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IFS Talks is a podcast to deepen connections with the Internal Family Systems Model through conversations with lead trainers, authors and practitioners.
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TISHA SHULL
A PODCAST FOR IFS PRACTITIONERS AND THERAPISTS
HOSTS
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ANÍBAL HENRIQUES
You can have a better experience listening to this podcast wearing headphones. Also while walking, working out, or running. Enjoy it!
Thanks for Listening!
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Trauma and Dissociation Informed IFS with Joanne Twombly 1:22:22

Joanne H. Twombly, MSW, LICSW (she/her/hers) is a psychotherapist in private practice in Arlington, MA. She has over thirty years of experience working with C-PTSD and dissociative disorders, and provides trainings and consultation. She has written on EMDR and Dissociative Disorders, EMDR and Internal Family Systems, and on working with perpetrator introjects. Her commitment to helping her clients heal and to providing quality training has resulted in her becoming an EMDR Consultant and a Trauma and Recovery Humanitarian Assistance Program Facilitator, Internal Family Systems Certified, and an American Society for Clinical Hypnosis Consultant. She is a past president of the New England Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. In recognition of her achievements and her service on committees and the Board of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) she was honored with ISSTD's Distinguished Achievement Award and is an ISSTD Fellow.

Bridging Community and Psychotherapy work on Addiction with Cece Sykes 37:06

Cece Sykes, LCSW is a senior trainer at the Internal Family Systems Institute with over thirty-five years of clinical experience specializing in recovery from trauma and addiction. Her chapter on treating addictive processes appears in IFS: Innovations & Elaborations, 2016). She is co-author of a new book on IFS therapy with Martha Sweezy, due out in early 2023: Treating Addictive Processes with Internal Family Systems Therapy: A Compassionate and Effective Approach for Helping People Who Soothe or Distract with Substances, Food, Gambling, Pornography, and More. Cece also developed the Heart Lessons of the Journey retreat for an on-going study of therapist narratives. She lectures and consults internationally on these and other related subjects. Cece lives and works in Chicago. 

The Essence of Healing with Art Mones 01:00:40

Today we bring an episode from  Explorations in Psychotherapy, Alexia Rothman as co-host.  We welcome Dr. Arthur Mones, a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology with over three decades of experience as a therapist, teacher, and clinical supervisor. He is on the faculty of the Adelphi University Derner Institute Postgraduate Training Program in Couples Therapy. Previously, he served as Coordinator of Marriage and Family Therapy Training in the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at St. John’s University, and was a faculty member of the Long Island Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psyhchotherapy. He is an Approved Supervisor of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, and is a Certified Internal Family Systems Therapist. His publications include Transforming Troubled Children, Teens, and Their Families: An Internal Family Systems Model for Healing, and the KidsWorld Psychotherapeutic Board Game along with a Therapist’s Guide to KidsWorld. He offers Workshops and Consultation Groups on The Essence of Emotional Healing.  Today, we will focus on Art's most recent book, The Essence of Healing: A Quest for a MetaModel of the Psychotherapy of Trauma, published in 2021.

Intercultural Competence and IFS:A Conversation with Fatimah Finney 40:19

Fatimah Finney is a serial goal-setter, lover of new ideas, and imaginative thinker.

She is a certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist and maintains a private practice serving BIPOC, young adults and people navigating workplace issues. She is a certified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and is a consultant for individuals and organizations aiming to build their capacity and skills for centering diversity equity and inclusion in their workplaces.

Prior to her counseling and consulting practice, Fatimah was an in-home therapist to children and adults and served as a director of a community mental health agency. Through her clinical leadership roles, she cultivated a strong commitment to helping therapists increase their cultural competence and clinical fluency with diverse populations. Fatimah is a new Assistant Trainer at the IFS Institute and will be teaching in the upcoming Continuity Program on Intent, Impact and Intercultural Competence.

She recharges her spirit by playing with her children, taking walks with her parts, and dabbling in creative writing.

The Gifts of our Protectors and Direct Access with Paul Neustadt 01:07:15

Paul Neustadt, MSS, LICSW, is a senior IFS Co-Lead Trainer. He also co-leads a monthly seminar for level 1 graduates focused on integrating the skills learned in level 1. He has led workshops on Self Led Parenting, the Therapeutic Relationship in IFS, Direct Access: An Essential Skill of IFS, IFS and Climate Change, and The Gifts of Our Exiles.

For 17 years Paul was director of a community counseling and prevention program for children, adolescents, and their families. Paul has also worked in a college counseling center and community mental health center, and taught couples and family therapy in a family therapy institute and two graduate programs. In his private practice Paul now specializes in IFS consultation, both group and individual.

Paul lives with his wife and long time life partner, Barbara, and together they are delighting in being grandparents to a wonderful toddler. He has two grown children who have greatly expanded his consciousness in many ways. Paul feels most at home in nature, near water and close to trees. He enjoys kayaking and hiking and riding his bike.

As an IFS trainer, Paul creates a safe, accepting atmosphere, attends thoughtfully to group process, and ensures that all parts are welcome. He is known for his clear, down to earth, and open-hearted manner. Paul is grateful for the opportunity to share with others the things that have most transformed his own life.

Today on IFS Talks we're so happy to be welcoming back Paul Neustadt for a talk on protectors. Paul Neustadt is an IFS co-lead trainer, an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. He has a private practice in Arlington, Massachusetts, where he specializes in couples’ therapy, parent coaching and IFS consultation. For 17 years he was the director of a community counseling and prevention program for children, adolescents and families. He's taught couples and family therapy at a Family Therapy Institute and in two graduate programs. As an IFS trainer, Paul creates a safe and accepting atmosphere attending thoughtfully to group process and making sure that all parts are welcome. He teaches the IFS model with a clear down to earth approach and open-hearted manner.

Tisha Shull: Paul, thank you so much for being with us and speaking on this really interesting topic today.

Paul Neustadt: Well, thank you for that welcome Tisha. I'm very happy to be back here with the two of you.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back, Paul. We did two episodes together before. On the first one in 2019, we focused on Self-lead parenting. And then in May 2020, we focused on the gifts of our exiles. Two beautiful and very helpful episodes, I would say. Now you want to focus on our protectors, young as they usually are, that you say may need Explicit Direct Access for their gifts to be identified and celebrated. So, Paul, can we start off with some IFS basics? Could you share please your perspective on protectors, what are protectors, and do we really need them?

Paul: So, Aníbal, before I jump into that, I need to share something. As I was preparing for this podcast, I got in touch with a part of me who was having a concern about what I was going to be talking about, how I would be talking. This part had a concern about, I don’t know, how I would be coming across, what I would be saying. And initially it felt to me like a part with an old burden, this is a part that was afraid, ever afraid to ever take a stand in anything, ever commit myself to take any positions that could be challenged.

Aníbal: Okay.

Paul: A very young part. And where it came from is, I had an older brother who was very, very smart and used to argue a lot with my father and could be very critical. And I was very intimidated by this older brother. So, I was afraid, you know, to take strong stands. Because I was afraid of my father and I was afraid of my older brother and I was afraid that I could be challenged and criticized, and I wouldn't be able to defend myself. So, initially I thought, okay, so here's this part who was coming up and afraid. Like, I'm going to say things that could be challenged, but then I said, wait a minute, let me listen to this. Maybe there's something more here. Maybe there's something valuable to me to listen to this part that has this concern. And as I listened to it more closely, I realized that actually this part is a protector. This part was trying to protect me from something. I realized that this part itself had a gift for me. And the gift that I got from listening to this part was that it's really worried about the power of words, the power of people making statements and the impossible impact that those statements could have on people, particularly when they come from like an authority figure. And, you know, when they come from teachers and how people try to fit themselves into someone else's teachings and particularly when they don't feel like they really fit. So, what people really need maybe is guidance to find what fits for them rather than to have to fit themselves into somebody else's teachings.

Tisha: How did this apply for you for this protector?

Paul: I guess for me, that's been something I've needed to do in my live, right? I needed to find my own way and I guess that's what I want for other people. You know. So, what I want to communicate is that I'm going to be sharing today my way, what I found has worked for me, and I want people as they are listening, to say, okay, well, this is what worked for Paul, you know, and maybe it won't work for you. So, I guess what I want for people is when someone teaches a framework, to use that framework as guidance, but ultimately to find your own way within that guidance. So, I just want, this was just an example of listening to a protector and listening deeply, like, what's the gift here for me as I've listened deeply to this part.

Aníbal: Well illustrated. So, coming to your perspective, what is your perspective on protectors?

Paul: Well, so Dick has said that all of our parts are sacred beings, and I take that very seriously. And in fact, I see myself as a spiritual being, living in a human body. And I feel like I have a soul who has incarnated into this life and to this human life. And my soul expresses itself through my parts, through how I live my life, through my parts, all my parts. So, all of my parts have a role in how I live my life, and I need all of them. And, because of the nature of life, parts have to take on certain roles and some of them are extreme roles, right? So, what we've learned in the IFS model, which makes sense to me is that protectors had to take on protective roles. They had to protect us from the dangers of life. And so, they either had to help us survive, to help us just survive the dangers of life or to manage our life. So, protectors include firefighters or managers, right? So, they either had to, like in a crisis, to jump in and manage, you know, handle a crisis situation or manage our life ongoing, on a daily basis. But, you know, they help us, they protect us from dangers, from bad things happening and they manage us so that we can survive and live our lives. So, absolutely we could not live without these parts of ourselves.

Aníbal: Beautiful. So, we really need them.

Paul: Yeah. And, we tend to become more aware of them when they're triggered. And if they're not triggered, then maybe we're not so aware of them when they are unburdened from their more extreme roles and, you know, protectors just like exiles have a more natural role to play. And just like we want to liberate exiles from their burdens, we really want to liberate protectors from their burdens, burden of those extreme roles that they're playing and whatever other burden they're carrying and help them return to their true nature. And whether they want to continue to play a role or not, and they can just be kind of integrated into the harmony of our being. And so, when that happens, we might not be that aware of them anymore because they're just kind of naturally playing their role.

Aníbal: Paul, you say that Direct Access is an underappreciated and an underutilized way of working in IFS. You also say so many IFS therapists feel like they are failing when they can't get their clients to unblend and don't realize they have such a wonderful way to work with these clients available to them. So, what is this Direct Access, and in particular Explicit Direct Access on your perspective?

Paul: Well, I think most people come out of a level one without much understanding of Direct Access and how to really how to do it. And that makes sense because, you know, our main focus is really on Insight and learning how to guide clients to go inside. And that takes a lot of time to learn that way of working. But Direct Access, I think is an essential skill. We just come out of level when we don't really know how to do it. And, inevitably, then people come out and they think the way that we do IFS is going inside. So, I teach a seminar for people who graduate from level one. And I also lead consultation groups. So, you know, a lot of people who come out of level one, feel like they are not doing IFS and feel like they're not being a good IFS therapist if they're not getting people to go inside. And so, they don't realize that there are clients who really need to be using Direct Access for periods of time. And that that's a wonderful tool, and they're still doing IFS if they're doing Direct Access.

Aníbal: Okay. So, this difficulty or underappreciation comes out of this overvaluing of Insight, as I'm hearing you.

Paul: Well, I don't think it's overvaluing of Insight. I think it's just not appreciating that there's this other way of working that is also valuable and important.

Aníbal: Okay. Makes sense. And also, maybe we are not enough trained using this tool, the Direct Access.

Paul: Yes. So, I think if people take the Deepening and Expanding level 2, there's more about Direct Access. Even there, I still don't think they get enough. So, I've taught a two-day workshop, two full days on Direct Access. I also did a seminar in Direct Access, which was four monthly meetings...

Aníbal: Beautiful

Paul: ...three hours each on Direct Access. So, I mean, I think it needs a lot of time because I think it's very challenging. And so, I think it needs time for people to really practice it and develop the skill. Just like, you know, maybe we give lots of time for the Insight in the protocol. We need to also give a lot of time for Direct Access.

Aníbal: Yeah. Yes.

Tisha: Paul, can you describe for our listeners what the difference is, what Direct Access is for people who might not know?

Paul: Sure. So, Direct Access is when the therapist is talking directly to the client's parts, rather than guiding the client from Self to talk to their own parts. And there are two kinds of Direct Access. So, Implicit Direct Access is when I, as the therapist, I'm talking to my client's parts, but I'm not naming that. I don't name that part. I just maintain that awareness to myself. Oh, my client seems to be in an angry part of them. And then I might notice, oh, they've shifted, that angry part seems to have calmed down. Now it seems they've shifted into a part who seems more guilty. I'm noticing some guilt coming up. It sounds like there's a guilty part that’s just taking them over. So, I'm noticing shifts. And now I realize, okay, now I'm talking to a different part of them. With Explicit Direct Access I name to the client, “Oh, it sounds like you're blended with this particular part of you. How about if we just let that part be blended and ask it to just talk directly to me.” So, it's an agreement that I make with the client to just let that happen and have a conversation directly with me. And, so, that makes it explicit that the client and I know and agree that this is what's happened.

Aníbal: Beautiful. And Paul, Direct Access can be helpful with any parts in our system, right?

Paul: Exactly.

Aníbal: So, be it an exile, a manager, or a firefighter. Would you recommend any adaptation of this technique as you work with different parts? Do different parts really require different Direct Access approaches?

Paul: Yeah. Great question, Aníbal. So, if I want to do Direct Access, let's say with a firefighter, firefighters are often polarized with managers. And so, oftentimes in order to do Direct Access with a firefighter, I probably need to get permission from a protector. And there is a technique and unfortunately, I don't remember who I’ve learned this from. I wish I could give credit to the trainer who I learned this approach from, but I just don't remember. You use three chairs, you know, you have the client in three different chairs. So, there’s this chair that they're sitting in, and then there's a chair on either side of them. And so, you have the polarized parts sitting, you know, so what you do is you take turns doing Direct Access with the two different polarized parts. So, you might have them switch to the chair on their right to be, let's say the manager, and then switch to the chair on the left to be the firefighter. And you take turns doing Explicit Direct Access with the manager and the firefighter.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Paul: You're doing a polarization Direct Access.

Aníbal: Amazing.

Paul: Yeah. That would be so valuable because you’re, as the therapist, bringing your Self, your curiosity, your compassion to these parts that get really locked in place.

Paul: Yes. Yeah. And so, you might do that when the client doesn't have enough Self-energy to do that work themselves. And so, you start that process for them, by talking with those two parts that are so polarized. And then you bring the client's Self in as part of the process. So, I might start by, you know, let's say I start with a manager and I do some explicit Direct Access with a manager and then I bring in the client's Self and see if the client's Self is able to then respond to the manager and then I'll say, “okay, now can we talk with the firefighter part?” So, then we'll bring the firefighter part in, and I'll talk to the firefighter part, then l’ll come back to the client's Self, ask “okay, now can you respond to the firefighter?” And then we'll see, can we bring both firefighter and manager back together? Can we have a three-way conversation?

Aníbal: Beautiful. And if it's an exile, if you do Direct Accessed to an exile, it’s such a different approach, right?

Paul: So, if an exile has gotten blended, I want to just start talking to the exile. And so, it depends. Sometimes I'm just going to start talking to the client, sometimes l’ll say, “okay, so this is a very young part of you, I'm just going to start talking to this young part of you.” And my goal in that case, because, at that point, my assumption is that that young part is back in the past. So, I'm talking to a young part who is in some situation in the past. They're not in the present moment. They've been suddenly transported back into the past. And so, my goal at that point is to help them overcome the sense that they're alone in the past, they're all by themselves in some horrible situation, they're all alone. And so, my goal then is to help them feel that I'm there with them and to help them feel my presence with them, to help them feel seen and understood. And, you know, “you're not alone there, I'm here, right here with you and I understand, feel me with you, let me know what you’re experiencing, what's going on?” So, I want them to feel me, you know, right there connecting with them, understanding what they're experiencing. So, once I have that connection with them, once they feel felt by me, understood by me, you know, then I will say, “I'm feeling like you're calming down a little bit.”

Aníbal: Yes.

Paul: They're calming down because there's somebody there with them. Then I’ll say, “would you like to have this connection with...” So, say I'm talking to you Aníbal... I'll say, “would you like to have this connection with Aníbal as well?”

Aníbal: Yeah. So, you bring the client’s Self as well.

Paul: Yeah. “Because I can't always be with you, but Aníbal could, would you like to be able to have this same kind of connection with Aníbal? Can we make space for Aníbal to be here...? You know, we can have your grown-up Self here with you as well. So, can we do that? Can we bring Aníbal here? Can we make space for him to be here with you? Would you like that?” And then, so I'll try then to bring you back to be with this little exile of yours.

Aníbal: Coming back to the gifts of protectors, coming back to the protectors, you say you have been helping clients identify the gifts of the protectors on the road to identifying the gifts of their exiles and finding that this is a powerful way to connect with the protectors and help them transform into allies. So, what are those gifts of the protectors and how do you help clients identify those gifts?

Paul: Yeah. So, I want to give you a few examples first. So, I guess I want to give you an example, you know, I shared one example and I want to tell you another one.

Aníbal: Thank you.

Paul: So, one of my exiles was a really young part who became really frozen in response to my father's unpredictable rages, really scary, frightening rages. And I had a really hard time accessing this part of me. He was so frozen, was really hard to access him, but, you know, with a lot of patience, I was finally getting some connection, but then something happened. One of the things that I was doing in trainings was we would do a demo in the training with my other co-lead trainer. We wanted to show people the whole unburdening process. So, one of us would be the client and, you know, one of us would be the therapist and my colleague and I were having an issue with that point. It was just not a good time for me to be the client at that point, because we were in the middle of an issue between us.

Aníbal: It happens, yes.

Paul: And I also, usually when we would do that, I would pick an exile who I had already unburdened. So, the exile had already been unburdened and so, I could ask the exile, you know, since you've already had been unburdened, would this be okay to go through it again? But this exile had not yet been fully unburdened. But it was kind of very up for me, this exile. So, I thought, some part of me thought... Because the exile is very alive in this moment, maybe this would be a good time to do it in this training. So, I went ahead and did this demo and it didn't go well.

Aníbal: In what way?

Paul: Well, I felt like the person being my therapist wasn't doing a good job of being attuned to what was happening with this exile. And I think it was because we were not in a good place with each other.

Aníbal: Yeah. It makes sense.

Paul: And so, it didn't work well because that person and I were not in a good place.

Aníbal: There was not enough Self.

Paul: [inaudible]...fear with the attunement. So, it was really bad judgment on my part. Anyway. So, later when I went back to reconnect with this exile, I met up with a protector who was furious with me. The protector would not let me near this frozen part. The protector said to me, “you know, you betrayed this young frozen part, you should never have done this.” Well, of course this protector was right. It was right. It was a totally stupid thing for me to do. It was poor judgment. And so, this protector was confronting me on my poor judgment. And it told me that I would have to repair this rupture, I would have to reconnect every day, I'd have to like every day sit with the protector and the exile consistently for a long period of time, I'd have to show up every day for a long period of time to prove that I was trustworthy in order to repair this. So, consistency had been a problem for me, like really showing up every day consistently for myself. So, this protector was doing two things. One, was forcing me to identify the part of me that had such bad judgment. The part of me that was willing to betray myself. So, I had to identify that part and work with it. And then secondly, it was pushing me to be consistent when that had been an issue for me.

Aníbal: There's the wisdom.

Tisha: Yeah.

Paul: So, wow. Two amazing things that this protector got me to do that were so important in my system.

Aníbal: So, protectors are not always wrong, right?

Paul: This was a very helpful protector.

Aníbal: Yes.

Paul: I am so grateful for that protector because he confronted me in a very helpful way.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Paul: I ended up calling that protector my clear seeing truth-teller.

Aníbal: Say it again, please.

Paul: Clear seeing... It saw things very clearly and it told me the truth.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Paul: Yeah. It was telling me the truth about myself.

Aníbal: That's the gift

Paul: And saw things clearly and got me to do work that I needed to do. It got me to repair a rupture and I was able to reconnect with that young exile.

Aníbal: So here we are when protectors are right.

Tisha: I love that too, because consistency in the relationship really is essential to build trust. And it was asking you for that.

Paul: Yeah.

Aníbal: You also say, then you recruit them, the protectors, to form an inner healing circle. What is this healing circle and how do we get there?

Paul: So that's a great question. Can I give you two more examples of gifts of protectors and then I want to talk about the healing circle.

Aníbal: Oh, wonderful.

Paul: So, I had a client who had a part that when he was working with a client would be very critical of him and tell him he was full of...” you’re bullshitting, you're not...” You know, it was a part that was really critical of him. And it was critical of the client, critical of him, the client's bullshitting you, you're bullshitting the client. It was a really critical part. And he felt really bad. You know, his initial reaction was to feel bad about himself. Like, “I'm such a bad therapist.” It was just taking to heart what this inner critic part was... Because it was, you know, just telling you're just bullshitting every... You know. So, I encouraged him to really listen to this part and take it seriously. “What does this part mean when it says you're bullshitting?” And when he listens more clearly, what he got was that this part was telling him, “you're abandoning yourself. You're not being true to yourself.” And he said, “well, it's true, I am abandoning myself. I’m not being true to myself.”

Aníbal: So much wisdom on our protectors, right?

Paul: So, another example, if you go deeper, if you listen more deeply sometimes to what a protector is saying, what's at the heart of this. Let me go deeper. What's at the root of what this protector is saying here. Sometimes there's some wisdom there, there's something important there. And so, there was a truth there in what this protector was saying that was really important for this client. Another client... These were both therapists who were coming to me for consultation. So, this is someone who had a part who was judging her pretty harshly. And then when she listened to this part really deeply again, what she found out was this part was letting her know what her learning edge was. What'd she had to be working on both with a client and in her own life. And she said she felt like the part was seeing her really accurately. So anyway, back to your question about the healing circle.

Aníbal: The healing circle.

Paul: So, in my mind, a healing circle is a group in which the members share an intention to support the healing of the members. By directing loving, healing energies, towards that purpose, towards the healing of the members. And often they take turns having one member be the focus of that healing energy.

Aníbal: Paul, when you say healing energy, you could say the Self in those parts?

Paul: Yes. So, from an IFS perspective, we could say Self-energy. So, over 20 years ago, 23 years ago, when my sister was dying of cancer, she was part of a Sufi healing circle. So, I accompanied her one day to this healing circle and I sat in the middle of the healing circle with her.

Tisha: Beautiful.

Paul: It was palpable. You could feel the energy being directed. They were directing it towards me as well.

Aníbal: So amazing.

Paul: And it was palpable, you could feel it, you could feel the energy that people were directing towards us.

Aníbal: So here you are using all the Self present in the system for healing purpose.

Paul: You know, in level one trainings, when people do a demo, we encourage people to send Self-energy to the client or the client and the therapist in the middle. You could say that's a healing circle.

Aníbal: Oh yeah.

Paul: Because, our intention is to surround everyone who’s doing that demo with Self-energy.

Tisha: It feels like that the demos are so profound in that way.

Paul: Yeah.

Aníbal: So, protectors can be present as well.

Paul: Yes. So, I remember being in the middle of one of those demos and yeah, it's a very powerful feeling to be in the middle of that energy. I take seriously that protectors also have Self-energy and they can access Self-energy. And so my goal is to not just invite them to move to the side, not just to say, can you get out of our way, but to recruit them to become an inner healing circle so that they're using their energy, they're accessing Self-energy, their Self-energy, and adding to the Self-energy internally to support the exile and support healing the exile.

Aníbal: Paul, do you think it's possible that spending time with protectors that they can start healing before you get into the exiles work?

Paul: Yeah. I believe that the protectors begin to transform. I think that's already healing. Yeah. I wonder if we could, you know, one of the best ways to learn this is to illustrate it. And so, I wonder if we could take a little time to do that.

Tisha: Yeah, let's do a little bit of a demo. I know we talked about that beforehand and I'm happy to volunteer.

Paul: Okay. So, Tisha, do you have a protective part of you in mind?

Tisha: Yeah, I do. It's a critic similar to the one you described with your therapist that you're doing consultation with. I have a critic that I've been curious about slash annoyed with lately. So, that's the one that I'm kind of bringing to this.

Paul: Okay, great. So, would you be okay with that part talking directly with me?

Tisha: Yeah. I think there's some parts that are concerned about that. This critic can be quite mean. And I think there's some parts, it feels like there's parts that are worried that people will think that I'm as mean as this critic is.

Paul: So, what do those parts need around doing this demo around that concern?

Tisha: Well, those parts sort of, they almost want a governor on the critic, but then another part's like that wouldn't be very authentic if I limited the critic's ability to say and do what it does, I guess it feels okay to speak for the parts that are worried. And yeah, we can see how it goes.

Paul: Okay. Well, I understand. I just want to say, I want to acknowledge the parts that have that concern. Yeah, it makes sense to me they would be worried about what will, you know, people hear a mean part of me, will people judge me for that meanness? Yeah. I can understand that concern.

Tisha: Yeah. The critic internally is, and this is another part talking, but it says things to me that I would never say. And that brings up sadness as I say that.

Paul: Yeah. I guess what I want to say to you, Tisha, is I'm imagining listeners who have mean critics who might be listening and be relieved to know that they're not the only ones with a mean critic.

Tisha: Yeah, no, it's true. It does feel like a universal part. Really, I know, I've seen so many critics in clients, but there are parts that always feel like, you know, mine's the worst or the most...

Paul: Yeah. Well, anything else they need in order to be okay with doing this?

Tisha: I guess just to say that it might be vulnerable, and I have other parts that have some feelings, like if I were to cry or to be sad. I have some other parts that feel like that's feeling. Yeah. There’re some parts up, but also a real willingness and curiosity to have you do some Direct Access with this critic.

Paul: It could be vulnerable. Yeah. Well, so if parts start to get concerned, I'm open to, you know, anything that they're needing to let us know at some point.

Tisha: Yeah. So, we can pace it and...

Paul: Yes. And they can interrupt you if they need to.

Tisha: Perfect.

Paul: Okay. So just check and see if they're okay to go ahead.

Tisha: Yeah. It feels all right. As I'm preparing to get in touch with the critic and let it speak, the part that's concerned is like, okay, I warned you.

Paul: Okay. So, the part that Tisha’s calling the critic, are you there? Are you willing to speak with me?

Tisha: Yeah. I’m right here.

Paul: Yeah. And would you like to talk to me?

Tisha: Sure. Yeah. I'm open to that.

Paul: I would really like to get to know you and I'd like to know anything that you would like me to hear and maybe things that... I'm wondering, maybe things that would be good for Tisha to hear out loud about you and how you're trying to help her.

Tisha: Yeah. I want you to know that I kind of take over her body, really try to heighten its sensation and intensity. I give her a bit of a, you know, like a nervous edge so that she can pay attention.

Paul: Okay. So, you're trying to get her to really pay attention.

Tisha: Oh yeah. Yeah. Sure.

Paul: Can you say more about that? How come that's so important that you're trying to get her to pay attention.

Tisha: I'm trying to heighten the details within the movements of her body and kind of what she does, mostly physically, so that she won't screw up.

Paul: Yeah. Okay.

Tisha: But she screws up anyway, especially when I'm present. She doesn't do what I want her to do.

Paul: Ok. So, in spite of your efforts, she screws up. And it sounds like you are almost saying like, as hard as I try, it sounds like she screws up even more, the harder I try, the more she screws up almost?

Tisha: Yeah. You got it. It's true. Yeah. I'm here to help her be acute and to achieve perfection and she just fails and flops and... Yeah. She's kind of a flop.

Paul: Wow. And what made you decide you had to work with her body? You know, like get her to be so... Like this nervous energy and detailed...Like, what made you decide you had to do that, do it that way?

Tisha: That's really where I come on board when she’s trying to do physical things, like dance or climb. And she's always pushing the envelope of these new physical tasks and she's trying really hard. So, I come in and assert that she does well and does better, but she's constantly not good at the thing she's trying.

Paul: Okay. So, what is it that you really want for her? What do you most want for her?

Tisha: I want her to... I was going to say be the best, but that doesn't feel right, but I want her to not suck.

Paul: Yeah. What are you concerned happens when she sucks?

Tisha: Well, she'll be judged and maybe it'll feel like she'll get in trouble. Excluded, she’ll be kicked out.

Paul: How long have you had this job for her?

Tisha: Feels like late elementary school.

Paul: Yeah. So, was there a part of her, was she getting excluded and kicked out and judged in late elementary school?

Tisha: Yeah. I can remember a scene where that was... Yeah, where I kind of came in and took over her body to make her more... I tried to protect her. I tried to push her and motivate her.

Paul: Yeah. Wow. So, you've had this job ever since then, working really hard to try to push her and motivate her. Yeah.

Tisha: And yeah, I'm not, I don't really appreciate her actually

Paul: You don’t appreciate her.

Tisha: No.

Paul: Say more.

Tisha: Yeah. She just works against me, works against herself.

Paul: Is there a particular part of her that you're concerned about that works against you and herself?

Tisha: Yeah. It's the part that gives up.

Paul: Yeah. There's a part of her who gives up.

Tisha: Yeah.

Paul: Tell me about that part of her who gives up.

Tisha: Yes. Sometimes when she's trying to, I don't know, climb a rock wall or, you know, she just reaches a point where... Or she's dancing in front of someone, this part comes in and is like, “just forget it, it's not worth it, don't try.”

Paul: And then what do you do when that part comes in?

Tisha: I usually try to take over her body, try to give her some heightened intensity. I try to kind of shame her and to keeping on going.

Paul: How does that work?

Tisha: Not great. Usually the giving up wins and yeah, she's sort of known for not completing things. Not following through. But if it were up to me, she would push and push through. Yeah.

Paul: So, I'm wondering how would it be if we could help Tisha work with that part of her, the part who gives up, would you like it if Tisha could work with that part of her?

Tisha: Oh yeah, definitely. Especially if it would just stop giving up.

Paul: Well, I don’t know if we could, you know, I don't know what would happen, but it sounds like a different part of her that we might be able to... So, one of the things I'm appreciating is you've maybe helped her already identify a different part that. That might be helpful for her to be aware of that other part. So, I'm just appreciating you for that. And it sounds like, do you feel like Tisha appreciates you at all?

Tisha: It feels like in this moment, Paul, of talking to you, there's a little bit of appreciation, understanding and space that I'm getting, but in general, no.

Paul: Yeah. So, I'm guessing you have some gifts for her, and I'm wondering what would you feel are your gifts for Tisha?

Tisha: I really bring her into her body and it's a little bit of a mental mind body where, you know, there's my voice is critiquing the body, but I do drop her in and make her aware of her feet and her fingers. And, another gift that I have is that I really don't want her to get in trouble or fail. And yeah, I really try to keep her aware of all the things that could make her feel [inaudible].

Paul: So, it sounds like you also have a sensitivity to the pain of failing, you know, like you jumped in when she was going through such a hard time, that's when you took on your job. So, I'm feeling like you have this sensitivity to those feelings.

Tisha: That feels true. Yeah.

Paul: What it might be like if you were able to help her be strong enough to bear those feelings, because that's part of life, it's part of life to have feelings like that. And you have a lot of energy and strength. I'm just aware of how strong you are. You push. All that pushing and energy you have. What if you could use all that energy and strength to help her bear some of those feelings to be strong enough to bear them now that she's grown up. So, she wouldn't have to give up. Right? Because you have the strength, you have all this strength. What if that's one of your gifts?

Tisha: Yeah. It feels hopeful. That feels hopeful.

Paul: And the part of you that you're reacting to, you know, this part of her that suffered in elementary school, how would it be if we could go back and rescue that part that did feel so terrible? How would you like that?

Tisha: Yeah, it feels like she needs it. It also feels a little scary.

Paul: Would you like to help with that?

Tisha: Yeah, if I can.

Paul: You could. Yeah, absolutely. You could help by being part of an inner healing circle, you could bring your energy to help be part of an inner healing circle and we could bring Tisha and me and you, and we could go back and rescue that young Tisha from that time and bring her into the present. Would you like to help us with that?

Tisha: Yeah. As you were saying all of that, like this scene of younger me is expanding in my mind.

Paul: Right. So how would it be if we could bring grown-up Tisha back and see if maybe she could appreciate you more for what you've been doing, would you like to have a better relationship with her?

Tisha: Of course. Yeah. It's really tiring for me to rip on her all the time and I have to come up with all these new ways and it's a lot of energy to take over her body.

Paul: Is there something you would rather be doing if you didn't have to rip on her?

Tisha: Yeah, I would rather, like you said, give her strength to just be more of herself, whether she's climbing or dancing or napping, just to allow her to just be where she is it all of it.

Paul: Okay. So, let's bring her back, stay close and I'll just invite her to come back. Okay. Tisha are you there?

Tisha: Yeah, I’m here.

Paul: So, I'm wondering, how do you feel towards having listened to this part of you?

Tisha: I have a really deep appreciation for how young it was and has been. Like, I feel like I have still a little bit of trepidation with it because we have a long history together, but it does feel that there's a little more openness in my heart towards it, and tenderness. There was a point in time where I realized that you were talking to it, like you would talk to a child. You know, you just kind of got on the parts level and the awareness of that really gave me enough space to think like, well, this critic is working really hard and it's got the tools of like a 12 year old who was really criticized herself. Yeah. So that was, that was really cool, Paul, thank you.

Paul: So, you know, if this was a real-life thing, I would keep working with you with this part. But does that feel like an okay place to...

Tisha: Yeah, absolutely. And I can see the exile as clear as day.

Paul: You want to just take a moment with this critic and just see if there's anything else that you need to say to it and it needs to say to you?

Tisha: I just want to let it know that I'm here with it and it just responded to me “I don't want to hurt you.”

Paul: So, Tisha, it did say that you have this part that gives up. Does that make sense to you?

Tisha: Oh yeah. It's like the critic brings me into the red and then the other parts, just like, Ugh.

Paul: Yeah. So, it's almost like there's maybe a polarization or there's some relationship between the two. Yeah.

Tisha: Yeah.

Paul: Okay. So, anything else you want to say about that demo?

Tisha: Yeah. I appreciate the time and space. You never know what's going to come up and it's always so helpful. Yeah. I think I have parts that are worried if it was a good enough example of Direct Access or I don't know, you know, there's other critics.

Paul: Yeah. I thought it was great. Aníbal, how about you? What was it like for you to witness?

Aníbal: It was so moving to see Tisha’s courage to address those strong and talented parts and such a beautiful illustration. I think it was, so I'm mostly grateful to both of you and moved with Tisha. So beautiful.

Tisha: It was really nice to be the recipient of your Direct Access work, Paul, thank you.

Paul: Yeah, you're welcome. Well, I enjoyed doing it and it just felt like, you know, maybe the best way for it to get across to people.

Tisha: You have a really, really good way of being with these parts.

Paul: Thank you. I'm aware of a part of me who really wants me to convey a couple things to people. One is that Explicit Direct Access can actually be sometimes the most skillful way to facilitate the unblending of a protective part of us. And I believe the reason for that is that it really communicates tremendous respect and appreciation for the protector. It helps a protective part of us really feel seen and heard and appreciated. To the point that this protective part is willing to unblend because it had it say and it really feels appreciated. And the other thing is that it accomplishes some other things, it enables the client to be in a witnessing position and the client is witnessing the therapist’s Self seeing the protector through the therapist's eyes of Self. So, it changes the client's perspective on the protector and enables the client to access Self in relation to the protector.

Aníbal: Amazing. Yeah. Makes sense.

Paul: And so, it enables the client to then begin to have more of a relationship with that protector. So, I think it enables there to be a deeper relationship between the client's Self and the protector. And if you go further and then you identify the gift of the protector, then it enables a transformation of that protector. The protector actually begins to shift its own perception of itself and access its own Self-energy and it opens up for the protector the possibility of shifting its perception of the exile.

Aníbal: Okay.

Paul: Once it changes its perception of itself, my experience is it begins to soften its attitude towards the exile.

Aníbal: So interesting.

Paul: So, the second thing that I wanted to say is that there are some parts of us that really prefer to be able to speak for themselves, out loud. Yes. Have their own voice. And so, what I guess I wanted to say is that in my own therapy, a lot of times I prefer to work with my part through Explicit Direct Access. And I just wanted to say that, you know, that if there are people out there who find that sometimes they would rather work with their parts by having their parts talk directly to their therapist, there's nothing wrong with that. That's a legitimate way for us to work with our parts sometimes.

Aníbal: And allow them to express.

Paul: Yes. Express themselves out loud directly because some of our parts really want that and need that, to talk out loud.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. So, Paul, thank you so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and hopefully we will meet again soon, and we'll share more of our work and our lives. Maybe next time, Paul, we'll talk on the relationship of soul and Self and being very human, you say. Maybe...

Paul: Yeah, that would be great. I do want to just let people know I will be doing a workshop on the gifts of our exiles. And in that workshop, I do also talk about this, in the work we did today. As part of that, I do that. I'm going to be doing that with Derek Scott in Canada. That's not until February, but just to give a heads up for that.

Tisha: Is that in person?

Paul: That'll be on zoom.

Tisha: Oh good. So, people could sign up for it anywhere in the world. Thank you so much.

Paul: Thank you.

Unlocking the Light of Sexual Intimacy with Nancy Wonder and IFIO 00:00

Nancy Wonder, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist practicing in Tallahassee, Florida where she offers Internal Family Systems therapy and consultation.Dr. Wonder obtained her Ph.D. from Florida State University in Counseling Psychology and remained as a field instructor for FSU for many years teaching and training doctoral students.

In 2003 she began to be fascinated by the Internal Family Systems model and later became involved in the IFS applied couple model of Intimacy From the Inside Out (IFIO). This fascination has led Nancy to establish a full-time practice that revolves around individual and couples counseling using the IFS and IFIO models. Nancy loves to teach other therapists about the two powerful, life changing models of IFS and IFIO.

Dr. Wonder has published two chapters regarding use of Internal Family Systems with a case involving pornography addiction: (Wonder, N.M. (2012) “Treating Pornography Addiction with IFS” in Internal Family Systems: New Dimensions. Eds. M. Sweezy & E. Ziskind, Routledge; NY, NY. And another on IFS and supervision:Internal Family Systems Therapy: Supervision and Consultation, Edited by Emma Redfern Making the Unconscious Conscious in IFS Consultation of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Offending, and Sexual Compulsivity Cases.

She has taught for the Institute of Internal Family Systems, PESI, and Intimacy From the inside Out with a total of 15 years-experience teaching IFS and IFIO. She also is a senior lead trainer for Intimacy From the Inside Out. Dr. Wonder teaches throughout the United States and in Europe. Her students describe her as warm, real, and an excellent clinician.

She also developed an IFS Continuity Program for treating sexual addiction and sexual victimization through the use of IFS. Dr. Winikates and Dr. Wonder created a webinar for loneliness that they offered through the Internal Family Systems Institute early in the pandemic.

In her leisurely time she enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, and 3 grandchildren. 

Today on IFS Talks we are so lucky to be speaking with Dr. Nancy Wonder. Nancy Wonder PhD, is a licensed psychologist practicing in Tallahassee, Florida. She's taught for the Institute of Internal Family Systems, PESI and Intimacy from the Inside Out for over 15 years. She's currently a senior lead trainer for Intimacy from the Inside Out and teaches in the US and internationally. Nancy's students describe her as warm, authentic, and an excellent clinician. Dr. Nancy Wonder has published two chapters regarding the use of IFS with a case involving pornography addiction and one on IFS and supervision. She developed an IFS Continuity program for treating sexual addiction and sexual victimization. Also, Dr. Wonder, along with Dr. Winikates, created a webinar for loneliness that they offered through the Internal Family Systems Institute early in the pandemic. She has a wealth of experience.

Tisha Shull: Dr. Wonder, Nancy, thank you for being here with us today on IFS Talks.

Nancy Wonder: I'm happy to be here.

Aníbal Henriques: Thanks much, Nancy, for willing to sit with us. What parts come up today hearing your bio?

Nancy: Well, it sounds okay. Yeah, that all happened, you know. When you said I have a wealth of experience, Tisha, I was a little bit, that part that feels like, I don't know anything, got a little, like a little activated, like, “is that true I don't know anything or is what Tisha say is true?” So, I'm working with that polarity, but other than that, it was all good. It was accurate. Thank you.

Tisha: Nancy, will you tell us a little bit about your journey into the world of psychotherapy?

Nancy: I will. I didn't become a psychologist until my forties. I got divorced from my first husband at 40. It was his idea and I decided to get a PhD. Why not? Right? And I got a PhD in counseling psychology from Florida state here in Tallahassee, and I did a residency out of prison where I worked with sex offenders. And this is when I started working with people with sexual issues and something about it called me and I felt like I really wanted to work in this area. And so, as I established private practice, I started working with sexual offenders, both juvenile and adults, as well as sexual abuse victims. And I've been in private practice now here since 2000.

Tisha: And how did you discover Internal Family Systems therapy?

Nancy: Well, it was about 2003 or 2002. I went to a yoga workshop. I like to do Iyengar yoga and my teacher here and I drove to Lafayette, Louisiana, and there was another teacher, yoga teacher there who is outside of Atlanta. And I'm going to forget her name right now, but she handed me a brochure about Dick Schwartz coming to outside of Atlanta to this university to do an introduction to Internal Family Systems. And just the way it was so serendipitous, I thought this is really, this just seems right to me. I should get at us. So, I drove up there and it was a two-day intro workshop. I really was impressed with Dick. It really suited my background of, for example, I did my dissertation on imagination skills and youth. So, I liked Jungian psychology and really liked active imagination. And so, it just totally suited me personally, a big daydreamer in my childhood to go inside and feel my parts. And so, at the end of the workshop, I went up to Dick and said, I'd really like to try this work out as a client. And he said, nobody in Florida was doing it. And so, he gave me a list of three names, and I started working with Barb Cargill, who's one of the founder, the founder woman that worked right with Dick in Chicago. And so, I worked with her for three years. And then I, around that time, started my level one. So, I just fell in love with that. It just really spoke to me.

Aníbal: Nancy, in your career, you worked a lot with the dark side of sexuality, meaning sexual abuse, harassment, sexual offending, and sexual addiction. And you say that working with couples, you saw those things as blocking the light of sexual intimacy. So, I have two questions, maybe difficult ones. If I may, why is sexuality such a vehicle for those forms of abuse? And the second is can we heal from those dark sides of sexuality in our lives and allow our sexuality to shine in a good way?

Nancy: Well, I think that, first of all, sexual abuse is very common. In the United States, I don't know the Europeans statistics, but I think their similar though. In the United States, we believe that one in four women or, and some of us, most of us that have worked with sexual abuse think that's even higher, have been sexually abused by the time they're 18. I don't know why I can't get those statistics in my head right now, but anyway, it's very common.

Tisha: Really high numbers.

Nancy: Really high numbers. And those are the people that seek mental health treatment. So, I'm sure people that actually practice psychotherapy see that sexual abuse is even higher than we realize. Plus, there's a lot of misogyny and objectification of women in the United States, as well as Europe, I'm sure, evidenced by our last president of the United States who was obviously misogynist and treated women like objects. And, that's just very prominent in our culture. And this really affects women's sexuality as well as men’s. So, it's endemic in our culture. I think it's gotten better over the years as we've gotten more information and we do more prevention and teach kids about healthy touching, but it's still quite prevalent; sexual abuse and sexual addictive kinds of behaviors and sexual offending.

Tisha: Do you feel like it's more of an American issue than it is an issue in other countries?

Nancy: I think that's a good question. Because I know some other... Other countries are more relaxed about sexuality than we are, perhaps? We have a huge polarity in our culture. Maybe the churches, maybe the Protestant background, the messages we get even from our Supreme Court this week is that sex is bad. You know, it's dirty. It's meant to only be for procreation. And on the other hand, in America, we sell products with sexuality. Say a pair of tires have a woman with a bikini beside them. You know, we love eroticism. We use it to sell products. Pornography is prevalent on the internet. So, everybody's getting really polarized messages in our country, perhaps a little less. Like, when I was in Europe, spending some time in France, there is a more ease around sexuality. It seems like. But I really don't, I'm really not an expert in European cultures, but I do believe it's a little more relaxed. So, in America we're so uptight about sexuality, that it creates this problem of sexual compulsivity, sexual abuse... If that makes sense. It's like a giant polarity.

Aníbal: And so, can we heal from those dark sides of sexuality in our lives and allow our sexuality to shine in a good way?

Nancy: Yes, I totally believe that. And that's really been my life's work. The meaning of my career is to help people heal, both offenders and victims. I kind of work on both sides of the coin and I totally believe we can heal and prevent... Like, sometimes sexual abuse runs in generations of families. And if we can just heal the current generation, it's going to make the future generations safer.

Aníbal: Nancy, why is sexuality itself important in relationships?

Nancy: I believe it's important because it can increase pleasure and closeness. It can offer reassurance, validation. You can feel supported if you, you know, having the sexual intimacy with your partner. And it just can reinforce feelings of intimacy, feelings of desire, being desirable. And it, it doesn't mean it's going to improve about relationship, but it can help people who have some other problems in relationship when they can come together sexually and intimately in a healthy way.

Tisha: And we have almost a challenge within the couples’ therapy world and the therapy world to highlight and illuminate and talk about sex and sexuality in relationships. Do you feel like there's an underlying reason for that? Is it cultural? Is it something that therapists are afraid to bring up or talk about? And in so many reasons it's important.

Nancy: Yeah, I think it's all of those reasons, Tisha. For example, we don't get a lot of education. When I went to graduate school, I had one class in human sexuality and it was a, just a general informational class. That doesn't give you enough to really work with someone in a clinical setting. And that is true. There's been studies shown in Canada and the United States that therapists do not get enough training in graduate school. And so, we don't even bring it up. Many of us have our own parts that we haven't even looked at or been with. So, for us to bring up sexuality takes a lot of courage. So, I really encourage therapists to find out more about their own sexuality and get some CU trainings so that you can bring it up because so many people are sexually abused and so many people are impacted by sex and internet porn and et cetera, et cetera, that it's a crime in a way for us not to bring it up in a therapeutic relationship.

Tisha: Nancy, with that, what can therapists ask themselves about their own sexuality and what could they understand about their own parts around sexuality? How do we help ourselves?

Nancy: Right. I think, yeah, there's some questions they can ask themselves. So, what parts and polarizations are present when you try to talk to a client about sexuality? So, we need to get to know our own polarizations. For example, I was born in the 1950s in the United States of America in the Midwest, which the message was girls need to, you know, it was a double standard. Girls need to protect their virginity; boys can do whatever they want. So, I had a lot of polarities thinking that sex was dirty and bad, and women weren't supposed to do it. And so, to be with all my parts around that, and some, I have some sexual, I guess, sexual abuse as a child, and I needed to work with that before I could be with another person who's had sexual abuse. So, working with our own sexual hurts and pains and feeling into which one of your parts are really concerned about talking about sex? What's scary about it? And I think it can be scary if you haven't worked with your own sexual trauma or even if it's not trauma capital T, you know, most women and some men get some kind of sexual harassment in their life and get all these mixed messages about sex. And to really tune into what specific sexual topics make you uncomfortable and why do they make you uncomfortable? And should you just not work with those? Or should you get more training? For example, some people don't want to work with polyamory or some new social issues that are coming in on board.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Nancy, you also say that through tracking courageous communication and individual work in the presence of the other, we can help couples to talk about sex in a new way. So, what exactly is this tracking and courageous communication?

