of a unified, purposeful inner family at the moment. If s/he's not, they find ways to unblend,  resolve inner conflicts, and regain their "symptoms of Self."

      You can do this, if you wish to...

available in hardcover and paperback formats      See the Lesson-1 guidebook for more perspective and wound-recovery resources. Also see

For a systematic way to assess and reduce false-self dominance and psychological wounds, study online Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web site..

      If a protective part of you remains skeptical or cynical about personality subselves, try this safe, interesting experience, read my letter to you, and mull this true example of parts in action. Then see how you feel.


      This 6-page series outlines concepts and techniques for meeting and harmonizing your talented personality subselves - your inner family. A vital aspect of this "parts work" is assessing for psychological wounds, and patiently reducing them to gain control of your life decisions, relationships, health, and achievements.

      This article is based on 23 years of professional study and clinical experience in guiding scores of women and men (and some kids) to do "parts work." A growing number of mental-health professionals are learning to use Internal Family Systems  (IFS) ideas and techniques to replace and supplement traditional therapies. IFS therapy is just emerging, as family therapy did 60 years ago. Stay tuned!

  Option - meet other people interested in freeing their true Selves to guide them in this free private FaceBook group.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll..

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Updated 01-22-2015