Nancy: Okay. So, hopefully many of you have listened to Toni Herbine-Blank’s IFS Talks podcast, but she developed a model called Intimacy from the Inside Out, which is IFS applied to couples. And this model, I find a really powerful way to work with sexual topics with clients. So, once the therapists themselves have worked with their own parts and they feel that they can be present with a couple working around sexuality, we can use this tracking protocol to examine what happens between them in their sexual life. Just like you do anything. You know, you track the protocol between doing dishes, not doing dishes, taking care of the kids, all these conflicts that people have. What we do is we track the fight or the conflict by listening for the parts. So, we don't get so involved in the content, but we're listening for the parts that get involved in this conflict with a couple. So, you can track sexuality. For example, let's say there's a man and a woman. A heterosexual couple. A woman's a lot of times doing dishes and the man loves to see her, comes home from work and is so happy to see her and so he slaps her butt while she's doing dishes at the sink. So, for him, that's like, “oh, I'm so glad to see you, and you've got a great butt and I'm just going to put my hand on it.” But for her, the context...You know, her kids are in the other room, she's doing dishes, she's had a hard day. So, for them to talk about that, she can say, you know, “I had a part that feels disrespected when you do that with the kids in the next room.” And he can say, “but I had a part that was so happy to see you.” And then they can start learning about their parts and how they protect themselves. So, you break down the sexuality, just like you would in any conflict.

Aníbal: Nancy, you also say IFIO is a model of differentiation.

Nancy: Yes.

Aníbal: The more the couple is able to differentiate the closer they come, you say.

Nancy: Yes.

Aníbal: And that this is true in the aspect of sexual relationship too. So, can we take out the blame of sexual intimacy?

Nancy: Yes. Right. The tracking protocol shows a conflict between couples as cyclical. There's no beginning or end. So, it takes away the blame. As people start to pair their protectors with their exile and same thing with sexuality. You've got to get people talking about it because they can feel like they can't be any different than their partner. So, we want to get people to do a U-turn and feel how they're different than their partner. Maybe their partner wants to look at porn, but they don't. And how can the couple be okay about that? They can be different, but still have a sexual relationship. And the way we help people differentiate is help them do a U-turn, feeling their protectors and exiles, and being able to accept their partners, you know, be more loving, self-loving, and then loving to their partners, protectors and exiles, therefore they may not get everything they want sexually from their partner, but they certainly can begin to talk about it and understand. So, this is going to increase their intimacy. The more they differentiate within themselves, the more they can connect to the differences in their partner.

Tisha: Are there common themes you could share that would illustrate this like particular exiles that come up and the protectors that, that are, I mean, everyone's an individual, but I could see, you know, if someone has an exile around sexual abuse and their partner comes up and smacks them on the butt. Yeah. That might illustrate a common theme.

Nancy: Yes. I think it does. So, there could be a part of that woman who has a hypervigilant... I don't know if you've read The Sexual Alarm System, we can put the resource. I can give you the resource later, but she talks about many women because of the prevalence of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and all these kinds of things, have a sexual alarm system. So that we, as a young woman, especially, are in a hypervigilant state much of the time because men have...And I know this is going to sound sexist, because I know it happens to men too, that men get objectified as well. But just as an example of this heterosexual couple we’re illustrating, that might feel belittling to her and objectifying to her because of stuff that happened to her, say in middle school, the boys teased her about her budding breasts. You know, we don't know, but a lot of times there's exile pain, even if it's not capital T trauma around sexuality, but it's a message that you got from your peers or school that your exiles took in, took in burdens. And so, to have somebody do something that reminds you of that, it's going to set off this trauma response and the protectors are going to get on board. And so perhaps this woman might get mad, have rage. She might, you know, just turn off to him, shut down and not want to have sex with them, period. You know, just completely withdraw from him. So those are the kinds of protectors exiles we see in sexuality.

Aníbal: Nancy, you have written this beautiful chapter on treating pornography addiction with IFS in the book, Internal Family Systems: New dimensions. There, we can read the challenge for the therapist in a case like this is to not manage the firefighter, meaning the addicted part, but instead to calm shaming managers and attend to the exile. So, what exiles, vulnerable parts do you usually find when working with these clients? Pornography addiction ones.

Nancy: Every single person I've ever treated, and Dick will agree with with this statement as well, has had some kind of trauma. So, the sexual addiction doesn't come out of nowhere. And, and yes, usually the sexual addict part is a firefighter that helps distract or sooth the client's pain from exile pain. For example, I have a client who had a lot of loneliness as a child, and he experienced quite a lot of neglect. When people experience, you know, it's very traumatizing and his father had an addiction, had Playboy magazines, for example, in the closets. So, when he was so lonely and so neglected and so criticized, he would find the Playboy magazines. And this is a typical story. How sexual pornography is passed down in generations. You know, the father never openly said, oh, by the way, I love to look up porn. But the many clients I've had have found porn hidden and the whole hiding part is kind of makes it exciting and secretive. But they are distracting or soothing exiles that have loneliness. Exiles who've maybe had physical abuse. Some, one out of four sexual offenders have been offended themselves. So, definitely the exiles are all different, and I could give you a million examples, but they've all been traumatized somehow. And in that have had deep, deep pain and somehow, they were turned on, no pun intended, to sexuality, either by pornography magazines or by pornography on the internet or with peers. And it really helped them feel better. And then it's just, pornography is highly addictive. It's as addictive as cocaine, some people say.

Aníbal: Wow.

Nancy: So, once you've used it, often enough, it becomes a habit and it's hard to break.

Aníbal: And Nancy, how different or similar can be the work with a sexual perpetrator compared to the work with a sexual victim treatment.

Nancy: Well, I have parts that identify more with a sexual victim. So, you know, I'm sort of an old feminist and women's health advocate, so I would align with the victim more. So that's one thing. And with the perpetrators or sexual addiction not so much. I find that I can be a little more judgy, I might have parts that I need to relay, you know, critical parts and judgment parts because I really think sexual abuse is not okay. Like, big time. I think it's not okay. But I'm able to have empathy for them. I don't know why, compassion, because it's all about trauma. So, there's really not that much difference. You do IFS with them. You find their protectors, you make friends with their protectors and then you go to their exiles. So, it's really the same thing. It's more maybe what happens within me.

Tisha: Was it different working with sexual offenders before you started training in IFS therapy?

Nancy: Totally, totally different. Yeah. Well, traditional sex offender treatment is caught at the behavioral and, you know, the ABC model and all that for people who know, you know, like the cognitive-behavioral model. So, we would talk about what they were thinking, what they were feeling when they did the offense. And you know, it just wasn't enough. I knew these guys were hurting. I just had a lot of compassion for them from the get-go. And I knew there was something missing in that treatment because it was all about accountability and shaming. They would have to stand up and say their offense and grope. And I didn't like that. I mean, just at my core, my intuition. So, this isn't the way to treat these men. And because most of them are men, I'm sorry. I have treated a couple of female sexual perpetrators. So, I just knew that was wrong and IFS gave me another completely different paradigm. And I think it's very effective and Dick has used it a lot with perpetrators and he would also agree that it's very, very effective.

Tisha: Yeah. There's a question I think that comes up a lot when we are talking about, you know, sort of that term from Dick's new book, like No Bad Parts and people kind of bump into this feeling around, well, wait a minute, like what about parts that really do hurt people or abuse people or cause other people harm or trauma? Like how do we frame the no bad parts mentality with, you know, actual behaviors that cause harm or intended as harm?

Nancy: That's a good question. So, I don't know if you've read Dick’s chapter about perpetration.

Aníbal: I did.

Nancy: It's in one of the books, but it's really very good. And he says that the perpetrators were perpetrated on. So, they do that because they were so humiliated and so hurt by their own parents, caregivers, somebody, that they form a part. Now, he says a perpetrator part... Probably I am not going to remember exactly, has a kind of, even a different energy than firefighters. It's even bigger than that. He kind of puts it at its own classification and Dick and I would be an advocate of limiting these people, you know, either putting in prison or a very controlled probation because those parts are very hurtful. But when you get to know the trauma underneath, then you understand why... It's just like all our protectors get formed by how we're treated by people. And that's exactly how these perpetrators are treated. So, I still think of them as parts and most of the people I work with now have sexual addiction and it's not so violent or, you know, it's not so perpetrating. And so, it's a little easier to have compassion for those parts as firefighters. But yeah, this perpetration is kind of a, something that if we could get to the trauma underneath and help the exiles unburden, that those perpetrator parts will soften.

Tisha: So, to actually go to the trauma and have it revealed to the perpetrator almost as a way of preventing further perpetration,

Nancy: That's right, that’s the core.

Tisha: You need to heal so that you're not going to hurt anyone.

Nancy: Tisha, that's exactly right. And that's what we need to do in our culture. We need to help even criminals, all these people that we want to just lock up, drug addicts, et cetera, et cetera. Let's find out the trauma.

Tisha: Yeah. My first work was in a woman's prison in a substance abuse unit and oh gosh, the traumas...the experience was heartbreaking. And IFS was, was not prevalent...

Aníbal: Nancy, can we get back to the protocol for sexual discussion?

Nancy: Sure.

Aníbal: So, you'll say you are an advocate for helping couples talk about sexuality while being held by the couple therapist. So, can you say more about the IFIO protocols that can be used for sexual discussion for couples?

Nancy: Yes. First of all, I talked about tracking, which is when we track the protective cycles and you probably are aware of... Not you, but the audience are aware of how you can feel protected around sexuality, how you can keep yourself separate from the other person and you have to keep yourself safe. So, in the tracking protocol, we can explore, you know, what parts of you get turned off in the sexual encounter? What parts of you get more excited? And, then the couple can notice each other's protectors and exiles and learn a lot about each other. Like, I've had sessions where for the first time a woman has shared her sexual abuse in high school, you know, kind of a date rape situation to her partner. He had no idea, but they were able to do that with me, holding them in a container, a safe container. And then there's, we have this protocol that Toni developed called courageous communication. And so that gives couples a chance to tell the other one what their parts are needing around their sexual life. And in courageous communication, we try to take out the blame. So, we encourage the speaker to talk about their own parts and their experience and what their parts need. So maybe, maybe like this couple, we keep referring to, the woman doing the dishes, she may need to say “because I was sexually harassed so much in middle school, I really need to fill up a safe context before you touch me in any intimate way.” So that would be an example of her courageously telling her husband how she liked to be touched and what context. And, but the thing about creative communication, which I think Toni talked about in her podcast is that we need to help the listener. So, that husband needs to be available, you know, not to feel defensive, not to feel, you know, “oh my God, she's going to cut me down. She's going to embarrass me. She thinks I'm a pervert.” So, we need to help the husband relax. And this is true for lesbian couples, gay couples, you know, that we all have protectors and we all have shame about our sexuality. So, in that protocol, we unblend the listener. So, you know, you say to the man, “so tell me, what is it like to now hear from your wife?” And he might, “oh, I think she's going to blame me. She gets so mad at me.” “It's okay. So, find the part that thinks you're going to be blamed and you help him unblend and you reassure him that you're going to be there to help them have this conversation.” So, it can be really powerful because couples have trouble talking to each other about sex.

Tisha: And to be aware of what parts of you come up and come in and block as a listener seems really valuable.

Nancy: Exactly.

Tisha: Oh, I can't listen because I'm on the defensive...  

Nancy: Right. So, I would help that person unblend from their defensiveness and get a relationship with the... Unblend, have more space. So, you're setting up the speaker and the listener to do this project.

Aníbal: Nancy, in her 2021 book Come as You Are, sex educator, Emily Nagoski describes the dual control model of sexual responses. This model involves our Sexual Excitation System or what Nagoski calls our accelerator, which scans our external external-internal environment for sex related stimuli and responds to these with increased desire and arousal. And it also includes our sexual inhibition system, which scans our internal and external environment for threats and then functions as a brake turning off sexual arousal. So, therefore, whether we are able to experience sexual arousal depends on the balance between the accelerator and the brakes. One of the main struggles for survivors of sexual trauma, she says, is that sensations, ideas, and contexts that could have been interpreted as sex-related and arousing are now perceived as threats. So, now when the accelerator system starts to be activated in the interaction with our partner, for example, their brakes are activated as well, and their desire or arousal is shut down. How can IFS help or relate with this perspective?

Nancy: I guess you anticipated that I might talk about that. Because I was thinking about that this morning when I was thinking about this talk. Larry and I talked about... Larry Rosenberg and I did an advanced workshop for IFIO level one graduates on sexuality. And we talked about that dual control model of sexual response. So, what I want to think about that are how are the brakes parts and how are the accelerator parts? So, we would change brakes and accelerators as parts. So, what kinds of things might your partner do that make you shut down sexually? So, you start helping people talk about that. And so, for example, if somebody has been sexually abused and they're working through the act of abuse, they're really working through the parts. I know in my case, I didn't want to have sexual contact with my husband for a few months. And luckily, he was really generous and easy about it. But there's many times when, if you are working with sexual abuse that you need to just have a time out from sex, but then once you know, and once you’ve healed the exiles, you know what's going to trigger them. So, it's important to be able to talk to your partner, like you're saying, Aníbal, if the partner does something similar to their perpetrator, it's going to totally shut down the sexual encounter. And so, there's a couple of things you can do. Talk to your exiles, tell them they don't need to be in the bedroom, in the adult bedroom with your lover. And secondly, know the things that might trigger them and communicate that to your partner. So, when we get partners to talk about brakes and accelerators, for example, the one we keep using the husband and wife by the sink, she might really like that when they're in the bedroom, she might like that, you know, caressing of her but, but not in the kitchen. So, people can talk about the context where they feel... context is really big for women, especially when they've been sexually abused. What is the best context that she can feel safe and comfortable? And it's true many men have been sexually abused. So, it's true for both men and women in all types of relationships. So, if you can talk to people, talk to your partner, “this turns me on, you know, when you kiss me this way, this accelerates me, but when you touch me there that feels familiar of some sexual pain for the past.” So, we like to think of those as parts and put the brakes and accelerators into a part paradigm.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Nancy: So, here are some examples of brakes. If you'd have negative feelings about your bodies, which many of us do, both men and women, you know, there's so much emphasis in our culture on attractiveness and sexiness and certain body shapes. But if you don't feel good about your body, and there's a way that your partner doesn't make help you feel good about your body, you're going to put a brake on, you're going to have a part that says “I'm not attractive enough.” So, shame and guilt are things that can put on the brakes. Other things, the anxiety of “am I any good at sex? Am I going to be able to perform well? Am I going to orgasm? How am I going...” Those kinds of worries and concerns about being good sexually. That happens for all different types of people. Also unwanted pregnancy, contraception. That is big time brake. And if people haven't talked about that and discuss that and made that a safe situation, and some of it it's just timing. You’ve got to see how your partner is. Is your partner open and available? Or are they to tizzy about some work conflict or a really stressful day? It's really important to notice how your partner is. And then sometimes brakes are put on because people don't feel accepted in their relationship. Like if you criticize, say if you criticize your lover all day about everything they do wrong, that night, the lover's not going to want anything with you, right? So, feeling used or feeling coerced, also mental health issues, can affect sexuality.

Tisha: What do you perceive as being kind of the next place to go around therapy and sexuality? Do you have a vision for how we can begin to create...

Nancy: I think talking about it and... I kind of love the younger generation, you know, the binary, the... I have trouble with that sometimes. Polyamory... I'm like, “we did that in the seventies, don’t you remember it didn't work then...” But anyway, I try to be more modern and listen to people in different generations. And I think they're bringing us more openness, more acceptance. You know, I don't want to be a traditional male. I don't want to be a traditional female. And I think that, I think that's great. I think it's wonderful. And there's just more consciousness around sexuality. And I think as psychotherapists, we need to work with our own parts around sexuality. And so, we can free up our clients. You know, people tell me they feel comfortable talking to me about it and we need more clinicians that feel comfortable talking about it because people need to talk about it. Even if they haven't ever been sexually traumatized, they still have different cultural messages and family messages that we all need to be able to work out and figure out how it impacts our own sexuality. It's a wonderful vision though, Tisha. I was wondering about writing a book on IFIO couples and sexuality today.

Aníbal: That would be wonderful.

Tisha: Yeah. You would have a broad readership.

Nancy: Probably, yeah.

Aníbal: Nancy, what is coming for you as a trainer and an author? You know, you have these new chapter coming in the new book, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Supervision, and Consultation edited by Emma Redfern.

Nancy: Yes.

Aníbal: And your chapter is called, I guess, Making the Unconscious Conscious in IFS Consultation of Sexual Abuse, Sex Offending and Sexual Compulsivity Cases. Do you want to share more about this chapter?

Nancy: Sure. It was such an honor for Emma to ask me to write a chapter. I enjoyed writing it because it was really culminating for me to just bring it together. You know, my work over the years and the things I've done and how I have supervised lots of people. And so, it was fun to pick out three cases that I could examine more closely and talk about how I, as a consultant, had to help the therapist's parts around what was coming up for them around sexuality. And so, there was a lot of education, but also feeling into their own protectors and exiles that have been impacted by sexuality and then asking them to go to individual therapy to work with any trauma.

Aníbal: So, Nancy, thank you so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you.

Nancy: I would love to. Thank you so much for having me here.

Tisha: Thank you, Nancy. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and giving us all a little bit more courage to talk about sex.

Nancy: Except that I couldn't remember how many people have been sexually abused, but then you can take that out, right?

BIPOC Leadership, Healing and IFS with Crystal Jones 35:58

Crystal Jones, LCSW is a Certified IFS Therapist and Assistant Trainer. She feels extremely grateful to have experienced and witnessed the healing benefits of the IFS model in her own life and in the lives of her clients.  She has 18 years of clinical experience and owns a private group practice, Life Source Counseling Center, Inc., in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Crystal is known for her compassion and heart-led approach to her work.  She is passionate about creating safe spaces for BIPOC women to feel connected, seen, heard, and valued as they do their healing work individually and collectively. She also enjoys providing IFS clinical consultation to therapists and practitioners learning the model and pursuing certification.  In her leisure time, Crystal enjoys traveling, being with her family and friends, reading, enjoying nature, and caring for her plant collection. She truly looks forward to sharing in the healing journeys of all inspired by this model.

Today on IFS Talks, we're happy to be speaking with Crystal Jones. Crystal Jones, LCSW is a certified IFS therapist and Assistant Trainer. She has 18 years of clinical experience and owns a private group practice Life Source Counseling Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She's known for her compassionate heart-led approach to her work. Crystal is passionate about creating safe spaces for BIPOC women to feel connected, seen, heard, and valued as they do their own healing work. She also enjoys providing IFS clinical consultation to therapists and practitioners learning the model and pursuing certification.

Tisha Shull: Crystal, thank you so much for being here with us today and being willing to join us on IFS Talks. We're happy to have you.

Crystal Jones: Thank you all so much for inviting me and having me here with you.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome Crystal. What parts come up today listening to your bio?

Crystal: I have parts that say, “who is that woman?” I have parts that are like in the cheerleading section saying, “go girl.” I also have parts that like totally disassociate and just don't want to hear about all the things. And parts that just kind of just want to focus on just being here with you all. Right. So, I guess you can say I have parts that are all over the place and some shy parts too.

Aníbal: All welcome.

Crystal: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

There’s also thoughts that, yeah, I was just thinking, just also have some thoughts just back to that wild part is just like, “girl, you've done a lot,” you know? And maybe not even knowing how much I've done until I listen to it and just parts that are really reflective of that work and that journey that it took to get into this space right now. Yeah.

Tisha: Crystal, could you share with us about that journey to becoming a therapist, a counselor?

Crystal: Yeah, well, you know, my mom is a social worker and she was pregnant with me when she was in her master's program. So I often say, I think some of that instruction to seek through, you know, it's interesting because I always watched her and listened to her sharing and saw the way she gave of herself so much to her family and to her clients and how she mentored people so they could be in leadership as well. And I just watched that and, you know, and she also put us in spaces and exposed us to different cultures and to traveling and that just really expanded my system. And I think that that's just what brought me on my journey to social work. When it was time to go to school, I already knew. I was like, “whatever she's doing, that's what I want to do. I want to do what my mom does.” And my mom and I are very close, but I wanted to do what she did. I wanted to impact lives. And you know, I would see people, we would be out and somebody she had worked with would come up to her and say, “miss Linda...”, or “remember me” or “your mom is amazing.” And you know, when I went to school, I said, I want to do that. I want to serve people. I want to support people. I want to care for people. So that was the start of my journey to becoming a social worker. I didn't always know that I wanted to do private practice and counseling though.

Aníbal: And Crystal, when did you come across with IFS?

Crystal: I want to say around 2013, 2014. I had a friend who was receiving IFS therapy. And at that time, we didn't even know that it was IFS therapy. I just continued to listen to her process and her journey. And I was just amazed at how deep they were going. And I had never gone that deep in therapy, you know, because I had always done talk therapy, but I would just listen, and she would just share and I'm like, “how are you all going that deep? What is that thing called?” And so, further along in her journey, she asked her therapist and her therapist wasn't an IFS trained therapist, but she was using some of the interventions and it just, it was just a transformation in my friend and she finally told her it was IFS. And so, when my friend told me it was IFS, I was like, bam. I looked things up. And by that time, I think I was already using some of the things that felt good, like parts of us. And you know, you're not all one thing, there are different parts. And so, I started using that language, but when I learned about it, I began to dive in, and I remember going to my first intro to therapy, I mean, intro to IFS therapy with Frank Anderson. And so that was a big leap for me. And I was his assistant during that training. And so, I got to meet him, and I got to learn more about IFS. And at that training, there were people there who are getting ready to go into the level one and mind you, I had never paid more than whatever a PESI training is. Right. And so, when I heard how much that level one was, I was like, I've never done that before. And that just, it just felt really expensive to me at that time. And so, but with some encouraging, I kind of just jumped in. I got a scholarship and I was able to take the level one training and I don't think I've turned back since.

Tisha: And then you went on to become an Assistant Trainer now. What has that been like? And how many parts have you encountered in that leadership role?

Crystal: As I think about the journey, I didn't know the journey was leading me here. I was just so happy to just do all of the intensive work. I've done all my parts. I've been so happy about being in community and meeting so many amazing people and being in spaces where people are doing their healing work and supporting one another. So, I just felt good doing that. And then when I became a PA, you know, I got to support others, I got to teach the model, you know, and spread my wings a little bit. Then I got tapped on the shoulder and when I was asked, “Hey, do you want to go a little bit further?” And I was in my year of yes, I was saying yes to everything because by then my parts were letting me do more and letting me be more present because I have big parts that wanted to hide. And I was like, “yeah, let's go.” And so, I got asked, invited to the Assistant Trainer Program and it was just an amazing, amazing group of folks who, you know, I think it would just help me be better, helped me be bolder, you know, helped me be more courageous. And that felt really good. And it has helped me kind of shift into this space, seeing them do their thing, people like Fatimah Finney and Kim Paulus and Natalie Gutierrez, and you know, just all these great people who have been great models for me and Tamala Floyd...

Aníbal: That came forward as well.

Crystal: Yeah. Yeah. They've all been really encouraging to me and help me to know that I can, I can do it. They pulled out my strengths and I've kind of seen that I can do it because I see other people who look like me and who have the same cultural experiences as me doing this work. And that's felt really good. So, I don't even know how I feel yet about being here. I still think I'm taking it in, but it feels scary. It feels good. Parts that are saying “you don't even know IFS.” Like there are parts that are telling me “you haven't done all you've done. You don't know anything.” I have all of these parts, but today I'm just feeling really good about this space today. I'll say that.

Aníbal: So beautiful.

Tisha: I can really resonate with those parts that sometimes, in conveying the model, that come up and just say, “you don't know anything.” Like they just won't let me access the information. And so, you know, knowing how to work with them is really cool.

Crystal: Yeah. Those parts just don't want me to mess up. They want me to get it right. And then when I can sit with that, I can just hold them with a lot of love and gratitude for them, for what their concerns are, you know.

Aníbal: You define yourself as a culturally attuned therapist specialized in creating safe spaces for BIPOC clients to feel connected, heard, seen and valued. You say you are interested in seeing more BIPOC folks in leadership and integrating BIPOC cultural experiences in this model. So, you, like Black Therapists Rock, you are helping to spread the IFS model to underrepresented communities and more specifically black communities across the United States. In your experience, how does the IFS model land in this African American community?

Crystal: Well, I’ll say this for the African American community that I've been in connection with when doing this model. First off, I feel like this model is already like ancestral wisdom. Right? I feel like it's a developed model, but I feel like, I feel like what we're learning in this model is already instinctual. Right? And sometimes we get away from what's instinctual because of distractions, because of the world, you know, because of dominant culture. But what I love about this model is it brings us back to the wisdom of our body. And I always say that it brings us back to the wisdom of our body and that feels really simple. And it feels ancestral to me, it feels like I'm coming back home. It feels like I'm coming back home. And so, I think the IFS model has landed well because it's all, we're already, this is what we're already innately supposed to be doing. Instinctually supposed to be doing. And somewhere along the way, kind of got away from it. And so, I think when people are in connection with the wisdom of their body and can just find that quiet, still place, and begin to trust it, man that can be revolutionary. It's been revolutionary for me. It's been revolutionary for the circles that I've been in. And also, it can put us back in connection with the gifts of our ancestors, as well as those things that don't belong to us. So that, and that's getting into legacy and cultural burdens, right. Or legacy and cultural heirlooms, but it can just put us in alignment with so much healing that's transcendent, that's beyond us. So that's what I, and even as I talk about it, that's what I've experienced in my system. And then to be in community and experience that, when you share the same cultural burdens or, you know, cultural...When there're similar cultural experiences, right, and we're in community working to do unburdening, I think that that experience in African American settings and in BIPOC settings has been just powerful. And when one person gets that we all get it. So, it's been really powerful.

Tisha: I'm getting the sense that you've worked with the model in groups in a way that's really powerful and healing with BIPOC and African American groups. And I'm wondering if you want to share any more about that experience.

Crystal: Yeah. Yeah. So, twice now I've been in IFS circles with Black Therapists Rock led by Deran Young and Requina Barnes, where Tim have Floyd has co-led or been Assistant Trainer with Chris Burris. And I'm just reflecting on how we come in, right. With all our internalized racism and just all our stuff. And how through the process, like we become lighter, right? It's like peeling the onion, like stuff comes off. We get to take stuff off and how we get to witness each other's healing it. Because I think in community, there's an aspect of witnessing and holding that aids in the process. So, I've been able just to be in that space. And then, I think being in community too, you just get so lost and it's like, I don't want to leave. It feels like utopia, right? It's like, I just don't want to leave. Like, I see you. I know this cultural burden you've been holding, I've held it too. And when I see you let it go, then my system shifts. Or when I see you do a cultural unburdening and you're passing that burden down the ancestral line, like, I feel like my ancestors get healed. When they're all letting that go and then when they're passing the gifts back up, I feel like I'm getting some of those gifts. My ancestors are getting some of that, some of those gifts. And so, imagine that with like 30 plus people in the room, like, I just want to do a hallelujah shout. Right. Like, it's been amazing, like to give words to it...It just doesn't feel like it does it justice, but we've done beautiful work in community.

Aníbal: So good to listen to this. Yes. Thank you, Crystal.

Crystal: Yeah. And I'm thankful because, because of the work Black Therapists Rock and Deran Young, and everyone who supports her has done, right. Like that's a big reason why we've seen, you know, so many black folks able to get into leadership, you know, more black people on staff, you know, more black people in training programs and also just hearing different voices and different perspectives. I just think is so important.

Aníbal: It is.

Crystal: And I think everybody wins, right? When we hear from different people, from different perspectives and different cultures, everybody wins, everybody learns.

Aníbal: Absolutely.
Crystal, in your website resources, you suggest social justice readings like DeGruy’s Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome, the DiAngelo’s White Fragility, Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s hands and others like Cooper's Eloquent Rage: a black feminist discovers her superpower. So, we can see how topics like slavery, racism and feminism matters to you and became central in your personal and professional life. So, Crystal, when you look at the world and to the United States in particular, what are your expectations regarding social justice?

Crystal: What are my expectations... That is a tough question. Because I think as a, as a black woman, I have parts that, that have been taught you can't have expectations. I have parts that don't trust and say it's dangerous to have expectations of a society who doesn't care about you. So, and I almost feel like those parts really lead and they want me to be safe. And they want me to be okay. So, I get that, but I think that doesn't, and at the same time, I believe that doesn't leave me powerless. And so, those parts feel like I still can play a role. And that role is really focusing on people who hold those same kinds of parts. Those parts that don't trust, those parts that are scared and rightfully so. Those parts who have experienced racial trauma. And so, I really feel like part of my role can be working with people and holding those parts in great care, loving up on those parts, witnessing those parts, being in community with those parts, so they can walk into the world in a different way. I won't say in a different way, I'll say in a more informed way, because I really think when we're knowledgeable and aware of our systems, right? We can walk in the world a different way. And that doesn't mean that the world isn't going to change, but when something in us changes, we walk with a different awareness.

Aníbal: That's so true. Yeah.

Crystal: Yeah. So, I don't know, and there are parts of me that just like, “gosh, girl, you can't have expectations in the world?” I do. But I feel like my work is to... Like when I think about my children, my work is to prepare them the best way I can for this world. By letting them know that their blackness is important. That things that, you know, they've learned culturally, and experienced culturally are important, you know, that they can hold their head up, you know, and there will be adversity. So, the way I prepare them to go into this world, like, I feel like that's my part. And that's my part with my community as well. The world is going to do what the world is going to do.

Aníbal: So inspiring, yes.

Crystal: Yeah. That makes me feel sad too. But I think that's just where I am in the moment. Do I have hopes? I have hopes and I think this part that says don't have any expectations, it's also covering up a hopeful part that's been so hurt and so let down. Because that hopeful part, she wants to change the world. I just see her like running around with an S on her chest and just wants to change the world. But she's been really like, she's just kind of watching,

Aníbal: Thank you, Crystal.

Crystal, the IFS Institute has been doing a significant effort to integrate underrepresented communities, both at participants and practitioners’ level and at staff and trainer's level. Also, through a very successful partnership with Black Therapists Rock. How do you see these efforts? Are there developments you'd like to see?

Crystal: I just want to see more, right? I'm really excited to see the direction in which the Institute is moving and see the commitment. And I just want to see more. I want to see more. And I think I just have to be honest and speak for a part that says the commitment level is high because there's a lot of catching up to do.

Aníbal: Exactly.

Crystal: And I say that they can catch up, right? But we're in, I think we were in 2020, 2021 when some of these changes have been implemented, right? But when you think about all of this time, you know, there've been different races and different cultures here forever. But I just feel like we're just starting to focus here. And I think that's what happens when more people of color are coming in saying, “what about me? How does this model reflect me and my experience?” So, more people came, there was a call to action, not only a call to action, a push for action. And I think IFS Institute has really opened the door, has really heard and opened the door. But again, this is what happens when more people are included. And I’d love to see it and I want to see more.

Aníbal: Exactly.

Crystal: Yeah. Yeah.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Crystal: And I think it starts in spaces like this too. When, you know, I think it starts with the invitation. I think there are a lot of spaces in IFS that need to hear other perspectives and see other faces that don't just look like them.

Aníbal: Well said.

Crystal: Yeah.

Tisha: It feels so good to have your presence and your voice and your energy on the show. And just, I don't remember sitting with another interviewee where both Aníbal and I are grinning ear to ear the whole time that the person we're sitting with is talking, even though you're tapping into some challenges that the community faces. Challenges with outreach and inclusivity, but you're also naming this sort of universal connection of Self-energy and the healing potential of the model. Is there any sense of like a course of action for opening the door more that you have a template for? Is there a way to create more inclusivity?

Crystal: Yeah. You know, I think in any movement, everybody plays a role. And so, I think if everybody's asking themselves that question, like, “what's one thing I can do to contribute to inclusivity, even if it's a small thing”. Like, I remember when everyone was protesting, I was like, “well, okay, I might not be marching, but what else can I do?” Like, “can you write up a sign? Can you donate financially? How can you participate?” And so, for me, I asked myself that question and my thing is, okay, I can develop programs to support folks who are coming into leadership. I can mentor. As an AT I can invite staff, you know, from different cultural backgrounds on my team. You know, I can specifically serve as an AT for, you know, for affinity groups. So, there are different things that I can do personally to create to the larger collective. And so, I encourage everyone to ask themselves that question, “what can you do? What can you do?” Because I don't think it's up to the folks who have been historically oppressed. I don't think it's all up to them to figure it out, right? And so, I think it's important for, you know, for white folks too, right? Like, it's just as important for white folks to say, “what can I do? How can, how can I contribute? how I make this space more inclusive?”

Aníbal: Thank you.

Crystal: Yeah. Because I know as a black woman, I just want to, you know, I just want to be here. I want to feel welcomed. I want to be able to say, you know, when my parts have been injured, you know, I want to be respected. Yeah.

Aníbal: Crystal, do you see yourself as a racial trauma specialist and also, do you find IFS effective to help those carrying slavery, racist and patriarchy burdens?

Crystal: You know, I don't think I see myself as a racial trauma specialist. Not in my head anyway. I really see myself as someone who has really worked hard to learn this model, to hold parts that have been impacted by racial trauma and to support to the whole in community, individually. And so, you know, some might call that a racial trauma specialist, but it just feels more like healing work to me. And so, you know, something else added into the bag, right. There's IFS, you know, I use Reiki, you know, we might do some meditation, but it's all in the bag of healing and holding and witnessing for me. And so, I don't call it a specialist, but it might be, it might be right. But I just try to use what I know to support people in their healing journeys.

Tisha: Do you incorporate Reiki with IFS at all? Do they overlap in any way in your work?

Crystal: Well, you know, to me, Reiki is energy work. And everything is energy. And so, to me, you can use Reiki before IFS or after IFS when parts just might be a little activated or when the system needs some calming and grounding, you know, just working with the person's energy to clear some blockages. Because I really think IFS, if we talk about IFS, right? What I notice is that when we're peeling back the onion, we're creating space, kind of like to me Reiki is creating space in the body. And so, when I'm doing IFS work, you'll see people yarn, you'll see people take deep breaths, you'll see people get tired, right? Because their system is really getting clear. And so, to me, Reiki might just be just something to add to that, you know, or to help with that as well. But, you know, I really believe our system has what it needs already. And so, Reiki is just the aid. It can be just an aid to that.

Aníbal: Crystal, looking to the future. What is coming to you as a trainer and as a social justice activist, are you interested or committed to becoming a lead trainer for the Institute?

Crystal: Hmm. All these big terms, my system is like Lead Trainer, social activists...Right? I think my parts... I'll just have to tell this quick story. My daughter, she had to be like five or six and we were in church and our pastor was talking to the young people and he was like, “well, what do you want to be when you grow up?” And the kids are saying, “I want to be a doctor and I want to be a fire man.” And my daughter said, “I just want to be myself.”

Aníbal: Oh, so beautiful.

Crystal: At 5 years old she said, “I just want to be myself and that feels enough.” And so, I hold that story so close to my heart because I just like, I feel like my daughter, like, I just want to be myself. I just, and wherever that takes me and however people experience me is what's needed. I just feel guided right now by... I just feel guided by spirit. And so, if you take something away from that, or if you feel something like this, I really feel that spirit permeating and radiating. So, I don't know. To answer your question. I don't know. I've never, I never like woke up and said, I want to be an AT, right? Like I just felt like spirit led me here. Right? Spirit encouraged somebody to tap me on my shoulder and say, “Hey, do you want to do this?” I was like, “okay.” So, I want to be led and guided by spirit. I don't want to, I just don't want to spend my life just chasing, chasing, chasing, you know, like the durable on the wheel. I've done that, you know, I've done that. And it leaves me feeling exhausted. I really just want to move in the essence of spirit and not force anything. And that feels...My system, when I say that my system was like, “Ooh girl, thank you. Because you know, you can move in, you know, you can have your own agenda and race towards the finish line. And we just want you to enjoy this life and not like push yourself too far.” And so, I believe, you'll see more me, but I want to take my time. I really want to take my time and just enjoy where I am. You know, like, I'll say this, you know, like one moment, it's like soon as people get married, somebody is asking somebody, right? “Do you, do you want to have a baby? Now? Wait, dude just got married.” So, I feel like that in this space, I really just want to sit and like experience this AT position and get that mentorship from the lead trainers. And I just want to build up that experience and be in that space and enjoy it. Just like I did with PAing. I felt like, “okay, girl, you're a good PA now. You don't know it all.” Right? But I felt confident and comfortable to say, “okay, I can move to something different. I want to have that same experience as an AT, before I jump to something else.” Yeah.

Tisha: You have any trainings coming up Crystal?

Crystal: Oh my gosh. So, remember I told you how my first formal training in IFS was with Frank Anderson and I was his PESI assistant at that time. Well, full circle moment. I get to be his real Assistant at his neuroscience training.

Aníbal: Congratulations.

Crystal: And so, I'm just like, to me, that's the spirit like saying full circle moment, right? Like who would have thought, right? And so, I'm really excited about that. I have a training with Gwen Hurd and Leslie. I'm doing some work with Tamala Floyd. So, there's some, a lot of great things coming down the pike. And so, I’m really, really excited about having that experience and working with all these amazing people and being mentored by them as well. Because that's been a joy for me in the IFS community, just learning from people and getting to know more people. And now I can add you, Aníbal, to the list of people I feel connected to. My parts just love connection. I really do.

Aníbal: Thank you, Crystal. Thank you so much for having us and for sharing so much wisdom. It was an enormous joy to be here with you and Tisha. May we keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you so much.

Crystal: Yeah. I don't feel like I'm ready to go.

Tisha: Oh, It’s time to go? You can come back. We would be happy to have you back. It feels so good to be in your presence.

Getting Past You and Me with Terry’s new book: Us 48:58

Terrence Real is an internationally recognized family therapist, speaker, and author. He founded the Relational Life Institute, offering workshops for couples, individuals, and parents along with a professional training program for clinicians to learn his Relational Life Therapy methodology. He is the bestselling author of I Don't Want to Talk About ItHow Can I Get Through to You?, and The New Rules of Marriage. His book US: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship will be published by Goop Press June 7, 2022. 

Befriending Self-like Parts with Mariel Pastor 35:34

Mariel Pastor is a Lead Trainer based in Portland, Oregon who began her IFS journey back in 1998 with Richard Schwartz.  She trains across the United States and internationally and is a co-founder of the IFS Telehealth Collective, a multi-state group practice of licensed and trained IFS therapists.   Mariel recently wrote and edited the new Level 1 training manual, and has created advanced workshops designed around the Unburdened Internal System mandala.  Prior to becoming a psychotherapist she worked in the entertainment industry in Hollywood.  Her love of working with artists has inspired her most recent project called Character Mapping - a psychological toolbox for actors  writers, and directors to build deeper characters and to find them selves.  In her private practice she works primarily with individual adults and provides consultation for other therapists.
Mariel is with Paul Guinter coordinator for  IFS Telehealth Collective.

Today on IFS Talks, we're welcoming back Mariel Pastor to speak with us about Self-like parts. Mariel is a lead trainer based in Portland, Oregon, who began her IFS journey back in 1998 with Richard Schwartz. She now trains students worldwide and is a co-founder of the IFS Tele-health Collective, a multi-state group practice of licensed and trained IFS Therapists. Mariel recently wrote and edited the new level one Training Manual. Prior to becoming a psychotherapist, she worked in the entertainment industry in Hollywood. Her love of working with artists has inspired her most recent project called character mapping, a psychological toolbox for actors, writers, and directors to build deeper characters and to help them find themselves.

Tisha Shull: Mariel, welcome back to IFS Talks. And thank you so much for joining us again today.

Mariel Pastor: Very happy to be with you both. Thank you for inviting me.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back, Mariel, and thanks much for another talk. This one focused on Self-like parts, how to distinguish them from Self-energy and how to befriend them. Mariel, in IFS literature there is not a lot written about Self-like parts and the term only in relatively recent readings appears. We can find it in more recent readings from Dick Schwartz, like a 2013 article and Pam Krause also names the role of Self-like parts as occasional obstacles to unblending in her chapter, Getting Unstuck in 2017 book Innovations. If I may, I would like to start off with a quote in this Dick's 2020 IFS second edition that goes like this: “Probably the most common phenomenon that baffles beginners is the Self-like part, a manager who can appear to be the Self and often looks like the person at his current age, but whose caretaking and kindness, nevertheless includes an agenda and keeping exiles out of mind.” So, Mariel, what is a Self-like part?

Mariel: Well, I think that is a great description of a kind of Self-like part that I've encountered. But one way I kind of define them is, as Dick's book was saying, they do have an agenda, but sometimes the roles are not only as managers and maybe we'll get into that, but I like to distinguish Self-like parts from Self-filled parts. So often, you know, all of our parts have some Self in them, as we know. You know how much I love the unburden system and when parts are feeling in their preferred roles, they have a lot of Self qualities. So, we don't get rid of parts. So, sometimes our parts are around and they're lending their Self to our lives and also to the process. And those are fine to have around. I like to say that we know that parts can help other parts cope, but parts don't help other parts deeply heal. I mean, it can be helpful and a little bit healing, but Self-like parts in therapy for the IFS therapist will be a challenge to unblend as Pam was saying, because they have an agenda and you can kind of tell when they're up, something isn't flowing, something feels off, something stops, and it's not the same as real Self-energy, that's more collaborative, that has a different kind of wisdom. I actually think there's a number of different ways that Self-like parts show up, in addition to the kind of caring Self-like part that Dick's book mentions.

Tisha: Are there ways that you have to distinguish Self-like parts from Self-filled parts? Is it more of just a felt sense of knowing your system, knowing the client's system? Or are there distinct tips for identifying to begin with?

Mariel: Yeah. Like some clues that they're there? Yeah. I'm glad you mentioned something about the body. It is a feel, you know, we talk about Self-energy and I think there's parts energy too. And then there's burdened parts energy, all those are kind of different. And the more we do this work, the more you get the feel of it. And the body's really important. So, for me, Self-like parts will maybe have a little urgency, or they might be trying, they might be efforting, working at it, maybe a little too much. Like you just get this feel of some pushing perhaps or pushing past, but then there are other ones and we're kind of getting into where I see them, not just in a manager role. I think they can also be in a firefighter or exile role and, or exiles aren't quite a role, but in that kind of position, but sometimes they can be a little numbing. So, I suppose I should confess, like everybody else, I have my own Self-like parts that I do really befriend or have befriended, but one that came to light. I actually want to refer to Loch Kelly's work. He's an IFS therapist and a meditation expert and he teaches a lot. He talks about a kind of witness state that can feel like Self-energy, but he calls it the witness protection program, which is a play on words in the United States when somebody is helping the FBI, they go into witness protection, but he means that it's a kind of witnessing energy that's still a little protective because it's still may feel a little impersonal. So, for me, if I sense that part of me in my own process, in my own inner work, it helps when I'm guided to feel into my heart more and feel more warmth, then it's less impersonal like a witness might be.

Tisha: So that witness would come up as you're being with the exile and you'd sense... Hmm. There's not that real true sense of connection, but we are seeing what the exiles experienced.

Mariel: Right. It could be that in working with an exile, but when we build a Self to part relationship, it could be with a manager or a firefighter when the Self is wanting to connect. So those different Self qualities, connection, clarity, competence, courage, et cetera, are great. And it's like Self-energy fills out, it expands, and it deepens. So, my witness may be a lot more helpful than a critic who's dealing with some other part, you know, but the personal energy or the warmth of Self-energy is more connecting in that Self to part relationship, especially with exiles. Exiles really want that warmth and that connection. Some managers are really glad to have the clarity of Self-energy or the confidence, a lot of protectors want to feel that. And I think in general, the body will feel more present and engaged when we're in Self-energy with any kind of part.

Aníbal: Mariel, Dick says that these pseudo Selves or Self-like parts are extremely difficult for us to detect. Is it really useful to identify and recognize or name Self-like parts? And if yes, why is it so important to identify them?

Mariel: Right. I think when it's important too, is when you realize something isn't flowing, and there can be other reasons for that, like other parts are objecting to the work that haven't been checked with yet. But if Self really isn't enough in the lead, like we talk about how much Self, right? Sometimes it doesn't have to be a hundred percent in Self out of Self. There needs to be enough of that presence, like, you know, grease in the gears to get it moving. But when it's not moving and everything else looks pretty good, like, huh, I'm not sure what's happening. Some of these Self-like parts can be very kind of clever and committed to controlling the process. And they will have reasons... They don't like to be called out. In fact, I think it's very important for the IFS practitioner to really not be afraid of them, not be too alarmed, but to be very curious when something feels off and to gently inquire, use curiosity, “is there a part that's maybe working a little hard or is there something else happening here that feels closed off?” If you've met from a client before a pleaser or a caretaker part, which is kind of the one that was mentioned in Dick's book, you could ask, “oh, I wonder if that caretaker might be working again right now, is it here?” And don't make it this big, horrible ordeal. It's not like, you know, everything's lost just because a Self-like part is there, but some trust might need to be built with that one, that it can be safe for it to rest, or you might need to work with it a bit and find a new way to collaborate with it so that it's not in the lead. The problem is when it's really in the lead because they can carry and hold some good information about the system. I also don't like to call them Self-like parts. I have to say.

Aníbal: The Self-filled?

Mariel: Well, I like them to name themselves. I don't like to name, call parts. I let parts name themselves, but that's sort of a handle we use in the trainings, you know, as therapists, is that we're saying that there's something other than enough genuine Self-energy in the lead here. So, and then we say they’re Self-like, it seems like it’s Self, but something's not quite right. Sometimes they are very caring. Sometimes they're smart and have a lot of clarity, but they're still not very accepting, let's say, or there's something that's still not quite as open, like beginner’s mind as Self-energy would be.

Aníbal: Yeah. Dick says it is important to remember that the agenda of a Self-like part is no less than any other manager to control other parts. Would you agree with his?

Mariel: Yeah. And then they have different ways of doing that, right? So, either by being... Sometimes there'll be... Have you ever seen this where there's an exile, a child part... You know, parts, aren't their roles, but let's say there's a tender kid who's a little distrusting as soon as they're encountered, even distrusting of Self-energy. And if the person wants to quick give this child a hug, which seems loving, what if that kid doesn't want to hug? What if that child needs more patience and time to be met? And it has to build trust? To me, that can be a Self-like part. I will ask. And there's ways to deal with it. Like, well, let's ask the kid if that's what they would like. So, they can be helpers, control, maybe mild control or really controlling. Right. So, I kind of look at these things as degrees of energy or potency.

Tisha: You mentioned using the body and different types of energy to kind of track these parts. Are there typical parts that you notice in yourself or that other therapists have when Self-like parts are present? Is there anything that kind of trips your system to ask the question? Oh, is this a Self-like part? And versus a Self-filled...

Mariel: In the body for me, I will say that, you know, in starting a session, there will be conversation. I hope the conversation is not too in our head trying to figure things out. Like, I think the word stress and strain is a good barometer for me. How much am I efforting or working? So, at the beginning of a session, you know, we might be kind of getting a sense of what we want to focus on. So, there's some conversation maybe with a manager, that's fine. They can come in with goals. They're not necessarily super stressed, but the deeper we go in the flow of the model, I feel like the more my body feels like it's literally warm, not like overheating, but I think I feel grounded, warm, very much connected to the client. And I'm not even so much aware of the thinking, but following... My parts, sort of feel like they're in the background with maybe an idea, but I'll float it out and it feels maybe gentler and at ease. There are other times if I need to lend a little more strength for clients' parts, because that's what they're wanting. I don't know. It's subtle, it's hard to describe. And I certainly can't describe it for other therapists, but that's what it's like for me.

Tisha: It feels like it came across to me. I appreciate your description. Yeah.

Aníbal: Mariel, as for distinguishing Self from Self-like parts, Dick has various suggestions. I'm quoting some. He says, “if the client does observe an image of herself interacting with other parts, this is a Self-like part.” He also asks, “are you with your parts directly or do you see yourself with them?” How do you like to comment on this?

Mariel: I love that. That's true. And that's sort of like the witnessing thing too, for me. Like, if I see myself with the part, I will say, not everybody sees their parts in the same way, or is as visual, but many people are... One thing I will say to clients around that is if they're confused by that question, like, what do you mean if I see myself there and like, oh, is that wrong? It's really possible for clients who are wanting to have a successful or a good experience, a healing experience, to feel like they're doing something wrong if we asked that, so I'll just offer, “well, it's like right now, I'm just with you. I don't see myself with you.” And then they get it. “Oh, okay. I can be there.” But that's true. What Dick's saying is like, it's a little removed and so we can be curious, “is there a part that has concerns about letting you be really present with this other one?”

Tisha: Do the Self-like parts have common fears or are they the same fears that other protectors have?

Mariel: Well, I liked that you phrased it that way because many Self-like parts are protectors. And if I may, I think I'd like to talk a little bit about some Self-like parts or when we think Self is in the lead, but it's really a part and it's a firefighter. So, have you ever had an experience where you're working with something tender, something that hasn't been allowed or has been rejected and exiled and you get close and all of a sudden everything's fine? Everything's great. I live on the west coast in the United States. So, I say it's sort of like, you know, the groovy parts, everything's hippie. Sort of like, oh, peace, love and happiness, we're all good here. To me that's like a firefighter that's doing what we call a spiritual bypass.

Tisha: Yeah. I was going to ask if that's the spiritual bypass that you defined. Yeah.

Mariel: It feels like that to me. And they will provide a really lovely feeling inside, you know, very positive, but it's out of fear that whatever is there, we can't handle it, or they'll have whatever common protector fears. Now I'm not going to put down that sort of feeling in the body. You know, it is nice to have positive thoughts and maybe even go towards spiritual energy inside. It feels good for the nervous system. And I think firefighters like to change the feeling state as quickly as possible. And in this case, they're going to something really positive and can be healthy for us, except for it's still an avoidance. It's still avoiding something else or just quickly distracting us. And in which case there's some fear underneath it. And some competence and trust needs to be built and hope that we can deal with the thing they fear and actually heal it so that they don't even have to escape it anymore.

Aníbal: Can those types of Self-like parts lead clients into a spiritual path?

Mariel: Well, sure. I think especially when there has been more healing and unburdening done, you know, it's nice to know what that feels like in the body to get into that kind of state. Yeah. And, then it'll be like, so I think sometimes firefighters, when they're unburdened, they'll remind us to take some time off, they'll remind us to pursue other pleasures or interests. And for those who really want to develop more of a spiritual path, it’s, you know, at that point, just more of their... And managers might like that too. Health oriented, goal-oriented managers might partner with some former firefighters and go yeah, let's go to a retreat. Let's forget about the world's problems for a day or for a weekend and let's go enjoy some of this. It's just that we'll come back to whatever the issues where the problems were later and more refreshed.

Aníbal: Mariel, coming back to what signs can we find that a Self-like part may be active, and I'd like to quote Dick again on this, and also the manual that you edited. Dick says, lack of progress in therapy, despite apparent Self-energy in the client can be a clue that a Self-like part is running the inner show and also exiles refusing to interact with or be comforted by the Self’s presence.

Mariel: Yeah, absolutely. So, when something's off, it's not flowing and Dick's talking about that or the exile doesn't want to build trust with Self, or I sometimes think other protectors come in and go, this isn't real. I don't buy it. And the other protectors of the exiles don't want to allow the connection. Because again, it's complicated in people. So, there's many different ways this might show up.

Aníbal: The manual that you edited, the official manual for the level one it says, when burdens come back, Self wasn't leading the process. Do you want to comment on this?

Mariel: There’re different reasons why it might seem like a burden isn't resolved. And that's one of the reasons is that, well, it wasn't actually Self-energy doing the healing. So, again, I think parts can help other parts cope or get along, but parts can't help. Can't actually heal the deeper burdens. It's not like Self-energy can, or enough Self-energy there. Other parts might support the healing, but it's not the same. I'd like to add if I can, because people are always surprised when I say, what do you mean an exile Self-like part. So, can either of you take, you know, you want to take a guess?

Tisha: An exile Self-like part?

Aníbal: Someone that pretends to be in pain?

Mariel: Yeah. So, well, I guess how I have seen it, because it's not as common. I think, again, the most common Self-like parts are the ones that are controlling the therapy or controlling other parts inside like those managers, but an exile can be mistaken as Self-energy, in my opinion, when a client gets in touch with that young open, innocent energy inside, it may not necessarily seem young, but it's open, creative, innocent energy. And is just so refreshing to have that back in the fold, to have that included again. And occasionally you'll find somebody who believes, oh, the child is who we are down deep. The child should be free, and the child should be in the lead. And this energy is so unencumbered in free child that that's who I really am inside. And so, there are some philosophies I've heard that believe that the free child, that unencumbered child energy is like our own personal imprint of our Self. It's very close to Self-energy, but it's not the same as the wise deeply intuitive Self, if that makes sense. So just because it's in us from the beginning, that child isn’t actually going to be the wisest leader of the system, but it sure is important. And it sure does have a lot of Self qualities in it.

Tisha: I was wondering if this is another example, because this has happened on more than one occasion where someone will meet with an exile and the exile will turn and start care-taking the adult.

Mariel: Yes. I mean, that's a loving quality for a child. You know, kids want to connect and attach. What's challenging is if that child is doing it because that's the only way they'll get their needs met and they have to almost earn or perform in that way. Whereas a child really should, you know, get attention simply because it exists, it's there. But I have seen that too. And, so we love that quality, but it's not the same as Self-energy.

Aníbal: Mariel, so, what are Self-like parts common fears? What are their fears? And how do we befriend them?

Mariel: Right. Well, some that I found fear that if they're not doing what they do, leading the therapy, directing things, controlling other parts or helping in that way, they don't think anything's going to happen in this process. It's like, oh, it's sort of, you know, I'll get this going. They don't necessarily trust the other parts to have their own healing rhythm, which is a way I phrase it to the Self-like parts. We say we want to let them speak for themselves, that every part has its own healing rhythm. And they'll say, oh no, they don't. I know what's good for them. So, they're usually afraid that nothing's going to happen without them there. There won't be a change. They fear that there isn't Self-energy because they've been in charge for so long and they've done helpful things for the person. Sometimes they just are so used to doing the job. Like, I remember hearing inside of me once, a part said, “this is the thanks I get for everything I've done for you? You want me to step back?” It really needed some appreciation for being so helpful. And I think that's one of the main things around befriending them is recognizing their dedication, their positive intentions, like any other part, and they can help, but they can't heal. So there really is that distinction. I think another common fear is they really don't believe the person can handle whatever it is inside. They fear other part’s taking over. And that sort of like, you know, how we use that metaphor of the orchestra in IFS where the parts are the instruments and Self is the conductor. And of course, the Self, the conductor needs the instruments to play music. But when the conductor isn't there, the first violin is in charge of running rehearsals and in charge of the music. So those Self-like parts might be like the first violins. They think “without me, there's no one else to do this,” because the Self has been really also hidden or not allowed because of circumstances.

Tisha: You've trained so many new IFS therapists and there's so much emphasis on being in Self as an IFS therapist. And I'm curious what your experience shows about that dance, that people that are new to learning the model do with Self versus Self-like parts.

Mariel: Yeah. I'm so glad you brought that up because I was thinking about that very thing. When we start introducing the term or as it comes up, Self-like parts in a training, I think it sets off some alarms in the therapists, like, “oh no, I'm supposed to always be in Self, a hundred percent Self all the time.” And the irony can be that then their own Self-like parts are a little bit performing. So, the fear of Self-like parts might actually bring up some of those in the therapist, even though they don't want to. In fact, a colleague of mine in Australia last week in a consultation group had said that there's a critic in her that had become the Self-like part policeman or police officer. It was on the lookout to arrest any part that was like a Self-like part. It's just starts to be this cascading effect.

Aníbal: Can be scary.

Mariel: But don't be afraid of it. That's why I like to, in my workshops, I have a little Self-like part inventory that I lead with. So, I'll just say a little bit about it here, if that's okay.

Aníbal: Please, yes.

Mariel: You know, it's really important for us to consider what comes up when we hear that term, what we've been told we should do, which is a watch out for them, what impulses come up and what we've seen, like get a sense of what do we even mean by Self-like parts and then be gentle and ask, what do I sense in myself around that? Do I have any? Because at the end of the day, all of these parts are pretty universal across people, very human. So, if we can find it in ourselves in a welcoming way, no shame, no blame, this is a shame-free zone, and get to know them and really with that reassurance, I'm not here to get rid of them, but finding it in ourselves as part of an inventory and developing that relationship so that they can be helpful, but not as quickly in the lead and feeling the energy of them in the body when they're strong, when they're moderate or when they're really relaxed

Aníbal: And Mariel, does Self has no agenda at all?

Mariel: Well, we used to say that a lot in the trainings and then it got clarified, I think by Dick, at some point and I really appreciated this, while Self doesn't have agenda, it does have a sense of purpose. And that purpose is to unify the parts, to reconnect, to bring balance and wholeness. And that means also to help heal, to help foster the transformation. So, I think Self wants to have a full house, have everybody home.

Aníbal: So Self-like parts are welcome. Are therapists allowed to have Self-like parts?

Mariel: Oh, well, yes, but it's because they're already there and you know, our managers or Self-like parts, they're not always extreme, right? So, they might be helpful. I have had times in the past where... I remember there was a time where I had a lot of grief in my life and I'd come to work and there were some clients whose Self-energy was more readily available in the process. And as their Self-energy came through more of minded because it's a relational field between two people in IFS therapy. It's, you know, a dynamic. So, who was there before with me that was helping them get to that point? Was it a manager or Self-like part? I don't know, but it wasn't interrupting. It wasn't interfering. It was still allowing the process. So, all of us have parts. That's part of our ego and our personality. It might feel balanced. It may not feel so burdened, just like there can be clouds in the sky, those are our parts, sun can still come through. It doesn't have to be a completely cloudless sky for that energy to come through.

Aníbal: So, Mariel, thank you so much for having us again. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our works and our lives. And how is your IFS Health Collective doing?

Mariel: Well like IFS. I mean, the attraction to the model is really strong. So, we're very lucky to say that we've got a great collection of therapists. We're almost at 25 clinicians in the six states where we are, and we expect to be growing this year, growing sanely to not just to meet the demand, there's so much demand right now for therapy, but specially for IFS, but it's going really well. And it's really feeling like a home for the clinicians, which is great, given how much isolation there's been. And plus, we’re spread across the country. So, it's been really helpful. I've loved having this new community to turn to.

Tisha: Thanks for sharing your wisdom again, it's always wonderful to be with you.

Mariel: Thanks to you as well.

Emotional Regulation and Dysregulation through IFS Lens 44:11

Chris Burris, LPC, LMFT is a Senior Lead Trainer for the IFS Institute. He has been an IFS Therapist since 1999 and is trained as a Marriage and Family Therapist. He uses mind/body approaches of therapy in alleviating traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. He works extensively with individuals and groups.

Since 1990 he has been very active with Men’s, Couples, Self Leadership Groups and Rites of Passage Programs. As the former Director of Counseling at The North Carolina School of the Arts, Chris has considerable experience with performance enhancement with Athletes, Artists, Actors, Filmmakers, Musicians, Writers, and Dancers. He is currently in Private Practice in Asheville, NC.

In addition to being a psychotherapist, Chris has trained in many nature based models with Animus Valley institute, School of Lost Borders, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and The Center for Conscious Eldering.

 

Today on IFS Talks we're so happy to be welcoming back Chris Burris. He's speaking with us today about IFS and Emotional Regulation. Chris Burris is an IFS senior lead trainer for the IFS Institute. He's been an IFS therapist since 1999 and he’s trained as a marriage and family therapist. Chris uses mind body approaches of therapy in alleviating traumatic stress, depression and anxiety disorders. Chris is currently in private practice in Asheville, North Carolina.

Tisha Shull: Chris, welcome to IFS Talks, and thank you so much for being here with us today.

Chris Burris: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me back. It's good to be with you again.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back, Chris. It's our take three for this podcast. Thanks again for your great collaboration and generosity with the Talks. It's been almost one year since we sat and discussed four types of challenging protectors. How have you been those days? Anything you'd like to share?

Chris: Good, good. Yeah, I think most of my training endeavors has been a lot with Black Therapists Rock, working on getting people of color to train. So, there's more access for people of color and people that find himself in sort of marginalized populations have access to therapists that have similar cultures or identities. So that's been a lot of my work the past year and getting some new lead trainers trained from those communities and very happy, proud we have some new lead trainers coming up. And so, that's been a lot of my work the past years, with those populations.

Aníbal: Chris, emotional regulation or emotional self-regulation is one common main goal for so many in therapy and for so many therapy modalities. Is it also a main goal for IFS? Do we want our clients emotionally self-regulated?

Chris: I think it's really important. I think it is, you know, when people come looking for help with depression or anxiety, emotionally they're overloaded and overwhelmed and are looking for help with that. So, I think it's a major part of the therapeutic process, and I think IFS adds some really great contributions and tools that are user-friendly and helpful for people.

Aníbal: Chris, regulation is not a word that you find easily in the IFS vocabulary or in Richard Swartz’ writings. In Dicks’ book, You Are The One You Have Been Waiting For, you can find many expressions for emotion, like emotion connection, emotional intelligence, emotional burdens, but never emotional regulation. Also, in its amazing 2013 article called Moving from Acceptance Towards Transformation with IFS, Dick says, and I am quoting “exiles carry the affect that clients try to regulate through strategies mentioned above like thought suppression, experiential avoidance, and emotional non-acceptance. It is the protectors’ parts that use those strategies and others to control the person's inner environment, internally keeping the person away from the exiles and to control the person's external words so that exiles are never triggered by people or events.” So, for Dick regulation comes from protectors trying to control and suppress exiles. Thus, the term regulation got a bad press once too much linked to the idea of suppression and control.

Chris: I think there's so much in our culture, even kind of the way we're raised. I just recently heard an information about how we're raised from a behavioral standpoint. And so much of the way we're raised from a behavioral standpoint is that things are allowed and not allowed and things that are not allowed get suppressed. And what we encounter in the beginnings of IFS is so much of our system is repressed. And so those other therapeutic tools that you just named, that Dick names, do add more suppression. And I think Dick's very much trying to stay away from anything that suppresses other parts or parts suppressing parts or things not being allowed to emerge and be present in the system. So, I think he's done a wonderful job really trying to steer away from therapeutic approaches that contribute to more repression.

Tisha: Chris, what's your own interest in emotional regulation in IFS? Where does it stem from?

Chris: Yeah, I think, you know, emotional regulation has been sort of a big part of my own journey around, you know, growing up kind of a white male in our society, having access to emotions and names for feeling words, and being able to say what I'm feeling has always been quite a challenge. And so, having emotional vocabulary to be able to describe what I'm feeling, it's also really important in an intimate connection with others, to be able to say how we're feeling. And so, my own journey has been kind of learning my feelings, being able to have words for my feelings, express those in moments of conflict. So that's been a very important part of my own journey and my own part of being in intimate relationships with others, is being able to name what I'm feeling other than, you know, angry or pissed off or, you know, or done, finished, so I need a bigger vocabulary to be able to describe it. You know, we are feeling beings, so not having a language for it has been a major challenge. It's not something men tend to sit around and talk about their feelings with one another very much. So, that's been part of my journey is be able to name what I'm feeling clearly, and it helps with being able to regulate my system in a non-repressive or suppressive way, but in a way of inquiring.  When people learn IFS and try to practice IFS what they tend to do, so if I have an emotion come up or have something that's activating in my system and the first thing I say to myself is “is that a part? Or do I have a part?” That can engage a mental, figuring it out dynamic, you know, where I go into figuring, trying to figure it out. The IFS process really isn't a figuring it out process, is an inquiry process where we began with curiosity and then we are informed by our parts, by our system. So, being able to enter into a curious beginning to kind of be informed by our system and I think the reason Dick does a lot around not doing grounding and not doing these other regulatory processes is because it blocks the process of being informed and having our system be able to inform us about what's occurring internally. So, the success of the model was sort of find the part, focus on it and then begin to flesh it out, which means noticing it, paying attention to it. And then notice how we feel towards it. So that inquiry process is a process of having our system inform us about what's occurring internally.

Tisha: How do we notice the difference for ourselves or, you know, when we're with our clients and we have our parts detectors up, how do we tell the difference between figuring it out parts and inquiry?

Chris: Well, I think it's a level of curiosity. I think there's kind of two ways the parts reveal themselves. One is to be able to talk out loud and talking out loud in our stories. Often, we can hear what parts are active. So, the therapist’s listening to the stories of the client, isn't analyzing, they're listening with curiosity for more of a hypothesis about what might be active. Not that we know exactly what it is. It's just a little indicator that there's something active in the system. There's a push, there's a pull, you know, there's an internal conflict between parts. So, we get this, but the parts detecting isn't a figured-out process. It's like a little indicator that says, “hey, if we focus here, we might find out more.” And is so it's a beginning process rather than a knowing process.

Aníbal: Coming back to your need of getting to know your emotions, different parts, carry different energies and different emotions, right? And it looks so important for therapists to notice and name those different energies and emotions coming from such different parts. So, as practitioners and therapists, what do we need to tune up? An emotional detector or radar, do we need emotion knowledge or an emotional wisdom?

Chris: I think we need to have vocabulary. We need to have a language, not only a language of feelings, but a language of mood. And we also need to have a language that describes sensation and a language for needs. And so, how well we're versed in the language of emotions, moods, needs and sensations, so that we can reflect back something that may resemble a little bit of what the client is feeling so that it gives them a little indicator and a little support so that they can go inside to explore more around that. You know, so for example, anxiety is a mood that has the emotion of fear and also has a quite a bit of thoughts connected to it, you know, a story about what might happen or a story about what someone may do or may not do, so the story plus the fear, the combination of that creates that mood of anxiety. So, being able to have that vocabulary is really important. So, we can begin to reflect back a little bit of where to start with the inquiry process.

Tisha: It sounds like that would come out of really spending time getting to know each part or a particular part where you really take the time to see all the different facets of it.

Chris: Yeah.

Tisha: Or feel, or sense or describe.

Chris: Yeah. I think that knowing our own system is really important. When I was studying, you know, I studied a lot of Rogerian psychotherapy and what they would have us do in the early days is we would watch soap operas, you know, and try to name, get a sense of naming their feelings. So, I was sort of sit with soap operas with my big feeling sheet trying to kind of name the feeling that was going on, but oftentimes it's like five or six different feelings all occurring all at once. You know? So, any given scenario, you may have multiple feelings going on all at once. So, I think it's impossible to name exactly what people are feeling, but we can get a little hint about it and some feeling words that begin to give language to it. If we can't name it, then it becomes very unidentified and it creates a lot of uncertainty. And uncertainty is another big thing that people tend to feel anxious about, is a fear of the unknown or fear of the uncertainty, not being able to name what I'm feeling, then crates anxiety on top of that, that feeling that's occurring.

Aníbal: Chris, I've been checking on Dick’s writings and I could see that the term self-regulation only appears in Dick's 2021 last book, No Bad Parts, and just to introduce an old concept from cybernetics. And the term affect regulation finally appears on the 2020 Internal Family Fystems Therapy Second edition when Dick and Martha say, “because any part can control the level at which it blends with the Self, we are able to work with very delicate inner systems, largely without having to use the grounding techniques and the affect regulation skills that are prevalent feature of most trauma therapies.” So, Dick and Martha are saying that the exiles can regulate themselves under certain circumstances without the oppressive work of managers or the distractive work of firefighters. Do you want to comment on this?

Chris: Yeah, I think that's a big hallmark of what Dick is trying to big communicating for quite some time. So, regulation really comes into play when parts are listened to and heard. So, coming into relationship to the part and being able to listen to it and have it feel heard and not alone, the part naturally begins to, can actually begin to regulate. So, if it doesn't feel like anyone's there, if it's stuck in a trauma scenario, if it doesn't think anyone's coming and there's no one, no way to get listened to, then obviously the part's going to get loud in some way, it could get loud somatically or even through his voice or emotion. So, coming into relationship to the part, that's the process of regulating, is coming into a relationship to the part. Once we enter into a relationship to the part, then we can reassure it that we're not here to get rid of it, or you know, that we're here to help it, that we can listen to it. And then we can ask it to engage in a way that is supportive or easier for the person to be in relationship to it. So that's a natural process of parts regulating is through coming into relationship to them. Sometimes we do that with direct access by the therapist himself coming into a relationship to the part, or we help the clients’ Self come into relationship to it. So, if we don't, if we do sort of lots of other grounding and other certain techniques, what Dick says is we block that process of coming into relationship to the part. And then we enact a form of repression all over again.

Aníbal: Still, we need to say that our clients have permission to dysregulate or be dysregulated in our consulting rooms. Right?

Chris: Well, and I think this is where the concept of blending and unblending gets confusing for folks. So, oftentimes people prescribe unblending as a form of regulation, that if a client is blended and I need to help them unblend, so they would regulate, you know. And that actually sort of becomes another form of repression. A client being blended isn't problematic, right? I say blending is a really up close and personal communication that you're getting with a client. So, I don't start my, and I think a lot of therapists take away when they take a level one training, because we do start with a meditation, that they need to start a meditation at the beginning of their session to have a client be in session. But what happens is you take that live material and you kind of repress it in a way, you know, and we want that live material. We want some anxiety to be present to work with it. So, there are times that it may be beneficial to do a little meditation or do a little inquiry or settling that can be helpful, but we don't want to lose that live material. So, blending is a very helpful process to inquiry, and we don't have to unblend in order to start an inquiry process, we actually ask them to blend to start the inquiry process.

Aníbal: Yeah, beautiful.

Tisha: I really appreciate that take. It's really important to really experience the part as it is in the moment. That's the way to get the best...

Chris: Yeah. I think the thing therapists have to ask is “Am I trying to unblend this client because them being blended is uncomfortable for me, you know, to my parts. So, oftentimes we'll... [inaudible] I need you to unblend so I can settle, you know, and that's not... We want to be able to settle as therapists, we want to be able to be in our Self’s energy and be with the person while they're blended.

Aníbal: Chris, what would you say that IFS really can add to the concept and the depth of emotional regulation?

Chris: Well, I think the inquiry, so I can serve you an example. A couple of days ago, I had an event that was kind of disturbing to my system. All I could really identify in the beginning was I felt vulnerable, I felt uncertain, you know, and I felt a little bit of alone. And so, I get to identify those feelings. And then the next thing I could identify was how was I feeling towards my feelings? You know, so I had a critic that was saying, “you shouldn't be bothered so much about this. This shouldn't bother you so much.” So that was repressing, trying to repress those feelings. So, as I sort of came into relationship more with it, and I began to listen to the parts that were having those feelings, then the system opened up and I could identify the feelings even more, the complexity of the feelings. I could then identify the needs that was also behind those emotions. And then eventually, one morning I woke up and my exiles were present like, “oh, okay, this is why it's a bothersome for you.” You know, because my exiles were also involved in the event. So that process took probably 24 hours for... But the regulation was there because I was able to be in relationship to the feelings and listening to them. But it took a while for it to inform me of the complexity about what I was experiencing, and then once I had that experience, then I could communicate it, you know, and the communication of it brought me closer to the person that I was in conflict with versus disconnecting it. So, it was an inquiry process of being with and listening to my system versus a figuring it out process. I think that can take a while, listening to our feelings, our system, what parts are involved. That can take a little while to work itself out. And I think people are quick to, I can't figure it out, which is often means I don't have language for it. You know, I think that's where this having language for emotions, language for needs, language for sensation, that kind of helps us with that process. We don't go into quite the uncertainty or unknowing quite... And we don't get overwhelmed quite so much.

Tisha: Thank you for illustrating that with that example, that feels really helpful. Does it seem to you, in your experience, that emotional regulation or dysregulation, when we're triggered, is that usually indicative of exiles that are holding burdens or tension or pain?

Chris: I ended up sort of having a list of five ways where it comes up. And so, maybe I'll just go through a few of these. One is there is an overwhelming event, you know. So, one can be... I'm just faced with an overwhelming event... And then it could be...

Tisha: Just straight up in the moment...

Chris: Straight up in the moment. Yeah.

Tisha: Life is hard.

Chris: Life is hard. There's an event that occurs. There can be emotions that occur based on a life challenge, you know. So, a challenge, may be, you know, my car breaks down, going to cost me $2,000 to fix it. You know, I've got 500 in my bank account, you know, and then I don't have next paycheck, you know, so it can be over a life event, that's challenging life event. The other one can be unresolved trauma. So, these life events or life challenges or life events can evoke over past traumas that often surface on top of that. We can also have unresolved grief that begins to surface. And there's different things that may bring that up. Sometimes people watch a movie or see a TV show or have an interaction with someone or an anniversary and grief begins to emerge kind of on its own. The other one that I think we don't talk a lot about in IFS is the emergence of needs. So, when we have needs that are unmet, we naturally have an emotional reaction to that. So that need, when the unmet need isn't met, we have an emotion, a distress that tells us that that need is not being met or that that need is there is not being listened to, you know, so I can get quite antsy if I don't play tennis at least a couple days a week, my system gets very antsy and irritable and it tells me I'm not having enough fun. You know? So, that emotion tells me there's an unmet need. The last one, which we don't talk a lot about IFS is sort of what I call a soul's desire, this feeling of wanting to make a purpose or having a contribution to the world or movement through something that breaks our heart, that we feel like we need to do something about. So, there's kind of a calling and we can have a lot of emotion around that sort of the connection of our Self-energy to something that we're supposed to be engaged with. So, there's several areas where emotion can come up and we need to be able to kind of engage in order to navigate through those different events.

Tisha: With each of these, it's really beautiful because it indicates the purposefulness of the emotion.

Chris: Right. Yeah. So, the purposes of the emotion, you know, so emotions they're not good or bad, they're not right or wrong. They just kind of are. And they're meant to... To have that part navigating the world is through being an emotional being. So, we navigate our world through not only emotions, but also thoughts, you know, so our needs help us navigate the world. So, we need both of those. If we don't have the cognition, it's hard to navigate, but if we don't have the emotional connectiveness, it's hard to navigate. So, we need both for those that navigate our lives.

Aníbal: Still, Chris, some feelings and emotions like anger and rage have a bad press and others like peace or love or joy of a better press.

Chris: Yeah. Well, I think that what anger sort of says is I'm not being loved in a way that I want to be loved, you know? So, the reason it gets a bad press is anger is a poor delivery system for other emotions. You know, so if I feel I'm unloved and I communicate that with anger, that doesn't really beget... That other person doesn't love me more often because I'm angry at them, you know. So, it doesn't really beget what we're... It's not a good delivery system for the feelings, you know, but if I'm in touch with my anger, my anger is often telling me I'm not being loved the way that I feel like I deserve to be loved. You know, I'm not being seen the way I want to be seen, or there's an outrage or injustice that's occurring to someone else, you know, and that's intolerable, that I can't tolerate. So, it's about that I love the other person or I love...You know, I'm loving in a way that is getting blocked or a boundary that's getting violated. So, it's a very helpful alarm system. Is just not a very helpful delivery system?

Tisha: You mentioned the co-regulation with the therapist of like walking through a meditation so that, you know, I, in the therapist role am less uncomfortable. Could you explain why that happens so often and, you know, talk about ways as a therapist to work with that?

Chris: I think, oftentimes, somehow IFS therapists say to themselves, this client does not have enough Self-energy. And as soon as you've said that to yourself as a therapist, you've actually just thrown up a big block to the whole process, you know. And so, somehow the therapist evaluates the client doesn't have enough Self-energy and they say that to themselves. And, then they go about, you know, I'm going to do EMDR, I'm going to do something else other than IFS because this client doesn't have enough therapy or I'm going to do resourcing because they don't have enough Self-energy. So, we don't sort of say that, we don't, you know, on a cloudy day, we don't say there's not enough sun, there's plenty of sun that is being blocked, you know. So, from an IFS standpoint, and Dick communicates this really well, people have plenty of Self-energy, they just have really strong protectors that are blocking that Self-energy and they don't mean to block it, they're just in a survival mode, you know, they're trying to survive. And so, it's a process where Self-energy emerges by parts relaxing. So, maybe getting off a little bit, but I think that's one reason people do the meditation. If someone comes in blended, they say to themselves, you don't have enough Self-energy for me to work with you. I've got to either import something by grounding, you know, oh we’ve got to do a meditation to kind of get your Self-energy present, rather than... If the person is blended, that's a perfect place to start working, you know, and it may be that we work through direct access by listening very closely and reflecting back what we're hearing and holding Self-energy, or we're beginning to enter into the process of how they're relating to what they're experiencing. So, that's why I say blending is a great opportunity. It's an up close and personal experience with a part at that very moment.

Aníbal: So, all parts are welcome can be tough on therapists as well.

Chris: Yeah. It can be tough on some of our parts. What I’ve been working a lot, I've been doing a lot of consultation, is really how many therapists parts are actually engaged in the process of trying to provide therapy. So, a lot of our young parts that learn to care for people, you know, significant others, are often in the room engaged, you know, and get overwhelmed by it. So really having, and I think this is something Dick talks a lot about, is not having your therapist parts, even kind of in the room, definitely not engaged in the therapy process is one of the growing, developmental processes for IFS therapists. The question I sort of ask when I do a lot of journaling is, who has prescribed themselves to this client or prescribed themselves to this event? You know, so the inquiry inside is which parts of me have prescribed themselves to this event or this person, you know. So, they taken it on themselves to “this is my job.” And they've often done that involuntarily. It's an unconscious process.

Aníbal: So, Chris, it looks like through IFS lens there is a variety of quite different ways of regulation. One through managers that either control or suppress exiles and firefighters, traditional seen as control and regulation by other models. Another through firefighters, and those can still be seen by traditional models as dysregulation. Another one through the exile itself, when these exiles feel the trust enough and enough connection that enables the modulation of the emotion. And another one through differentiation, so precious in our model when Self is present to the parts and differentiate itself from the parts. Would you agree with these different qualities of regulation, Chris?

Chris: Well, I think that I would prescribe it more in a suppression, you know, and being in relation too. So, I think the word regulation has become synonymous with repression and I think that's been a lot of what Dicks, you know, hesitancy about even using the word itself because it evokes actually... And helping people see that that is a repressive endeavor has been quite a challenge because so much of our system relies on that and teaches people to ground or to meditate it away, you know. But I think those are putting band-aids on it and we don't get to exiles by grounding or meditating it a way. And I think that's been Dick's campaign is for people to be comfortable getting to those vulnerable parts of themselves.

Aníbal: So, Chris, does Self regulate? We have the expression self-regulation meaning we should regulate ourselves, but does Self regulate as well, or does Self lead?

Chris: I think Self connects and comes into relationship with, and it saps the parts. So, in that process of connection and there's... You know, if I'm really, really upset and I can connect with another person that would just listen to me, you know, or sit with me, then my system will naturally become calmer. But that's a process. So, in that sense, the Self of the other person is helping my system regulate and regulation meaning, I use the word meaning sort of coming to a natural state, you know, that our system naturally wants to come into more harmonious state. Sort of a natural motivation to that, we don't have to make that happen or do that to somebody that the system naturally wants to do that, you know, but it does that through being seen and heard and valued, and that can happen either with someone else or it can happen in how we see, hear and value our own systems. So that question, how am I feeling towards my part right now is a real key to the process of the system beginning to come to a natural state of regulation.

Aníbal: Can you say a little bit about the role of shame around regulation?

Chris: You know, I think shame feels life-threatening because what goes with shame is this feeling that I'm discardable, or I'm irrelevant, or I don't belong. And those evoke really a life-threatening response, a lot of anxiety can be about the feeling of shame merging in our system or something occurring is going to evoke shame in our system. So, it's quite overwhelming. It also tends to cause us to isolate from other people. So that feeling of loneliness or being alone, in addition to that I'm unlovable or, you know, or rejectable is majorly distressing to our system. Shame is often a component of trauma. So, trauma has two components, not only the bad thing that happened, but also the feeling of being alone, as well as that somehow, I deserve this or that somehow was my fault causing this. So, our own critics, I do a lot of work with critics, run a critic camp for people who have graduated from level one trainings, but a lot of our own critics evoke that shame or keep it stoked, you know, or closely active, alive in our system. So, I think it's one of the most difficult emotions and feelings to navigate. It also is the thing that's sort of bonded to our exiles in their trauma and the burdens their caring.

Aníbal: Chris, I guess, contracting and negotiate workable goals with IFS is one of your specialties. And usually managers push clients into therapy for regulation or controlling or eliminate other parts, dysregulated ones, usually firefighters or even exiles. How do we manage contracting with those managers?

Chris: Well, the thing I teach a lot is when people come into therapy, I'm curious, how are they relating to their system? You know, so what is their way of relating to themselves? And, largely what we have is people relating in repressive ways. You know, so I don't like this part, I want to get rid of this part, I want this to go away, I want to get rid of my anxiety, I want to get rid of my anger. Those are ways people are relating to themselves and what we see, you know, is what we resist persists. So that beginning contract is, would you allow me to help you learn to relate differently to your feelings and emotions? You know, what if we related in a way that we could listen to them and hear more about what they're trying to say or what they're trying to communicate with you and what your needs are. How about if I could help you to listen to your emotions or feelings in a way that helps them feel more understood and help your system feel more understood? So, that's a workable contract, which is basically the inquiry process, you know, find, focus, feel towards and befriend. So, that relating in a bit of a compassionate or curious way is the befriending process that we're kind of helping people enter into. So, help people relating to themselves isn’t something initially people come in knowing about, that part of my anxiety is also how I'm relating to my fear. You know, if I'm relating to my fear in repressive ways, then I'm buzzing with anxiety because I'm repressing my fear.

Tisha: Chris, you've shared so much of your wisdom about emotional regulation. Are there one or two points that you'd really like to get across clearly for listeners to take away from this podcast and from all that you've learned?

Chris: Well, I think what I'd like for people to come away with is the inquiry process can take quite a bit of sitting with ourselves, and with amount of distractions and I'm guilty of playing on Facebook and video games, they’re my own distractions. We don't really have the patience to sit with ourselves for a while. You know, I've sat in meditation for a week before I really could hear what the anxiety was underneath it. So, I'd like for people, I'd like to encourage people to have patience with themselves, to listen with the parts, you know, and to ask themselves, how am I feeling towards it? And not to say that we have to do it alone, we can do it with other people as well, you know, being with, sitting with other people and trading that space. So, to normalize the... I figure if it takes me 24 hours to kind of come to some understanding with listening to my system. And that's what a lot of IFS practice, you know, a lot of IFS therapy... That's kind of a normal process is to be with and listen to. And sometimes the parts that are really, really hurting, you know, all I can do is kind of say, I'm here. I'm with you. You're not by yourself. I'm here with you. And in that sense, there's a little bit of comfort that comes, there's a little reprieve that comes or a little breath. They can breathe. People can breathe a little easier, you know. So, if we rush in to try to fix or figure it out, it just makes the system more stagnant or compounded or locked up in a way. So, I mainly just encourage people to have time to listen to themselves and, you know, to trade that for each other, be able to listen to each other and let your system kind of inform you. One of the things I teach a lot is mapping, so that we can sort of create representations of what we're noticing inside. And then that it's not so much a figuring it out process, but a process of being revealed

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Chris: Also, it helps me, I have different maps, you know, the needs inventory that nonviolent communication has is an excellent tool. I also teach the sort of the beginning inquiry around emotions. I think Brene Brown’s new book Atlas of the Heart on the research on emotions, wonderful HBO series. She just described despair, agony in a way that totally makes sense to me, I'm like, okay, I've been there before. Like, I didn't have a word for that. And so, I think those are really, really wonderful resources. A lot of what she talks about in terms of needing a language, you know, in her research on that. I think those are really great resources for folks and, you know, turns towards people with emotions. Really important things to keep in mind as we're working with our system. And we can't heal ourselves. You know, we can definitely get a lot of insight and kind of comfort ourselves, but we do need support in the healing process.

Aníbal: Yes, beautiful. Chris, thank you, thank you so much again for this amazing time together. I'm going now to take some time for myself and maybe dysregulate for a while.

Chris: Yeah. Sometimes I get on my motorcycle to dysregulate for a little while. You know, it feels kind of good. And my firefighters like it.

Aníbal: It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha. And I hope that we can keep meeting and sharing this model, your work, our work, and our lives. Thank you so much.

Chris: Great. Thanks for having me.

Tisha: Thank you, Chris. Thanks for being here.

Spirituality and Psychotherapy with Russell Siler Jones 46:48

Russell Siler Jones, ThD, LCMHCS, is a psychotherapist in Asheville, NC, Director of CareNet/Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Residency in Psychotherapy and Spirituality, and Developer of ACPE’s Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy Program. He is author of Spirit in Session: Working with Your Client’s Spirituality (and Your Own) in Psychotherapy. 

You can find more about RSJ here at Russell's website:
https://russellsilerjones.com

Today on IFS Talks we have the pleasure of speaking with Russell Jones. Dr. Russell Siler Jones is director of the residency, psychotherapy and spirituality at CareNet in North Carolina. He's also the developer for the spiritually integrated psychotherapy program for the ACPE. And he's a psychotherapist in private practice in North Carolina in Asheville. Russell is the author of Spirit in Session: Working with your Client’s Spirituality and your Own in Psychotherapy.

Tisha Shull: Russell, thank you for joining us today on IFS Talks.

Russell Jones: Thank you, Tisha, and thank you Aníbal. I'm happy to be here.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome Russell, and many congratulations on your book and work on spirituality and psychotherapy. What parts come up for you listening to your bio?

Russell: When I listened to what Tisha said, what comes up for me is a feeling of gratitude. So, a grateful part. I think about so many mentors who have sewn themselves into me, you know, through the years of my development and who continue to. And so, the opportunities to do the things I get to do to, to write, to teach and to do therapy really feel like gifts that I have received in some way through the lives of lots of wonderful other people. I'm also grateful for...Hmm. I think also just about my clients and their patience with me through the years. I'm thinking of them collectively, you know? And so, their patience with me through the years and just the ways that they've touched my heart and taught me how to talk with people in ways that ended up being helpful.

Aníbal: Russell, Russia’s war on Ukraine and all the unspeakable horror and the war crimes we are witnessing are retraumatizing us collectively again and again. Is there something you'd like to say on this sad situation?

Russell: Well, it's tragic, it's sad, it's painful, it's complicated. I've thought a few things as all this has unfolded. One is I just, I thought about a 75 or 80-year-old adult in the Ukraine now who experienced this when they were children, you know, as part of the second world war. And so, to have your life book-ended by this kind of trauma, I don't even know how to put words to that, but that has hit me a lot. Just that thought.

Aníbal: Yeah.

Russell: One of my brothers has traveled and worked in the Ukraine through the years and has many friends there. And I hear through him from some of them, just the hardship, the way families are separating to survive and deal with what's happening there. And the great courage that that is. That's just a part of everyday life there now.

Aníbal: Thank you Russell.

Russell: Yeah. Thank you for asking me.

Aníbal: Russell, you have published this book Spirit in Session: Working with your Clients, Spirituality and your Own in Psychotherapy from Templeton press in 2019. Why this topic and book on spirituality in your life?

Russell: Spirituality it's sort of, I would say, it's the most important part of my life. It's not separate from other parts of my life. You know, I'm married, I have children, I have work, I have friends, I have extended family. All of that is meaningful to me, but I see my life through a spiritual lens and on good days I live my life from some kind of spiritual sensibility. And I do this in the practice of therapy too. And I think the conversations I have in therapy, I think of them as spiritual conversations. Spirituality is not just when we are using explicitly spiritual words or talking about explicitly spiritual topics. It's integrated with every part of our lives. And it is the way I think about doing therapy. I think of it as a spiritual exchange among other things, but definitely a spiritual exchange.

Tisha: When did you first become aware that spirituality or that connection to something higher was a part of the fabric of your life?

Russell: I have a memory of being, I don't know, four or five, six years old in bed, you know, at night the lights are at...it's all dark, I'm alone in my bed and just feeling the presence of some vastness, some large energy that was around me and within me. And of course, I'm five years old, I don't know what this is. I did grow up in a religious home, a Christian home. And so that was part of my life, has been part of my life from as far back as I can remember, but in terms of my own experience of it, that's where I would date it. And then, of course, there are all these years of amnesia, you know, where an experience like that becomes lost, forgotten. But, as the years passed, I reconnected with it, but I think it goes back to very, very young for me and I would imagine it's part of my unconscious memory as well, and that I'm just telling you my conscious memory.

Aníbal: Russell, in your book, you wrote a chapter you called Working with Spiritual Resources. So, what are those spiritual resources we can work with?

Russell: Let me back up and get a running start at that. So, I think spirituality is a hot topic in the world of psychotherapy at this point, because of the groundwork laid by the positive psychology movement and the positive psychology movement really taught us to pay attention, not just to symptoms and struggles and stresses, but also to strengths and resources. And so, we've learned, in the world of spiritually integrated psychotherapy, we've learned to talk about maybe two sides of people's spirituality there, the resource side and the struggle side. So a spiritual resource, a resource is anything that helps us survive or thrive and a spiritual resource it's an internal or an external capacity, or what's a synonym for a resource that helps us stabilize when our world is rocking or it helps us over some threshold of growth whenever we've come to a blocked place or a stuck place. So, a spiritual resource could be something external to me, like a community of faith.

Aníbal: Okay.

Russell: It can be something internal to me, like a sense of peace or a sense of joy or courage.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Tisha: If you were to illuminate that resource through a parts lens, what does that look like?

Russell: So, I am an IFS therapist too. Let me get that on the record.

Tisha: Noted.

Russell: I did a level one training, I think in 2007 or 2008, and then a level two. And then I've never done a level three. I did Toni Herbine-Blank’s Intimacy from the Inside Out training, IFIO training. I was on her training staff for two or three years, I don't know, maybe 10 years ago, 12 years ago. And so, I do think in an IFS, you know, in an IFS way as well. So, to your question, if I were to talk of spiritual resources from a parts... You know, in an IFS way, I'm thinking more, you know, internal resources at that point. So, I can think of parts of me that carry spiritual energies like hope or love or joy. But, when I think spiritual resources in an IFS way, I'm mostly thinking of Self-energy, you know, I'm thinking of the 8 C’s and the gazillion other words we could give to that energy, which is really deeper than words, but it's a source of compassion and wisdom, curiosity, and things of that nature. So, when I'm thinking spiritual resource from an IFS way, I'm tending to think of Self-energy. And of course, parts can absorb and be empowered by the resource of Self.

Tisha: One of the things I heard you say in one of your other podcasts was that compassion is a spiritual response? And I loved hearing that because it implies a way of being in a spiritual place in the therapy office just by accessing that feeling and that connection. And I wonder if you could just say more about acknowledging that there is a spiritual element to what we do or how people can kind of find that and grow that.

Russell: Yeah. I think people who are listening to this podcast have some experience of this, or they wouldn't even be listening. You know, if people are interested enough, if they're practitioners, IFS practitioners or clients, or they just heard enough about IFS that they're curious and interested in it, then experientially, they know what this is like, you can't be anywhere close to this work without having your heart open in a compassionate way. I think therapists who've been with people, when you've been with a client and you feel the shift in them when Self-energy gets released, when a part that they have been afraid or a part that they've been hating, when something turns in them and they began to bear witness and really understand deeply the story of this part and their whole attitude towards the part just changes. It's not a cognitive shift, it's a whole person energetic shift. And once you know, once you hear someone's story, a part’s story or another human story, it's hard not to love them. So, the energy of compassion, not everyone thinks of that as a spiritual energy. But, you know, I think you can think of it in a non-spiritual way as just a psychological... Some kind of intra-psychic energy. And I won't argue with you about that, but for me, and I think for many others, there is a sense that there's something really big and trustworthy and deeper than just me that's present when that kind of energy shift happens. And this sense of compassion for a part begins to radiate within. And then of course, if you're the therapist, maybe you're feeling that for this person as well. And, I don't know if this is a phrase that gets used a lot in IFS circles anymore, but in my training, I heard a phrase that said Self begets Self, and it references the contagious energy, the contagious nature of Self-energy. And so, when either one of us, the therapist or the client, when Self-energy begins radiating, I think we all get swept up in it.

Aníbal: Russell, you say compassion is spiritual, but you say also fear is spiritual. How is that?

Russell: Well, spiritual to me is like, let's take this... It's a word, like the word health. I can use the word health to speak of being in good health or in bad health. And, you know, I might say I'm feeling healthy and I'm suggesting that my health is good, but health exists across a spectrum from wellness to illness and spirituality and spiritual energy also exists across a spectrum from energies at one end of the spectrum, like generosity and kindness and energies at the other end of the spectrum, like greed or hatred. So, fear, I think all energies have a spiritual quality to them. And so, when I say spiritual, I don't think just of things at the, you know, the light and radiant inner end of things. But I also think of things at the dark and contracted end of things, into the spectrum as well.

Aníbal: Russell, do guides as conceptualized in IFS matter for you as a spiritual path? How do you see them, guides?

Russell: I have personally experienced guides. I have sometimes recognized them as ancestors, my ancestors, and I've now had some sense of who they were and as sometimes not. Other people have never had this sense, had an awareness of a guide being present with them. Different people are aware of different things spiritually, but I think of guides as benevolent beings who want to help us and who are... We don't create them by believing them. And we don't annihilate them by not believing in them. I think they're just present in a realm that is not visible to us, but there are times when different people will be aware that there's an energy here helping me, that's more than just me. And boy, that's an amazing experience. And it's amazing even just to hear someone talk about it and to hear how they were affected when a guide showed up or when they became aware that a guide had been there.

Tisha: Do you feel that there's some things that happen inside that need the additional support of guides for healing? I can give you an example of what that question asks if you want.

Russell: I would love to hear the example and I, yeah.

Tisha: Oh, well, I was working with a client this week who was in touch with a level of their depression, that felt as though it was bigger than them. And we didn't get to the answer of whether it was cultural or whether it was like maternal lineage, but it felt for this person's protectors, that it was really and truly to them more than this person could heal on their own. And so, there was a light that kind of came on and I don't remember if I suggested it or if the client did, but well, maybe this needs the support of a guide or another presence beyond Tisha and client.

Russell: And had this person talked of guides, is the word guide a word that was new to her? Or was this something you had talked about before?

Tisha: I don't think so. I think it's within their vocabulary, within their realm of understanding, but for these protectors, it felt like a huge relief. Like they didn't know that there was anything beyond them and there was a lot of emotion, but we didn't do a full unburdening or anything. And I was left sitting with the question, well, do parts, really need the additional support for healing or Self is enough or...

Russell: Yeah, I don't really know the actual answer to that question. The real truth about that is beyond what I know, you know, but I think there are parts that somewhere along the way have come to believe it's all up to me and I've got to do this myself. And I think when clients have an experience of Self, it begins to shift for them like, “oh, there's something more than just the...” It begins to shift for the part, “oh, there's something more here that I can count on than just me.” But I also think for parts just to call out for help, you know, and see what shows up... There’re parts, there are people and parts that really learned there's no help coming. What's the point of asking? And so, for a part to be at a place where it could even ask for help or be receptive to help, that's a powerful experience. And I love that you or she, somebody in that exchange just had this intuition that maybe something beyond us would help. I'll also say, you know, this is a staple of the 12-step tradition. You know, that whole, the healing arc in the 12-step tradition is that at some point you get to the edge of yourself, you get to the edge of what you can do for yourself and the limit of your own power. And you're going to need some...You need something more and they've done a beautiful job of not giving it a name that everybody has to bow before and say and subscribe to a certain dogma that we've got to call it this or that. But yeah, this notion that I need help, you know, I Russell do, and I, my critical part does, or I, my frightened part does, I could use a little help here. And so, for a part to get to the place where it can ask for help, that's an amazing moment. That's a transformational moment. How does that land with you? How does that speak to the experience you had?

Tisha: Oh, for me that, yeah, it brings me back to the energy of the session when that ask and the emotion about it happened and the possibility of receiving help.

Russell: What was your sense of the emotion itself? Like what was, I mean, you may not know, but do you have some sense of what the emotion was saying in that moment for her?

Tisha: Yeah. It felt like a huge relief. Like we've been doing this work of keeping the depression at bay for so long that, and it has felt bigger than us. And then with that suggestion or that insight of, well, if it does feel bigger than you, maybe there's something else that can come in. Yes. It was relief, release, sadness, acknowledgement of how hard it had been.

Russell: Yeah. You know, some of my clients that I work with are Christian and in moments like that have called in Jesus, you know, the presence of Jesus to be with them sometimes for help, but I also have had clients who've called in Jesus to come to express anger or disappointment, you know, like, “where were you when I needed you?” So, yeah. I think the entry of other beings, you know, spiritual beings that they may have a name for it, from their spiritual tradition or beings that may not have any name for, or a sense of who or what it is, but that's a spiritual - back to an earlier question - that's a spiritual resource.

Tisha: So, the system knows the guides to call in, or do the guides show up in your experience?

Russell: I have no idea. Sometimes, you know, when I'm with someone and they are wanting to ask for help from beyond themselves, but they are not religious people and that's not a request that they have any sense of how to make or to whom to address it. I'll just say, well, what if you just kind of leave a little post-it note in the mailbox and put up the flag and just see who comes to pick it up. You don't have to know who's going to come get it. Who's going to come to respond.

Tisha: I love that.

Aníbal: Russell, you may be familiar with the concept of spiritual intelligence, I guess, coined by Danah Zohar?

Russell: I am not familiar with that. But tell me more.

Aníbal: She defined 12 principles underlying spiritual intelligence, and I will give you some examples.

Russell: Okay.

Aníbal: Self-awareness - knowing what I believe and I value; Spontaneity; Holism - seeing larger patterns, relationships and connections; Compassion; Celebration of diversity. Humility; Positive use of adversity - learning and growing from mistakes, setbacks and suffering. And she keeps going for 12 principles like those. And I wonder if you'd like to comment or if you find it useful as a concept.

Russell: The label spiritual intelligence is new to me, but the capacities and qualities that you just named, I think those are definitely qualities of spiritual intelligence. I'm assuming that that phrase was coined as a playoff of the emotional intelligence phrase. And so, it's beautiful that someone is trying to articulate this dimension of human experience, this quality or gift. You know, different religious traditions have their ways of saying this. You know, in Buddhism, there's a notion of the Paramitas, and, you know, these are like spiritual virtues. And it depends on which tradition you're reading, but they're either six of them or 10 of them, but they include things like generosity and kindness. In the Christian tradition there's a list of what they call gifts of the spirit that include things like love and joy and kindness and gentleness. So that list, what I think is helpful about lists like that, whether it comes from a spiritual intelligence lineage or a Christian lineage or a Buddhist lineage or whatever, if you're a therapist what's helpful about that, to me what's helpful is it helps me to kind of know what I'm looking for in terms of strength or transformational energy.

Aníbal: Okay.

Russell: So, a client in a stuck place when I see them exhibiting any of those qualities you just read, or when I hear them telling a story in which one of those qualities is on display, I think to move towards that strength, that capacity that they are exercising, you know, what do they say? Energy follows attention, like when, as a therapist, we give attention to some virtue or gift or strength or quality of spiritual intelligence or emotional intelligence or anything you want to call it. When we give attention to that and move towards it, it's a way of helping it grow stronger in our clients. And, you know, so I think reading a list like that kind of opens, it helps open up the window of awareness for me as a therapist, what are some things I'm looking for? And of course, you don't necessarily need a list. You know, you can just listen to your heart and you can feel when energies like that are moving or stirring in someone. But I know that lists like that can be very helpful.

Aníbal: Yeah. Thank you.

Russell: Thank you for introducing me to that term. I'm going to look it up.

Aníbal: Thank you for your beautiful reflection on that. Russell, in your book you offer two definitions of spirituality, one quite long and eloquent that you say was written for academics, and then other quite simple and shorter, just one sentence that you say is for the office, for our clients, and then quoting you, “spirituality is all the ways you and God relate to each other.”

Russell: Yeah.

Aníbal: And you offer a whole chapter on God and how do you attach or resist to God. So how would you describe the relationship between spirituality and religion?

Russell: Well, religion is the easier thing to talk about. Spirituality is very difficult to talk about. Religion is a social phenomenon. It's an observable phenomenon. Religion is when a group of people get together and they share beliefs and practices and values and rituals. So, it's a group of people that have agreed on what's the nature of reality and how are we to live? And what do we do together to reinforce our connection to the deepest reality? Religion is a social group thing. Spirituality it’s so personal. Spirituality is, I would say, first of all, it's an energy. It's an energy, not a concept. And so, I've never read, and I've certainly never written a definition of spirituality that I really like, because every time you try to talk about spirituality or you having to talk about things that are just beyond the reach of language to articulate, you know, in the book, I chose to say, “spirituality is all the ways you and God relate to each other.” And you're right. I did write a whole chapter. Like, now when I say God, I'm using this term poetically, not literally, but I would chose to use the word God, because I wanted to make readers who have problems with the word God encounter a word that their clients are likely to use.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Russell: And I wanted people to kind of deal with their countertransference to the word God. So, I chose to use it that way. Spirituality is this capacity we have to connect with some kind of transcendent energy that's greater than we are. And it's all around us. And it's the deepest thing within us. And it's our, it's the degree to which we are, or are not aware of that. And responding to that. And we respond to it in all kinds of different ways. You can respond to it by having a sense of warmth in your chest in relation to that energy, you can respond to that by stopping and helping someone who needs help, and you can respond to that by turning your back on it. You know, you can just respond to it by dissociating from it. At some point in this conversation, this maybe the moment, I just, you know, when I think about spirituality and IFS, I think of spiritual capacity or our spiritual selves as one of the things that can get exiled, I think our spiritual selves can become, I think those can be exiles in the internal system. So, we can talk about that now or later. I want to stay with your question. And if there's a follow-up question, you know, please put it out here.

Aníbal: Maybe. Yes. You also present a chapter on working with harmful spirituality. When do you think spirituality can become harmful?

Russell: The spirituality becomes harmful so much and that's one of the reasons it gets exiled, but it can be harmful. I mean, just some common examples that tend to show up in my office are people who have been subjected to spiritual abuse, they grew up in a spiritual tradition in which for spiritually or religiously justified reasons they were bullied or shamed or oppressed in some way. So that's an example of harmful spirituality. Spirituality can be harmful when it is used as the rationale to keep one person under someone else's thumb. So, sometimes people will have trouble leaving an abusive relationship because they've been told it's religiously or spiritually wrong to end this marriage or religion can be harmful when someone knows that they are attracted to people of the same gender and their religious tradition has told them that this is wrong. So, another way spirituality can be harmful is what's called spiritual bypass. And this is whenever people, you're saying yes, you know this term. This is when people lean into a spiritual resource to avoid doing some deeper psychological work or relational work that needs to be done, but they go into a spiritual mode and ignore some of the inner work that needs to happen.

Tisha: There's a unique flavor that I'm interested in when someone is wounded in a spiritual context. And I'm thinking of your examples, but also the examples of someone who has a teacher who does something awful, you know, abuses someone sexually or, and it happens time and time again. And then, I think the specific spiritual wound that people can contend with is a loss of trust in your own Self to make the right decisions about who you follow and what you believe. And I wonder if you have any particular insight on ways to work with that or how to bring that into light.

Russell: You know, whenever you said that a particular client comes to mind who not only lost trust in the particular people who betrayed her in her religious community, just as you're saying, she lost trust in her capacity to discern who is trustworthy and what is trustworthy. There was another nuance then in response to that, she developed a protector that said, basically, I'm not listening to anything outside myself. I'm not going to listen to any authority. You know, I do not trust myself to relate well to authority figures that say, I have the handle on truth and goodness. And so, I've got to be very, very guarded. And so, the way I worked with that was just really to validate and support that protector. I wanted her to feel absolutely no pressure for that protector ever to stop protecting her. And so that's one thing I think just validate whatever protection comes up, I think it's important to validate it. You know, that's a helpful protector because in its absence before you got hurt. And then I think also, I remember saying a lot to her, you know, you can trust yourself, you've got a capacity in you that knows what's real, and what's true, and what's good for you and what's not. So I think just also just affirming that this capacity was latent in her and could be strengthened in her and then watching for her to use it, you know, watching for things, even out of a spiritual context, when she kind of had some sense about what was the right thing for her to do. And, again, just supporting that, mirroring that, giving energy to that, helping her notice that. That felt all of those things felt so helpful to her in her process. When you hear me say all those things, how do they hit you and what else comes to mind for you Tisha?

Tisha: Well, I love the idea of really validating the protectors. And yeah, I guess the idea of understanding that spirituality gets exiled is kind of coming up. You know, what you had said earlier and finding the pathway to that arena, I'm curious about.

Russell: Yeah, well, it was really important that I, as an authority figure, not push any sort of spiritual agenda, you know, like, I could tell that her spirituality had necessarily and understandably been exiled because of this massive injury that she sustained in a spiritual community. But, you know, you don't go drag any exiles out of where they're hiding in IFS. You know, we wait on the protective system to decide it's safe enough for her to have access to her exile again and..

Tisha: I think what's coming up for me is that there's also a lot of grief to huge loss of community and connection and connection to God that gets...

Russell: Yeah. I'm so glad you said that. Because that's true. It's a loss of this spiritual... Is the loss of her beliefs, but it was also a loss of the people that she had were her best friends. It meant loss of connection with some dear members of her family. I mean, she lost her physician. Her physician was a member of this community and stopped seeing her. So, there’re other tons of grief.

Aníbal: Russell, I have read or heard someone to say that we are spirits with a human experience and not humans wanting a spiritual experience. Would you like to comment on this?

Russell: Who did say that? I've heard that too. Yeah.

Aníbal: Maybe Jeff Brown, but I'm not quite sure.

Russell: Yeah. Maybe whoever said it originally, it's been repeated a lot. Yeah. We're not humans having a spiritual experience. We're spirits having a human experience. My comment on that was that they both sound right to me. You know, we're spirits having a human experience and humans having a spiritual experience. I don't think any of this can be separated out. We separated out to talk about it. And the meaning of that phrase we're spirits having a human experience, the value of that phrase to me is it says that our spiritual essence is probably at the center of things. And our humanness kind of is gathered perhaps around that in some way, but as a literal... So, I think it's a poetically true statement, but literally I think it's just as helpful paradoxically to say we're humans having a spiritual experience.

Tisha: Russell, you run training programs in psychotherapy and spirituality.

Russell: Yes.

Aníbal: Are there opportunities for therapists to learn more about working with spirituality in psychotherapy?

Russell: Yes, actually, there are lots of them, there are a lot of places right now where you can begin to go deeper in this if it's a point of interest or something you feel ready to do some more learning around and I'm connected with two of them. One of them is this program that I direct at CareNet. CareNet is an outpatient counseling network that exists across the state of North Carolina. Is connected with the Wake Forest Baptist Health Network. And there are counseling CareNet counseling centers in North Carolina from the coast, a place called Wilmington all the way to the west, where I live in Asheville. And our training program is for therapists who've completed their master's degrees and are associate licensed and they come to work for CareNet. But then we also teach them how to work in an ethical way with their client's spirituality. So, that's a pretty limited opportunity. Actually, we hire six people a year, so we have, and they're with us for three years typically. So, we have roughly 18 at a time that were part of that program. An opportunity that's not so limited is the one that I've helped develop through ACPE. ACPE is an organization that historically has trained chaplains and people preparing for ministry to provide effective care, to provide spiritual care for people across the spiritual spectrum, to the great diversity of people and people of no spiritual orientation as well. And in recent years, it's also begun training psychotherapists in how to integrate spirituality. So, there's a spiritually integrated psychotherapy training program for therapists offered through ACPE. It's a 30-hour continuing education hour training with optional then consultation and certification past that basic training. And it's really a wonderful program. I think that the sweet thing about the ACPE program is that it's not just a training. There's also a community of people that sticks together beyond the training. So, it's not just a continuing education and then I'm done, but there's, I think we really learn to do this work well almost by osmosis, by rubbing shoulders and spending time with other people who are doing this work. And so, the ACPE program has that opportunity as well. And if people are interested, they can, you know, as acpe.edu, if they're interested in that.

Tisha: Is it available online?

Russell: Yeah. Those trainings happen online, we were doing them all over zoom.

Tisha: What's next for you? What do you have going on?

Russell: I don't know. I'm in an in-between time, I have worked really hard the last five or six years to write this book and to help this ACPE training program launch. And I've stepped back just to let things lie fallow for a bit to see what's going to come up. I know this work helping therapists feel confident about moving towards their client's spirituality, like really feeling okay doing that, that's a very deep calling for me. And so, I know I'm going to continue in that in some capacity. I'm doing, you know, I'll do teaching and speaking and writing about that, but exactly what shape that's going to take, it's still unfolding, you know, but just day to day, I keep doing therapy with people and leading trainings through the ACPE program and at CareNet.

Aníbal: Russell, thank you so much for having us and for bringing such a beautiful and important topic in energy spirituality into psychotherapy, such a privilege to be here with you and Tisha. And we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Russell: Thank you both very much for having me. I've really enjoyed this conversation with you.

Tisha: Me too. Thanks for your time.

Working with sex and sexuality using IFS with Victoria Kirby 41:46

Victoria is an IFS and IFIO therapist working in private practice in London. She is passionate about applying the IFS model to working with sex and sexuality and is currently delivering workshops and designing resources to support other practitioners in this area of work.

Victoria previously worked in public health. She completed a master's degree in health promotion and worked as a Senior Health Improvement Specialist, specialising first in young people's sexual health and then in HIV prevention in men who have sex with men. 

Victoria then trained in psychotherapy and completed a master's programme in psychodynamic and person-centred modalities. She gained Accreditation with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and Advanced Accreditation as a Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diversities Therapist with Pink Therapy.  Before moving into private practice, Victoria coordinated a specialist counselling service in a central London clinic working with clients around out of control sexual behaviours, understanding and asserting sexual needs, coming to terms with sexual health diagnosis, exploring sexual identity and difficulties having sex. 

You can find out more about the work Victoria does on her website www.victoriajanepsychotherapy.net and details of her next workshop at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sex-and-sexuality-using-an-ifs-framework-tickets-299028842317 

Full transcription soon

IFS and Neurodiversity with Yoav Bartov 00:00

Yoav Bartov was born and raised in Israel. A BA and MA in Social work from Tel-Aviv university, Yoav trained in couples and Family therapist (3 year program from Tel Aviv university), worked for the public sector in welfare department with children at risk and multi-problem families, running the special staff dealing with abuse and neglect of minors for a few years.

Yoav started his IFS journey in 2014, completing Level 1, 2 and 3. He is being a PA and Lead PA in different IFS trainings around the world for the last 5 years.   A certified IFS therapist and supervisor,  Yoav has a private practice where he consults individuals and couples,  and also offers supervision to therapists.
Yoav is married and has two sons.

A Model for IFS Supervision and Consultation with Liz Martins and Emma Redfern 36:47

Liz Martins is an experienced therapist, an IFS Institute Lead Trainer, Certified IFS Therapist and Approved IFS Clinical Supervisor/Consultant. She has a private practice in the UK and offers therapy and individual /group supervision online and in person. Prior to becoming a therapist, Liz had a career in social work with children and families, including in leadership and external consultancy roles. She is a qualified supervisor with extensive experience as an individual/group supervisor in a range of settings. Liz has a particular interest in supporting supervisors to integrate IFS into their practice and has contributed a chapter for a book on IFS supervision and consultation, due to be published next year.

Emma Redfern is a Certified IFS Therapist and Approved IFS Clinical Supervisor/Consultant, as well as an experienced PA. Working in private practice in the UK, she is a senior BACP-accredited supervisor and psychotherapist and an EMDR therapist. Emma has had a number of articles published in professional journals and she has edited a multi-author book on IFS and Supervision and Consultation, due to be published by Routledge in July 2022.

 

Today on IFS Talks, we are delighted to be meeting with two guests, Liz Martins and Emma Redfern. Liz Martins is an experienced therapist, an IFS Co-lead trainer, a certified IFS therapist and approved IFS clinical supervisor and consultant. She currently has a private practice in the UK. Emma Redfern is a certified IFS therapist and approved IFS clinical supervisor and consultant, as well as an experienced IFS Program Assistant. She is also currently working in private practice in the UK. Today we'll be speaking to Liz and Emma about their work integrating IFS into supervision and consultation.

Tisha Shull: Thank you both for being here with us today on IFS Talks. We're looking forward to the conversation.

Liz Martins: It's good to be here.

Emma Redfern: Thank you.

Aníbal: Welcome back, Liz Martins and welcome Emma Redfern. Together you have been collaborating on this topic of IFS, Supervision, and Consultation. You have developed your ideas and created some frameworks and maps that became helpful in your supervision practice. As a result of this collaboration, you started running workshops, developed the model and a book in this topic is coming in July, I guess. Many, many congratulations to both of you. You'll say this integration is a missing part of the IFS landscape that you are trying to address. I couldn't agree more. So much needed with so many people coming of trainings willing to apply the model and clearly needing supervision. So, Liz and Emma, maybe we could start off focusing on the workshops you have been running. Can you tell us more about those workshops? How do you structure them? Who is attending?

Liz: First, just to say, thanks. Thanks for inviting us. It's great to be here. Should I start, Emma?

Emma: Yes.

Liz: Okay. So, well, this all started when we got into conversation, I should think about three years ago. And then we developed this model. We developed our ideas and we started with a couple of mini workshops in the UK just to kind of test out the model really. And the feedback was positive. So, then we have gone on from there. So, we've done a couple of workshops now, one for Life Architect in Poland, and one just recently in Spain and another one coming up in Australia in April and they’re about sort of really integrating IFS with supervision. I mean, I found when I started with clients that it was quite easy to integrate IFS into my client work, but it was sort of trickier in a way with supervision. I could talk about IFS, but it took me a while to really start to integrate IFS into the process of it, I guess. So, the workshops are about how we can do that, how we can bring IFS into the process as well as the content, how we can really integrate IFS. And the workshops have been... a mix of people who've been coming, people mostly who are familiar with IFS, people who are already supervising or offering consultation and people who wanted to move towards that. And our plan is to go on and develop a longer training later this year.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Emma, would you like to add something?

Emma: I think part of my journey in this is that my system needs a lot of holding and that's what I was looking forward with supervision in IFS and maybe not finding. And so I was kind of trying to hold myself through reflection and having therapy, IFS therapy, start supervision at times, trying to find my way and me developing this model and also commissioning the book with the help of Ellen Ziskind has been about me holding myself as I do this work. And then collaborating with Liz has been about collaboratively developing this model further, and then we can hold other people as they learn to hold themselves as supervisors in the model. So, I guess there's an aspect of that that feels important to me too. So, it's not that we're saying that IFS supervision and consultation hasn't been happening for decades, it has. It's just that, listen, I've been paying particular attention to it in our practices and how it kind of might be here in the UK, which might be a little different to how it is in American culture or situations.

Aníbal: And how is the format of the workshop? The workshop is it supervision in action?

Liz: It's a mixture, really, in the same way that IFS trainings. So, we do meditations, so for example a meditation about meeting our own supervisee parts because often these are kind of more hidden in a way. So, there's meditations, there's some presentation, there's working breakout rooms, there's a sort of working with like a sort of video role-play. What might you do next? What's coming up for you, kind of idea. So, it's a mixture of experiential and teaching and discussion in different ways.

Aníbal: And who is attending? Is it always for supervisors or practitioners as well?

Liz: It's been a mix. It's been people interested in IFS and supervisions. So, some people, as I said, who are already supervising, some very experienced supervisors who may know less or more about IFS or people that are interested in becoming supervisors and moving towards that.

Emma: And we ask that everybody has a foundation of level one IFS training at least so that we've all got that kind of commonality.

Tisha: What did you notice about supervision in general that you had maybe received or participated in before and then coming into the IFS model? What did you notice needed to happen different, be established differently?

Liz: I think for me and in my own work as a supervisor, I think I was quite parts led. I had this notion of being the expert, you know, the wise one that knew. So, you know, supervisees would come, and they'd tell me about the clients and then I would have probably a few parts around, maybe caretaking parts or expert parts. So, that kind of shift for me in terms of IFS, has been about, I guess, kind of trusting Self-energy and supervision being more about unblending, accessing Self-energy in the system. So, that approach has been kind of different. It was quite a shift for me. And I think it could be quite a shift for some supervisor parts, because it's a bit like in, as a therapist, less about being the one who knows more about supporting the wisdom and the knowing and the compassion to come through. So, it's similar, I think in therapy and that shift that many of us have had to make in our therapeutic work supervision. Emma, how would you see that?

Emma: Something for me about the freedom IFS brings, either as a therapy modality, or as a supervision kind of modality, there's just more freedom and there's more specificity. You can talk to the part direct or something about that for me. My supervision training was The Seven Eyed Model, which is why we've kind of... One of the aspects of the model is...

Aníbal: To integrate it, yes.

Emma: ...which kind of takes that seven eyes into an IFS sense of systemic understanding. So, there's something about that opening up of systems at all different levels that kind of was freeing about IFS on top of the seven eyed model for me.

Liz: Yeah. And, also for me just to say that the sort of, as in IFS, that all parts are welcome. And so, the focus not just being about the client's parts and all those parts being welcome, but also the therapist parts and giving attention to those very much in supervision. And also, of course, to our own parts as supervisors and what they may be telling us as well. So that shift too.

Aníbal: Yes, I can see much more fun on that.

So, let's focus in your IFS supervision model. You say it's inspired by the F's and the P's already present in the IFS model and developed out of a U-turn intended to be a map, a framework to guide the supervisory process. And you talk of six F’s and six P´s and eight facets. So, tell us about the model.

Liz: Okay, so shall I start with the F’s and P’s and maybe, Emma, you might want to talk about the eight facets?

Emma: Yeah.

Liz: So yes, as you say, Aníbal, it came from a U-turn. So, in our conversations, we started looking and thinking about, well, what is it that it's like, what are we doing when we feel that we're really integrating IFS? And from that came inspired by, I guess, the F's that we know well in the IFS model. So, our F’s of IFS supervision or consultation, and I can say a little bit more about those in the moment. And we paired those with the P’s of Self-lead therapist, which people already know, so perspective, patience, presence, persistence, playfulness. And we added one that was partnership. We needed another one because we had six F’s and only five P’s. So, we added partnership.

Aníbal: It makes sense.

Liz: Yeah. So, these are, I guess, the F’s are more sort of doing kind of action, sort of framework. The P’s are more about the qualities that are present when there's Self-energy in the system. So, they together, they provide a way for a supervisor to kind of check in with what's present, what might be needed and some sense of the direction that we might go. So, the F's, so the first of those is follow the model and of course following the model is central to integrating IFS. So, we see this as kind of about the process. So really aligning with the IFS goals and philosophy and process. So, sort of slowing down, spacious, welcoming parts, working very collaboratively and working actively with sort of power and difference and dynamics and biases, so on. And very much attending to Self-lead boundaries in the system, offering hope and following the model. So, the partnership, which is the pair with this, is about partnering with the therapist, the supervisee, or the person we're consulting, with the model of course, and with the Self-energy in the system.

Aníbal: That’s beautiful.

Liz: So that's the first one. So, the second F is framing systemically, and that brings us perspective. So that's about being aware of, I guess, all the systems that are there. So, each of the three participants therapist, client supervisor, and their internal and external systems kind of supervisory system, the relationships between the three and the larger systems all around them. And also, I guess, holding awareness over time with legacy and different realms with unattached burdens and guides and so on. And the eight facets, which Emma can talk about in a minute is sort of a way of navigating all these different lenses.

Aníbal: So important. Yes. To see the large picture, the big picture. Yes.

Tisha: One the F’s that I'm really intrigued by, and grateful that you've included is the, probably the next one you’re going to mention, is the favor stuckness. How did you identify that as being relevant? And could you say a little bit more about how you guide your therapists to favor stuckness when so often we want to avoid it or push through it?

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. It's kind of in the supervision process, it's getting really curious about noticing, prioritizing where the flow of the model might be...

Aníbal: Blocked.

Liz: Might be blocked somehow, and getting curious with the person we’re supervising around that, including who's saying that is stuck, you know, what part is there and that, you know, Dick Schwartz would say, if there's stuckness, then somebody's parts are in the way, but we don't always know who's so we'd be really focusing on, if it's not flowing. And of course, often it's the work that isn't flowing that is brought to supervision, that there is something that the therapist is feeling isn't going as well as it might. So, we would be wanting to get interested with them about maybe the protectors that were around or whether there’s maybe exile beliefs or energy kind of showing up and getting curious with them about that and what might be a way forward, which might be unblending from parts, or it might be a technical thing around IFS that needs a little bit of support with, or it might be that we can bring in something creative as a different way of approaching.

Tisha: Can I ask a question that might be a little bit of an example? I'm curious, a lot of clients will often have a kind of stuckness as a general theme, like either being stuck in a relationship or being stuck in a pattern of behavior where there's addiction and managers and a polarity. Is that the type of stuckness that you favor, or is it favoring places in the therapist's own system where the therapist feels that their parts are frustrated or stuck?

Emma: I guess, this is partly why we've got these models so that we can have choices and we can ask the supervisee what it would be best for them to focus on. Do they feel the stuckness is in their parts? Or are they missing a bit of theory because they feel the stuckness is in not understanding something? So, collaboratively we can maybe work out where we might start to explore that stuckness. And if that works great, if not, we can move to a slightly different place to explore the stuckness. And again, I guess it depends on the relationship. How long have we been working together? What are they comfortable bringing? Some people get stuck in a particular area or with a particular client. So, I guess it's quite a hard question to answer maybe.

Liz: Yeah. And sometimes the stuckness is what's kind of in the field and sometimes it's kind of exile stuckness that might be kind of showing up somehow and everybody's getting stuck, you know, the therapist is feeling it and their parts are kind of getting caught up in it as well. So, yeah.

Emma: And also, the stuckness is kind of where it's at often. I work with a lot of people learning IFS, or they're quite new to using it and stuckness is going to be there.

Aníbal: Over and over.

Emma: So, let’s play with it. So, let's welcome it. Let's not be ashamed that it's there kind of thing, I guess.

Tisha: Yeah. I really appreciate the emphasis on it because I think it's one of the things that really contributes to burnout. Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Aníbal: Absolutely.

Liz: Yeah, definitely.

Emma: And also, one of the other F's is about finding our creativity. If we give something lots of space and our time, it can be remarkable how releasing that can be, and unblending that can be in all of these different ways. So, it can be very resourcing from that sense supervision, I find.

Liz: And our P that goes with the favor stuckness, that F, is actually patience. So, sometimes it's just kind of slowing down, tuning in, leaning into it and trusting, you know, it's going to take as long as it takes and let's just be with it and kind of normalize it, validate it, kind of be with it and see what comes out of that.

Aníbal: Also, patients need playfulness, right?

Liz: Not just patience, lots of it needs playfulness. Yeah. Yeah.

Aníbal: So, the fifth foster fluency, what is this about and persistence?

Liz: So that's the kind of the teaching one, I guess. So, we're fostering fluency and in the IFS protocol, in the model. So, we're trying to support the people that we supervise to be fluent in this. I kind of use a sort of skiing metaphor for this, you know, we want people to be flowing down the slope kind of in their bodies and instinctive and sort of feeling the freedom of it. So, feeling the fluency of the model. So that's one of the F’s where we... and we may be doing that in different ways through, I guess, walking the talk, you know, modeling it, giving experience of it in sessions, bringing awareness, maybe teaching a little bit of theory, maybe practicing scales, you know, so, different ways that we might support the fostering of fluency in the supervision or consultation sessions.

Aníbal: Yeah. Interesting. And then you have these eight facets of IFS supervision. You have this diagram of the whole model that shows the largest system integrating eight different layers or facets.

Liz: Can I just say, just because of the other F, a really important F, just before we move, is that freeing up Self-energy? Which of course is at the heart because that's all about parts and focusing on working with parts, therapist parts, often, sometimes supervisor parts to access more Self-energy in the system. And the P word that goes with that one is presence.

Aníbal: So important.

Liz: So that we have more presence in the supervisory system.

Aníbal: So important. So, coming back to this diagram of the eight facets, can you help us with this diagram, Emma? There is a dotted line, I noticed, linking supervisor and the client. What does it mean?

Emma: Yes. I think that's facet for the supervisory system. An aspect of that is that the therapist is presenting a client and I am somehow relating to that client, but obviously they're not in the room in an actual sense, but energetically, emotionally, psychologically, I am still making some connection to them, or I'm creating a vision of them in my head that may or may not be accurate. So that's why the dotted line, because relationally, there's a connection between me and the client or clients, but actually it's not the same as me related to the person in front of me, say the therapist.

Aníbal: Yeah. So interesting. In my experience, as a supervisor, I can see how very often my compassionate view to the client, meaning my relationship with the client's story and journey usually impacts therapists’-client relationship. And that's maybe these dotted lines that you are calling attention to and I find it so so interesting.

Liz: One of the questions we might be asking is how do I feel towards that client? We ask ourselves that.

Aníbal: Amazing. So, coming back to the eight facets...

Emma: Shall I just whiz through them a little?

Aníbal: Please.

Emma: So, saying fostering Self-energy, freeing up Self-energy. So, facet number one is Self. So, this whole diagram is contained in a circle of Self.

Aníbal: A larger one.

Emma: The larger Self in circles, life, the world, however people kind of imagine that transcendent larger Self, and then within the three participants of supervision, which are depicted by triangles. I'll ask Cece Sykes, her triangle of IFS. They have a smaller yellow circle inside to pick the Self, free up in ourselves by unblending, having parts unblend. So, Self is number one. And then the client system facet two, therapist system facet three, supervisors system facet four, with this connection to the client, then facet five is the model IFS, the Self, which is in the center of the diagram. Facet six is then the relational, the relationship between the client and the therapist. Facet seven is the relationship between the therapist and supervisor. And then eight is the broader context, like the global triangle of managers, firefighters, and exiles. So that's a very quick overview.

Aníbal: Beautiful. So interesting.

Liz: And these are kind of lenses to look through.

Emma: Yes. A way to reflect. I’m I always working in one of these facets with a particular supervisee, or do we move around a lot of them? Are there areas we never go to, like, we can't work with the therapist parts or it's a way to reflect on practice. It might be used as a decision tree by some people. So, I guess it can be used in different ways, hopefully. Yeah.

Aníbal: So inspiring. Beautiful. Well done.

Emma: Thank you. Thank us both.

Liz: I’m realizing it's probably quite for people that are listening, is probably quite a lot to take in, so...

Emma: They’re not seeing the visuals.

Liz: Yeah. Hopefully it's just a sense of, I kind of a map that can just be a guide kind of where are we, where might we go with this, what's happening here. So...

Tisha: I'm imagining that as you started collaborating and developing the map and these models and the visuals, there became many things that were inspiring about supervision for both of you. Have you discovered anything that feels important to share?

Emma: I think Aníbal mentioned something earlier, the playfulness. Supervision for me sometimes has a fair bit of playfulness, which I really enjoy. And also, my system likes variety and kind of these models and being a supervisor enables that sometimes as well. Yeah. And it's great coming alongside people, alongside the IFS model, as they struggle with it, celebrate successes, move ahead. All of these things, it’s great and challenging.

Aníbal: Challenging as well. For me it's been always so much learning out of supervision and fun, challenging, lots of fun and learnings.

Liz: For me, it's something around Self-energy and that slowing down, letting go, opening your heart. And the kind of interconnection of, you know, Dick talks about Self-energy as being contagious, the vibrational sort of energy of that and somebody on a recent workshop that we did talked in the feedback around really learning around the... they use the phrase of downstream. So, something around how in the supervision session and Self-energy there hopefully and slowing down and all of that and how that then kind of goes downstream to the therapist and clients work together. And then I guess the clients out into their life and so on. And so, something about supervision just really being so connected and, you know, the kind of the larger goals of IFS, I guess, really seeing supervision, having a place in that of more Self-energy into the world.

Aníbal: So rewarding, yes.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah.

Tisha: I love that, everyone uplifting, like you raise the water, you raise the boats. Everyone's more...

Emma: And I guess a slightly different way of saying that, for me is something about having somewhere to take the fear, because IFS is about protective fear, which blocks Self-energy. And it's like, it's a space you can take those fears and help them feel less fearful. And so, I guess that's a slightly different way of saying.

Aníbal: Yeah. Makes sense.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. Well, Robin Shohet, who's a big reference with supervision in the UK, talks about helping to uncover the fear in the system. And I guess that is what it's about, but also as an IFS we know that it's about love as well. Isn't it? And Self-energy, and so bringing that into the system to be there with the fear.

Aníbal: Well said. So, what would you like to share about the coming trainings in this supervision model?

Liz: Yeah, well, we're just, as I said, at the very early stages of planning a longer training with practice and deepening into it even more, you know, from a kind of humble place, I think, you know, not expert here, but just let's, you know, share our ideas and really welcoming other people's ideas of a supervisor and learn together about this. So, a longer kind of training. Yeah. That's our hope, that's our plan. We've just sort of just at the very beginning of that, hopefully this year, maybe into next year and the workshops continuing for as long as people are interested in coming to them, I guess. And then Emma has her book coming out. So, yeah, I think it's really exciting, and I think it's really needed this work around supervision and consultation because there are so many people... I don't know about where you are, but certainly in the UK, there are people coming off trainings who are really wanting support and guidance in developing their practice. So, we really need more supervisors who are, you know, bringing IFS to that and integrating IFS to that.

Aníbal: Yeah. Absolutely.

Tisha: I'm curious about whether your workshop applies to individual supervision or group supervision or both. Is there a framework for working with groups? Because I know here a lot of supervisors will meet with a group of therapists or postgraduate school therapists.

Liz: It does, the model works the same. I believe quite strongly that even if we're supervising or offering consultation to people whose model is not IFS, that we can still work with IFS, we can still integrate and work from that place ourselves, the supervisor's modality can still be IFS. So, it is for groups and it's for people supervising, non-IFS informed practitioners as well.

Aníbal: Emma, you have been editing and publishing a brand-new book, right? Could you let us know about its contents? Its purpose, invited authors and topics, the publisher or anything else you'd like to share?

Emma: Sure. This is with Routledge, hopefully coming out in the summer. And, for a few years now I've been working with over a dozen top IFS consultants and supervisors, including Liz. And they have contributed chapters on their specialist field, say, to include in this book for the IFS community. And it's very exciting and I'm getting a bit impatient, but it's not yet here. It's on its way. Dick's got an interview. I interviewed Dick for chapter one, Dan Reed and Ray Wooten talk about their model of IFS informed consultation. Pamela Krause does one specifically for working with therapists who work with children and families and adolescents. Ann does one for IFIO therapy. Tamala Floyd and Black Therapists Rock, her story of how she is instrumental in supporting and consulting to that community. Jeanne Catanzaro who’s done one about eating disorder clients. Nancy Wonder... It’s just rich and full and...

Aníbal: A table full of food, of good food for thought.

Emma: Yes.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Tisha: Thank you for your hard work in compiling and editing and conceiving of this great idea.

Emma: Well, thank you.

Aníbal: So, thank you so much, Liz and Emma, for willing to have this conversation on IFS Supervision and Consultation. We really, really enjoyed it. Such a lovely time together, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you.

Liz: Thank you so much for having us.

Tisha: Is there an easy way for our listeners to find access to your workshops? If anyone is interested and intrigued.

Liz: They can email either one of us. Is probably a good way if they’re happening in different places...

Emma: If somebody could include my website, then people can email of the website.

Aníbal: Yes, we can put both.

Liz: Thank you.

How to stay Present for Addictive Processes with Cece Sykes 51:28

Today on IFS Talks we’re so happy to be welcoming back Cece Sykes.
Cece has over 40 years of clinical experience, specializing in recovery from trauma and addictive processes.
She is currently a Senior Lead Trainer of IFS) and Cece has also developed a workshop as part of an ongoing worldwide project to explore the personal narratives of therapists and the impact on their work.

Today we’re having a conversation with Cece about how to Create Order out of the Chaos of Addictive Process: how to use IFS to find the patterns in addictive issues or any  intense or polarized system. Basically, how to stay in charge without losing our hearts, or our minds.

Today on IFS Talks we're so happy to be welcoming back Cece Sykes. Cece has over 40 years of clinical experience specializing in recovery from trauma and addictive processes. She's currently a senior lead trainer of IFS and Cece has also developed a workshop as part of an ongoing worldwide project to explore the personal narratives of therapists and the impact on their work. Today, we're having a conversation with Cece about how to create order out of the chaos of addictive processes. How do you use IFS to find the patterns and addictive issues or in any intense polarized system. Basically, how to stay in charge without losing our minds or our hearts.

Tisha Shull: Cece, thanks so much for being with us today. Welcome back.

Cece Sykes: Thanks. It's so good to be with you guys.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back, Cece. It's your take three for this podcast. So grateful for that. The topic you suggested to discuss today is the chaos of addictive processes. Such a complex topic. In the 2017 book Innovations and Elaborations in IFS, you published a chapter called An IFS Lens on Addiction: Compassion for Extreme Parts that illustrates how to interact compassionately with the entire client system and safely intervening with the polarizations you say are at the center of the addictive process. In that chapter, we can read that you see addiction has, and I'm quoting you, “an unremitting cyclical process characterized by a power struggle between two well intentioned teams of protective parts, each attempting to bring balance to the client's internal system.” You also say “this escalating polarized struggle between two teams of protective parts who are trying to control or medicate underlying emotional pain is foundational to what you call the addictive process.  So, it's this escalating polarized struggle responsible for the chaos you mentioned as a topic for this conversation? What is this chaos and what causes it?

Cece: That's such a good question, Aníbal. Yeah, I think it is absolutely what the chaos looks like. And one of the things I've really been thinking about is the idea of the inner world as a system. So that one of the things that helps clinicians make sense of what they're seeing in front of them is to begin to think about the patterns that their client is engaged in, into clump their behaviors, just clump them together a little bit. One of my favorite pieces of the model is a piece that I don't actually think we talk enough about and I'm trying to talk more about it, which is the word... is called internal, we get that family, we get that systems. So, family systems are, you know, Dick of course, that was his origins, he was a family systems thinker, writer, and trainer. And he brought us lots of frameworks, you know, just some big picture issues around how family systems work, analyzing lots and lots of different models. And, in the process developed his own. I was trained as a systemic thinker as well and trained in family systems. So, the idea, not just that we have parts, but that the more the manager tries to control, the more the firefighter feels desperate to create autonomy or freedom or get out from under, that the more that part tries to get out from under the more triggering it is to the managers. This power struggle creates chaos. It burdens exiles over and over again in a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis, so that the piles of unprocessed trauma accumulate. And so that by the time they see a therapist, they've had lots of experiences clinically and treatment or many times, but nevertheless feel that their life is chaotic and out of control. So, that's in the field and it impacts the therapist and therapists often feel out of control or don't want to work with that and want to refer to an expert. And what I think is if you know IFS and can work with your parts and your system to be comfortable with firefighters, that you can do really beautiful things with these clients.

Tisha: What is it that generally makes therapists uncomfortable with firefighters?

Cece: Because they could cause the client to die.

Tisha: Yeah. So, the managerial role becomes really embedded.

Cece: It does, Tisha, yes. I mean there's many things that make clinicians feel uncertain and want, you know, we've all had the feeling when we were sitting in front of a client and they're going through something and thinking to ourselves, I certainly have, I assume others have as well, “oh my God, I've got to refer them to a real therapist.” You know? I mean, I feel very good about my skills, but you know, those moments when you just, “who could do this, someone else must be able to do this better than me,” you know? And because you know, the human experience is so confounding. What is scary from what I hear in consultations and all the trainings and so forth is just the fear that the client could die. And also, the confusion, like, I think the other polarity for clinicians is the polarity between wanting to be compassionate because this person is suffering, but it also triggers our parts that are like, “what is wrong with you? Why do you keep doing this to yourself? You're ruining everything.” So, the polarity... It's not the opposite of compassion, but it is definitely not compassionate. It's challenging, it's critical, it carries judgment in it. And I think that whether it's in our personal lives with a loved one or whether it's in our clinical experience, it triggers that same dilemma in the clinician, which is, should I help them or should I, you know, grab him by the collar and shake them?

Aníbal: So challenging. Cece, maybe we should start off clarifying what you mean by addictions once there are so many addictions, right? It can be screen time, overworking, late night drinking, overspending. So, those are some common ones, low risk ones, you say. So, we have firefighters, some more risky than others. Do you subdivide them in high-risk and low-risk?

Cece: Yeah, I think that's a short, that's an easy way to do it. It's high risk and low risk. So less, I think they are less different. I don't want to divide them by their behavior so much as their intensity. In other words, I think there's more similarities than differences for the clinician. Not necessarily for the client. Okay. But for the clinician, in terms of understanding and intervening for someone who's binge purging, someone who's using alcohol and drugs, then someone who picks up their phone 19 times a day to do porn or place a sports bet, right? So, how the clinician intervenes with that, they seem very, very different. Of course, each of those clients is very unique, but their process of feeling stress in using, and then trying to get back in control and then feeling out of control and alone, and then using. The cyclical nature of what they do, that there are big patterns there that are similar for anyone who's caught up in a cycle where they're trying to both relieve themselves of pain and yet the relief choice they've chosen brings them pain. When that's the case, these different issues are more similar than different for us as clinicians to enter in.

Aníbal: You'll say IFS can help us find the patterns in addictive issues or any intense or polarized system. How can we do that? Find the patterns.

Cece: Yeah. How do you start doing it?

Cece: One of the ways that I started doing that is to think about the big picture intentions of each of Dick’s three categories of parts: managers, which are self-explanatory. The managers manage life. We all have them, we all need them. They try to take care of business and they're task-oriented, but managers are also growth-oriented or improvement-oriented so that they want to push us to do better, be better. And, in a healthy way that makes us, you know, take a new class or try something new or learn how to, you know, whatever, play pickleball. But when that gets extreme, then those improvements become self-challenging, becomes self-loathing, self-contempt, massive criticism. So, what I say to my clients is, you know, looks like there's a whole bunch of parts that are really activated, that are telling you what a bad job you're doing. Rather than trying to define one part or another. Or I might say looks like there's a whole bunch of your parts. You know, you're still going to work. You came to your session today. You're, you know, you did this stuff with your kids, you're making your car payment. So, a lot of things, a lot of your managers are still on board. Although I hear your critics are kind of out of control right now. So that group has been pretty busy. And then this other side over here, it sounds like, you know, tell me more about what's happening for you with drinking this week and with your sports bets or, you know, something like that. So, all the parts that are trying to give you some kind of relief. So, the big picture of managers is to keep in control and keep improving or make sure it doesn't get worse. The big picture of firefighters is to get some kind of relief. And I know I'm not talking about exiles here. What I want to say about that is that exiles that are vulnerability and are burdens and are attachment wounds, or just even feelings of alienation, that kind of emotional pain causes us to try to protect ourselves, you know, starting from a young age. And we might protect ourselves by being very managerial and getting very involved in being good. And we might protect ourselves in other kinds of ways, by acting out in different kinds of ways and many people, most people have some variations on both.

Aníbal: Interesting.

Cece: But for when I'm working with my clients and when I'm teaching this model, I want to actually overemphasize the relationship from Self to protectors. All roads lead to Rome. They're going to take us back to the roots. And the roots are like roots. They're underground, they're under the surface, they're in the dark and we're going to go there, and we need to do that. But if my client can, when they identify their big picture ways of functioning, helps them unblend from that. And they have to have enough unblend to find those and be available to those exiles. So, finding one exile might be very good and you might do some good work, but for most people with heavy protectors, that's not going to change their functioning that much.

Aníbal: You say we need to know how to unblend polarities. So, first of all, how do we know someone is blended in a polarity?

Cece: Well, polarities are the meat and potatoes for all the vegans of the world, the beans and rice of human experience. I mean, it's universal, right? It is universal. It's not unique to our clients or to us. We all have parts of us that do things that other parts of us think we do too much or too often or spend too much time on or spend too much money on. So, finding, because that's an attempt to find balance. And so, when I do workshops and I do a visual, find a part that's doing something that other parts of you think you do too much. I've never had anyone raise their hand and say, you know, I'm not aware of that, you know, and it doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can be a good thing. I mean, maybe, you know, it's social media, whatever, but it's universal to have some kind of a polarity between doing the right thing or keeping ourselves in check or working or taking care of obligations in life. And I think there's also universal wish for rest, relaxation, pleasure, comfort, novelty, or adventure. And that's what I think... I think our firefighters can become addictive. They can engage in negative behaviors, but they don't all engage in negative behaviors and they aren't all extreme. And they have a role in our system to balance manager energy. When our system is burdened, it is even in addiction. It is not just the firefighters that are out of control. The managers are out of control. They're desperate. They crave order, peace, predictability, just as much as firefighters crave their practice or their substances, there's craving on both sides and desperation.

Tisha: I think really, really quickly back to how easily it is to get polarized as a therapist with firefighter energy, and I was thinking about it before our conversation, because like I feel like I meet with addictive people in my life and clients not necessarily from managerial energy, but from other parts that are maybe checking out more subversive, firefighter behavior, like parts of me that don't trust and parts that are like, how do I know if they're okay and wanting to kind of like put my hands up, like feeling helpless, like those kinds of... It doesn't feel like it's managerial towards the firefighters, but it feels like it's a little bit, if it feels like it gets a little more nuanced.

Cece: That is a great statement what you're saying, because yes, the person who is using has powerful, powerful polarities. Right? So, but what's happening in the therapist? We would might not necessarily be... We're smart enough and evolved enough in our process to not start wagging our fingers at our clients and telling them how messed up they are. We're much more subtle, but we’re paying attention to the parts of us that feel vigilant, that do feel should I trust this person? Do I think that they're telling me the truth? Parts that feel helpless or hopeless, there'll be our exiles. Those are very natural and inevitable responses to firefighter parts because firefighters, you know, those parts sometimes lie and defend or avoid or avoid the truth or avoid accountability. So that we naturally have parts that are vigilant. And I do advise therapists to really pay attention to their gut and to how they feel with someone. And if they feel like something's happening, that doesn't feel truthful, to pay attention to that. And so, rather than to get focused on the other person, and now they’re telling me to tell the truth or what's going on with them, I always invite clinicians to pay attention to their own parts, their own inner world, their own inner world has very important information like, this doesn't feel right, this doesn't add up, I'm feeling a little manipulated here... And so, to notice and to speak for the parts, you know, but where I will go with that is it if I had to make a statement around that, you know, or if I want to take a moment and say, something's coming up in me where I'm not totally buying everything you're saying to me. So, I'm wondering if there's a part that needs to tell me this information in this way and I'm wondering if any other part of you has a different point of view here, will be a way to go. Or I wonder if, you know, I wonder about this part is really trying to convince me that you're not using, or you didn't go there or you didn't do this. And it seems like it's really trying to convince me of that. And I hear that, and I hear the energy behind that. What would happen if you and I get to know that part a little bit and listen to it and listen to its intention, you know, and what if... So, I'll try to do an unblend so that they have Self toward that part. So, I don't have to be in control of it. My wish is always for my client to gain control over their parts so that I don't have to take that role, my role isn't to control them and be vigilant. My role is to help them find their own parts that are vigilant toward themselves. Does that make sense?

Tisha: My mind is blown. I'm like, wow, this is great. It makes sense and I think it's really helpful to hear that hopelessness about a client, which, I mean, it makes sense, but that that's self-referential like, there's my exiles poking through.

Cece: But it's in the field, Tisha.

Tisha: It’s in the field.

Cece: So, if you're feeling it, and you're feeling it strong, you know, your clients got it strong. Because it's that strongly in the field, and I would say probably it feels like manipulation or stealing or lying is the biggest block, I don't think that's the biggest block, those are just protective parts and I want to get my client to know them. I do think the biggest block to healing is hopelessness and despair. If we think this is, if we come at this thing from a place of I don't think this is going to get better, then I think that hopelessness adds a sort of, it's like, you know, a chain around the ankle, it's a drag on the system. And I think it affects the process. And it's understandable. And when my client has hopelessness toward themselves, I always say, let's be with that part because there's reasons why they're hopeless. For many clients they’re the only one in their family that's trying to get better. Everybody they know is crazy or messed up. So, what then? They sit with someone like me and they go, oh, really? Now there are parts that say, people don’t get better are, have been proven over and over and towards themselves. I've been trying and trying. So, but to say in IFS, the gift of IFS is to say, let's, you know, I know you're going to think this is crazy, but let's be actually with your hopelessness. Is actually, as big as it is, it's just a part of you. And actually, if you and I get to know it a little bit, I'm not saying you shouldn't have it and we never try to get rid of parts and IFS, but, but I'd like you to be able to unblend from it. I'd like you to have some choice. My wish for you is that we could help that happen.

Aníbal: Cece, you also say, we need to use tracking when working with addiction. So, what is tracking? What should we track and how does it help us with addictions?

Cece: That's such great questions, Anibal. Yeah, tracking is a family therapy term as I believe is where it comes from, and I'm sure family therapy pulled it from systemic therapy thinking prior to that. But anyway, it is to pay attention to sequences. What happened, A happened, and then B, and then what happened after that? And then what happened after that? It's just that simple, is paying attention to sequences. So, the sequence when you're checking a couple might be, well, when you say that, how does that impact you? And then when you respond this way, how's it impacting you? So, you're going between two people and it's sort of obvious what I say impacts you, what you say impacts me back. In IFS we're doing that internally and we're watching how one part impacts the other outside of the client's awareness before they have IFS. Right? So, they're not aware of it. They'll say things like, all of a sudden, I'm in my car again, and I'm driving over to my dealer's house. And they're not aware of what happened, so we help them track. And I might specifically say a little bit more about their day or what's going on, but over time we're going to help them track one feeling from another, there was a feeling they had, they got scared, they got lonely, their exile got triggered or their manager got exhausted. And then their exile got triggered and felt isolated and their firefighters said, “Hmm.” And that sequence is out of their awareness. But what IFS does is help people go inside and we all know that when we're inside, we learn new information and we learn how one part relates to another. What someone who's using can learn is they have a pattern. And we all do, but it's, it can make things so much clearer when I say, “oh” ...Even if we can't do a witness and unburdening that day, to just say, “oh, I was lonely, yeah, no, I'm feeling...Yeah.” And they can't maybe witness and unburden it that day. They don't have enough Self-energy to listen to all that, they don't. But a lot of times I help people just recognize that exile and notice it, send a little energy to it, kind of a one-way street sort of thing, Self to part. But then begin to notice, it's so illuminating. Oh, I didn't even realize how lonely I was, or I didn't even realize how nervous I was, how scared I was. I didn't really realize that hurt me. I didn't know, you know, those things that we all don't exactly know. But there's then a sequence of activities. We do an experiential in many level one and level two, maybe, exercises. Find that time that someone hurt you a little thing, not the biggest thing in your life. Someone just looks at you funny and then, you know, find that, and then look at the ways you coped, maybe even find something that happened in the training that was hard or challenging for you, that hit an exile. Right? I felt dumb or I felt not seen, or I felt nervous or I felt exposed. And then watch how you covered it up. How did you protectors step in. That is a sequence, and it can be a pattern. And so, that would be what tracking looks like and we don't name it maybe as specifically as we could in our teaching of it. But that's really what we're doing.

Tisha: Do you have any tricks or tips to externalize that tracking? Do you like to make maps or do you like to have clients journal about parts that they encounter?

Cece: You know, Tisha. So many therapists are more creative than me.

Tisha: Is it important just to kind of get it and go through?

Cece: It does help to get it and visualize, but absolutely to write it down, to draw it, you know, you guys know I use a triangle in my teaching. I think of the system in as... I organize it via the triangle. I do triangles with my clients or I do soft triangle, just tracking, writing them down. Sometimes with my clients I'll do stuff in the room, have them move. All right. This side of the room is all your firefighters, this side of the room’s the managers over here we get the little exiles, right? Let's come sit over here for a while. So, you know, you can use space in the room for a little bit and do some Direct Access in each of those places. And so, there's a lot that... I guess if I would externalize that's probably the biggest kind of externalizing I might do is have people use different places in the room where I might do Direct Access for a time, then maybe have them sit right here and then go to another part. But people who are good with drawing can draw their parts, mapping and people who can do homework, you know, sometimes people love to have index cards for their parts or some of the supports in the IFS store. I don't know why I don't tend toward that, but they're very, very helpful for many, many people as symbols that they can hang on to.

Aníbal: Absolutely. Cece, you have been always saying and writing it that first steps start with the managers. Why is that so important to start with the managers?

Cece: Because it's universal to be blended with her managers when faced with out of control behavior. It's like physics. If that’s fire, and someone correct me, I think it's centripetal force. But if firefighters are twirling, twirling around over here, and remember how that goes, the fascia twirls, it starts to pull in other things toward it. This is what happens to us into the loved ones. When you watch someone's self-destruct and twirl and speed up in a self-destruct or self-harming kind of way, the speed and the intensity of that draws us in closer. And it's actually harder to stay detached than to fall into that with them. And so, it's inevitable that someone has firefighters towards their own behavior and towards the behavior of others that they love, who are suffering and spinning. And if we don't, we're always looking at the firefighter from a manager perspective and it's just the thing that you're talking about Tisha. Is that there's a subtle way in which you're like “hum mm.” A subtle way in which we don't really buy in. A subtle way in which we or the client doesn't truly accept the positive intention of those firefighters. And when their positive intention isn't really understood, they are highly unlikely to trust.

Tisha: I get really curious about how that is a function of our society and culture as a whole, and how we regard firefighter behavior. And I'm just wanting to hear a little bit of your thoughts on that.

Cece: Well, that reminds you of a conversation we were having before all this started about having fun, you know, and how this idea of what, I mean, and fun can be widely defined. You know, one person's fun is, I don't want to give any examples, I’ll just say something dumb, but anyway, but fun, you know, that is my real sense of firefighters’ role in all of our lives. We universally, as humans, for me, that is my perspective, we need managers or parts to keep us functioning and help us moving forward a little bit and we need parts that help us rest, relax and enjoy pleasure and sweetness. Geneen Roth wrote a lot of books, one of them was if you're going to eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair. You know, really welcoming parts that are comfort eating. And she presented at the IFS conference once, you know, she was very appreciative of the IFS model and took a little piece of chocolate. And I think she passed everyone around a piece of a Hershey's kisses. And she said, I think we just all need a little sweetness in life. And it went right through me as to how culturally me and our larger culture has such a polarity around pleasure, around sexual pleasure, sensual pleasure, around the pleasure of food, the pleasure of altering our consciousness. You know, I'm putting this Martha Sweezy and I are working on a manual right now, my skills manual for working with the addictive processes. And so, I was looking up the first examples of alcohol are like 6,000 BC and there were dice four sided figures, you know, at 3000 BC, you know, humans have used an ecstatic experience, they've used plants based, you know, other kinds of properties that help alter consciousness for eons. And they've been part of the human experience. They might be used for rituals and for milestones and for marking birth and deaths there. But they have been employed as a part of human experience. Ecstatic dance. So, you know, whether it's chanting, native American chanting, monks chanting, you know, so nun saying the rosary, all of these kinds of repetitive things also alter our consciousness. And some of them alter our consciousness in really large ways. So, we have, I think, a polarity about this, we're afraid of being out of control, and I'm almost afraid that the natural inclination towards pleasure will overcome us and sort of ruin us. And I think that if you take the polarity out and the judgment out that the human, that each human wants to find balance, we don't seek to be out of balance. You might seek an experience and then we seek return. So, that is not to say that I think that everything should be unregulated. I don't want to get into all of this politics around... But most of our drug laws in the United States, Portugal, you guys are different, in the United States have really been used to control and discriminate against minorities and black, our black and brown BIPOC population. There are whole books written about this and it has so little, some of it has so little to do with helping people and so much to do with institutionalized racism. So, in addition to sort of the cultural polarity around pleasure that I think we struggle with, at least in the United States, I think that we also have used a lot of control and government control and institutional control to control people, to control the progress and to control the access to opportunity and, but separate even from substances. If we also look at the institutional approach to alcohol use, to eating disorders, to any kind of behavior, it's scary because they're high risk behaviors and it's scary, but there is a tendency toward control and management as opposed to curiosity and understanding. And I'll give one example before I pause. I'm thinking about someone I was in consultation with and she's working in a treatment center. And one of the women in our treatment center who was very shut down, everyone was recovering from drugs and alcohol, very shut down. But one day she told an extremely poignant story about losing her son. And it was really, no one had heard any of this or knew her story at all. And she said it in a small group. And then the next day she found a way to bring some, you know, get some pills and ended up bringing them into the treatment center and use them and then got caught and then was asked to leave the treatment center. And I understand they were afraid. And even some of the other people in recovery were afraid. You're bringing pills to us. We can't be close to them and we don't want that near us. And which I totally understand that. And yet, it's so short-sighted because we would call that a huge breakthrough for that person and then the pain it brought up created a strong desire to medicate. And I understand that there needs to be some regulations and some policy and safe containers. And yet at the same time, I would wish for there also to be, within treatment settings, a more nuanced understanding of that people aren't just using because they want to get away with something and they're just rebels and they can't handle authority. It's maybe a little more complex than that.

Tisha: Thank you. I really appreciate hearing your voice with that answer.

Aníbal: Cece, you say we need to connect even with self-destructive distractors. Is that possible?

Cece: You're asking all the hard questions, Aníbal. It's painful, but yes, it is possible because the blocks, again, this is where IFS is such a genius model. Thank you, Dick Schwartz. When we cause something apart, it's an object it's other than us, it's separate from us, in naming it and identifying it. So, we just have to identify what parts of us are blocking us from viewing this self-destructive part from an open-minded way. You know, and I say to my clients a lot, you know, “tell those managers, those firefighter parts they're causing trouble. They're making a mess and they need help.” We stipulate to that. They're right, however, if they'll step back, those parts are much more complex than they look. And even the toughest manager, you know, kind of can hear that, because really that's known in the system. If we think about it, there's always Self behind all parts and within each part. So, the idea that there is something more than destruction and violence or chaos in a firefighter, that there's more to that part than meets the eye, I think that we can get to that place. And when we're in that place of curiosity, we can hear, you know, talking about someone who's using their pornography and just their particular types of pornography they were attracted to. And I remember somebody saying to me, I just felt like, you know, this woman, she was just looking at me in my eyes. Like she could see me, and she wanted me. And so, the idea of someone being wanted, you know, this is such a powerful desire. And we all want to be wanted, that's universal. So, when we can get to that exile, the part that's wrecking their life and making them use it, pick up their phones in the middle of their workday and wreck their, you know, risk their work and blah, blah, blah. You know, if we find what's behind what appears, what is? I always say never an excuse, always a reason. I'm not here to pass out excuses. You don't get excuses for the parts that are causing, that are hurting other people. They're hurting you. These are the risks that are going on here. I'm not trying to excuse or minimize the impact of the behavior. That's not useful, because if you do that, the managers don't trust. Feel like, okay, you people are crazy. No, we're not stepping back, no. But when you understand, when you accept without excuses, no excuses for this, it's really causing trouble. But what if there are reasons and we can get to that. And what if we can address that? That's the gift and Aníbal, it doesn't take just one session. That's the process.

Tisha: Any advice for therapists on addressing that? Like, you know, just to in general, like, is it working with your own system? Is it really tracking internally? Is it making sure that...?

Cece: There's a couple of different things? Of course working with their own parts is helpful, but in particular, if we have been impacted in our personal lives, by, you know, a parent, if we've lost relationship or connection to family members, to parents, to loved ones, to lovers, to partners, to our kids, our own experiences, our own fears, our own disillusionment, our own losses. This is powerful stuff. This is real. And so, to process our losses, I think is really important trying to be in Self toward our clients that seems to be in a losing game, you know, and we can either be triggered to want to do too much, or we can be triggered... It's just what you talked about, Tisha. We can, we don't necessarily going to start yelling at them, but we might feel, for instance, a hopelessness or we might feel an overwhelm, or we might be ruled by fear. So, to look at any losses that would relate to, you know, the client in front of us. So, any ways in which we've experienced personal loss, we don't really always have great ways to honor our losses and yet from that place, when you've worked with your parts, it can be such a gift. You know, knowing that we can recover from loss, I think is helpful with the clients that they can recover. I think the other thing, and I don't know how to create exactly, Tisha, but I... The idea of hope, the idea that there is possibility here, this is true for any kind of trauma recovery. That's a long slow process. I worked, you know, from the beginning of my work, as a therapist, I've worked with physical abuse and sexual abuse and families and survivors of sexual abuse and men and boys who had sexually abuse. And, you know, there's a lot of desperation in all that. Yet, I'm over and over again impressed by the human spirit and the ability of people to heal. So, I think to hold on to our belief that anyone can heal, and my job isn't to get them to, I don't know, some extreme place, some place far down the road, some image of healing. My job is to help them from wherever they are today, to move the ball forward, to move it forward. I might be at this little section of their recovery or of their healing or with this part I might be early in, I might be in the middle, I might be later. Whenever we meet our client, I don't know what the proper outcome for them is or what it's going to look like or what their life is going to look like. But my job is to hold out the hope and the possibility that they can heal and to take them to whatever their next step is, as opposed to some ideal, I don't mean to lower the bar but to handle it in ourselves the clarity of our mission, I'm not here to fix them. I'm here to help them get to know their own system better. And from there healing will occur.

Tisha: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Even just spending time with those extreme firefighters inside, with some amount of understanding. What a triumph.

Cece: Right, and everyone doesn't want to give up their drugs and their alcohol and their stuff. Many people feel quite relief when there, and many people, that's not their thing. That's not their goal. That's not where they are today. So, I'm not going to say, well, go away. You know, when you stop using, and you've gone to these many meetings, then come back and see me. I mean, I do actually get that. I've been that therapist in a certain way or been close to that therapist in a certain way I think in my life. I’ve been one degree of separation from them. But what I think IFS allows us to do, and I don't think every model does, IFS allows us to see those parts, to see that ambivalence or that disinterest in changing to say, okay, so these parts of you are committed to this practice. You are sitting in a therapist office, so, what is it that you are here for? Back in the day, the first rule of the ethics of social workers is client's self-determination. And I think in other words, they tell us why they're here. We don't tell them why they're here. So, what if we, you, will you tell me what you did? Well, my girlfriend left me, I want to talk about that. Hey, trust me, we're going to get to the using, we'll get there. We're going to get to the pain, you know, so I can accept wherever my client comes and see where we're going to go next. I don't have to know that.

Aníbal: Cece, do you believe IFS can play a special role approaching addictions as seems to be the case with the psychedelic assisted therapies?

Cece: Well, that's a whole other subject and not exactly about addiction, but it's about a different view of looking at different forms of medicine or medication or chemicals or drugs in a different light. And it is requiring and inviting our community, not IFS community, but our larger psychological community to look at drugs in a little more complex light and I am very fascinated by all that. Of course, I'm always careful, you know, we're not looking for the silver bullet here. There's not one drug that's going to get us over it, get us over, right. Or one experience. So, there's a lot around that. There has to be a lot of support and preparation around all of that. And other people in our community can speak to that quite directly. But I think where it both relates to my view in particular is the idea of becoming curious about the impact of any drug on our experience and the intention of that and not making an assumption.

Aníbal: Thank you. Cece, would you agree with the journalist and Ted Talk presenter, Johann Hari statement that the opposite of addiction is not about sobriety, but about connection?

Cece: I think that is a great statement. Here there is some controversy about him and so I don't want to get into controversy about him in particular. But around that statement what I would say is, yeah, that's a great way to... What we do in IFS has helped someone connect to the different kinds of parts in their own inner world in a healthy way, in an open-minded way, in a curious way, in a welcoming way. And so, there's enormous amount of connection. They’re separate from that, but from internal, which is that isolation, is a terrible... The shame of having to hide what we do creates enormous isolation and feelings of alienation from other. And that shame-based loneliness and isolation is very very painful. And so, healing and working directly with that shame, I think can make someone feel more willing and bring out the courage to connect to others.

Aníbal: Thank you. Cece, what about the new book and manual, what's the title exactly that you are working on?

Cece: We have a working title, so we'll see what the final title is, but there's two phrases that are important to me, compassion and also the phrase addictive process, rather than addiction. I, of course, use the word addiction because we all understand it. There is common understanding of it, but I'm trying to talk about nuances, to have a more nuanced view of the word addiction and of the idea of addiction and of what addiction is. And I do think that it's an internal process, not a thing. And I think I want to invite us to look at it in a more broad, nuanced, complex way. And it involves every part in the system, not just a part that uses. So, that's why I'm invested in that title. PESI and other publishing companies want titles... To be able to understand the book by looking at the title and maybe, you know, so we'll see how all that goes. But that's [inaudible] in compassion for, because I do think we're always running up against our own internalized and larger cultural judgment around anything to do really with pleasure and senses. We have some fears that we're just going to get crazy. And I say it in a light way, but I think it's a real polarity that enters the therapy room every day.

Aníbal: And when we will have the manual, Cece?

Cece: Soon, soonish.

Aníbal: Soonish.

Cece: Soonable. We actually are... The light is very much, we are closer to the light of the end of the tunnel now in terms of sending it to the publisher. And of course, there'll be a lot of back and forth around that, but I would like to see it out. I don't know how long it takes them to get things ready for distribution, but I'd like to see it by the end of this year.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Cece: It's been a labor of love and I'm so grateful to Martha Sweezy who is quite a brilliant person. And I'm very lucky to have her.

Tisha: Yeah, she is amazing. I really appreciate your desire to change the languaging too, because that's how things shift, is bringing attention to them and naming why.

Cece: Right. Thanks for saying that, Tisha. That's right. I want to jar us a little bit off our center. Look at these, this idea of addiction. I want us to be a little off center. Yeah. Thanks.

Tisha: Thank you.

Aníbal: Cece, thank you so much for sitting with us again and for such a valuable conversation on addictive processes, and congratulations on your coming manual. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you.

Cece: Thank you both. Thanks for asking such great questions.

Tisha: Thanks for giving such great answers. Thank you. It’s great to see you again.

Cece: I look forward to connecting again. Thanks guys.

Common Pitfalls in IFS language, with Mariel Pastor 00:00

Mariel Pastor is an IFS therapist, consultant, and Lead Trainer based in Portland, Oregon who began her IFS journey back in 1998 with Richard Schwartz.  
She trains across the United States and internationally and is the principal author of the manual used in Level 1 trainings. She is also co-founder of the IFS Telehealth Collective, a multi-state group practice that brings IFS therapy online to clients while supporting the clinicians who serve them. Mariel's Unburdened Internal System mandala illustrates what life can look like when we befriend and unburden our parts, and this material was recently featured as part of the IFS Institute's Continuity Program.  This year she will launch online programming for Character Mapping - a psychological toolbox for actors writers, and directors.  

 

Common Pitfalls in IFS Language, with Mariel Pastor

Today on IFS talks we're so happy to be welcoming back Mariel Pastor. Mariel Pastor is an IFS lead trainer based in Portland, Oregon. She wrote and edited the new IFS Level One Training Manual, and she's created advanced workshops designed around the Unburdened Internal System Mandala. More recently, she's the co-founder of the IFS Telehealth collective, a multi-state group practice that brings IFS therapy online to clients while supporting the clinicians who serve them. Today we're speaking with Mariel about IFS shorthand busters, exploring some of the prominent accidental habits of the IFS therapist that can be challenging for clients.

Tisha Shull: Mariel, thank you so much for joining us again today. We're really looking forward to this conversation

Mariel Pastor: As am I and thank you both. It's fun to be with you.

Aníbal Pastor: Welcome back Mariel. Two years ago, in February 2020, right before the pandemic, we sat together, and we talked. We addressed your personal journey with IFS, your beautiful diagram The Unburdened Systems Mandala. And we also analyzed the brand-new level one training manual, once you were the main writer and editor. We spent a great time together today. Today, you want to speak for some common accidental misunderstandings about IFS model that you say really confuses therapists and frustrate client’s parts. And you say these come up consistently in your consultation groups. You say you call them IFS shorthand busters and they have been a part of your Unburden System Workshops. You say some of the language we use is really just shorthand and the complete meaning is often lost. So, Mariel, do you want to share with us what are those common accidental misunderstandings that confuse therapists and clients and become prominent habits? Let's just sit with the first common misunderstandings in your list and debunk it: Self is good, and parts are bad. So, isn't it true? Self is good, parts are bad, or can parts be as good as Self?

Mariel: Well, this is a good opening for a plug for Richard Schwartz’s latest book, which there are no bad parts, right? No Bad Parts I think is the title. That kind of language good and bad, you know, just invites exceptions to the rule. And what I like to remember is the basic assumptions of the IFS model are really all we need to lean on when we want to understand it. And one of the first assumptions is that multiplicity or having any number of parts is natural and it's useful and it's human. So, we all have these different aspects of our personality, many layers inside, and we have Self-energy. So, this is just the lay of the land of being human. It's natural, it's universal. So how can it be bad to have parts? It's some of how we're built. I do want to say that I've always been a little nervous presenting some of these accidental misunderstandings because I think everybody comes to them innocently and with good intentions, you know, we, the model is complex, people are complex and this process is also somewhat intuitive and elegant. So, when you witness IFS, you see this, oh, it makes so much sense and we put language to it to summarize or put a little structure around this abstract process in a way or on the inside so that this language can be efficient and sometimes too short. The caveat is the disclaimer is everyone who might use some of these different misunderstandings as we're going to call them these shorthand busters, comes to it innocently. Nobody is really intending to confuse clients or irritate them. And I think in the trainings or in all the different IFS offerings in the world, online books, et cetera, you see this elegant process, you know, but people are complex, and the model is complex, which is why we have the trainings. So, we use these sorts of terms, as shorthand, as structure to understand this complex model. And sometimes people have heard some of these terms or sayings as I'm calling them shorthand so often that they may have not spent enough time really feeling into all of what they're about, what these terms are about it. It accidentally got lost. So, in consultation, I'm noticing these habits and I'm wanting to shed light on it. And it seems to clarify things for therapists. So that's my intention.

Aníbal: Makes sense, yes.

Tisha: Can you share with us a little bit more about how you developed these before we get into the next one? What you were noticing in consultation and how you began to iron out these habits?

Mariel: Yes, yes. One piece is that while we all know that the healing comes from Self-energy and the more acceptance and compassion and curiosity, all those great aspects of what it feels like to be listening deeply to a part, we all know that's where the deepest healing is going to go. And sometimes people are wanting to get past parts really quickly. And that if a part is blended, it seems like that's a problem. So even though we say multiplicity is natural, all parts are welcome, we're asking them to step back all the time. So, a part of me often says, if I'm welcome, exactly, when is that? Why am I being asked to step back constantly? When am I welcome and why would I be welcome? Isn't that a good thing? So, I would see it in practice when people might be asking a part to step back because they can tell it's there, they could feel its energy. And I like to say that when we talk about a parts detector in IFS...

Aníbal: So important.

Mariel: ...that's one of the, a term that we use. That's something that you get better at. I believe what we're really detecting is the burden or some edginess of a part when it's problematic, right. Burden energy. But if we ask it part to step back, sometimes we don't even know who that was or what it was really about and how it also is just as important as part of this person. So sometimes it might have been done without really understanding the value of that part or who that part actually even was. So that was one of the first places I saw it. Sometimes it sounds like, you know, like you hear people in trainings perhaps, in IFS communities, using this shorthand saying things like, oh, well that was just a part.

Aníbal: Diminishing the part, right?

Mariel: Yeah. It's accidentally minimizing or dismissive. Oh, that was just a part of somebody or that's just a part talking, what part of you is that... As if, and it's not always, when it's not just the words, it's sort of the assumption behind it.

Tisha: Right. There is almost a tone there, there's like some implicit, like you should get that part to unblend and be with me in Self.

Mariel: Right. And, good luck by the way, because I don't think we're always, we're ever going to be a hundred percent unblended unless we're perhaps in a really transcendent, deep meditative place. If I may, I know Pam Krause talked about the weaponization of Self and this fits in there with that, as well as with Cece Sykes, she has this spectrum of Self-energy that is in the manual. And the idea is that there's, you know, amounts or degrees of Self-energy. It's hard to put language to that because it's so subjective and energetic, but I just want to add another piece, I think of, comes from transpersonal psychology that talks about real Self, which might be that transcendent, non-dual, very spiritual, you know, expansive energy of Self that includes and connects everything. Okay. I'm not living in that as often as I wish I were, but also besides real Self there's actual Self, which means the Self that we are, that's acting out in the world, acting in the world, engaging. And that might be as what Pam was talking about with it, when we're Self-led and we have our parts and our parts aren't problematic, they are blended and effective, right? And influential and helping in being human. And then last piece is false Self, which might be when we're much more burdened and we're so believing that who we are is that burden or all these burdens. So, to me, it's not Self as good and parts are bad. All of it is good, but it begs the question: where's the problem? You know, why are we asking them to step back? The problem is the burdens and the polarizations.

Aníbal: Mariel, you also say another common misunderstanding is Parts are Feelings. So, are parts more than just feelings?

Mariel: Yeah. That one really can activate a part of me. And people come by this innocently because we hear the sad part, the angry part. That's what we say in IFS is a trailhead. It's the beginning of getting to know a part. So maybe I'll say a trailhead is like, when you are on a walk in a forest at a trail, you're at the beginning, when you keep walking down that trail, you see a whole big vista, you get a whole journey, a whole experience. So, when a part is angry and we say the angry part, I may not know the full story of its anger. And besides angry, it might feel, you know, sad. This part might also not need to feel sad and angry once it's really listened to. It starts to change, and it tells you its intention. So, parts have feelings. The parts are not in itself just feelings. Another example of where this can be a problem is, I think about, Aníbal and Tisha, do you have different kinds of anger and might that come from different parts of you?

Tisha: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. There’re different flavors of anxiety, different flavors of anger, different flavors of sadness. For sure.

Mariel: Can you imagine a part that's in a manager role having some of these emotions?

Tisha: Oh, for sure. Yeah.

Mariel: We're all smiling and going oh yes. So how a manager who's wanting to be in control and responsible feels angry is really different from a fighter in me, who's going to advocate for injustice around injustice and is really different from an exile in me who's so angry at always being ignored.

Aníbal: Angry is not coming from managers or firefighters always.

Mariel:  But they're all angry. Yeah.

Aníbal: Exactly.

Mariel: Yeah. So, you know, a remedy to that is stay curious enough, you know, use that parts detector to know that some edge or burden energy is coming up, but be curious enough to know who's speaking in that person and what's the quality, what else is there about that side of the person, that part of that person. Parts are full person, they're three dimensional personalities. They have thoughts, they have wide variety of thoughts and feelings and sensations.

Tisha: Would this be a good time to ask you a little bit more about the burdens? Because this is, you know, in each of these, just these first two shorthand busters, there's the burdens are being acknowledged and you named initially that the parts aren't the challenges in and of themselves, but these burdens kind of pushing through. Could you say a little bit more about the nature of the burdens and how to work with that?

Mariel: Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up because that's also something that, you know, gets revisited a lot from, you know, IFS therapists. And I will say that because it's complex, none of these questions are ever old. They're always important. You get new angles on it. So, it's one reason I like teaching a level one and doing consulting. It's never boring for me. And I've been doing this 23 years or so. So, burdens are what constrains and keeps us from feeling let's say our most alive or free or thriving and burdens can be seen as energy that, you know, holds a part back. I mean, people often talk about, I feel like some burden was lifted when I tell my story and I feel lighter. So, in IFS, we look at burdens as negative beliefs that a part might take in from a number of sources, from family, from culture in ways that a person might remember or not, it just was felt it was in the environment, beliefs about themselves. I often say that burdens are beliefs that we act as if we're true, and then they are... So, an example is I'm worthless. I'm not okay, I'm all alone, I can't handle it, It's too much for me. Things like that. Another burden, a way a burden shows up is the emotional impact, because just a thought without the nervous system, through the emotion and the sensations being activated, isn't really a problem. You know, I can have a thought like I'm six foot 10, and it's not a problem because A it's not true. There’s no any energy around it as being a bad thing. That was maybe a lousy example. But the burdens are thoughts, beliefs, sometimes memories, images that are problematic, but often it's felt in the body, sensations and emotions. So how they get presented in the IFS model might be all of those things or just a few ways that a part says the impact of a situation landed in them. What did they believe? So, like I said, it's complex.

Tisha: So, when you are sitting with an angry part and there's some kind of burden energy to it, there might be the thought “nobody loves me” at the basis of it. And so, then the angry part has a different flavor characteristics.

Mariel: Yeah. It starts to become much more nuanced in a way. And a story unfolds, and you see the context and even the anger might then soften, and you get to some sadness perhaps, or powerlessness. And maybe that leads into some other part that really holds the worst of it all. We don't know, we stay curious and we ask the person where that's coming from, or what else is important for me to know about your anger.

Aníbal: Mariel, and what about your number three common misunderstanding Parts are their roles, can you say more on this one?

Mariel: Well, it's similar to the parts aren't their feelings, parts have feelings and they have any number of them. Parts also have roles, they aren't their roles. So sometimes people will come in and say, that was my manager. And you know, again, that's shorthand, I'll be curious, which manager. I don't know about you, but I have a number of them. So, and also some of our parts might do this role sometimes. Sometimes a protector might act as a manager or act as a firefighter. And what is sometimes forgotten is how we, or how Dick came to that understanding about the difference between managers and firefighters. And it comes from, in some ways the timing or the intention of managers is to be preventative of pain and vulnerability. They're out in front. They say never again. Right? They want to prevent problems. So often managers are kind of the parts of us that are very socialized, who we will put out there and that's not necessarily a problematic thing. Right?

Aníbal: Of course.

Mariel: But in therapy, people are wanting to look at their managers as problematic, maybe they're overworking, right? So, a part in its protective role to prevent problems might really overdo it and bring a lot of strain. And when it's relaxed or healing has happened and they don't have to be extreme, maybe they aren't in that role at all. So, if managers are preemptive and preventing problems, the firefighters are different. They react once the vulnerability comes up. So, my hardworking, let's say another part of me says, are you hardworking? Yes. Okay. Let's say a worker part of me that stays busy might do that to prevent problems and to make sure things go smoothly and under control, or it could do that because I'm nervous about something and I want to distract from feeling insecure. So, it might look really good and I'm being really busy, but it's in kind of firefighter mode. Do you experience it that way?

Tisha: I feel like it's different for every part in every context.

Mariel: It's true. My husband likes to say that some of his parts are specialists, so they consistently show up in one way. And I find that that's, you know, true for many people also, but some parts are more often managers, but so any behavior could be a manager or a firefighter. And sometimes there's a temptation to label all numbing, let's say, as a behavior, as always a firefighter. Not necessarily if somebody is living life all the time as I need to always stay numb, then that would be kind of a manager behavior manager role.

Aníbal: And what about the number four common misunderstanding you refer IFS is all about Insight or mostly Insight. Is it so common, this misunderstanding and where does it come from?

Mariel: Right. Well, yeah, so IFS equals insight is something that I like to look at and challenge in that there really are three approaches to IFS and insight is the one that is deeply personal, really powerful. And what I think IFS is most known for because when Dick was really bringing it forward to the world at that time, there wasn't as much mindfulness happening in psychotherapy like it is now. There were other parts approaches, but this deep IFS, Self to Part relationship especially was just profound. It is profound. So, you see a lot of examples of that in trainings and demos and direct access, which is what we say is a part is really invited to blend, or we just know it's blended and we haven't specifically invited it, that's also very powerful as an IFS approach and can happen as part or all of a session, even. So, insight might be the most familiar and most prevalent IFS approach, but direct access is very important and there are different reasons to use that. And then the third approach to IFS, which is also very powerful, is to externalize the inner world through art or mapping, what we call sculpts. So, using objects to represent what's happening inside externally. That's also another really useful approach to understanding the inner system and helping it heal.

Aníbal: Absolutely.

Tisha: On that note, do you have any recommendations for externalizing the system in sessions online? Because I felt like it was really great working with clients and doing parts mapping and even embodying parts. But online, I find that that step of externalizing the system gets a little bit lost or like it becomes homework.

Mariel: Yeah.

Tisha: Do you have any shorthand for that?

Mariel: Yeah. That's a really question of the moment, isn't it? As all of us now are online and in my office, I had a sand tray and I had all these art tools. Well, I'm not in my office anymore or very often. So, yes, there are some things people are using. They might have a client grab an object in their room and say, let's let that represent, you know, this part of you, maybe for a polarization and let's grab another object. And so, the client can have some things in front of them. You can set it up in advance to have the client, it depends on what the client likes, if they have artistic, you know, if they have some tools like markers or paints nearby and some paper, you can guide them through a mapping technique. So, they're actually doing it with you. I think if you're using zoom, there's something called a whiteboard.

Aníbal: Yeah. Can be helpful.

Mariel: And I believe there are some sand tray online resources that you can subscribe to. And I haven't used them, but I have heard some other clinicians that have made use of that. So, I think more will also be developed.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Mariel, what about the number five common misunderstanding Self is all you need. What do you want to stress out with this one? One, Self is not enough?

Mariel: Yes. I remember a client who I have worked with for many years, and she is very familiar with using IFS and doing inner work. And several years ago, I remember her saying something along the lines of, I know I'm supposed to be able to do this all for myself and meaning the inner work. And I don't remember all of the context, but it kind of broke my heart a little bit in that, you know, in terms of attachment and connection and attachment, being a deep human need, universally, you know, we are relational beings. We cannot survive without each other. And yes, our own Self-energy can heal and reach certain places inside us in a way that another person really can't be as directly connected, but we can, at the same time, we need other people. And there are times when, let's say in great pain, if a person is in deep grief and very, very blended with their burdens and when there's deep grief, there's nothing wrong with the person for grieving, they are feeling a very natural, universal experience. Somebody else's Self-energy is incredibly helpful and important. So often in therapy and in IFS trainings, we do talk about it. I certainly do a lot throughout the training, the container we set as facilitators with our clients, holding our own Self-energy is no small thing. Is very important for others. And then not just in therapy out in the world. So, we need community. We need other people's health. I remember hearing with PTSD that in times of trauma, when that trauma has happened, if there has been enough Self-energy around the person in their community or family and offering that to the person who was traumatized, they're less likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They were met at the time with the resources that were healing from other people. So, this idea that we should be able to do it all ourselves sometimes is out there in the world like, oh, well, I know I need to be always with myself. Maybe a more common example is in couples work or in relational work. It's okay to ask for something from someone else. And we may, you know, demanding it might not go over really well. But when we get clear about we have needs and it's human, and there's no shame about that and we can speak for it, or we can even show our vulnerability to somebody else and ask for that. That's part of living together and being in community.

Aníbal: Absolutely. Beautiful.

Tisha: Yes. I have a personal example of that, if I could share.

Mariel: Please.  

Tisha: I got to do a demo. I got, you know, I pick the card for a demo in a level three and my young exile was witnessed by the group and it felt so good for that child to be seen by everyone. It was, you know, I'd met with that exile before with that little girl who was out in the cold and it was so beautiful for her. It was just, it was another level of healing to have the group see what she went through.

Mariel: Yeah. That just gives me chills, you know, and perhaps...I don't want to make an assumption, but, you know, coming from the American culture, maybe we have some things in common there, but yes, I can just, you know, resonate with that. The small thing being seen, being connected, connected is one of the C words of Self-energy. Right? So, to let this little girl get connected and be seen, yes. So of course we need that, that mirroring, that validation. And some of what I think around the unburden system mandala is when the therapist can remember this part is not just this burdened feeling is not just this belief and not just this role and doesn't have to be alone. When a therapist can really look and hold the faith that if I get to know this part, no matter how it appears on the outside, I know there's some value in there. There's some light in there. There's some gift. And how exciting to meet that. So, meeting that little girl, I bet just, you know... What were her qualities, if you don't mind my asking when she really was seen and unburdened, what can you...?

Tisha: Oh, she was just, she was sparky, she was fiery and yeah. Playful and really, really wanted closeness, wanted just to be held and

Mariel: Yeah.

Tisha: Yeah, she was cool. She was three. She was...

Mariel: And by the way, she's a part of you Tisha. She's in you. And what a gift to have this part blend consciously, you know, or less consciously, just naturally in your life, in settings that can receive for... That's good for the setting to have that liveliness. I've often thought, I remember thinking this on 9/11, when I was in my office, that somebody's doing their healing work is really a generous act. In spite of these giant things that are happening in the world. Every act, like what you just described, of healing and bringing these parts gifts out into the world, that's a contribution.

Tisha: It’s great to look at it like that. Thank you.

Mariel: Thank you. I got something out of you sharing that story. It landed.

Tisha: The group experience felt really important.

Mariel: Yeah. And that's when, in the trainings too, we talk about the demos are a gift for the rest of the group. You know, this resonance between people. You're healing, then gives permission to others to do the same or lights the way. It has that potential anyways.

Aníbal: Mariel, another common misunderstanding you are calling attention is: An unburdening is forever. What are you saying, Mariel? One unburden is not enough?

Mariel: Well, and I remember you and I speaking about this, Aníbal, too, and I'm not positive that this might've been from that conversation that it got added to the list. Because I agreed. You're a very skilled IFS therapist yourself. So, I do agree that, you know, sometimes people will say, you know, wait, I already unburdened this part, or I've already been there or it happened again. Or sometimes people think IFS is brief therapy. I don't know. It could be brief, but time is somewhat of an irrelevant variable and needs to be authentic and in real deep. But when we find that a burden is there again, the same burden of, let's say, I'm a piece of shame or some worthlessness or some fear, there could be different reasons for that. Some of the reasons are, maybe there's a new experience that hadn't been mentioned before that needs witnessing again, or maybe something new happened in the person's life. And it landed in that same sensitive spot. That's something I think you and I were resonating with, Aníbal, is that, you know, some of us have been doing this work a long time and there are just some sensitive spaces that something will come along and I might have like that allergic reaction to it, like, oh, something's activated again. Hopefully it's not as severe or as big. We are vulnerable as human beings. There are threats out there. You know, what do you think about that? You know, unburdenings aren't forever. Do you have another take on that?

Aníbal: Well. In a world so burdened, how can we unburden for good? Right?

Mariel: Well, and I will say sometimes there are burdens that just, they don't come back. I wonder about the interface of our mind and our spirit with our physical body, in this case, in our brain, you know, it could be that...Like I've when I used to work a lot with children, it felt like their burdens hadn't necessarily had as much time in there to be represented in their brain. Like those deep grooves in the brain. This one little girl I remember working with who had bad nightmares, we externalized her parts. This was early on in my IFS training. So, I was just really witnessing thinking “I'm trying this thing. This is what I learned to do”. We externalized, she externalized her parts with dolls and suddenly she picked a doll and that had like Self-energy and this eight-year-old girl then started working with her nightmare with these dolls. I mean, this was really at least 20 years ago. And I remember it very clearly, a lot of it clearly, and she worked out the content of her nightmare there, and it had to do with some serious sex abuse and the next week or so I remember asking her, her mother just mentioned the nightmare stopped and the nightmares didn't come back. And I worked with her maybe another six, eight months or so. So hopefully her environment remained safe and supportive. I don't know. I haven't seen her in a long time, but in that case, I hope that unburdening was forever in that part for that burden.

Aníbal: So interesting. Mariel, as we are coming to an end and before we close this amazing talk, do you want to introduce us to the IFS Telehealth collective? What is this project that Dick Schwartz endorses as two top IFS trainers, veterans, I guess, hire and provide consultation to well-trained IFS therapists. So that if you refer to this practice, you can be confident that clients will be getting the real deal.

Mariel: Yeah. You know, it's something I didn't know I'd be doing, to tell you the truth, but a colleague of mine who is on the team, the staff of a training I did in San Francisco had created a... Her name's Marcella Cox. She created a group practice online in California where she lives a few years before the Telehealth collective. And so, she had a framework for it, and she approached Paul Ginter, lead trainer Paul Ginter and myself about joining her because she thought IFS, you know, should be more available to people. It's growing. And she had a vision for offering this in a few states. So, this was right before the pandemic started. She had approached Paul. It was is almost prophetic. And, you know, I thought I needed another complex project, like a hole in my head, but I also thought it's a good idea. And as Dick and Paul and I had said, it's hard to find IFS therapists with openings. So, we created a group practice. It's only in the United States and we're in six states right now, California, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan, and Oregon with plans to expand, which always makes a part of me go, oh God, we've been drawing really fast. It's been great. All of our clinicians are IFS level one trained at least. And they meet with Paula and I every week to bring their cases. And they are all across the United States and really feel like a group practice. They're becoming friends and colleagues. We are really a group, lovely people. And I see them growing and deepening. The clients come to us with all different levels of IFS awareness. We have a library of tools for the clients and the clinicians. And Paula and I really did it for the community that we thought we might build. And after all this hard work, it's a reality.

Aníbal: Such a gift.

Tisha: How can people find out about it?

Mariel: They can Google IFStherapyonline.com and that will get you to us or remember IFS Telehealth collective. And we're often hiring as we grow, but it's, thanks to Marcella Cox for really creating a solid business model. I don't know how she did it or talk to us into it. But now that we're here, it's been a really lovely group

Tisha: Before we go, I wanted to ask a quick question that's completely off the topic, but I don't know if I'll get a chance again. Behind you on the wall there's this total rock and roll t-shirt and I was looking at it and I'm like, who is that band? And it's got your name on it.

Mariel: Oh my gosh.

Tisha: Can we have this story?

Mariel: That's hilarious. Okay. So right before the pandemic, I was supposed to go to Madrid to do a level one training and it was over the course of a couple of months. And I had arranged to do unburdened system retreat in Switzerland and a workshop in Copenhagen and a workshop for you, Aníbal, in Portugal. And my husband was coming with, and he's a musician and he made a touring t-shirt for me. We were going to nine countries and it says Mariel Pastor World Tour 2020. It was a joke. It's got a monkey on it with some symbols because he says, you know, work monkey, work. It's got nine countries on the back. And my bags were packed completely. It started in New York with the training I did and then Madrid, etcetera, et cetera, bags were packed. And I didn't go because...

Tisha: 2019

Mariel: 2020. It started...

Tisha: Oh, 2020.

Mariel: 2020. It started March 11th or something, and then New York shut down right after that. So maybe it's, you know, that saying, you know, my parents went on vacation and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.

Tisha: Well, thanks for sharing.

Mariel: Thanks for asking

Aníbal: Mariel, thank you so much for having us and for bringing these interesting common misunderstandings in IFS practice and consultation. I'm sure this is of great value to all IFS psychotherapists and practitioners.

Mariel: You know, I hope it is because I often tell people, hold the model lightly, you know, just consider that you're meeting a person with all these different little people inside, sort of. Just treat parts like people. That's one of the remedies and stay curious and listen with your heart.

Tisha: Thank you so much.

Mariel: You'll get there.

Aníbal: It was, again, a great joy to sit with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing your wisdom is model our work and our lives. Thank you so much.

 

Transcript Edition:
Carolina Abreu, certified Psychotherapist, L3 Trained,
and experienced Program Assistant for the official IFS-InstituteTrainings.

The Tyranny of Change and other Therapist Burdens with Einat Bronstein 48:05

With a Law degree at Tel Aviv University, Israel, and Masters in Clinical Social Work at Washington University in St Louis, MO, USA, Einat learnt with Dick Schwartz and practiced IFS from its early years in Chicago. She graduated from Level 1, 2 and 3 IFS trainings; an International Lead Trainer, an IFS supervisor and a Certified IFS Therapist with over 25 years of clinical experience in private practice. She is the co-founder and co-director of the Israeli Institute of IFS.  Einat taught Couples Therapy for 8 years in Tel Aviv university, she is married and has 4 kids.
More recently Einat became a grandmother: a grandson joined the family.

Today on IFS Talks we are so happy to be welcoming back Einat Bronstein. Einat is co-founder and co-director of the Israeli Institute of IFS. And she's an international lead trainer and IFS supervisor and a certified IFS therapist. Today we'll be discussing therapist burdens in the therapy room, a topic of great interest to all of us.

Tisha Shull: Thank you, Einat, for joining us again, and thanks for bringing up this important, important topic for discussion.

Einat Bronstein: Thank you for having me. Really a pleasure to be here again, feels like a natural continuation of what we talked about in our last podcast. Thank you.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back, Einat, and many congratulations on your newborn grandson. You became a grandparent, such a blessing and privilege. So, in our first talk, the 11th July 2020, so about 20 months ago, we discussed the importance of the therapist-client relationship for IFS. As a model that teaches how to do U-turns, IFS claims Self therapy is possible once you have learned its basic assumptions. So, we discussed how relevant the therapeutic relationship still is, the role of technique in IFS, among many other topics.

Today, you suggested we discussed the therapist burdens and dictums in the therapy room and how those burdens can make therapy harder or even stuck. So, Einat, in these pandemic times of greater demand for psychotherapists throughout the whole world, with so many exhausted or even burned out, maybe this conversation can help us in some ways. So, what are those burdens and dictums you say we take on as therapists. Can you give us examples?

Einat: Yes. Thank you. So, you know, under this topic of, you know, burdens of therapists in the therapy room, we can actually put all kinds of things. You know, there are personal burdens from our personal life stories that show up, you mentioned every relationship we have, as well as the therapeutic relationships. But today I actually wanted to talk about something that feels almost like an oppression on the therapist, something, I kind of call fondly the tyranny of the demand for change. Just feeling that we enter this relationship and we enter the therapy room with this big heavy demand hanging over our head that we have to, we must deliver change. There are many problems with this, you know, for many people at first it would be like, yeah, of course, many therapists will define themselves as change agents. People will say, I even enter this profession because I wanted to help bring change. And that's all true, and it's good. When I feel that without exploring a little further, the whole notion of change and how that expectation or demand is impacting us as therapists, without that, we’re actually, we can go lost a little bit.

Tisha: Oh, what a beautiful topic and what a beautiful angle on it, because yes, just hearing what you're saying and thinking about how we sit with clients with that backstory running, how are we going to help them get better? How do we help them get to a different place, a different way? Yeah. I'm so excited to hear what you have to say and your thoughts on this subject.

Aníbal: Many clients sit with this in mind, please change me. Right? So, like if it is a task of the therapist only. So, Einat, what makes a therapeutic relationship stressful and what are the consequences for both therapist and client of a more stressful therapeutic relationship?

Einat: Yeah. So, as I said, I think that the stress starts off many times from outside sources. As I said, when the schools that trained us told us that we are change agents and we need to deliver change and that's what therapy is about. When the institutions or the agencies that we work for, have very clear guidelines of what they expect to see, they monitor change, they try to assess change, they want to see certain things happen over time. And so, change is something that is sort of like breathing down the neck of the therapy experience from the get-go. And, of course, the client brings, you know, clients bring this expectation in one form or another and the therapist. So, as we know, so many things in the therapy room are contagious between client and therapist, you know, an inpatient part, a critical part. They sort of start to float between us. And so, the critical impatient of the client, you know, triggers a critical and impatient part of the therapist and vice versa. So, that when parts in both systems, the therapist and the client organizing around achieving change, it affects the entire joint field that organizing parts in both systems, client and therapist, we must have change raise stress in both systems, and they feed off of each other.

Tisha: You've named some of your parts or therapist’s parts that come up in that dynamic of agency or agenda for change. The part that maybe wants an outcome. What are some of the parts that you've noticed in yourself that really get involved in this process?

Einat: Multiple parts, but the most typical parts when therapists, you know, myself included, for sure, all I say is my own observations of myself for starters, and then other therapists that I work with, but the parts that seem to be most triggered in that, that change is a very responsible part, takes responsibility for everything and anything that has to do with the client. A savior, advice giving, solution seeking, directive, problem solving. These are all parts that sort of like, you feel like they pulled up their sleeves and here they go, they are going to make things happen. They're going to help bring change. They work hard. And they are many times, again, as I said, sort of trigger or connect with similar parts of the client or client comes with parts that are very action oriented, solution oriented, seeking to solve problems, seeking to have, you know, get tools and solve problems. And that creates a process that can be, first of all, quite, I would say flat or superficial, but also stressed. And the chain reaction of that is when we have these parts for us and the client that work hard, that try to problem solve, and advice, and directive, things don't happen. And then the chain reaction is we have other parts show up, disappointed, discouraged, feel like failure, judgmental of ourselves and of the client, they come exhausted, depleted. So, and it happens to both us and the client, lose faith in the process and our ability to come out of wherever we're at. So, again, talk about a stressful, demanding and depleting therapy experience for both client and therapist, that's a sure way to get there.

Aníbal: It looks like we are making a basic mistake that is to hope for change before accepting and understanding that is one of the change paradoxes, right?

Einat: Yes. So, where I go with that is, first of all, you know, I'm not saying, you know, change is not what we want. You know, people come to us because they're in distress, because there's pain and hurt and suffering in their lives. And they want that to stop. You know, that's, if we want to look for change specifically, just people want to stop hurting. They want to like be happier. So, we're looking at, you know, specifics and I want to say the first thing is, you know, when I meet a client, what is the definition of change with this client? Because the way we try to find out is we ask a client, you know, in that first intake, you know, what are your hopes? What are your expectations? What do you expect to get out of this process if it was successful? These are wonderful questions. But the more interesting thing is who is giving us the answers, which parts of the client really answer when we say what change are you seeking? So, I can have a person come in and I will say, you know, what are you looking for? What change, you know, what would be successful, successful therapy session or therapy process for you? And they would say, I want to be able to get a better job, make a career change. I want to be able to find a relationship. I want to be able to leave a relationship. Kinds of things, you know, that people come with it to us. But many times, you know, if we're even able to achieve these changes, this is not what this person really needs. Parts of them tell them, that's what you need. If you only were able to make a career change, get a promotion, get a degree, you'd be happier, and all your problems be solved. If you were just able to get a relationship, then you'd be happy. And that's not necessarily what is the, what's the real change that this person needs in order to get where they want to get in life. Stop on the way it might not even be the right thing for them. But some parts think that it is, they come to therapy wanting that change. And that doesn't necessarily, you know, that's not necessarily what's going to happen. Again, and maybe the change they are looking for is further away in other intermediate, interim changes need to happen first before they can get there. So, the whole notion of how do you conceptualize and define change for each client at each given time it's not so simple. Really requires deeper exploration.

Aníbal: Usually managers are the ones who book the sessions, right?

Einat: Many times, it's managers who book the session and have an agenda. We know that they do. That's what they're there for, have an agenda about what this person needs to change in their lives, and they want to go there, and it may not necessarily be what this person needs. They don't know that, they just try to collaborate, you know, these managers, and then we all get frustrated and depleted because either we can’t get there because the rest of the system is not on board, it's not organic for the system or we get there just to find, much to our dismay, that that didn't bring any of the joy, satisfaction, relaxation, and the good things that were supposed to come with this desire to change.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Tisha: How do you use your own parts in the room in the process as a metric of understanding that deeper change that is calling? Is it about Self-reflection? Is it about deeper connection with the client? How do you get there essentially?

Einat: So, this is a great question, because I think it kind of leads me to the next thing that I actually want to say that because I said, okay, so I just said that we can't really trust the managers who say, this is the change I want as our guides to navigate the route. Okay. So, how will we navigate here? Where are we going? And, for me, I like to just sit there very humbly. I listen, you know, when I hear clients say, this is what I want to see change and all that. Because these things are here, they're there in the field, of course, the managers and the parts that say that. But I am, you know, for me, I am really trying to be very mindful of those parts in me that won't jump on that bandwagon and say, okay, all right, good, good, that's what we got, you know, you want to go there? We're going there. Let me help you out. I'm a trained professional. I can help you go there. I'm really trying to sit quietly with my system and say, I don't know anything. I don't know anything about what this person really needs. Maybe they know what they don't know that they know or the parts that say they know, maybe they don't know what they don't know. So, I'm sitting and saying, I don't know anything and I'm just here to connect with this person to get to know them, to establish a relationship and from this relationship the wisdom will come, the knowledge will come from both of us because I feel that when we are looking to accomplish a certain change for a client, we become outcome focused and not client focused. And I think it's really big. It's a big shift when you sit with the client and you and the client are outcome focused where it's so much better, I think when we, the therapist can be client-focused, I am interested in everything about you and the entirety of your personhood, your life, your being, and from establishing relationship with that gestalt of you, all of you, things can emerge. And the main thing that I would love to see emerging is a safe, respectful, compassionate, Self-energy field relationship. From that everything can open up. So, for me, if I need to name an agenda, if you would like, because we always say, well, IFS, you know, Self has no agenda. So, this agendaless agenda is let's just be in, let's just be in a relationship. And let's just see when we create the safe space, Self-lead relationship, Self-presence, Self-energy, what can come out. Because, I can have this relationship with my client and create that space for us. Client can then create that space internally with their parts, then the Self to part relationship reveals the truth about what each part needs in terms of change, in terms of care, in terms of growth, in terms of healing. Change is a big word. A lot comes into it. Again, sometimes it's an acknowledgement, not the big change.  And a client can relate to a part that up until now was deemed bad, negative, hurtful, destructive, and a client can really from Self connect now with this part in a way that is appreciating, validating, including. That's a big change. Most people don't come to therapy naming that as a desired change, they don't even know it's possible. They don't even know that it's an essential step, making really long-term deep, sustainable changes. So, the relationship is what reveals the path, the path to change, whatever change means for each part in the system. Then for all of them together.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Einat, this tyranny of change that you are speaking for also applies to the therapist because many therapists also want to change themselves. And we are wounded healers, right? On one hand, we need awareness of our own burdens in order to become capable of understanding others' burdens, right? So, do we need unburdened therapists or what do we need?

Einat: Yeah, I mean, I guess, you know, if we can be unburdened and if we can be, in our own system with more Self-energy, with more harmony, which of course is good for us and is good for our clients. I see though, I mean, when you said how, when you noted how therapists pursue change, what came to me is the incredible, I don't even know how to name that thing, but the incredible breathless race for learning. And what I see around me is that we are now, of course, in this digital age, we are bombarded with seminars, workshops, conferences.  I mean, it's, you know, what happens in my email inbox is just crazy every day. I mean, I could spend my whole life, every minute of my life, learning, online in a webinar, in a zoom teaching, I mean, reading books, listening to books, it's mind boggling. And I see how triggering it is for many therapists, because there's so much. And so, it's like walking into a huge bookstore that used to happen at a world of bookstore, feeling like, oh my gosh, I will never be able to read all these books.

Aníbal: What am I missing?

Einat: Exactly. And for therapists, it's like, it's this race to be better, you know, am I good enough? Did I take enough seminars about trauma? Do I know enough about attachment? Have I learned enough, you know, how to work with exiles? And it's constantly this breathless doubting, am I enough? Have I learned enough? And it's constant. There's so much offering. And I feel that when parts go there and there are people that, you know, we're in IFS training and they say how exhausted they are because they just finished, you know, an EMDR training or an EFT training, or they're in the middle of one, they're doing it simultaneously. I'm thinking, oh my gosh, you know, how are you taking care of yourself? How are you allowing the learning to even sink in really fully deeply when you have so much of it? So, I feel that that is one of the burdens of therapists. You know, the race to be better, to learn more, learn more, which really doesn't allow you to be in a relationship with yourself. Which again, to me, that's where the magic is. It also, it's a distraction. You constantly are in a learning posture. You're using your learning parts all the time. And that many times just removes you and distances you from you. We think, oh, now I'm better because I know more, because I've been to this workshop and been to this training, it doesn't make you a better therapist actually. What I think makes people better therapists is when they have a good relationship with as many parts inside themselves as possible. When they really know that internal terrain, they can offer something so safe, accepting, and comfortable for their clients.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Yes. Sounds like an extension of this change tyranny that you were talking. We need to know more in order to be able to change. Yes.

Einat: I need to change, you know, the body of my knowledge or the level of my expertise in order to be better and better and better. I mean, again, it's another outcome focused experience rather than person focused. In this case, the person is the therapist, ourselves, we need to care for that.

Aníbal: Einat, our profession, according to many in our field can be a burden and a privilege. Clinical psychologists look back on their lives work and when asked to reflect on their life's work, a recurring theme in the therapist's comments was that it had been a privilege, a humbling experience to come so close to other people's lives, witnessed their pain and suffering, see their remarkable ability to cope. However, many also describes the burden of feeling so much responsibility for clients and being exposed to so much suffering. They said that age and experience had made them more sensitive. And there was an accumulating effect of sorrowful things over the course of a career. Do you want to comment on this? Does it resonate with your own experience?

Einat: Yeah. Yeah. I'm tracking actually, curiously, how is the daily proximity to human suffering? How is it impacting me, and has it changed? You know, what was it like when I was in the more early years of being a therapist? How is it now? Wondering how it's going to continue to be? I find that there's so many other things that impact us just because we are full human beings and we don't just live in the therapy room. I think that when I became a mother that affected much of my sensitivity to suffering, all of a sudden I was more able to see the child in each person, their childhood experiences became real to me because I had real children in my house that I was caring for. I now have elderly parents who thank God are doing well, but they are, they are forced to grapple with all the issues of old age, a lot of loss, a lot of fear, fragility, powerlessness. And so, I am, I find myself being more sensitive to those aspects, you know, to aging people, to that fragility, physical fragility and vulnerability. So, I find that our sensitivities are very much kind of impacted by where we're at in our lives. You know, when I became an empty nester and I was kind of more focused, you know, more sensitive to those issues. But I think that the biggest change that I see for me and it ties into what I said earlier. I know now that I am not responsible for my clients journey. I join them, and I try to bring into whatever space we share, all the qualities that can be beneficial for them. Again, qualities of Self, compassion, curiosity, courage, care, connectedness, calm clarity. I also love the P words. You know, perspective, one of my favorites, and patience, so important. So, I join their journey and I try to bring all these things to our joint space. I am not responsible for their success, whatever success means for them. I am not responsible for their journey to end up being good, successful one. I so rejoice when these good things happen. I marvel and I celebrate, and I feel so deeply and humbly grateful when people feel that they came to a good place in their lives, thanks to therapy, but thanks to other things as well, I'm happy for them, happy for us, but it's not my doing, so it's not my responsibility. It's when we feel responsible for our client's happiness and success, we forget how powerful they are, they have Self inside themselves, they have other resources. There are healing powers in the world for all of us. We, you know, maybe I can channel some, but it's not all up to me. So, when I stopped taking responsibility for everything that went on like that, it made it much easier for me to be really present for the suffering. I think that in the early years, it was hard for me to be present with the suffering because immediately I had parts that say, do something, the person is suffering. They came to you, they sit in your office, you must do something, you must stop it, you must make it better. And I became breathless inside of me. And all these parts that we named need earlier, just rushed into like take responsibility, give some advice, try this, try that. You know, and when I no longer believe that I can and need to change their lives, I can be so much more present with them where they're at. And then together, we find the path, whatever the path is, wherever it goes, that is the path of this person. Sometimes the path takes us a little bit to even a darker place, so we can be together, but then find a track like, you know, that leads us to a lighter place, but just to be with them and walk this path with them, as the path unfold, is the biggest gift we can give people. And it's very empowering when we are not trying to take over, which is or indicates subtext I know better, you don't know enough, you can't do it by yourself. I'm here to save you, help you, tell you. When we don't do that, it's very empowering. It's kind of like saying, you know, Hey, you and I, we’re in this together. And you know what you need to know, and you're going to guide, I'm here with you and we're kind of guiding together in different ways. It's a joining that makes it so it's not all my job. And because it's not all my responsibility I can be present for the suffering in a much more compassionate, open and... I think then helpful...

Aníbal:  Sounds like a wonderful relief.

Tisha: I appreciate that so much, especially what you said about when our responsible parts are able to step back, we empower our clients by realizing how much Self they have, how much power they have. I'm curious about some of the systems, some of the underlying systems that made us as a field, so outcome oriented, you know, I think about insurance companies, I think about our graduate school programs. I think about everything that predicated how the world of psychology is shifting a little bit more towards this open IFS model, but, you know, CBT is really about change. Do you perceive any systemic ways of addressing how much outcome focus there is in our field, in our trainings, and in our graduate school?

Einat: This is such a big notion because I think the Western world is all about outcome. Now, how we define success and failure, you know, how people chart the course of their lives, you know, they want to achieve this and then this, and then that. So, it's, you know, I think that systems, the education systems that are involved with therapy and psychology aren't different in that way. They are just kind of reflecting the spirit of our society or Western world. I think IFS, IFS took a long time before it was as known and as welcomed as it is today, because I think it that’s exactly what is was going against, that it wasn't outcome oriented in this way. I mean, obviously I don't want it to sound like we don't care about our clients feeling better. Of course, we do. That's, why we're there. We're there to help reduce suffering and bring more, you know, wellbeing to our clients, but the route to get there and how you define change is so limiting and again, as I said, oppressive, unless you leave this real open exploration with the client, each session. And that also, you know, I know that when I was a beginner therapist, it was important to my parts that the client will leave the session, each session feeling a little better than they walked in. You know, how they would walk in really cloudy or sad or depressed or worried or angry. And it was so gratifying for my parts when they left and they would say, you know, with the hand on the door handle, I feel so much better. This was so helpful. I feel better, or I feel even a little better. I was like, oh, good, you feel better. I helped them. And truly, I mean, it's lovely. It's great. But truly in the big picture, do they feel better because we did something that is tangible that we can say, oh, we solved the problem. We found the way we cracked, you know, the enigma or because I was just there with them in a human way and they felt really seen, sensed, heard, felt. They were given safe space to explore themselves with, again, compassion, curiosity, rather than judgment or fear. What made them feel better? And, more interestingly, when they don't feel better, is it bad? Where have we gone? You know, why don't they feel better? Is it again because I failed to be there or because we actually went to some very meaningful places where you don't necessarily feel better, but you are so on your way to where you need to go. You're on your way to an exile that has been waiting for decades for you to come and heal. And you don't feel better because you already sense the pain that is in that place. But once you get there, you can heal that exile and you can be in such a different place inside yourself. So, is it good or bad that you don't feel better at the end of the session? Maybe is really good because we are really going somewhere so important. So, it's so hard to be outcome oriented, you know, in this field with this concept. I would love people, more and more people to have IFS available to them in their teaching, just to allow the focus on relationship, which is not an outcome. It's a process. It's an experience rather than, you know, necessarily achieve this, achieve that and anything else.

Also, I want to share that I'm now involved in this project of, we call it like IFS in everyday life, which I'm doing with people who do IFS in Korea. And it just to allow people again, everyday people, not therapists, to start looking at their lives at their relationships, careers, everything, not through the lens of the outcome that they need to achieve, but through their experience in the process and the joining. That is a huge shift for people, that is a huge change, you know. Here I'm using the word change in a way that is soft, just to allow people to shift from being so outcome focused and outcome oriented, to being much more process, joining, and relationship oriented.

Tisha: I just have a brief example to share about earlier this week. I have a client who I worked with for many years, wonderful with the IFS model, but they, they just, they had a conversation with their anxiety part that they had never, they'd never gotten to that conversation before with the depth and just kind of the truth and authenticity that happened this week. And it was, it was just beautiful to witness. Here's my connection to this part of me that, that I otherwise would have wanted to get rid of. It's important as I can somehow live with it and be with it now, knowing it better. You know, it's just a simple example, but it makes, makes life more acceptable to say, oh, I can have this part that feels so uncomfortable sometimes.

Einat: Yes. And it's, so these things are really transformational. That's before you go into exile, unburdening and trauma resolution, it's just, just, you know, creating this relationship. I want to also maybe name another pitfall of people who are new to IFS maybe. And I see it a lot in the level one trainings, and I speak about it a lot. How the, again, the outcome-oriented tendencies go into the IFS model, because what I see happen many times is, you know, people learn, you know, in level one, people learn about parts and Self and they realize just how magnificent Self is and we want Self to be the leader and all that. Then starts, I call it the race for Self. People start to be constantly worried about am I in Self? Is this Self? Is this Self like? Is this enough Self? Is this not enough Self? Are you in Self? Am I more in Self? Am I less in Self? So, Self becomes an outcome. You know, achieving Self becomes, you know, an outcome that we start to, you know, try to reach for. And the pursuit of Self is done by parts. The more you pursue Self, the more parts are engaged in the race for Self. The more it becomes an outcome, something to achieve, to arrive at. The more is that, the less Self it is because the pursuit of Self is done by parts. And if Self is an outcome that you think you need to achieve, you are not there. It's really a sense of, you know, it's there for you, just be with your parts, just be your parts, be with your parts. If you can be with your parts, you know, again, with curiosity, compassion, acceptance, you know, you are in Self here, you have achieved it. You don't have to work at it. But it's really something to constantly remind people. Don't worry about Self. It's not a goal. It's not an assignment. It's not something to accomplish. It's just be with your parts, Self Is there.

Aníbal: Einat, Mariel Pastor created an unburden Mandala for us. Could we also create an unburdened therapist map helping us to become more balanced and accepting then outcome oriented?

Einat: Oh, wouldn't that be great? All right. I'm going to think of it.

Aníbal: What are your recommendations, Einat, for a balanced, accepting, non-outcome-oriented therapist?

Einat: Okay. The first thing that came to my mind is really to recommend for all therapists to be in therapy. It's just, just because I think we too need this relationship, this therapeutic relationship. It really is a relationship focused on the relationship, the relationship being, being the thing, rather than a certain outcome in mind. If we can be with another therapist in this kind of a relationship, then we are continuing to get to know ourselves and to establish this magical Self to part relationship with many parts in our system as possible. When we can do that, then we can offer a similar thing to our clients. So, when we do that, when we do our work and, again, some people do it, you know, with a therapist, but of course, you know, some people do it with peers that they exchange, you know, just work with each other in a way that is wonderful and very productive. So, I think as long as we have a way of doing it, just continuing to work with our systems and always paying attention to the parts that kind of get triggered with in therapy, like wanting to save and problem solve and provide change. And, you know, and it's an ongoing thing. I mean, I am not, of course in any way, shape or form beyond that, you know. When clients sit in our office and says, I've been here for six months and nothing's happening for me, nothing is changing. I don't see any change. I feel stuck. That's very triggering for us. That's difficult for us. This is when I would really try to not get triggered and activated into defending, apologizing, explaining, doing, yes, but yes. Just to really try to connect and understand the parts who say that because it's never true. I found it to be never true. If someone is in therapy for six months and they have a relationship, building a relationship with a therapist, it's not true that nothing happened and everything’s stuck, some parts that had certain agendas and they already thought that in six months I would have been, you know, already enrolled in school on my way to get my degree and outside of my parents' home and renting my own place. And they had a whole plan. Those parts may think, oh, well, I'm not there, but if you look in other realms in other dimension of this person being, you will see the changes that have occurred during these six months. So, I'm always curious, what are the parts that say, nothing has happened? I'm stuck, we're stuck. And what were they wanting to see? What aren't they seeing and then to try and look at the relationship that have been or created. So, I think if we can maintain our curiosity, and as I said, we do our own work and we constantly bring to supervision or to therapy the clients that trigger us, the parts of clients that pull us into this this way. And again, our parts are constantly on board with this. You know, when you ask, I do a lot of supervision for therapists, so, when I listen to them and I hear the clients that trigger them, you know, clients [inaudible] in many different ways, but one of the most common things is the clients who trigger us are clients who don't show change, they don't get better. We love the clients that we can totally see the impact of our therapy on them. The clients that tell us, oh my gosh, so much in my life has changed and improved since I'm with you. We love those clients. We don't often bring those too...

Aníbal: We also feel powerful.

Einat: Exactly. Powerful, impactful. It gives us a sense of meaning, success. You know, this is what we came to this career for. We wanted to have that impact on others and in the world. And because we so want that we have many parts that are busy at work to achieve that. And these are the parts that I am, you know, the change focus parts that I'm talking about. So just for us to constantly have our hand on our pulse is to constantly be working with our own systems is so very, very important. And also, to kind of try and go into the place of humility because we really, we have no power. We don't have the power that we think we have or that we think we ought to have, or that our clients think we have. We don't have that really. Life is so much more powerful. So many other things happen. You know, for years I've observed this. I used to work with single people who were really looking for relationships and we work with all kinds of things and questions and anxieties, and then they would fall in love and they would fall in love and everything would magically be different. And I'm thinking, you know, a year of therapy, couldn't do what, like a week of really good dates, you know, do for people, you know, like a month of falling in love what it does for people, it's better than, you know, so I'm humbled by life. Life is, you know, and again, we can do wonderful work and then something terrible happens to them and everything breaks because we're just fragile like this. And so, for me to keep, you know, my humility helps me not think that I need to take this responsibility that I can. And many, many times the path to this kind of humility goes through more spiritual practice of sorts, just to take on that understanding that there are bigger powers than us, so much bigger, we're so small, we're small and we're just small. And we can just be small together with our clients. We don’t have to be big and grand and mighty change agents, we can just be humans, two humans in a human experience.

Tisha: Bravo. Oh, thank you.

Aníbal: Einat, as we are running out of time, is there something you'd like to say as a closing?

Einat: Yes. I have this little bitty poem that I absolutely love, and I feel that it's, it captures everything I said. And it's also kind of an inspiration for me. So, with your permission, I will read it. It's called A Medicine Woman's Prayer. It’s by Sheree Bliss Tilsley:

I will not rescue you, for you are not powerless.
I will not fix you, for you are not broken.
I will not heal you for I see you in your wholeness.
I will walk with you through the darkness
as you remember your light.

Tisha: Lovely. Yeah, really beautiful.

Aníbal: So, Einat, thank you so much for this amazing conversation. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you so much.

Einat: Thank you so much to both of you. Really appreciate.

Tisha: Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

 

Transcript Edition:
Carolina Abreu, certified Psychotherapist, L3 Trained,
and experienced Program Assistant for the official IFS-InstituteTrainings.


 

Cultural competency with LGBTQ+: a Talk with Derek Scott 42:19

Derek Scott is the founder of IFSCA, a Canadian organisation dedicated to promoting the work of Dick Schwartz, originator of the IFS model. Though IFSCA Derek offers many programs and trainings such as the Stepping Stone course and the affordable online monthly masterclass workshops featuring experts in the IFS field such as Dick Schwartz, Kay Gardner, Susan McConnell and many others.

Derek has been working with and teaching the model for 20 years. Along with his daughter Maya he presented as part of the plenary on diversity and inclusivity at the IFS conference in 2016 and volunteered as consultant to the IFS Institute as part of the diversity and inclusivity advisory committee.

His first job as a counsellor was in the early 80’s when he began working on the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic, developing anti-oppression workshops as clients and loved ones were dying. He has been championing queer rights ever since.

You can find Derek's IFSCA website at  https://ifsca.ca/

Today on IFS Talks, we have the pleasure of welcoming back Derek Scott. Derek Scott is the founder of IFS CA, a Canadian organization dedicated to promoting the work of Dick Schwartz, originator of the IFS model. Derek has been working with and teaching the Internal Family Systems model for 20 years. Along with his daughter Maya, he presented as part of the plenary on diversity and inclusivity at the IFS conference in 2016 and has volunteered as consultant to the IFS Institute as part of the diversity and inclusivity advisory committee. Derek's first job as a counselor was in the early eighties when he began working on the front lines of the AIDS pandemic, developing anti-oppression workshops as clients and loved ones were dying. He has been championing queer rights ever since.

 

Tisha Shull: Derek, welcome back to IFS Talks. And thank you so much for being here with us again today.

 

Derek Scott: Well, thank you for having me, Tisha.

 

Aníbal Henriques: Derek, welcome back. We have met twice in 2020. Together, we did a talk on grieving and another on spirituality, amazing conversations. And that was right before this pandemic collective trauma. How have you been throughout these pandemic days?

 

Derek: Oh, that's a good question. Well, I started off very panicked and very frightened parts and I had managers that just went into overdrive. So, right at the beginning of the pandemic, they were looking, they were predicting a 4 to 5% death rate. And when I looked at the numbers here in Canada and the rapidity of infection, if it had been a 5% death rate, we would have been utterly overwhelmed with death and with grief. So, I moved into, I got 60 volunteers that developed an entire program, a volunteer-based program on offering counseling to the bereaved, the COVID bereaved, set up an entire program. And thankfully, thankfully, thankfully it wasn't required because the death rate was not that high, but I kicked into high gear professionally. And then personally, I think I made 300 different packets of soup and put them in the freezer because I didn't want to go to the supermarket again, ever. So that was my initial response to the pandemic.

 

Aníbal: An anxious one, yes, everyone was quite scared back then.

 

Tisha: What's happened with those panicky parts now?

 

Derek: You know, it's interesting, Tisha, they've settled down in terms of the immediacy of the panic, which a lot of which was to do with the unknown. And when I was reflecting with them, it was very reminiscent of the AIDS pandemic in my community where we didn't know. We just did not know. We knew that that many of us were dying, but there was no information about transmission. So, just like in the early pandemic with COVID, we were wiping down surfaces. We didn't know if we could kiss. We didn't know if we could have sex. We didn't know if we could hug. So, those parts were triggered as well. Those parts back from when I was a much younger man. And now, because I have a specialty in grief, I've been invited to various places to present on a post-COVID and how to respond from a grief framework. But as I look at it, I don't believe we're post-COVID. And I don't believe we're post catastrophe. When I look at climate change or global warming and the research, and interestingly the research with therapists, the older the therapist, the less concerned they are and the more likely they are to say that young people's anxiety is disproportionate. The younger the person, the more likely they are to respond to the belief that we are doomed. 56% of young people, this was a study from the University of Bath, of 10,000 young people. 16,56% believe that humanity is doomed. They agreed with that statement. So that's where I'm focusing now, not from the place of panic, but from the place of this is the zeitgeist now and what can we as therapists and IFS therapist, how can we move, work with our own parts that go into denial and disbelief, which is the most common grief protectors, so that we can not get overwhelmed, take in that information and then better serve clients. So, I know that's not the focus for today, but since you asked, that's where my system's going.

 

Aníbal: Thank you, thank you. Well said.

 

Tisha: Does it feel like that anxiety is different than growing up in the nuclear era or the cold war era? That sense of doom is it... does it have a different flavor?

 

Derek: It does for me. Yeah, yeah. They always felt very abstract to me, not to my parents, but to me as a child, but there's nothing abstract about... Think about the nuclear era, the cold war was, well, they could push the button or not, right? Whereas with climate collapse, it was like the button's been pushed. There's no way to unpush this button. So, we need to adapt.

 

Aníbal: Absolutely. Derek, you have been doing a great job teaching IFS now for 20 years. Your skills as an IFS teacher and consultant are internationally renowned. And one of your expertise is working with LGBTQ+ minorities. In your website, you offer many different resources in many different categories for IFS interested therapists and practitioners. Among those categories, you include some on gender and transgender. Very interesting stuff. Derek, becoming gay or lesbian or any other LGBTQ+ minority continuous being too challenging and even traumatic for so many children, adolescents and adults around the world, right?

 

Derek: Yes.

 

Aníbal: Gender biases and bigotry has remained so alive in our world. And in many places and countries, not only your freedom, but even your life can be at risk, right?

 

Derek: Yes, yes.

 

Aníbal: So, the world is quite far from being a friendly place for anyone feeling the drive to authenticity. In your website, Derek, you offer an interesting resource, a video called The Drive for Authenticity: Understanding Inner Sexual Orientation and Gender diversity. Why this video and how can it be helpful?

 

Derek: Well, one of the reasons I made that video is I wanted people to get clarity that the messages of shame, of not being okay, of being a freak, of there being something wrong with you, is informed by the broader culture and the broader culture is informed by certain values that we can describe as heteronormative. So, it's better to be heterosexual, cisgender preferred, right? So, is better to be cisgender. Patriarchal. So, it's better to be male. White is better than nonwhite, you know. And all of these beliefs, which you can track back, they've been passed down for centuries by those in power, informs the zeitgeist, they inform the ideology, which permeates every structure in the culture, including the family structure, the family system. And so, the reason I made that video is I wanted people to become aware of a number of things. One is these are the values that we grow up in and our parts internalize them. And that's the source of shame for LGBTQ + people. It's not inherent, there's nothing inherently wrong with us by any means, but our parts that are looking to the culture for, you know, how are we in the world and are we valuable and are we nurtured, answers no. So those parts take on those burdens, which we then see, and, you know, the disproportionate suicidality risk for queer youth, for trans youth, which is the result of those internalized values. So, both wanting to make that clear, so, that people have a way of recognizing that and then, thankfully to IFS, unburdening that, clearing those false teachings. And also, to normalize internal gender diversity and internal sexual orientation diversity. So, as you know, I'm sure, for the work you've done with yourself or others, when you go into the system, quite often, a part will present with a pronoun that doesn't match the biological sex of the person. And that's how it is. So, clearly internally we've got definitely gender parts. And if you go back to the Kinsey research, although was dated and highly criticized, it did acknowledge that there's a variety of sexual attractions. And I believe that different parts therefore have different sexual and affectional attractions, which then may result in a particular identity or more commonly now gender fluidity, I think gender fluidity depends which parts are up at which particular time.

 

Aníbal: Amazing.

 

Derek, coming out can be a very, very difficult process, takes years and decades for many, I believe. And some even choose never do it or never dare doing it. In the United States you have a national coming out day.

 

Derek: They do. And we do in Canada as well, yes.

 

Aníbal: Yes. Beautiful. Are there developmental stages for the coming out process that you'd like to name or maybe useful for us to know?

 

Derek: Sure. As you're asking me, I'm remembering a card I saw in a queer bookstore a few years ago and it described the coming out process. And it said, first everybody else knows, then you know, and then your parents know, right. It was a humorous card of course, right. But there's some grain of truth in that. When one becomes aware of either same sex attraction or that this body doesn't feel like the right body for me, if there's a trans awakening, because of the pejorative responses to that, which are internalized, the system may not want to acknowledge that, might want to find ways to lessen that, you know, let that not be true. And there's the internal struggle. And then, in terms of coming out to oneself, there's also the perceived loss, the fear of loss. Will, my family reject me? Will my friends reject me because I've been presumed heterosexual or presumed cisgender to date?

 

Aníbal: Can be scary.

 

Derek: And then there's the very real loss of heterosexual privilege, which you don't know you have until you lose it.

 

Aníbal: Oh, absolutely.

 

Derek: I remember my first job as a counselor at the AIDS committee of Toronto. In my interview, they said, we want you to think about, if you get this job, this will be on your resume and you will probably be identified as a gay man, and do you want that? And many of the other gay men I know, and lesbians, they have a queer resume and a straight resume. So, if they're applying for a job and many of their volunteer services have been in queer community, they won't mention those because you're applying for a job to someone who's going to look at your resume that you have not met, who could well be homophobic and why risk it?

 

Aníbal: Oh my Gosh. Can be so stressful.

 

Derek: That was coming out to Self. And there's often the assumption with coming out that, you know, “oh, you've come out, that's great.” But coming out is an ongoing process because of the presumed heterosexuality or the presumed cisgender. So, to my surprise, when my daughter was seven, she was at a cooperative school. So, I would go into the school as a parent helper sometimes. And it was usually me and the female teacher on school trips. So, of course, I would be asked to escort the little boys to the toilet. Well, there was a part of me that was very worried because I was presumed to be heterosexual because her mother's lesbian and we looked like a straight couple. That's what people would assume. So I had to come out to my daughter's grade two parents as a gay man, because I was legitimately worried if somebody was homophobic and they realized that I'd been taking that little boy to the toilet and they confused homosexuality with pedophilia, which is not uncommon, I could be in trouble. Right. So, I came out much to my surprise, to a bunch of seven-year-olds parents and was met with various, you know, patronizing responses like, “oh, I don't mind.” I didn't ask if you minded, I'm not asking for permission to be who I am in the world, or, “oh, my cousin's a lesbian.” That's nice. Why are you telling me this? But nonetheless, there's another example of coming out yet again, because to stay within the presumed closet would not have been safe for me.

 

Aníbal: Thank you for sharing that. Beautiful.

 

So, Derek, do you find IFS a model with enough tools to help LGBTQ+ people or would you recommend any other adjunctive tools or other specific approaches to work with these minorities?

 

Derek: I mean, as you know, I love the IFS model because it's the only way I know that could actually permanently clear the shame from the system that gets taken in. So, I'll give you a brief example of that from my own experience, but then I want to talk a little more broadly about it. So, I did some work with a 12-year-old part of me. So, this boy... Now just imagine this for yourself, right? 12 years old, noticing that you're attracted to the same sex, right? Not really sure what that means. This is in the 1970’s in a small town in England. So, nowhere to go for information. But what that 12-year-old had been warned about was, you know, if there's a man that tries to pick you up from school or invite you into his car or give you sweets, don't get into his car. I remember thinking why would somebody offer me sweets? Why would I get into his car? But I could also sense there's something there about, you know, there's a dangerous kind of man, right? That as a boy child I was being told about. And so, this 12-year-old part of me is in the local town’s Bookstore, takes down a medical dictionary, he can’t look up his dictionary at home because he's too worried that the page might look thumbed. So, he goes into the bookstore, takes down a medical dictionary and looks up homosexuality. And what it says is a deviant form of sexuality associated with pedophilia. So, he looked up deviance and he looked at pedophilia and was convinced that there was something wrong with him. He was convinced that he was disgusting. He was convinced that he would grow up to be a child molester. And that was the burden that that 12-year-old boy took on. Just hideous. But looking to the authorities for help, and that's what the authorities in the form of his medical dictionary told him. So when I was finally able to visit him by IFS, of course, and hear all the things he believed about himself, I was able to help him release all of that, all of that and take in what's true, which is this lovely, lovely, lovely boy, approaching adolescence, loves people actually, but particularly loves other boys and men in a particular way, in a very affectionate way. And prior to that, my assistant had been very vulnerable to homophobic comments because any homophobic comments that came my way would trigger this 12-year-old. Right. Trying to get my attention. So, oh yeah, we don't deserve that. I'm disgusting, blah, blah, blah. Now, when homophobic comments come my way, I'm aware that they're about the other person. It's like, oh, you're a homophobic. Isn't that interesting. Or you have homophobic parts, isn't that interesting or not, but it doesn't trigger anything in my system other than that. So, the gift of the IFS model is to be able to clear the shame which has been put on by that broader culture in the first place. But that said, I think what's often missed in the IFS model is the therapeutic alliance, right? The role of the therapist and particularly in terms of, you know, affinity or in terms of getting it. So, the model itself, great, but also there's the practitioner, right? And the practitioner needs to have what I think of as cultural competence with queer community in order for it to be able to work with us.

 

Aníbal: So, do you believe someone in the coming out process for authenticity should get the help and support of an LGBT therapist instead of a straight heterosexual one? In other words, are LGBT therapists better equipped to this specific support?

 

Derek: Well, I think it depends. I think the response to that is complex, right? So, if you are a heterosexually identified cisgender therapist and in your heart circle, you've got friends, family members who are LGBTQ, you probably have a good sense of the community, right? So, you're probably at ease. But if that's not the case, if you don't have anyone in your friendship network or your family that you have a good relationship with who's queer, just to use a shorthand term. Then the only information you're going to have about us is from mainstream culture, which is biased and stereotyped. So, you're not likely to have cultural competence with this, and you're not likely to be able to provide a good service to us. You know, a few years ago, I presented at the IFS conference with Kate Lingren, who's a lesbian IFS therapist. We co presented on gender and sexual orientation. At the end of it, Aníbal, one of the participants came up to me, IFS therapist, and she said, “oh, thank you, I enjoyed that very much. I don't have any problems really. I think, you know, I'm okay to work with folks, but it was interesting. So, the only thing is, when I think of two men kissing...brrr...” And she showed me physically that she felt disgusted. And I thought a couple of things. One, why are you thinking about gay men kissing? How bizarre is that? And two, what makes you think it's okay to show me your disgust about that? And three, you're dangerous. If you're seeing queer clients, you're dangerous to them. Because you have a part of that you've done no work with that experiences that as disgusting and that is not okay. So that's one of the reasons why LGBTQ therapists are, I would say, better positioned to work with LGBTQ clients. But even within that, Aníbal, if you look at LGBTQ+, there's an assumption there that that's a community and we all have things in common. But what we have in common is being rejected and vilified by mainstream culture.

 

Aníbal: That’s a trauma.

 

Derek: But as a gay man, I don't have a great deal in common with a trans person who's heterosexually identified, right? Most trans women and trans men are straight. And I have much more in common with other gay men than I do with trans folks. Right. I have more in common with lesbians, right? Although lesbians also have the double oppression, right. Of being marginalized around misogyny and sexual orientation. Right? So, there's limitations there in terms of what we have in common, but in terms of a community, lesbians and gay men have a sense of community that goes way back. And in the 1980s, when AIDS hit, those communities came together. Right? And we had lesbians who knew how to advocate to get funding because they'd been working in women's services for years, rape crisis, et cetera, sexual assault. And we had gay men who were white and privileged and knew how to get access. So, when those two communities came together, we were able to support each other. And I have a huge debt to the lesbian sisters that helped us when we were dying. So, there's a bond and community there, but don't assume the LGBTQ necessarily means that we all have a lot in common. We don't necessarily.

 

Tisha: Derek, I'm curious about how to support clients too... I don't know if this is the right term, but it's almost like to endure external family systems where there's judgment and a lack of safety. When clients have come out and worked with their own burdens to unburden their exiles but, you know, required on holidays or required in life to be within families that are judgmental, that aren't accepting. This is something that comes up a lot. And it seems as though it's really something to bear through, but it brings up a lot of shame and family discord. And yeah, I'm wondering how to best support clients.

 

Derek: So often, you know, when coming out to oneself feels good and clear, and this is who I am in the world and the burdens have been released, there's often a sense of enthusiasm, but I want to come out to the broader family. There's also, prior to that, there's a sense of, I'm not sure if I'm okay. So, I'll tell people who are close to me and judge by their reactions, if I'm okay or not. So, if it's the latter, then you want to help someone come to the place where they do feel okay, in terms of their inner world and coming out, because they are going to receive responses to that. And those responses will often be those of grief. And there'll be informed again by stereotypes. So, you may have parents, particularly if they've grown up in a heteronormative world that grieve the heterosexual child they believed they had, that may believe they're not going to have grandchildren. So, they'll move into a loss response, right. Or the cisgender child that they believe they have. And now they have to grieve that son in order to say hello to their daughter. I don't think that's a negative thing. I think that's a process, but it's one to be prepared for because even parents that are positive may struggle with a sense of loss because they've lost a lot of the assumptions they had about their kid, in order to be able to say hello to the kid they've got. So, preparing someone for that process and others, because that's a process that they've been in internally, they've moved through that process, but this may be brand new information to loved ones who are now going to go into a process. So, just to be aware that the immediacy of the support may not be there and then to be prepared to find ways to deal with that. They've also, you know, we all, I would say all, maybe, have parts that know how to pass, right? So, I'm out pretty much wherever I go. But if I'm in a hostile environment, I can pass as straight, right? So, those passing parts have probably passed for the family for a while now. And they still know how to do that. So, you can call on those protectors if needed for a bit, until there's a sense of I’m solid on who I am and how I am. And then also getting support from within the community and within friendship networks is really helpful because other queers get you in a way that straights may never, you know, one of the things that we have to do as queer is we have to journey through all that internalized opression to come through it and to release it. But then it also informs us of the limitations of mainstream culture. Mainstream culture is profoundly limited in terms of its understanding of gender fluidity and sexuality. And that's why we've got things like, you know, the missionary position and heteronormativity. One of the things that's considered normal and preferable is monogamy. Why? It's a social construct. You know, if you go back in terms of the social construction of monogamy, it's about marrying well to a good family via the females so that you could increase your land. I mean, that's how it is. But if you have an analysis of it and you have an awareness of your own sexuality, why would you choose monogamy? And so, you know, many gay men, for example, married, you know, primary relationship for 20 years, both males may play away from home when they feel like it, they may introduce another into their sex play when they feel like it. And they're married and that's very much normalized within queer community. They're straight relatives, however, you know, upon discovering that one of them plays away from home. They have all sorts of reactions. I thought you were married, right? And so, straight therapists may be surprised by that. You don't really want to have to be educating a therapist or looking at your therapist surprise or, and in terms of our sex play as well, much more exploratory than traditional.

 

Aníbal: Absolutely, yes.

 

Derek: So, one of my clients recently was talking to me, he was playing with one of his boys. And this boy he was playing with was concerned, or my client was concerned because this boy was into fisting. And my client was worried that if he's fisting this other guy, he might do some damage internally to his partner. So of course, I said, well, let's look at your anxious part. So, he had an anxious part that was up around that. And he had a part that he called his porn star part, right. That loved to play. So, I said, well, listen to both of them and then see what needs to happen. And the conclusion he came to was his porn star couldn't really play with the ease and the delight with which he likes to play because of this anxious part around fisting and what might happen to the other person. So, he decided he was no longer going to be fisting with this guy. Now, all of which, of course I get. And he said to me at one point, “thank God, you're gay. Because if I had to describe fisting to my therapist, this would be a much more difficult conversation.” And I said, “well, I hear that. And I'm glad you've reached that decision for yourself because you also don't want to lose your watch. Now, that's a really nice watch.” And they both start laughing because that's funny, but it's easy and funny between two gay men, right? Not likely to be quite as easy or not likely to be put forward from a straight therapist necessarily. So that's one of the places where, you know, if you can work with someone who gets or is in, or part of your community, you know, even though I'm not trans, and even though most trans folks are straight identified, I'm familiar with trans people. I have trans people in my social networks. I have intersex people in my social networks, and I've had trans clients. So, I have some familiarity with trans issues. And then some I have none with, like some of the complexities of medications, of taking T blockers of the whole process one has to go through.That's not something I have great familiarity with. So, if someone's in that stage of their transitioning, whatever that transitioning looks like, I would look for a trans therapist to be available for them because I think that'd be better served.

 

Aníbal: Absolutely. Derek, looks as Superman is coming out. It's good news. Right? So, this sit comics made the announcement on the United States national coming out day. So, this week 11th October, that it's latest Superman, John Kent will be bisexual. We can read that in its next comic book, due to release in November, John will be pictured in a same-sex relationship with his friend Jay Nakamura. So, I'd like you to comment Derek on this detail, it says once DC comics said the pair will become romantically involved in the upcoming fifth issue after John mentally and physically burns out from trying to save everyone that he can. So, do you want to comment on these DC comics note mentally and physically burns out from trying to save everyone that he can?

 

Derek: I think DC comics are in the business of selling DC comics and I think they'll do whatever they can. I mean, look, what's happened right, in making that primary character bisexual, they've been internationally notice, including in Portugal, you know, so I think, you know, using a queer identity as a way to sell comics, well, I'm not surprised, it's marketing.

 

Aníbal: Derek, coming back to IFS for gay men and queer women. You just said a lot around how much work therapists should do with themselves to be prepared and familiar with these groups of clients. So, it requires specific therapist personal work and tools or a specific focus. What would you recommend to be the main focus or to me to be minded of when working with LGBT+ people?

 

Derek: Well, like I said earlier, you know, if you don't have queer folks in your immediate social environment, you're probably better off referring to therapists that do because it's cultural competency. And it's very hard to teach. I mean, first you've got to become aware of your own cultural limitations, which we all have, then be open to other cultures ways of being, and then also to recognize those and normalize those as equally valid. And that's a reach for a lot of people. That's a reach, right? Whether it's about LGBTQ plus people or whether it's about, you know, Muslims, if you're a Christian or, you know, people of color, if you're white. And then again, you know, we positioned people of color as if all people of color are the same. And as if all white people are the same, right? So, even that positioning like, you know, Nigerian folks are way different from Jamaican folks, you know, so there's a sense in which that positioning is necessary, but it's also very limiting and it doesn't speak to intersectionality, right. So, you know, if my client is Muslim and lesbian, then that's going to bring out some particular challenges internally for her, right. So, which are different from Christian lesbian challenges. And so, again, you know, the more we can open and learn about some of those intersectional pieces, the better positioned we are. But if you've never sat with a... if you've never hung out with queers and had that kind of fun, frankly, you might want to think twice about whether or not you're the best person for your client. Now that said, if you're working with someone and they're beginning to come out, you don't want to refer them on because they may feel like somehow, they're not okay. So, you know, do the reading, do the research. There's a ton of information out there. So, find out what you need to find out, be aware that you know nothing about this process, you know, nothing about what it feels like on the inside. And that's fine, do what you can to get informed about it so that you are positioned well to serve your client.

 

Aníbal: You are running a four-week IFS course for gay men, male professionals, you call it Stepping out comprehensive IFS course for gay men, male professionals. Can you share more the structure and the goals of this course?

 

Derek: Sure. I'd love to, it's actually a full month program. So, I have this program called steppingstone, which it's an online program. It's four months, it's three hours a week. And people that take it feel well prepared at the end of it to bring IFS into their private practice, which is great. And then within that, I teach a cohort which is exclusively for gay male mental health professionals, because that's where I identify, that's my affinity group and the safety of that group, Aníbal, means that men can go deeper into what they need to go into. And the commonalities. Right? We all hit in high school. We all developed very creative ways of hiding in high school. If we could, if we could pass. Those of us that are more femme had to deal with other kinds of bullying in high school, if we could not always pass. Right. But we have that in common. We have internalized homophobia in common. We often have stories of being gay boys that like to dress up in common. Most of us had girls as friends in school. We have that in common. So, there's so much commonality and there's so much safety with all of that just being known, you know, and within the mainstream IFS courses. In my courses at the IFS Institute, I was the only queer most of the time and didn't necessarily feel safe. So, they didn't feel safe enough to really, you know, present how I would present in the queer culture. And then also had to experience, you know, heteronormative teaching and then, you know, respond to it. Because I won't just sit and collude with it, but here's an example. I was taking my level two couples, a weekend and the trainers said, so imagine that you've got a couple in your office and he is very assertive, and she just defers to everything he says. So that was the introduction to this couple. Now, do you see what's problematic about that introduction?

 

Aníbal: There's some cultural bias there?

 

Derek: There's something there Tisha, what you pick it up from that?

 

Tisha: Well, it seems very stereotypical heteronormative couple with a dominant male and submissive female. And it's, yeah. It's maybe a non-inclusive example.

 

Derek: Yes. How do you see it as a non-inclusive example?

 

Tisha: It's based on the assumption that the couple in your office is going to be straight.

 

Derek: Absolutely. So that's, they need to back up from whether or not it's talking about stereotypes, the positioning in the first place, right. You've got a couple and he, the moment that is stated, there's the assumption that the couple is male and female. Otherwise you wouldn't say he, right. So, you know, as a gay man, I'm sitting there and I'm hearing, you know, if you've got a couple in your office and he, in the moment they hear that, I feel excluded.

 

Aníbal: Excluded, yes.

 

Derek: And my community is excluded, right. The moment that... So, then I've got a choice. Do I say something? Or do I wait and see if people who call themselves allies that are straight identified are going to comment or even notice? Nobody does. So, I raised my hand and I pointed out. And that's uncomfortable and that's risky. And if I do it more than once, oh, there's that gay man again, going on about, you know, blah, blah, blah. It's not always well-received. But I will say that particular instance, the trainer was Mike Elkin and he stopped. And he started to share with the class, because he became aware of it, the very first time he became aware of his homophobic parts. And I have never heard a straight man talk about his homophobic parts. And I was moved to tears by his willingness to do that. It was just love. But yeah, Mike is, you know, he's on, right. And he was willing to completely own what was going on for him. And another example of his internalized homophobia. So appreciated that.

 

Aníbal: Yeah, beautiful. Well said.

 

Derek: But those sorts of instances are what make it unsafe for us. And they're there. I mean, there's many that make it unsafe for us to be, so to be running a cohort for gay mental health professionals, where they don't have to be concerned about that. I can't tell you, and the comments from the men on, oh, this feels so right. And I hadn't realized how much I'd been holding in other trainings where that is impossible. And so similarly, my colleague, Mel Galbraith, she's a queer identified woman. She's running a cohort for queer identified women who are mental health professionals, because it's the same thing. And I'm not going to run that because I'm not a queer identified woman. And I'll put out here with you guys, if anyone is listening to this, I would love to be able to support a trans inclusive training led by trans trainers. So, if there's anyone who's trans and has teaching parts and would be interested in that, I'd be happy to let them have the whole training packages all ready to go so that they could teach within their own community, because similarly, that sense of safety and that sense of people getting it just helps the learning environment. So, that's why I've initiated those programs.

 

Aníbal: Beautiful.

 

Tisha: And I imagine there’s continuity with the cohorts beyond the four months.

 

Derek: Yes. Yeah, yeah. Well, there's a couple of ways. Many of them want to come back and assist because there is supervised practice groups, as part of the training, and then many of them just form really good connections because as you probably know, once you know you've got parts, it's really nice to hang out with other people that know they've got parts.

 

Aníbal: Derek, this journey towards inclusion and diversity looks as a long, long journey. We have come a long way, but a long way to go as well.

 

Tisha: Yeah. What is in future for you? I know there's some retreats on the horizon potentially. What else do you envision? It seems like you've got a lot of creative ideas.

 

Derek: I do. Sometimes too many, so I need to rein them in. I have a file for my creative part. Is called my good ideas file and I write them down and put them in there. Because we might get around with [inaudible].

 

Aníbal: I like that.

 

Derek: At the moment I'm really enjoying being able to teach online. You know, it's a mixed blessing, right. But one of the things that COVID has brought us is in my teaching groups, I have people from Singapore and Australia and Brazil and they're really, you know, international. And, currently of course, it's very difficult to get into a level one with the IFS Institute. So, I have openings for the January programs, and I've been working with the Adler Institute in Toronto. So, the Adler professional graduate school is offering a certificate program in applied IFS therapy. And my course is seen as equivalent to that foundation course. So, you could take the steppingstone course and then move on to their broader clinical applications course. So, I'm thrilled for that and thrilled that people have access to both my programs and then programs lead to certification and the applied aspects of the model. I'm going to keep promoting within marginalized communities. I would really like to be able to offer this training package, especially to communities that are impoverished, right? So, the indigenous communities in Canada and north America, if they want to take this model and teach within their community, that's great. I was able to offer it to a group of Iranian psychotherapists in Iran. So yeah, with simultaneous translation, I was able to teach the model to 50 Iranian therapists, which felt great because, you know, their economy is in the toilet, but I was able to do it at vastly reduced costs. Which was great. So, that's where I see myself going, I think is continuing to teach and then facilitating that offering within diverse and marginalized communities. I think that's where it needs to go.

 

Aníbal: Beautiful. Derek, thank you so much for having us and for all you are doing with IFS. And it was again a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and I hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, your work and our lives.

 

Derek: Yeah. You too. It's so nice to hang out with you two. And I hope, Aníbal, I was, as you know, I booked to come to Portugal when that gathering was going to be there, right when COVID hit. So, I do hope to meet you one day in Portugal, and you can show me around your beautiful country. So that's my hope.

 

Aníbal: Portugal is open now.

 

Derek: I've heard that. That's great.

 

Tisha: Thank you, Derek. It's always inspiring to speak with you.

Working with suspicious, stubborn, and dangerous parts: A Talk with Mike Elkin 48:22

Mike Elkin is an IFS senior Lead trainer who has been involved with the model since 1995. He has been a popular presenter, conducting scores of trainings and workshops throughout the US and Europe and has taught level one trainings in Boston every year since 2003. He was a pioneer in applying hypnotic and strategic approaches to addiction treatment and has integrated those tools into IFS treatment. He is the author of, “Families Under the Influence” and several articles.

Michael has a private practice in marriage, family, and individual psychotherapy, and he is very focused on training therapists in the Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy model, which Michael believe is the most flexible, powerful, and humane tool for healing available. It enables people to use their spiritual resources without getting into religeon or metaphysics.

Today on IFS Talks we are so happy to be welcoming back Mike Elkin. Mike Elkin is an IFS senior lead trainer who's been involved with the model since 1995. He has been a popular presenter, conducting scores of trainings and workshops throughout the US and Europe. And he's taught level one trainings in Boston since 2003. Mike was a pioneer in applying hypnotic and strategic approaches to addiction treatment and he's integrated those tools into IFS treatment. Recently, he's been co-leading an IFS level two on Depression, Anxiety, and Shame with Ann Sinko. Mike also has a private practice in marriage, family, individual psychotherapy, and he's focused on training therapists in the Internal Family Systems model. He also specializes in high conflict couples, phobias, somatic issues, aftermath of trauma, addiction, eating disorders, and cynicism, and probably so much more knowing Mike.

Tisha Shull: Welcome back to IFS Talks. We're so happy to have you here today, Mike.

Mike Elkin: It’s a pleasure to be here. I do want to make one correction, which is I no longer accept therapy clients and I've focused my practice on consultation and supervision and teaching.

Aníbal Henriques: So, welcome back, Mike. It's now 16 months since we sat together for a Talk. In that first wonderful Talk, you could introduce yourself and share many amazing stories on your personal and professional journey. It was such a great talk and you also could present some of your ideas on how IFS sees anxiety, depression, and shame. It was a great episode with so much to learn from you and your huge experience and wisdom. How have you been those days? How active have you been?

Mike: Yeah, I've been busier than I've been in 30 years because you know, I was sort of drifting into a pattern where I was spending a lot of time in a pool room playing three-cushion billiards. And when COVID showed up and I discovered I was not addicted to three-cushion billiards because if I were, I would have kept going to the blue room with all these anti-vaxxers and Trumpsters, and I would have gotten sick and died. And instead I was home and I had a lot of time on my hands. So, I started taking more clients and started also getting very interested again in IFS. And that was facilitated by the fact that my youngest son took the training. I did a training in Austin and my youngest son, who's a musician and found that he can't make a living making records anymore because he had two records but didn't make any money from them because they were all free. You can get them, you know... Decided he has to get trained. And I trained him and he's becoming incredibly involved in IFS and he's very talented. And so, mentoring him really got me going again...

Aníbal: Wow, lucky you.

Mike:  And I am way into teaching IFS and thinking about it.

Tisha: Is he using the model as a therapist now?

Mike: He is, he's not a therapist because he has a high school equivalency and two years of Berkeley College of Music. So, he calls himself a spiritual advisor and he's got a full practice and I can't get him to take anybody anymore. He's full up, so...

Aníbal: Beautiful, lucky you.

Mike, you have suggested five topics for our Talk today. Sounds like today we will have a full plate of interesting and relevant topics, I would say. Mostly advanced ones, advanced stuff. You have suggested to talk about befriending suspicious and stubborn parts, contracting parts that interfere with relationship, disarming dangerous parts and boundaries and self-defense. So, looks as we will have a full plate of various relevant topics for our community of IFS practitioners. So, let's start off with the first ones, the suspicious and stubborn parts. What are suspicious parts and how do they present?

Mike: Well, generally, you know, you run into it most dramatically with people who've experienced complex trauma, which means their experience was they grew up without a safe adult in their life. And therefore, their protective parts developed very precociously because usually, you know, you could expect parents to set reasonable boundaries around you and communicate reasonable expectations. And if you don't have adults to do that, very young parts need to do that. And they need to do that much younger than they can be expected to be competent at it. So, they're constantly feeling ineffective because they are and they're constantly exposed to shame, which makes them more active. And so, they are going to very much distort the perceptions of these people and then when they come to you, they're going to see you as a threat and they have no confidence that you're going to be acting in their best interest because that isn’t their experience of authority figures, their experience of authority figures and grownups is that they basically have no interest in your needs or feelings.

Tisha: What's an example of a common stubborn part that someone with complex trauma shows up with?

Mike: Well, like you say, you know, “is that part willing to have a conversation with you?” And the person would say, “that's crazy, what do you mean a part? What are you...? You know, I don't like to think about parts. I'm not on anything like that.” I mean, we all get a little of that with people of less extreme backgrounds, but the more extreme the background is, the more energized those parts are going to be and the less able they're going to be to listen. So, one of the strategies I've used, because I have a background in hypnosis, is to try to confuse them a little bit and not give them the answer they're expecting. Because if they're a little confused, that means they get a little curious and curiosity is the most accessible of Self qualities. So, because, you know, if you learn hypnosis or at least learn hypnosis from an Ericksonian sort of tradition, which I did, you're actively taught techniques for confusing people. And, you know, I've sort of let go of my tricky parts, but the technology is still there. And so, what I try to do is not react basically from parts, not react defensively, but react with curiosity. And the more I do that, the more likely it is that I'll be able to get into a useful conversation with some of these parts and try to help them understand what I'm up to. Because what I'm trying to do is get them to hire me as their therapist, just like, you know, if you're working with somebody who is called out in the world DID, which is they have parts that don't subscribe to a general identity when they show up, they try to get them to hire you as their therapist. So, you know, what I do is I understand that the way these parts are reacting to me doesn't have much to do with me. And so, if I can keep the parts of me that take anything personally back and I can remain curious, I can almost always make friends with these guys after a while, because they're doing an impossible job and they're doing it to the best of their ability and nothing they are doing is working. I don't tell them that, they already know that, but I do offer them the option that I think I can help them be more effective and I can help them feel safer and it is my job to address their concerns to their satisfaction. And all I would want from them is that they do their best to make their concerns clear to me so that I can address them.

Aníbal: So, that's how you befriend them.

Mike: That’s how I befriend them.

Aníbal: Are those parts in any way useful somehow for these systems?

Mike: Well, they are doing their best. The problem with protectors is they never protect and there's good reasons for that, but they never protect. What they do in fact is, invariably, energize and attract that which they protect against. That's what they do. That's what protective parts do. That's what they do on a macro level. That's what they do at a micro level. Like, our defense department does not protect us. You know, they see, they perceived a rock for instance, as a threat to us, so we sent over all these protectors and when that didn't work, we sent over more, we had a surge, and so now a rock, of course, is not a threat and totally consistent with our wellbeing as is Afghanistan, which we also sent protectors to. That’s how it works at a macro level. At a micro level, you know, if I say, I have a protector, so I look at Tish and I notice that she has a suspicious look on her face. And I say to her, “look, Tisha, I need you to respect me more. I need more respect from you.” Now, do you respect me more or less than you did 10 seconds ago? And this part that, you know, its worried with Tisha really thought it was protecting me. It saw a threat and it acted to neutralize that threat by controlling you and telling you that you had to be different. And my guess is what Tisha's part thought was “what an asshole.” And so, we're off to a bad start.

Aníbal: Mike, those suspicious and stubborn parts can be so triggering for us as therapists?

Mike: Yeah, well, they don't think we're going to help, and they think we're bad. And they question our intentions because we don't make moral judgments on what people do. We make moral judgments on why we think they did it. And that's why it's so important to, you know, when you're talking to firefighters to help them understand we know you're trying to help, we know you're not trying to cause harm. We know you can't help doing what you're doing. Because, the thing we cannot stand is moral judgment. And if you feel I'm judging you morally, you have to make me wrong and stop me because you have no choice. We can't stand that. And so, the main thing I try to teach people and the main thing I try to do is convey to every part I run into that I know it's positively intended, and I know it's trying to help and I know it's not trying to cause harm because otherwise that part will experience me as judging it. And then I'm an enemy.

Tisha: Is there some sort of macro function for the system to attract what these protectors are trying to repel?

Mike: I don't know how to answer that. I mean, it feels...

Tisha: We repeat relationship patterns, right? Like unhealthy relationship patterns. And...

Mike: Yes, we do. As a matter of fact, my friend Anne Hallward has suggested that we have a series of conversations about essentially repetition. What'd they call, you know, repetition disorder, whatever, when people keep sticking their face into the same fan over and over again, and how that actually works. And, you know, there are psychoanalytic understandings of that, which is, you know, that people have parts that haven't learned how to relate to people and therefore keep basically making the same mistake and getting the same result and protecting themselves from shame by blaming whoever it is they're getting that same result from. And that's an understanding, but Anne is one of these people who really has to understand things. So, she's goading me to really think about this and we're having a series of conversations about it. But the problem is that a lot of these behaviors essentially got some level, generated some level of relief, like, you know, parts that try and fail and try and fail and try and fail. And at some point, the discovery happens that every time they try and fail to the pain they're already experiencing, they're adding the pain of the shame of failure and the pain of disappointment. And if they stop trying, if they give up, then they experience relief, which is they don't get that shame of failure and pain or disappointment anymore and they experience a sense of relief. And then they associate despair with relief and see despair essentially or giving up or helplessness as a resource rather than... And they see hope as the threat.

Aníbal: So interesting.

Mike: And the problem is that these decisions tend to get made, you know, before people are old enough to go to school. They don't have any idea that they may have some more resources someday. And they also have no idea that the price of this relief they're getting is infinite. They're essentially sacrificing possibility. And they don't know that. So, you know, if you explain that to them and offer them the chance of letting go of that burden, often they'll take it. And then, you know... But that's one way of befriending say, an extreme protector, is helping them understand that they made a perfectly reasonable response to what was facing them. And they didn't have the resources to understand all the implications of that because they were three or four years old at the time. And here they are, they get another chance.

Aníbal: Mike, you say those parts can interfere with the relationship, with the therapeutic relationship, I understood. Are there other parts? Like those ones, suspicious...

Mike: Yeah. Well, that's where I really focus because it's my understanding that the quality of our relationships is a quality of our life. People who have good relationships tend to be happy, productive people, and people who don't have good relationships, no matter what else is going on in their lives tend to be miserable. And there was a time when I was fashionable in the eighties where I was getting clients who were getting their pictures on the covers or magazines, and they were, you know, the movers and the shakers and the captains of industry. And they were all, they were some of the most miserable beings I've ever been in the presence of because nobody liked them, and they didn't like anybody. Their experiences were all people trying to either suck up to them and get something out of them or destroy them in some way or both. And so, they were lonely and miserable and hated everybody and used their considerable power and influence to cause pain. And so, what I tried to do is get to know the parts of them that felt they had to do that because, you know, what I focus on is relationship, particularly the central relationship, because if you've been in a couple, you know that the quality of the space between you and your partner will determine the quality of your life more than any other single factor.

Aníbal: Absolutely.

Mike: And so, I'm really interested in the parts that make that difficult, that make that space feel unsafe and threatening and difficult and see your partner not as a resource, but as, you know, a problem you have to deal with. So I'm really interested in those parts and making friends with them and, you know, helping them find a way to feel safer with the partner, because what happens is that once protectors get very active in a couple, then constantly the couple is in the struggle to prove to the other one that there's a better person. That's what couples fight about is who's a better person. And the more seriously they take that struggle, the more miserable they're going to be. So, I try to help them get out of that fight. And the way I help them try to get out of that fight is by helping them become less and less affected by the sense that they're being judged. So, parts of them that are very reactive to their understanding of other people's opinions.

Tisha: What techniques or skills do you use to support people in being less reactive to the judgments of others?

Mike: Yeah. We all have parts that know we're bad. And when something happens out there that stimulates these parts and triggers them, and they become noticeable to firefighters, firefighters feel extreme shame and then they do - we were talking about that last time - so, and then they do something that they associate with relief, and the problem is that whatever they do usually causes trouble. And then, of course, that generates more shame, which needs more relief, which, and then you get into what Dick calls the... Basically a negative spiral, and it just keeps going and going and going. And so, my firefighters do something and what they usually do is they hit your tender parts because, you know, the shame I feel I have to put out there at seeing you. So, you’re the narcissistic selfish, mean...right. And I need to convince you of that, so you'll be better and change. And so, I hit your tender parts, which trigger your firefighters, and then your firefighters come back and help me understand that I'm, in fact, a narcissistic, selfish, clueless one, which hits my tender parts, and off we go. So, what we try to do is go to those tender parts and witness them and provide corrective experiences and help them unburden, and then they're less tender. And so, they're much less likely to get triggered with some, you know, implication... I see a look on Anibal’s face, which I associate with something and experience it as an attack and then I go after him and we start that vicious circle and an example I often use, you know, they talk about Velcro and Teflon when you're trying to do is help, you know, hurtful things bounce off rather than stick. And an example I use is if I say like, “I think you're being very selfish here.” Even though, you know, I was using that as an example, my guess is a part of you reacted anyway, you just hear the word selfish and you, and it's going to trigger something, probably not that much in this case. But, if I say, you know, “I think you're a communist”, which used to be an extremely provocative and triggering word, but it's sort of become unfashionable as an insult, you know, it's much more likely, you'll say, “God, what an odd thing to say. I wonder why Mike said something like that.” In other words, curiosity and compassion. That's more likely to happen. So, you're trying to shove things in that direction. You're trying to help basically parts that feel unsafe and judged, feel less judged and less unsafe and the safer this space is between people, well, more likely that the interactions they have are going to be pleasurable and positive because... You know, one thing I say which, you know, I like to provoke people although I don't agree with almost everything our former president said, I do agree, when that riot happened, and I think it was Virginia city, he said there were a lot of good people on both sides. And I agree with that. Because I think the concept of a bad person or a bad part as Dick has just published in a book...

Aníbal:  No bad parts.

Mike: No Bad Parts. If you think of someone as a bad person, or you think of a part as a bad part, you lose any possibility of interacting productively with that person or that part. So, I need to always work on the assumption that I'm dealing with a good person, that I'm dealing with a good person who has been essentially colonized by frightened protectors and therefore their capacity for empathy and connection is being blocked and disabled. And I try to be as curious as possible as to how I can establish communication and connection with that person or that part. But if I dismiss it as negative or selfish or narcissistic, or, you know, any of these labels that we use, I lose my power to be useful or I lose my power to connect. And what we need to do is connect. And the more connected we feel, the happier we feel and the less connected... you know, that gets back to relationships. So, you know, I'm constantly trying to make my parts feel safe and help your parts feel safe. And the safer they feel, the more cooperative they will be and the easier our project of healing will be for us to succeed.

Aníbal: Mike, you also wanted to talk about disarming dangerous parts. What are those dangerous parts?

Mike: Well, dangerous parts, you know, I mean the most obvious ones are suicidal parts or self-harming parts or parts... You know, I just had a case presented to me where this young woman has been sexually assaulted three times in the last two months, because she has parts that put her in harm's way and essentially get her to trust untrustworthy people or people with untrustworthy parts or people who have parts that basically want to use her as a toy, and don't see her as a person. And so, the problem with that and the person who presented is a very sophisticated therapist, so she knew what she needed from me was support in helping her managers who were going to try to get this woman to stop doing this, to relax and stop trying to make these parts wrong, because that just makes them more shamed and defiant, and make friends with these parts and be curious about what they need from these men that makes them blind to the concern. So that was a dangerous part. Parts that essentially put this person in harm’s way and keep her from setting appropriate boundaries to keep her safe. So, you know, I try to make friends with these parts, obviously, especially suicidal parts. And, you know, there are two kinds of suicidal parts. There are the ones that are relievers. They say, you know, well, if you're in so much pain, here's your ticket out. And then there're the punishing parts that say your staying on this earth needs to be removed. And they have to be approached differently, but they're both trying to help, and with these, you know, the punisher parts, what I will very often do with them is I’ll listen to them for a little while and then I'll say... If I was working with Tisha, “does Tisha have any idea how much you care about her?” And they go, that's a confusion again, “what?” And then I say, “well, you know, you basically are using her body. And if you kill her, you're going to be killing yourself. And you seem to be willing to die to essentially make Tisha more benign and keep her from being disruptive. So, I can't imagine, you know, if you're willing to die for somebody who's virtue, I can't imagine caring about...” And they get a little confused and then I make a proposal of maybe another way we could go about that, where this part could stay alive and yet Tisha’s bad things can be fixed, and I know how to fix them. And I have this resource, I call Self-energy, which I can introduce you to. And the other ones, you know, you just will help them understand that I know a way we can get her out of pain without her having to die. And so, instead of having to die, we'll get her out of pain, and she can have fun instead. And they're relieved to hear that and they can be suspicious but what you're trying to do is get any part you run into to become part of the therapeutic project.

Tisha: It sounds like you're really good with these dangerous parts. You're really good at contracting with them.

Mike: Contracting it’s the whole thing...

Tisha: Yeah. It's making me appreciate what a skill that is and the amount of confidence they really need in order to make these contracts. And does it feel as though when you're contracting with dangerous protectors and I know dangerous is relative, but that's what we're talking about today, does it feel as though they need to experience some of that healing of the exiles soon, if you make the contracts with them?

Mike: Obviously, the sooner the better, but usually when you're dealing with extreme protectors, it's going to take a while to get to the exiles. It's going to be a while before they, maybe are willing to admit there are such things as exiles. But, you know, the reason protectors are so ineffective is that they are not looking out there. In other words, they're not dealing with you. They're dealing with the parts of me that are affected by you, that are reacting to you. So, they don't see you at all. And so, they don't get feedback from your reactions, because what they're focused on are my tender parts that are getting upset, and they're trying to calm them down. They're not trying to deal with you, which is one reason they don't deal with you very usefully. And what you're trying to do is help them understand that. In fact, these exiles can be soothed, that there is a way to develop a relationship with them and there's a resource that can help these protectors essentially feel much less frightened and much less desperate. And because they see this constant fear, this ineffectiveness as meaning that they're worthless and unlovable, you know, because they keep trying to convince you that you're the trouble and you won't be convinced, and they try harder and you get even more (...). And so, yeah, we're trying to get them out of that fight because I've never won a fight and I've never met anybody who's won a fight. I've never met anybody who's won an argument. Have you?

Aníbal: I have really not.

Mike: Just checking. Right. So, I try to stay out of fights, and I try to help parts understand that, you know, you can't win them. And it doesn't mean anything about you that you can't win them.

Aníbal: Mike, coming back to boundaries and self-defense, what kind of boundaries do you have in mind?

Mike: Okay, well, I have a rule of relationship which goes as follows. If you can't keep someone out of where they don't belong, you can't let them in at all. So, one thing that's necessary for people to feel safe is that people don't go in where they don't belong. And you get to decide where you don't belong. In other words, if I said, “Anibal, can I stick my finger up your nose?” And you say, “no, you know, I prefer you don’t,” And then I do it. I'm unsafe. And the problem is that if I do that, the minute you see me from a distance of a hundred yards, my finger is already up your nose, because you know that you can't protect that boundary. So, and you can't win a fight. So, the art of self-defense, and I studied martial arts for a number of years. And it did help me be more flexible and strong and keep myself at doing things I didn’t like, but it didn't help me with self-defense at all. Because, you know, very seldom did people come at me with a knife, but very often they came at me with judgment and with assumptions and with entitlement and I had no idea what to do with that, you know. I knew how to take away their knife if they came at me with a knife, but they just wouldn't do that. They just assumed that I would do things that I didn't want to do and manipulated me into doing that or whatever... They got in where they didn’t belong. And so, one is you have to, you know, communicate with the parts that feel invaded, and then you have to be able to speak for them effectively without making the person who's getting in where they don't belong bad, because if you make them bad, it's not going to go well.

For instance, I had a client who was very successful in the corporate world and she was divorced from her husband and she had a complex trauma history. She was divorced from her husband, but she constantly took texts from her husband, or ex-husband, that were insulting to her, but not reacting to them. And it took me a while to help her basically block his number and not take any texts. That's self-defense, okay. And when she did that, and also, I got her to stop negotiating with him and to have her lawyer do that. Now that's very directive. And because I have a background in hypnosis, I'm not afraid of being directive, but I have to make a contract with people in order for them to not feel either disrespected or pushed around by my directive parts. So, what I do is first of all, get curious about the parts that are letting people in where they don't belong and ask them if they want help keeping them out of there and they do, and then I can be directive. And I can say, you know, how would it feel to call your lawyer and say, I'm not going to be talking to my husband at all, I'm going to refer every concern he has to you, and see how that feels, see what parts don't feel comfortable with that. And then we go to them and find out what their concerns are until they do feel comfortable with doing what needs to be done, in this case, to keep this guy out of where he doesn't belong. You know, or kids who think that you're supposed to be their valet and cook, and how to help them understand that those days are gone forever, or, you know, anybody who gets in where they don't belong.

Tisha: I'm thinking about this, this is bringing up this idea like it's really clear when things are direct and explicit, but being a therapist, sometimes, you know, I have a lot of clients who are therapists or myself, there's almost like this energetic exchange that happens where you feel drained, or you feel someone else's pain and, or there's just like this kind of thing that sticks on you. And so, it's like a little less clear, but we feel people stuff. How do you work with that?

Mike: Well, first of all, you get to know the parts that are feeling it. In other words, these are parts that are letting things in where they don't belong. In other words, you know, empathy, you know... “oh, you have such empathy, you'd be a great therapist.” No, you won't. Not until you learn how to keep that empathetic part back, because otherwise it's like somebody is down in the well, and you jump down into the well, and if you're both down there, you know... And so you got to get to know the parts that are feeling uncomfortable and find out what their concerns are, and also why they can't, what prevents them from doing something to help them be more comfortable and without giving that moral meaning, in other words, without saying, oh, you know, you're weak or ineffective. But just be curious and find out what they're afraid would happen if they said, “could you please get off my face? It's very uncomfortable with you sitting there.” And, you know, “if you don't get off my face I’ afraid I'm going to have to call for help. Because, you know, I don't want to get into a fight with you, but...” You know, but just the insistence on your boundaries and deal with the parts that are uncomfortable doing that. Because of course, especially with people who grew up in complex trauma, is they just, that's not a language they speak, and they never learned it. So, they don't know how to do it. And especially people who grew up in what I call alcoholic families, alcoholic belief systems, where it's considered to be week and rude to set boundaries. And, you know, so that's a burden that those parts have to be relieved of so that they can step out, because until you can, you can't have relationships because constantly people are in where they don't belong and their fingers are up your nose. And, you know, you're dealing with that all the time and that's no fun. So, yeah. And obviously because therapists are people who need 30 hours of therapy a week, I need to learn self-defense. You know, I grew up feeling very unsafe and I learned how to fight. And of course, learning how to fight those and help you be safe because you can't win fights. So, you know, eventually deal with... You know, when I was dealing with violent men all the time, I mean, I worked in an alcoholism agency and, you know, 6/4, and I know karate, who are they going to send to me? All these violent men. That's what I got. And they were here to teach me that you can't win fights. So, you know, I taught them so that I could learn. Therapists are people who learn by teaching. And so, I had to become an expert on boundaries.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Mike, according to the official IFS level one manual establishing a contract is one of IFS’ natural first steps.

Mike: It’s the first step.

Aníbal: You Mike, are presenting a workshop at the conference called Negotiating a Therapeutic Contract with Your Client and Their Protectors. On the flyer we can read this workshop will address what Michael Elkin considers to be the most important element of therapy, negotiating a clear contract. What would you like to tell us about this workshop and the importance of contracting?

Mike: Well, the thing that I keep running... Because I do consultation, is what I do now and, you know, forming more and more consultation groups and I'm trying to help the IFS community see me as a resource for consultation. And what I find most of the trouble is that we have two problems. There are the parts of us that get triggered by parts of our clients and we have to deal with that, we know that, and the other is what's the contract. What is this? What I constantly ask is what is this person hoping they can get from talking to you? And very often pretty experienced therapists don't have a clear idea of that. And if you don't have a clear idea of that, then basically it's very hard to evaluate whether any process is useful or not. Because if you don't know where you're going, then one direction's as good as another. And the clearer you are where you're going, the more easy it is to know whether you want to say “would that part, please see if it'll give you some space or do you think that it'd be useful to have that part join the conversation...” And you can make that distinction much more easily if you know what you're trying to accomplish and what parts you're trying to befriend and open up new possibilities for. And the contract can change 12 times in a session.

Aníbal: Yes.

Mike: And the more you recognize, “okay, we're working on something new here,” the more effective you're going to be. So, what I'm trying to do in two hours is help people become interested in putting a lot more interest and focus on that question “what are we trying to accomplish here together?” You know, and when people are going on and on about, you know, injustice that have happened, the question I constantly ask is “how can I be useful about that?” Because, you know, I could be easily replaced by a bartender and for the price of a beer you can get the same thing or a Coca-Cola if you're not into alcohol. So, what I'm constantly interested in is “how can I be useful? What are you hoping we could do together about this?” And the clearer answer I can get to that, the more useful I'm going to be. And when I can't get a clear answer to that, I get very curious about the parts that make it difficult to give me a clear answer to that.

Aníbal: Mike, in your flyer for this workshop, we can read that you will teach how to negotiate a workable therapeutic contract and how to enroll skeptical hypervigilant and hostile protectors, to be resources in your project.

Mike: Well, that's pretty much what we've been talking about the last hour. So yeah, in a way I've sort of given that workshop here, but because, you know, what I'm trying to do is communicate what... I've been doing therapy for 45 years, more than 45 years. And so, I'm trying to communicate some of the stuff that I've learned, just because I've had a chance to make an awful lot of mistakes. And then, you know, as I often say, you know, I am lazy, and I just do the same old shit. And then when it doesn't work and I think, oh my God, what do I do? And then I do something. And if that doesn't work, I do something else. And if it works, that becomes a technique. And then I try it again when something happens. And if that doesn't work, I have to think of something else.

Aníbal: Mike, such interesting conversation and topics. So again, thank you so much for having us and for bringing such interesting tools to help us in everyday clinical work. And it was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives.

Mike: Thank you, Aníbal and Tisha. It's so nice to see you again.

No Bad Parts: Individual and Collective Healing with Dick Schwartz 01:00:40

Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are speaking with Dr. Richard Schwartz.  Dr. Schwartz is the developer of the Internal Family Systems Model of psychotherapy, known as IFS. He has authored many books and over 50 articles on IFS and has trained thousands of therapists and practitioners in this transformative model over the last four decades.  Today, we will be speaking with him primarily about his latest book, No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model, published this summer by Sounds True.  

 

Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy we are speaking with Dr. Richard Schwartz. Dr. Schwartz is the developer of the Internal Family Systems model of psychotherapy, known as IFS. He has authored many books and over 50 articles on IFS and has trained thousands of therapists and practitioners in this transformative model over the last four decades. Today we will be speaking with him primarily about his latest book No Bad Parts, Healing Trauma, and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model published this summer by Sounds True.

Alexia Rothman: Dick, thank you so much for joining us today.

Richard Schwartz: It’s great to see you both. I’ve always enjoyed the two of you.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back Dick.

Dick: Thank you Anibal.

Aníbal: Dick, your new book is a delight to read. You clarify and refresh the main concepts and fundamentals of the model. It's full of powerful meditations that we know can be fundamental unblending practices and amazing case illustrations. And as we read the book, we have the feeling that you are not totally introducing and offering a model of mind to the general public, a model that can help us navigate our troubled minds and lives, but that you are also offering a dream as Luther King or Nelson Mandela did. The dream that this model can connect us all collectively and globally and heal not only ourselves and our relationships, but also heal us globally. So, Dick, why this book?

Dick: Yeah, boy, that's very astute Aníbal. I did have that intention and I'm glad at least one person got it. Yeah. The why of this book is both to bring more of IFS to the general public, but also to clarify the vision, the larger vision you just described, which I don't think I had really put into words in other places other than some talks. So yeah, the longer I stayed with it, the more clear it became that it has enormous potential as a way of understanding the mind and a way of bringing more of what we call Self and Self-energy to this planet. And that, just like an individual, when you get what we call a critical mass of Self-energy, things can change very quickly, heal and improve very quickly. And I believe that that's true also in countries and organizations and also globally. And so, I wanted to try to articulate that and other aspects of the spirituality of the model, because it's grown to be a kind of spiritual, sacred journey for me.

Lexi: We're actually hoping that over the course of our conversation today, we'll be able to flesh out kind of each of those areas as we go. So I'm glad that you sort of gave an overview that way of everything that the book involves and...So, starting maybe with something that is basic and fundamental to IFS, you talk in the book about the fact that the dominant view of the mind in westernized cultures has been more the monomind view. So, the idea that the mind is one unitary entity and that all of our thoughts and our emotions flow from this one unified mind, but IFS holds that the natural state of the mind is actually multiple, so that it's natural for us to have these different parts or these sub-personalities. So, we're wondering if you could tell us a bit about the concept of multiplicity and how this way of understanding the mind may not only be more accurate, but actually beneficial for people

Dick: It's been a tough sell on this culture because there is a kind of stigma about multiplicity that's come from various sources. Probably the most powerful source has been from the multiple personality disorder diagnosis, or also from hearing voices in schizophrenia and psychosis. And so, the idea of there being these little entities inside of you that you can hear from and interact with has been pathologized in our culture and at best seen as the sort of fragmenting of the unitary mind, the monomind, by trauma. So, they're seen as shards of the broken vase, which is better than seeing them as just pieces of craziness. So, it's been an uphill battle to say that having parts and listening to them and having them interact with each other could be a good thing. But, you know, I consider myself to be a good scientist. I didn't come into the work with clients believing any of that. I was a big monomind person. In fact, I remember very early on, I think I might've told this story sometime before, but there was a woman in the Chicago area named Sandra Watanabe, who had put together something called The Internal Cast of Characters. And so, she was working with parts in a similar way. And I went to, after I got interested in the phenomenon because of my clients, I went to hear her present and she was talking about them as if they were real. And I thought “oh, how naïve.” At the end of the thing, I went up to her, I said “you don't really, these are metaphors, right? You don't really believe in the reality of them.” She said “no, they're quite real.” So, I came into it, exploring it with that kind of attitude that it's creations of the mind and it's a way the mind can get to know itself, but these are not real inner characters. So, it was a tough sell for me so that I understand how tough it is for other people to accept. But it's very relieving. It's very, once you get that it's just a part of you that has these racist beliefs and says these things inside, or it's just a part of you that hates your mother and wants to kill her or whatever it is, it's much, much easier to accept yourself and to have compassion than if you believe that you're a racist or that you're a hateful person or...So, there's, I mean, minimally there's that value in the multiplicity perspective. But what also happens is as you really get that they are real inner beings who need a leader and they need love and compassion from you, then it becomes a kind of a life practice. You know, it becomes something that I do on a daily basis, which has a big impact on how I run my life. And, so that's the real value of it.

Lexi: That's really helpful. And you actually started to get into what I wanted to ask you next, which is a lot of times when I'll introduce the IFS model to clinicians, they start to understand the idea of the multiplicity of the mind, and then they become interested in what is the nature of these parts? You know, you talked a little bit about how others viewed them, how you first viewed them. How would IFS describe the nature of parts?

Dick: You know, for me, and it's evolved over time, but for me now there, I think in the book I call them sacred inner beings. And that's really the way I see them, they’re little inner sort of, not just personalities, but people in a sense, for lack of a better word, who are sacred and deserve to be honored and acknowledged and listened to and witnessed as much as external human beings too. And external children, because most of them are quite young. And yeah, so that's how I see them. And again, it's a tough sell.

Lexi: It is a tough sell. And one thing that I'll sometimes say to people is because, you know, you've said this before that you don't expect anyone to believe something just because you say it. You're so open to having people just do their own experimentation and then just learn what they learn. And then I'll, you know, say something like really, regardless of whatever you believe them to be or not be the truth is it turns out that if you do treat them as whole beings, you get the best results. So, whatever you believe about them just you're absolutely right. That they operate as whole people do. So, if you're approaching them with respect and appreciation and honoring them, you absolutely can more effectively engage with them.

Dick: That's right. That's all I ask. I mean, people can be as pragmatic as they want about it. And what you said is true. Whether or not you believe they're real inner beings, treating them that way is very effective.

Aníbal: Dick, the title of your book is No Bad Parts. You speak right at the introduction of an inherent goodness. And you also quoted Jimmy Carter when he says, “what is needed now more than ever is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity”. And then you go saying “our leaders can do that with the way we currently understand the mind because it highlights the darkness in humanity”. So, do you believe there is no badness at all in our human systems?

Dick: I, you know, I can say there are no bad parts and I can say that Self is totally good. There are little bundles of negative energy that we'll run into too that don't seem to have any particular desire other than to cause damage. But those are not inherent to human being’s state. They are what we call unattached burdens that enter our systems from in various, various ways. So, but inherent to human beings, there's nothing negative.

Lexi: And I really appreciate actually, how IFS has that understanding that, you know, regardless of the impact of whatever the parts are doing, you know, the impact of the methods that they're using really the underlying intention is so good. They're trying to help in whatever way they know how. And I think that the fact that IFS recognizes that there are no bad parts it actually lets us effectively as therapists work with parts that we couldn't work with otherwise. You were mentioning like racist parts, for example, or homophobic parts or parts that have abused other people. If all we know how to do is judge them and exile them and shame them, you know, punish them, then there's really no hope for positive change at all.

Dick: Yeah. And for me it's all parallels. So, if you can, if you believe that there are bad parts and you lock them up or go to war against them, then you're going to believe the same about people in the outside world. And you'll have the same impulse in terms of how you treat them, and you'll get the same results. So, when you exile or attack parts inside, at some point, they'll get revenge in a way. They'll screw up your life or they'll, I mean, mental symptoms or physical symptoms. So, yeah, and it took me a long time to come to that conclusion because, you know, I would start out working with inner critics for example. And they would, if we got curious and kept asking questions, would ultimately reveal their positive intention. And I thought “that's pretty cool, but what about these parts?” you know. And it wasn't until I was a consultant, which I did for seven years to a residential treatment center for sex offenders that I thought, okay, let's really test this out and let's start working with these parts that had raped people, or, you know, molested little kids. And I also did  some work in prison with people that have murdered other people. And, you know, if these parts turn out to be the same, then that's pretty interesting. That's a big discovery. And indeed, each time I would try it and the part would share it secret history of how it got into its role and how it picked up these extreme beliefs and emotions that drove it to do what it did and how much it hated itself for doing those things. And then, you know, at some point I started to see that, okay, maybe this is the thing, maybe there aren't any bad parts. Isn't that amazing? You know, that just changes everything sort of.

Lexi: It does. It really does. And this way that IFS has of really knowing that they're not what they seem on the surface. They're not their methods, their role doesn't define them. That they're more than that. Like we were saying before, it gives us this possibility. So, when you, when you do this healing work with them and with whomever they're protecting, they have this chance in the end to, to do something different. They don't have to stay locked in that role. But the way that that comes about is they get to choose what they might want to do differently. It's not that we've rejected them, told them they're bad or wrong because then you're absolutely right. All we'll see is what we would see in a person, then they'd rebel, then they'd resist, you know, but they get to choose. So, in terms of another fundamental concept in IFS, so at the heart of the IFS model is the concept of the Self. And it's what we understand to be this essence of calm and clarity, compassion, connectedness, that's in all of us. And when I was first exposed to the IFS model many years ago, was that your introductory workshop at the trauma conference. And one of the things that just struck me so powerfully was you're absolutely confident assertion that number one, the Self is present in everyone, but also that it is undamaged, no matter how much trauma we've experienced, how much pain and wounding, how many parts of us may be in extreme roles in our system. And the reason that that claim had such a profound impact on me was that that is what I had seen to be the case in my clinical practice, working with survivors of extremely severe and extensive childhood trauma, you know, thousands and thousands of incidents from infancy through young adulthood. And yet, even in these systems, when the protective parts would relax back, even a fraction, this same presence would emerge, this same healing energy and wisdom and compassion as in the clients without trauma history. So, it really struck me as true. So, for listeners who may be a bit newer to the IFS model, if you could tell us a bit about the concept of the Self and this idea that it remains undamaged regardless of trauma history.

Dick: Yeah. And that that's a tough sell in the trauma field because a lot of other trauma models are based on the idea that people are severely damaged by trauma, and they need years of learning new skills and building up the muscle of compassion and so on. And I've had, maybe you were there for them, I've had debates, my friend Bessel van der Kolk on this very topic and probably will again at the conference, where he'll hold up slides of a severe trauma survivor, complex trauma survivor brain. And you can see that the prefrontal cortex is basically kind of blank. And he'll say, this is what we're dealing with people with horrible, horrible childhoods. And I would say, that's what we're dealing with when a part has taken over and it's blanked out that our prefrontal cortex like a dissociative part, but when that part steps back it'll light up because Self is right there and he's, you know, he said, “well, prove it”. So, we've still been working on getting enough money to do some brain scan studies to prove it. But I'm certain that we can because of what you just said. And that's how I came to that conclusion because I was working that same population for about 20 years. And it was amazing when enough parts would separate, it was the same Self that would show up in less traumatized people. And so, yeah, it's a... that’s what led me to spirituality. Because again, I came into the study of this with basically an atheist or maybe an agnostic. But when you run into that phenomenon enough times, in spite of the fact that people have had such horrible experiences, at some point you have to look for other, other examples or other explanations for it, than the ones that are scientific. And one of the things I really like about the coming psychedelic revolution is that people like Bessel are seeing the Self. When people take plant medicine, it somehow it disarms protectors and immediately people are in this state of Self, even people with horrible trauma histories. So, it becomes harder for people like him to deny that it's there. So anyway, yeah, I'm not sure I answered your question.

Lexi: Yes, you did. You just reminded me of a conversation we had had years ago where I asked you about why people weren't finding it and you said, “because they don't believe it's there”. So, they're not going to go, like, we have this quality of persistence as IFS therapists, this very gentle persistence. And we can have that persistence because we have that knowing it's there. You know, we keep working with the protectors, we keep helping them trust that it might be okay to experiment a little bit. And then there it is.

Dick: Yeah. And it's a tough sell to the protectors a lot of the time, because some of them are actually convinced that it's not there. Some of them are pretending that they think it's not there. They know it's there, but they think it's dangerous for the clients to bring it in.

Lexi: Because it has been at some point.

Dick: So, that's why the persistence is important.

Aníbal: Dick, you have this paragraph you called What the Self is and What the Self isn't. You quote ecologist Daniel Christian Wahl, author of Designing Regenerative Cultures who states that “humanity is coming of age and needs a new story that is powerful and meaningful enough to galvanize global collaboration and guide the collective response to the converging crisis we are facing. And I'm quoting you”. And you say, “when you experience Self, you naturally feel more connected to humanity in general and also to something larger and more encompassing, the earth, the universe, the big Self. And you will also discover other qualities rising up in you like joy, equanimity, forgiveness, perspective, and playfulness”. So, equanimity, it's a quality of the Self that you are somehow redefining or pointing to.

 

Dick: Yeah. It's one quality for sure. Yeah. For me, and this this took a long time to conclude also, that Self isn't just in one individual person that it's kind of a field or yeah...Field is probably the best word that...I've always loved the discovery from quantum physics that photons are both particle and wave. So, for me there's a wave state of Self that isn't tied to individuals at all. And, with certain psychedelics or meditations, you can leave your body and you can sense being a part of this big, big wave of Self, and there's a blissful aspect of that. And there's a lot of equanimity to that too. There's a deep-seated sense that everything's okay at that level. And, that's partly why, you know, certain psychedelics are used with the end of life, because it really gives people who are facing death the sense that there's so much more and that this is just a transition. And so, as you come back from the meditation or the psychedelic and you reenter your body, you watch, I might say, your particle eyes. You, it's the same Self, but it's in this different form, embodied form, and it has boundaries whereas you didn't have boundaries in the wave state or the field state, and you sense your separateness from other people like these bodies getting our way in a lot of ways, because we lose this knowledge that we're connected when we come back. And, you know, I also believe that we're here to learn lessons, and one of the lessons is that, that despite the fact we're all separated by these bodies, we're not really separate, we're really interconnected. We see where connectedness is at this other level. And so, what's good for me it's sort of like COVID is teaching us this, that, you know, we can't just take care of our country because we could get to whatever 70% vaccinated, but if other countries aren't doing the same, then these variants are going to keep coming. So, we have to take care of us as a global humanity. Well, it's the same as true with all kinds of things. So, that's part of the message that I wanted to bring in the book and try to live more in my life that way.

Lexi: Along this line of IFS is kind of having morphed, as you say in the book, kind of morphed over time from being exclusively about psychotherapy, to now also being kind of a spiritual practice, I've been really fascinated to observe kind of in my clinical practice and also through my own personal IFS work that when we have more access to Self in this spaciousness and openness that accompanies it, it doesn't just allow increased connectedness to our own parts or to all of humanity, but also to something beyond us. So, for some people, you know, maybe that's nature or some it's a higher power or even ancestors or guides or the force, whatever it is for an individual. And that's been also very helpful for clients who initially had parts that felt funny about the model, because maybe they came from very traditional religious backgrounds and they feared, you know, this emphasis on Self as this sort of going to disconnect us from God and, surprisingly for them, it has actually opened almost the channel to connect more easily and more fully with whatever they want to connect with. So, it's been really interesting. You mentioned in the book, how IFS can be thought of as attachment theory taken inside. And I was wondering if you could elaborate on that a little bit. A bit of a different topic.

Dick: Yeah. You know, I love attachment theory in the sense that it really has brought to the field and to the culture the impact of early childhood stuff, both traumas and parenting and how that stays with us through our lives and organizes our lives. And in my language, in the form of these burdens that these young parts of us carry thereafter. But there was one aspect of attachment theory that never felt right to me. And as I did this work with clients became more and more clear that it wasn't right. And that is that to have any of what we're calling Self, you had to have had a good, at least good enough parenting at a young age, because it had to come into you in a sense through that loving relationship. And I was working with clients who not only didn't have good enough parents but had horrible parents. And I would, you know, based on attachment theory, I would sift through their histories, looking for one person, maybe a friend or an uncle or somebody who they might've got this from unsuccessfully. And, at some point I had to conclude that yes, attachment theory had it wrong, that piece of it, that it's inherent in us. It isn't something we have to get from somebody. And when I kind of got that, that I started thinking because, as I would help people access Self and then get out of the way, I would see how Self just knew how to be a good parent without any teaching or training or anything. Self just knows how to relate in a loving way and accepting, and yeah, all the things that we know about good parenting Self just does to these parts. And so, I started thinking, yeah, this is attachment theory taken inside in the sense that Self is becoming the good attachment figure to these insecurely or avoidantly attached parts, and that's a big deal. The fact that you don't necessarily need that to come from a therapist or some kind of healing experience with your parents or from your spouse, you can do that for yourself. And so many of us come out of our families thinking we can't do that for ourselves and we've got to find that good attachment figure. And unfortunately, we put that on our partners a lot of the time to be that for us. And that creates all kinds of havoc in relationships.

Lexi: Absolutely. What you're saying is just so true and the power of it, honestly, after thousands of IFS sessions, it never ceases to amaze me that you're absolutely right, regardless of what people have received or not received in their history is when enough space is open inside and the Self-energy is flowing, the way they can show up is exactly what the part needs. And it's also in, so attuned a way, what's interesting to me is how much that takes the burden off therapists, because we don't have to, in those moments when the client is with their most vulnerable and wounded exiles and witnessing the worst things that have ever happened to them, we don't have to sit there with a part of us worried about how we need to guide them through healing this part, because frankly, we might not even get it right. So, even if we were to try, so we might, from some part of us that knows what our exiles would need, we might suggest, “oh, go and hug the part”, you know, and in that person's system, what might be right is not touching that part at all, sitting six feet away, not even looking at the part, but being a comforting presence. So, I love that we can just, as you say so many times in different places, trust the healing energy of the Self. Trust, the Self, just, you know, because our job is just to help the clients access Self, and then they can do what needs to be done.

Aníbal: So, Dick, you say, “when you can love all your parts, you can love all people. When your parts feel loved they allow you to lead your life from Self and you feel connected to the earth and you want to save it from the exploitative parts of others. You will expand the field of Self on the planet and that will contribute to healing it, the planet. You will also feel connected to the bigger field of Self”. So, what is this bigger field of Self?

Dick: You know, for me, it's what other systems call God, if they don't have to personify God. Maybe the closest is Hinduism that talks about Atman, which is what I call Self in a person. And then Brahman, which is much more of a field idea that Atmanis the personification of Brahman. So, and many spiritual traditions have a similar conceptualization that there is a field that is transpersonal, that you can access. And that a lot of wisdom comes from...I've just been reading a book called The Immortality Key, which makes a very strong, strongly documented case that the ancients were very active in using psychedelics, sometimes inadvertently because what they called beer would have this ergot which has a psychedelic effect just from the lack of kind of brewing that we have now. And that a lot of, most of the world's religious traditions were based on this opening that happened when people would do this. And there was a place in Greece, I think, where people would come from all over called The Eleusis, I think, and they would be given this mysterious potion and would have all these experiences that they kept quite secret. But anyway, the point being that, however you access it, whether it's through what the Buddha did, which was to meditate or taking some plant medicine, or that there is this much larger field of wisdom that can enter and instruct us about how to operate in this route. And that's been the source of a lot of the guidance that humans have gotten from prophets and religious leaders, which I find to be a very interesting thing. So, for me, that's what that field is.

Aníbal: Dick, it might be helpful to quote some of your book highlights that speak for these new global or spiritual Self, with the capital letters that it seems you want to underline. So, quoting you, you say “we have lost our ability to feel the earth viscerally, and we need system thinking leaders who can remind everyone that we are all in this together. And when people sense how connected they are to humanity, they feel more curious about others and they have more courage to help them”. And finally, “it's not compassionate to passively watch suffering beings parade by.” Am I getting it right?

Dick: Yeah. Yeah, those are great. And that last one is part of my critique of some traditional spiritualities because, mindfulness in particular is for me, is a good first step, but you're asked to separate from and observe your thoughts and emotions, and to do that in an accepting way, but not to interact with them. And that's fine if you believe that these are just ephemeral thoughts and emotions that come and go, or that they're the ego, which many spiritual traditions tend to be irritated by, or even demonize that it makes sense to separate and just notice it without trying to do anything. But if you think of these, the way we've described earlier as inner entities, many of whom are suffering, then it isn't compassionate to just passively watch them. And one of the things, again, I hate to keep referring back to the psychedelic revolution, but you know, the people studying MDMA and PTSD are quite amazed at how often, spontaneously, without any guidance from the therapist, the subject starts to do IFS because the MDMA disarms these protectors, you immediately access a huge amount of Self. Your heart is wide open, and that's a big invitation to your exiles to come forward. And they do. And people do start just working with them spontaneously because as you were saying earlier, Lexi, it's amazing to watch Self just knows what to do. All of that was very, has been very validating to me that I just stumbled on to something that we all know how to do as human beings to heal ourselves. That that's in there.

Lexi: It's really interesting what you were saying a moment ago about, kind of your critique of some traditional forms of let's say mindfulness practice, that it's a really great start and really important, but that we might need to go a step further and engage. I was talking with a client last night who has been using just some mindfulness practice and meditation. And he said, “okay, when I'm doing it, I feel calm. I feel better,” he said. “But why does the distress return, you know, as soon as I stopped doing it?” And so, it's trying to draw the parallel for him because we know the internal world function so much like the external world, like external children do in our real world. And I said, “well, can you imagine if my son was really upset, he had things that were actually bothering him, legitimate reasons for being distressed, he needed help and care and I said to him, okay, you just go sit over there. I'm just going to breathe for a while and kind of calm myself down and all that. And then I walked away.” You know, what would be compassionate, what he needs is to say, “oh, you're suffering. Let me come be with you. And let me listen to you and see, you know, how can I connect with you? What can we do to help and all of that.” So, I said, “you have parts that are actually really suffering in there. They need you, they need connection with you, they need help. And so, maybe a good start, you know, to get yourself in a place where you feel more able to be open to them and be present with them, get some of the protectors to give you a little space for that. But then we've got to continue”. You know, so anyway, pivoting a little bit here. IFS is a model that is extremely respectful and extremely honoring of the protective parts of our systems and we recognize that these protectors are in the roles that they're in for good reason. And they usually will have a really hard time shifting out of those roles until what their...the vulnerable and wounded parts that they're protecting are healed. But so, we're of course, very conscious, as IFS therapists, of not violating the pace of these protectors. We seek their permission before we work with deep vulnerability. But a question I get a lot when talking to clinicians about this model is...Okay, sometimes though we find ourselves in a position where something that a protector is doing it's just not safe for the client to continue doing, until we have time to heal the underlying vulnerability, so, they could be severely restricting food intake to the point where they're medically compromised, for example. So, how does IFS balance honoring and respecting protectors with sometimes having no choice, but to make sure that they can't use their methods of choice?

Dick: Yeah. So, the example you gave is probably, is very apt because when I developed IFS, I was working with the eating disorder population and there were clients who were starving themselves to the point where we had to do something, not only because they were, you know, facing death, but also because they really couldn't think very well when they were so malnourished. So, doing, even trying to do IFS with them in that state, wasn't getting us anywhere. And so, I would have to take a stand with these, these anorexic parts. And, but even then, when we had to rehydrate and hospitalize, I’d take the position with the part that we're doing it so that we can heal everything. We're not doing it because it's a bad part that's trying to kill her. We get that it's trying to save her life at things, but we have to do something so that we can show it, that it doesn't have to do this job anymore. And we honor the part and we value it. And we're going to take this step that it's going to hate, and it's going to fight. So, if you can do it from Self that way with compassion for the part and honoring of it, it isn't nearly the setback it is if you do it from a much more coercive place that most people do it from.

Lexi: Absolutely. I think one of the things that does make IFS so beautiful for working with things like eating disorders or addictions, is that we do honor these parts for what they're trying to do and how they're trying to help and how in fact, maybe sometimes their methods were necessary or even lifesaving. And we bring them on board as a collaborator in the healing process, instead of further polarizing, either our manager parts of us polarized with them or within the client further in the polarization. And it's just, I appreciate what you just shared because it is that tricky step sometimes when we have to do something that actually sometimes the part feels as a betrayal, you know, like I thought that you accepted me for who I am. I thought you didn't want to change me. And now you're telling me you have to change. And it's like, oh my goodness. But yeah. So, maintaining the relationship as best we can and repairing as we have to, but doing what needs to be done for the safety of the system. So, IFS is a therapeutic model that can bring about transformative change and very deep healing for clients, even for those who've suffered very severe and extensive trauma. So, I'm curious, how would you define healing through an IFS lens? What does that entail?

Dick: Well, there are several aspects to it. You know, certainly the unburdening, the release of these extreme beliefs and emotions that these parts have carried for so long, it's like a curse has been lifted and leads to immediate transformation, but to get there, you have to get them out of where they're stuck in the past, usually. So that's an element. And to get there, you have to start by forming a trusting relationship with the part. So, all of those elements are involved in healing a part, which then liberates it from the role that's been forced into. But there are, there are four goals of IFS. All of which I think are related to healing. One is that, the liberation of these parts, so they can be who they're designed to be, but then also the restoration of trust in them for the Self as a leader. And so, healing also involves having healthy leadership and luckily Self is right there and do that. And then third aspect of healing is called, similar to what other systems call, integration, where the parts start to depolarize and get to know each other and begin to relate harmoniously with each other. And as a result, you feel integrated, you feel far less like there are all these parts hanging out and doing extreme things. Instead, they're working as a unit and you don't even notice them a lot of the time because they're so harmonious. And then the fourth is that you begin to lead your life from Self, which creates what much more healing and harmony in your external world.

Lexi: I appreciate what you're saying about integration. It brought to mind something that was in your book. I think Dan Siegel was talking about health and integration, and he talked about IFS being a great way to achieve this and as integration being more like a fruit salad than a smoothie, though. I think with some other models that may be like, oh, we blend all back together and become that one unified mind again. And we're saying, no, no, the parts can maintain their autonomy, their special resources, their special qualities, their contributions, their uniqueness, and just be included in this whole but, because like you said, they're functioning more harmoniously together you may not notice them as much. Things are peaceful and seamless inside. And, speaking of the idea of healing, Alanis Morrissette wrote a really nice foreword for the book. And she said, “when I started to work with IFS, I was buoyed by the idea of returning to our birthright of wholeness, through offering attention and care to each part of myself.” And I love just those words, that idea of returning to the birthright of wholeness, because it does seem to be that that happens as we, as we heal.

Aníbal: So, Dick, I like what you say at your closing thoughts in your book. You say, “if you don't take your part seriously, you won't become an effective inner leader or parent. Various forms or psychotherapy can help you connect with the deep-seated emotions of your exiles. And that can be healing to some degree, but if you think of that process through the lens of expressing a repressed emotion you won’t follow up and following up is crucial.” So, what is this follow up you talk about and how is it practiced individually or collectively?

Dick: Yeah, well, that's related to the four goals I just mentioned. So, if you take them seriously as an inner family, internal family, then you're not going to just do the, one-off big cathartic healing session. You're going to use that as a starting point to form a new relationship with each of these parts. And you're going to check in with them every day and you're going to notice when they come up and need your attention and you'll respond to them from Self. And so that's what I mean by follow up, like I said earlier, it becomes a life practice. So, you start to take them as seriously as you take external kids, except that they don't need nearly as much as external kids. Most of the time, they just need a little second of your attention to get a message through. And, so often we try to kill the messenger rather than listen to the message, that for me, western medicine is all about that. Many, many physical symptoms are the products of parts you can't get through to you otherwise, trying to, desperately trying to get your attention. So, yeah, so follow up is crucial. And as I said in the book, unless you really believe these are real inner beings, it doesn't make a lot of sense to follow up with your thoughts, or emotions otherwise.

Aníbal: You also say, “if you understand that you have exiles who really need to trust you, you will be more likely to visit them for as long as it takes. Working with them like that is often what's needed to reach permanent unburdening. And that's what it takes to learn your lessons, lessons, like everything deserves love.” So, what is this permanent unburdening you mention here, and again, how is it practiced?

Dick: Well, we can have a session where we do an unburdening and it seems very dramatic and the person feels much better, but I've found that the burdens can come back. And I got very discouraged when I first noticed that and thought, all this doesn't really work, it’s a sham. But, as I got curious and started asking why did they come back, I learned there are four or five common reasons why they come back. One of which is what we just talked about, that the client didn't follow up and the part felt abandoned and went back to what was familiar. So, for there to be permanent unburdening, not always, I mean, there are parts that will unburden one time and it just stays, but many parts need that kind of follow up to trust that it's safe to not take this stuff back into their body.

Lexi: Dick, you include a very powerful quote at the beginning of the book, by Gus Speth, where he says, “I used to think the top environmental problems where biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that 30 years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy. And to deal with those, we need a cultural and spiritual transformation and we scientists don't know how to do that”. So, I feel like you've been giving us pieces of this all day, but from your perspective, you know, how can IFS contribute to that type of cultural and spiritual transformation that we need?

Dick: Yeah, well, that I hope is one of the main messages of the book, that simply bringing more Self to this planet will have that impact. I really believe that. And so, every time an IFS therapist, does an unburdening and they're in their office, that allows for more Self to come in. And as you know, I've been experimenting, I did recently a workshop for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to work with their legacy burdens. And we found that we could do that collectively. We could help people unburden as a group and I, you know, I would love to try to scale that so that we could have large groups of people collectively releasing these legacy burdens that are really what's at the heart of so many conflicts around the world that are being fought about traumas that happened centuries earlier. So, it's that, it’s that kind of bringing more and more Self is just really the key.

Lexi: That would be incredible. I really hope we can be doing those larger scale unburdenings. And I just love this section going along with all of this, just love the section in the book where you talk about the work that you're doing with training social activists to lead from Self, and you just give a transcript of a wonderful session that you did with someone that really kind of resulted in a vastly improved ability for him to advocate for what he believed and from a place of curiosity and connectedness rather than from protective hearts. Another piece.

Dick: Yeah. That is the other thing. The more Self we bring in the more we see that people, even people that do terrible things, they have their own, their own histories as to why they’re in those roles. And our goal is to stay...We might have to stop them like we were talking about with the anorexic part, but we can do it from an open heart and stay curious and try to help them heal to.

Aníbal: Dick, I also loved the way you finish your book. If I may quote you again, you say “in the process I've found, and worked with several parts of myself, the one who uses my father's voice to hector me about how unscientific all this is, the one who worries that I'm being too grandiose with all of these major pronouncements about the world and how it could be, and the one  who still doubts the reality of the inner world, despite decades of evidence.” Are these your empiricist or scientist parts talking, and do you feel towards them, Dick?

Dick: I love those parts. I think part of the reason that, I don't know, I was chosen to bring this, is because of those parts, because they give me more credibility and they actually made me test everything. You know, not believe it just because it happened one time. But so, even though they still can get in the way at times, I still value them and wouldn't want to change them too much.

Lexi: I love how you say, I guess maybe this is from your father, but to follow the data, even when it takes you outside your paradigm. And you've really done that.

Aníbal: That’s it, yes.

Dick: Yeah. I think that's what I'm proudest of because there were lots of parts that didn't want to go here at all.

Aníbal: Dick, The IFS Annual Conferences is back coming this October fully online. So, the first ever virtual IFS annual conference, the conference is called Restoring Wholeness Through Collective Transformation. So, this title draws from the vision and purpose of IFS as described in your new book No Bad Parts. You say “healing in IFS means wholeness and reconnection. As we transform individually, we help to bring collective healing”. So, is this purpose of the collective healing being accomplished in the conference program this year?

Dick: You know, I would like to think we're taking a step in that direction. What I'm proudest of is how many people from all over the world and from very different ethnic groups will be not only participating, but also presenting. And it's just very heartwarming to me to see that starting to take place more and more. And yeah, it's become much more of a global phenomenon that we have in many, many countries and many countries that exists in oppressive systems as well, and, you know, Self, sort of automatically fights oppression. And again, we just want to bring the critical mass. So, anyway, I think the conference will be very exciting and I appreciate you bringing it up.

Aníbal: Thank you, Dick, so much for another great conversation. It was a joy to be here with you and Lexi, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, wonderful model, our work and our lives.

Lexi: Dick, thank you.

Dick: Well, thanks again. I agree. It's been a wonderful conversation and I am so grateful for you guys to bring this to the community. So, I want to support you as much as I can.


 

Transcript Edition:
Carolina Abreu, certified Psychotherapist, L3 Trained,
and experienced Program Assistant for the official IFS-InstituteTrainings.

 

When “Self” becomes an emotional bypass - with Pam Krause 37:38

Today We are interviewing and welcoming back Pam Krause.

Pam Krause is a Senior Lead Trainer for the Center for Self-leadership and has been leading Level 1, 2 and 3 trainings since 2005.

Pam adapted the IFS model for use with children and adolescents and has created both onsite and online trainings on the topic. Ana Gomez and Pam co-authored the chapter EMDR Therapy and the Use of Internal Family Systems Strategies with Children in EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children;

Pam authored a chapter on IFS with Children & Adolescents in Internal Family Systems Therapy: New Dimensions, and also co-authored a chapter called Getting Unstuck  in the 2017 book “innovations and elaborations in IFS” - addressing occasional ruptures and impasses in our work in IFS.
She also has a private practice in Mechanicsburg, PA.

 

Today on IFS Talks, we are interviewing and welcoming back Pam Krause. Pam Krause is a senior lead trainer for the IFS Institute and has been leading levels one, two and three IFS trainings since 2005. Pam adapted the IFS model for use with children and adolescents and has created both onsite and online trainings on the topic. Pam is in private practice in Mechanicsburg, PA, and today we are speaking with her on the topic of the weaponization of Self.

Tisha Shull: Pam, thank you so much for joining us once again and being here with us today.

Pam Krause: Well, thank you, Tisha. It's great to be with both of you.

Aníbal Henriques: So, welcome back, Pam. It's been almost two years now, since we recorded your first episode on IFS with children, adolescents and parents. So much going on since then, the world changed so much, right? How have you been those days?

Pam: Wow. I'm thinking back to that because an awful lot has happened in two years. I've been good, trying to survive the pandemic the same way everyone else is, you know, busy with IFS because, you know, the IFS Institute is really focusing on broadening the lens through which the model views the world. And I've been a part of that project. I'm not exactly sure how I've been in the last two years, honestly, to tell you the truth, so much has happened, so much has happened with the pandemic. In fact, Aníbal, I was with you right at the beginning of it while I was doing a level one with you...

Aníbal: Yeah. Right at the beginning.

Pam: In Portugal. And on my way back, I had to certify that I had not been to China in the two weeks prior to flying. So, that was really just the beginning of it. So, a lot has changed taking IFS trainings online, finding that it works pretty well. You know, it works pretty well to do them in person and online, and just been involved with a lot of other projects with the Institute because IFS is becoming such a...there's so much demand for learning the model that the Institute’s working hard to get people up to speed, to be lead trainers. So, I've been working on a project to help speed up that process and also a project to help with diversity, equity and inclusion and expanding the IFS model beyond the traditional white lens that we've always viewed it through into a more multicultural multi-racial lens on the world.

Aníbal: So needed, yeah.

Pam: So, it's been an exciting time, actually.

Aníbal: Pam, the central and core medicine in IFS is for both therapist and client to find and stay in Self with a capital S. We all look for that magic energy capable of deep love, acceptance and transformation. That means to stay in a loving, open and accepting state of calmness, compassion, confidence, curiosity, connectedness, creativity, and clarity and courage as well. Also recommended that we therapists stay in a state of playfulness to keep perspective, patience, persistence, perseverance.

So, you say we sometimes weaponize Self, meaning you say how in IFS, especially in the trainings, but not solely there, we use the concept of being in Self to try to force any emotion away. What do you mean by that? What emotions are we forcing away and why do we force them?

Pam: Yeah. So, let me first start by saying that I want to acknowledge this term, the weaponization of Self. I got that from a young woman whose name is Natalie Gutierrez. Who's an IFS practitioner. And she used that term and it really, really got me thinking about something in a different way. And that is this concept of what does it mean to be in Self? And what does it mean to be Self-lead, right. So, what I mean by that is when we talk about all those things that you read Aníbal, it's like that's in Self, right? And there's a certain...well to my system it feels like there's a certain rigidity around that. Like I'm either in Self or I'm not in Self and I'm bad if I'm not in Self and I'm good if I'm in Self, right. And the truth is for most of us, I'll speak, especially for myself here, is I'm not ever really in Self if I'm engaging in the external world. And that, really what we're looking for in this model is to be Self-lead, meaning the Self is there in relationship with the parts. So, we're not trying to exile parts or force them away. The goal of the therapy is really to develop this natural flowing relationship between the parts and the Self, which is when we, which is when we really thrive, right. The Self without parts is not good because we're in a... I don't know, have either of you ever like experienced being what you would call in Self? I'd be really curious to know what that's like. Because that doesn't really happen for me.

Tisha: I find that really at the trainings and in certain, maybe spiritual context, there is like this energetic shift that makes...it's almost like a subtle vibration and it feels really good. I haven't found that really outside of the trainings.

Pam: Yeah. Yeah.

Tisha: That's maybe the closest that I could tap into.

Pam: Aníbal, do you...

Aníbal: For me, you know, I'm always striving with these therapist parts that want to help and fix my clients. And so, always balancing among being a full acceptant Self or being in parts that want really to change something. That's my, that's the trouble sometimes. It's tricky, so...for me.

Pam: Yeah. And so, you know, and Tisha, when you say that, I think like sometimes...I don't meditate a lot, but sometimes when I do, I can get in that state, but as soon as I need to interact with someone it's gone, right. Because it is...for me anyway, and this is what's really hard about this you all, is that it's so hard to talk about the Self because to apply linear language to something that's so multi-dimensional is really difficult. So, I'm saying all this from my own internal perspective and anybody, you know, I really invite anybody who's listening just to be curious about their experience of this. But to engage I need some of my parts around, right?

Aníbal: And also, in Portuguese, there is no direct translation for Self. It's another trouble.

Pam: Right, right. So, that's why this, for a long time, I've been thinking about this notion about when we tell people, you know, we want to be in Self when we're, I don't know, especially when we're doing therapy, right. But also, in regular life, you know, it's much better if I'm not totally blended with some part of me that would like to strangle my husband when he does something minor, you know. It’s much better if that one's not totally blended with me when he does some little minor offense but...

Aníbal: You shouldn’t.

Pam: Can you relate...Yeah. So, and just the amount of, well, think about it, if you think about being in Self versus being in parts, right. Either in Self or blended. I'm in Self or I'm blended, right. That's a polarization, right. That's a duality, that's not a concept that would resonate with the Self. That's only a concept that would resonate with parts, right. Only parts see things as either or, right. And so, for me, it's always been much more helpful to think about unblending as not an all or nothing thing, but the parts can be anywhere from a 100% percent blended to 0% blended, right? And mostly there's somewhere in between. We just want them unblended enough so that we have some access to our Self-energy. But so, our parts are there as a resource for us, right. Does that make sense?

Aníbal: Yeah. So, Pam, I'm hearing that for you, it looks like there is much value and good in being Self-led instead of just be in Self?

Pam: Yes.

Aníbal: And so, you are also saying that we should be aware that parts don't just unblend from 0 to 100%. What do you mean and how can that help us with the process?

Pam: Well, you know, Aníbal, I'm thinking about what you just said about your therapist parts that really want to help, you know, sometimes you have, right? So, there's a lot of value and a lot of wisdom and a lot of knowledge in those parts, right. And so, if they're in the driver's seat, if they're totally blended, that's not so good, right. Because I mean, it may not be bad, but it's different, right? It's not IFS. If they're blended, who's ever blended is doing the therapy, but if they're at least somewhat unblended so that we can feel connected to them, then we can take advantage of their wisdom. You know, you have some parts that know an awful lot of stuff about therapy and about helping people. And I always feel like it's, if they're whispering in my ear and saying, have you thought about this, or what about that? Or I'm noticing this, or remember this intervention that we learn, blah, blah. You know, you, it's very different if they're whispering in our ears and we are leading the interaction, we're free to say, “no, I don't want to do that right now”, or “that's a really good idea” and speak for that to our clients. That's a much richer therapeutic experience, both for us as the therapist and also for our clients.

Aníbal: Ok. So, you are saying it's not black and white, either in parts or in Self. So, Pam, being in parts it's not always to avoid or always a bad thing.

Pam: No, I always, well, how do I want to say it? The more we know our parts, the more we can call on them when I, when we need them, right? Like if I'm walking down a dark alley and someone is trying to rob me, right. I want whatever part I have, that's going to fight back to totally take over and be in charge and make me safe. Right. So, there are times there's some young childlike parts that I love to have blend with me when I'm playing with little kids. Right. They're silly and goofy and fun. So, you know, this notion that being blended is a bad thing is not always true, right. It's the awareness, it's really, as we unburden our parts, we really have a choice about how much we want them to blend and how much we'd like them to unblend. Right. Is that, I don't know if that's making any sense, but...

Tisha: Yes, so there's some consciousness. It's about like being conscious and allowing with kind of some consent. Pam, I am wondering the term weaponization of Self. I haven't heard it before and it's got some weight to it. And so, I'm wondering about if there's like an explicit danger around the weaponization of Self that we need to kind of be aware of and cognizant of.

Pam: Yeah. Yeah. And, again, I want to thank Natalie for that term. And, I am just, I've really only been thinking about this for a couple of months. This is one thing I love about our model, right? It's a living breathing model that just changes. And I've been doing this for 23 years now. And all of a sudden, this whole new concept has popped into my mind about this. And I'm like super busy with it, but, you know, it's, I see this happening some in trainings, but I also see this happening with folks who are really familiar with IFS as they're interacting with each other, right. And this, and it is this belief that I'm...it comes from this, like when I'm in Self, that means I won't react to anything. I'm very like “Om”, you know, I don't have any feelings, not, there's no intensity behind anything that I say. And, that's not true because we can be Self-led, right. If you think about this whole percentage of blending, like 0 to a 100% blended, right. I can be speaking for a part and it can be 50% blended, right. Like it's blended with me and I'm feeling some of its intensity, but I'm speaking for it. Right. That person who's hearing me might feel some of that intensity. And that's when we fall into this sort of weaponization of the Self where people react and say, “get that part to unblend, get that part to step back”, right. Because they don't like the intensity of the feeling. And so, we want to push feeling away so that we engage in these sort of...it feels to me sometimes sterile.

Aníbal: Ok.

Pam: Yeah. And so, I've really just been thinking about that a lot. And especially like, if we're speaking for parts that hold some anger, you know, even if they're just a little bit blended, maybe 10% blended, and we're speaking for them, the other person may be feeling some of that anger. And then there can be shaming while “you're, you're just blended and you need to unblend before you, before we can have this conversation”.

Aníbal: So, you are saying in Self implies we should feel nothing, and nothing should bother us. So, Pam, I couldn't agree more with you that this Self that feels nothing can really be boring, but you suggest it can be bothering. Could you say more on this bothering?

Pam: So let me say, people often believe that we, when we say we're in Self, or when we unburden our parts, that people should be able, no matter how people react toward us, no matter what they say, no matter what they do, it shouldn't upset us. We should be able to take anything that they throw at us. Right. And, I would also say, that's not true, right. That, and this is where the courage of the Self comes in. So, that I'm trying to think of a personal example of what that means. And I think the best example that I can come up with is...actually I have a difficult relationship with one of my sisters. And there's often, when we're together, there are parts of her that just come after me. I mean, just really blame me for a lot of stuff that happened when we were kids. And so, I often feel really attacked by that. And for a long time, I tried to not feel anything when she did that. Right. I'm like, oh, I should be able to take anything. It should be okay. You know, she did have a much harder time than I did.

Aníbal: Kind of getting Zen.

Pam: Exactly. Exactly. And then, as I got more into this, I started realizing, and here's, you know, just listening, listening to my parts and knowing that it's really, it was really not okay that she was treating me that way. And I knew that, in this instance, I tried to have some conversations with her about it, and they were just not going anywhere. Right. Because she was just not able, able to hear what I was saying and deepen our relationship beyond where it was. And so, I made a choice to limit my interactions with her. Right. Because, you know, so this is where I say, you know, we can set these Self-lead boundaries. Doesn't mean we have to take everything. We can make choices about how we interact with people and the ways in which we engage them. So, you know, if I keep my interactions with her short and limited, we never really get to the place where she gets on a roll and starts attacking me. And it seems to work out. I can be connected enough with her, but not to the point where I'm being dumped on.

Aníbal: So, it’s a way of building connection as well.

Pam: Right.

Tisha: Do you know the term spiritual bypass?

Pam: Yes.

Tisha: Anibal’s getting Zen made me think about it. But it's always, it's been sort of a hard concept for me to understand, but I think you just made it really clear how you could just ignore your parts, maybe numb out a little bit, be in, being quote unquote, Self and get through it. But it actually, it reminds me of like being a good parent, you set boundaries that are hard in order to maintain safety.

Pam: Yeah. Yeah

Tisha: It feels really better. Especially if someone's coming at you, a family member with some five-year old, two-year-old parts.

Pam: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, I really love the way you just said that. Because that, that is, it is a spiritual, you know, it can be the spiritual bypass. And, there's something, look, there's something very loving about that too. Right. Like, you know, like I want to be able to stay connected and, how much do we think about this? Like, how much damage do we do to our own parts when we're trying to take care of someone else's parts like that, but that's a whole another talk, so.

Aníbal: Yeah. It could be. So, you say to be in Self can be used to shame parts and feelings. And how can that statement of being in Self be used to shame parts and feelings?

Pam: Well, that's the piece, you know, when like, and I especially see this in, I've seen this in our trainings or as IFS practitioners interact. So, if someone has some intense, even a little intensity about their reaction, or, I'm trying to think of an example. Okay so, here's an example. So, I'm going to speak to it from my experience, because as a lead trainer in these trainings, lots of times people get blended and they sort of, they're blended with their parts and they talk directly to me from these blended parts. So, I, as these things land on me and I feel this intensity, the way I can shame people with this is I can shame them...It's like this sense that we're all supposed to be in Self, we’re never supposed to be in parts and you're in parts right now. Right. And so, I can shame them by saying something as simple as, which is not simple at all, really, “could you take a minute and get that part to unblend?”. So, imagine that you have like some intensity around something you're feeling activated or upset about something that's happening in the training and you're directing that to me it some amount of passion and I say, “I'm not going to listen to that until you unblend”, right. That's very shaming. So, that's the way we can use this thing. Like, “I'm only going to listen if you're in Self”, right. “I'm not going to listen to anything else”.

Aníbal: Yes, makes sense.

Tisha: What's the right of the, quote unquote, right way or what's a more Self-led way to respond to that?

Pam: So, I want to answer that by saying it depends, because it does depend on the situation. Right? Of course, it depends on if you're in a relationship with someone with equal power to you, right. There's all this, you know, and as a therapist too, you know, I think about this often we have a power over our clients. There's a great book by, I'm going to plug Cedar Barstow here, it's called The Right Use of Power. Cedar Barstow's a Hakomi trainer and a therapist, and she's written these books. She has this whole thing about using power and the power that we have as therapists. So, it's different if you're in an up or down power position with someone, but if you're, if you're in an equal power position with someone and someone's coming at you, right. Like, I'm thinking about, I'll think about like my relationship with my husband. The other day he was like being really, here's what my part said, being really snotty about something. And he was just not being very nice. And so, and he knows, but the way I reacted to that was to say, “you know, it doesn't feel good to me when you talk to me like this. I want to hear what you have to say, but it doesn't feel good to me. And I'm getting sorted to the brink of where I want to yell back, and I don't want to do that. So, how can we have this conversation?” Sometimes he may not be able to. The other person may not be able to and want to still yell. Right. And then comes your choice. Do you stay engaged or not in that moment? If we're in a position though, like as a therapist and our client is coming at us with a part like that, I think one of the better ways to deal with that, and this is what can be difficult is to use Implicit Direct Access, meaning that this client has a part that's blended with them that is mad at us. And so, to stay engaged with that part. “Tell me what is bothering you. Tell me what I did that upset you so much, because it was not my intention to do that.” And, because if you can engage the part, it will all intimately unblend. But it's a much more connecting experience then if you engage the part.

Aníbal: Yeah. Instead of just asking to do his own job and do his own self-regulation, inner self-regulation.

Pam: Right, right. Yes, yes. Because when a part's coming at you like that, it wants connection. It wants some kind of connection. And if we say, “oh, focus on that part and how do you feel toward it or see if it can unblend...” Oh, you know...

Tisha: It makes me think of all the trainings that I've been in, or in situations where I have a judgmental part that says, “oh, they're not in Self.” And I know that judgmental part is just creating distance, but it's almost, it's reflexive. So, I'm so grateful that you are sort of illuminating this topic

Aníbal: Pam, maybe for didactic proposes, let me come back to this same topic. You are saying that we can be Self-led and still speak with emotion. So, how can we be Self-lead and still be with emotion and how can that be of some use or benefit for us and our trainings?

Pam: Well, first of all, I'm thinking about what you said earlier, Aníbal, which is, it certainly feels much more alive, doesn't it? Rather than this sort of flat...

Aníbal: Sometimes boring thing.

Pam: Yeah. Wow. That's a such an interesting question. You know, I never really thought about it in terms of how it could benefit us in that precise way. But I guess what I would say is I feel like as we, as I said earlier, this is a living breathing model and it changes and changes and changes. And I feel like we're continuing to refine the ways we teach it to people. And, Tisha, when you were saying a minute ago about having parts that are, have judgment because somebody is not in Self. I think there are ways in which we imply that as we teach the model, right, there have been ways that that is definitely implied. And, so this is really a way of refining the teaching even more, that that is not what we want. Right. What we want, what feels so alive and real to me is this goal of our therapy to not, we don't want to be parts-led, right? We want to be Self-lead, which means welcoming, welcoming, welcoming all our parts, not just in that sort of perfunctory way that we say at all, we will need to welcome all our parts, but to really, it feels to me like it's a flow with them, right? Like it feels like this infinity loop that what goes out to our parts then comes back to our Self and we're connected through this energy flow with them. Right. And if I get stuck in believing that I should be in Self, it excludes and exiles all my humanities from who I am as a person. So, I guess the benefit, Aníbal, is really, I live a fuller life, I live a richer life. We can share with each other...

Aníbal: Yeah. I fully agree with that.

Pam: ...Our joys, our sorrows. Yeah, exactly. So, I think that would be the benefit for me

Tisha: That is so beautifully said. Incredible.

Pam: Oh, thanks. It felt very inarticulate to me, but thank you.

Aníbal: I was also thinking that some parts are really difficult to welcome. Shaming parts, perpetrator parts, bigotry ones. They are never allowed in trainings, I would say. And that means something, right?

Pam: And you know, even anger.

Aníbal: Yeah.

Pam: I've noticed, I've noticed a lot. I mean, that's even not allowed in our trainings much. Right. And, that's always been really sad for me. You know, I have tried to, when I first started teaching, I did most of the trainings in New York city. And I actually got the training started there, and oh man, back in those days, you know, we had...there was not a ton of interest in IFS. And we often got people who came in feeling really prickly about it. Like they got dragged in by someone else and they weren't sure they really wanted to be there. So, there were often like, this is the thing I love about New Yorkers is they just like, let it all out. Mostly, you know, there's nobody's trying to be nice. They're just letting it all out. So, very early in my teaching career, I got very good at welcoming angry parts into trainings and not exiling them. And it was a real gift to me and super scary because sometimes when these parts, you know, I mean, even think about sitting in your therapy practice when some client is just letting you have it, not an easy place to be. And if you can get connected with parts like that, it allows relationships to deepen. That's a thing, right. If we don't welcome all this stuff, how do we really deepen and grow? So that's another benefit I think of it, yeah.

Aníbal: Beautifully said. Pam, you are now a coordinator for, I mean, you high responsibilities in the Institute policies regarding the future trainers. You want to share something about that and how does that can impact the way IFS it's been taught nowadays?

Pam: Yeah. Well, there's two training programs are happening inside the Institute right now. One's called the Leadership Training Program, which is folks who are currently Assistant Trainers. That's one Tony Herbine-Blank and I are doing together to try to get folks into co-lead trainer positions more quickly. There's also a program that Tony and I and Tamala Floyd are doing, that's called The Accelerated Training Program. And this was a group of 15 folks who show, who were identified as having leadership potential. And, two thirds of this group is made up of folks from the global majority. And so, the purpose of this training, which has changed completely since we started it was, you know, this was to also accelerate these folks into leadership positions in the organization. Because, again, it's a wonderful and exciting and expanding the model into a much broader lens it's really exciting. So, Tony and Tamela and I have been meeting with that group of folks since January. And that's really where, and Natalie is a part of that group. And this is really a concept that's been highlighted for me as coming out of that group and their experience of speaking in trainings and the kind of reactions that they're sometimes getting, you know, when they're speaking, especially in trainings that are white majority. And so, I am incredibly grateful to be a part of that group and how much I feel...I tell them this all the time, but I feel like there's ways in which I'm learning so much more from them than they may be learning from us. But that's really where I started thinking more about this, like the way we shape space, especially people who aren't from the same culture as us, right. Or there's a lot of cultural impact about shaming people for having emotions or, you know, being a little more intense.

Aníbal: Pam, any other words and wishes for the IFS future, model and trainings?

Pam: I just, here's what I would say. I think we have an amazing model and I think it is a framework that can allow and support so much change in the world. I really, really believe that.

Aníbal: Absolutely.

Pam: And I also believe that we're really at a time where...it's an exciting time and a time where the model is growing and expanding in ways it hasn't for a long time. And so, I have a lot of hope about that and a lot of excitement about that, and some fear about it, you know, change is always scary. There are some parts of me, either afraid and, mostly exhilarated and excited, excited to share what I know about the model and to learn from others as are coming in about ways we can change the model. So, yeah, that's pretty much it.

Aníbal: Dear Pam, such a privilege to talk and listen to you. And it was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you so much.

Pam: Always, just so wonderful to be with you all. And thanks. Thanks for inviting me again.

Tisha: Thank you so much, Pam, for taking the time with us today and expanding our knowledge on this topic and for all that you do.

 

Transcript Edition:
Carolina Abreu, certified Psychotherapist, L3 Trained,
and experienced Program Assistant for the official IFS-InstituteTrainings.

 


Reshaping the Nervous System and Integration with IFS - Deb Dana 01:17:05

Deb is a clinician and consultant who specializes in treating complex traumatic stress.  She is a consultant to the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.  She lectures internationally on the ways Polyvagal Theory informs clinical interactions with trauma survivors, and she works with organizations wanting to bring a polyvagal-informed approach to working with clients.  Deb is the developer of the Rhythm of Regulation Clinical Training Series.  She is trained in Internal Family Systems and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and has completed the certificate program in Traumatic Stress Studies at the Trauma Center.  Deb is the author of The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy and co-editor with Stephen Porges of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory.  Today, we will be speaking with her primarily about her newest book, Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection.  Deb, thank you so much for joining us today.

Explicit Direct Access with Protectors and Exiles - Fran Booth 46:28

Fran Booth, a social worker,  is a certified IFS therapist, consultant, and trainer. A clinician for more than 40 years, her practice specialties include trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, cancer/ and other medical concerns, binge eating, and attachment injuries. She graduated from Cornell University (with honors) and Simmons School for Social Work. Early in her career, Fran supervised social work interns and medical students for the Smith College School for Social Work, Tufts Medical School, and the William James College.
 
Immersed in IFS since 2005, Fran served as a therapist in the seminal research study on IFS and Rheumatoid arthritis.
She recently penned a chapter titled: IFS Consultation: Fostering the Self-Led Therapist for an upcoming book on IFS and Supervision.
She has offered over 75 workshops, for a variety of training organizations, spreading the word on parts work and IFS to the global community. She was recently promoted to Co-lead trainer for the IFS Institute.

 

Today on IFS Talks, we're very excited to speak with Fran Booth. Fran Booth is a social worker and certified IFS therapist, consultant and trainer. She's been a clinician for more than 40 years. Her practice specializes in trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, cancer, and other medical concerns, binge eating and attachment injuries. Fran graduated from Cornell University and Simmons School for Social Work. She's been immersed in IFS since 2005. And Fran served as a therapist in a seminar research study on IFS and rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, she's penned a chapter titled IFS Consultation, fostering the Self-lead Therapist for an upcoming book on IFS and Supervision. She has offered over 75 workshops for a variety of training organizations, spreading the word on parts work and IFS to the global community. Recently, she's been promoted to Co-lead trainer for the IFS Institute.

Tisha Shull: Welcome Fran, and thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Fran Booth: I'm so glad to be with both of you, Aníbal and Tisha. Thank you for inviting me.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome Fran. Thanks much for joining us and many congratulations on your recent promotion to Co-lead trainer.

Fran: Thank you.

Aníbal: So, hearing your bio, Fran, what parts come up for you today?

Fran: Well, it's a lot to take in, to be honest. I'm very excited about what's happening right now. Having a chapter come out, being promoted to Co-lead. These are big new steps and platforms for me. So, there are parts that are just genuinely excited. There are parts that feel a little, “wow, I did that?” Like, I can sense a young one, sort of feeling a young energy in that one, “wow, really?” Yeah. But also, I want to say proud. And of course, I also want to say that's been a journey to give myself permission to do that because I had a lot of messages growing up about sort of not... It wasn't okay to be proud almost. There were parts that had confusion about that. So yeah, I feel proud about what's come together in this moment.

Tisha: Would you share a little bit about what your journey has been like through becoming a social worker and discovering IFS.

Fran: Oh yes. I'd be delighted to, but I want to circle back, if I might, to add a little bit more to the bio, because I did want to name or sort of talk about kind of evolution in bios, that's happening in the larger IFS community. And one of the things that I've been doing more regularly now is adding to sort of that more formal academic bio, the following, which is that I'm cisgender heterosexual woman of Irish Catholic, and then German descent, largely influenced by the Irish Catholic side, which my mom's both parents were immigrants. So, my mom was first generation, I was secondary generation. And both parents had significant trauma histories that were really unprocessed in their lifetime. And, you know, I now I'm introducing myself that way in trainings. And it is part of a larger shift, I think, in the field in general, to be more open, self-disclosing, more acknowledging of my own privilege, where it shows up, more acknowledging explicitly that we are shaped by our cultural influences in our family of origin and that may color our work in the office and that we're holding awareness of that. And there is an implicit invitation, if it's getting in the way in any way, let me know. So, the whole bio thing, and I know that you'll often say, what parts do you notice, and it has been a journey internally to also name all of those parts of me, to name, you know, that there's a trauma history in my family. It bumps right up against messages, this now ties into your question, Tisha, about a lot of my own journey. You know, the Irish Catholic influence for messages around “don't air your dirty laundry” was the expression, right? “Don't tell the family secrets.” And so, even just naming trauma in the family would have challenged my parents’ sort of way of being, some of their own parts. So, I had to do some internal work just to get comfortable and clear to even to add those pieces to my bio, which I do embrace now as part of who I am.

Aníbal: Very welcome.

Tisha: I really appreciate that, Fran, because it acknowledges that we carry so much legacy with us, especially, you know, as you enter those trainings and those teaching experiences that you have. Yeah. So, thank you for sharing that. And I'm glad that that's being included. Everyone can access their own history by you naming what you bring forward in your bio.

Fran: That's the hope and the wish that it's an invitation. And it reminds me of the other pieces, just acknowledging that I'm speaking to you today, on the land that was originally Narragansett and some other native indigenous people, I'm here in Rhode Island.

Aníbal: Yeah. Well, and when and how did you, Fran, became involved or came across with the IFS Model?

Fran: Oh, that's always a fun story and a great question. And, you know, lots of people come alive when you ask that question because like many people, when it finally was there, there was like this big yes inside of me, but of course that was... the preamble is important. So, I was very psychodynamically trained here in the greater Boston area, went to school here and I was immersed in really, I want to say sort of a rich training and ongoing clinical supervision for years as I was in my own solo private practice in the eighties. But there was like, like every tradition, there were heirlooms and burdens, right? So, the heirlooms were, you know, how to listen. And that meant how to listen to what was being said and to what was not being said, what was not available, but was present, but also how to pay attention to the moment-to-moment unfolding. And, you know, but the downside, those are some of the heirlooms, but the downside was there could be that kind of hierarchical sense or a sense of judgment and a pathologizing. And what I love about IFS is that we've really sort of let that go. But during that whole journey and living as a more psychodynamically influenced clinician, I was always interested in learning and exposing to new things. So, I was involved, in the eighties, I was running groups for folks living with AIDS. Later, in the late eighties, I was involved with Joan Borysenko at the original sort of mind-body clinic. Joan Borysenko wrote the book that came out in 87, Minding the body mending the mind. Yeah. And it was really the precursor to the ACE study. I mean, it was a seminal research. Herbert Benson was on the staff of the Harvard medical school and looking at, oh, isn't this interesting, these cardiac patients, if you actually help them release what he then coined the term relaxation response, they actually had better outcomes, they lived longer. So, you know, the interface of the mind and the body really exploded there. And then, of course now the ACE study has that large longitudinal study looking at the role and the interface between trauma in childhood and the onset of medical disease over the course of your life. So, I was fortunate enough to be the staff assistant to their groups and, you know, was working with Joan Borysenko and running there like six, eight-week groups in downtown Boston. So that was, you know, I was already leaving in that moment... It was like in the very beginning of that, it was sort of like, do I tell anybody that I'm leaving this very psychodynamic approach, very cognitive approach and I'm actually interested in all of this other stuff. And there was this feeling like, it was kind of a secret in the beginning and of course that's all changed. But so, I was doing that and I was also, in the nineties, began exploring. I did an immersion training in something that was called at that time wave work. It no longer exists. And it was a mindfulness focused, body focused practice. And it was a three-year training. I was going out to the center, which is a large holistic training center in Western Mass. And immersing in this protocol, which now with IFS, I understand it was this beautiful way of bringing a mindfulness body focused practice. So, you would lie fully cloths on a massage table and just presence the body, just bring compassion and attention and awareness to the body. And it had a minimal, we were minimizing cognitive processing. It would then, naturally we would say in IFS, it would naturally unblend storytellers or parts that thought they knew what was happening. Sort of knew what this was about, you know, parts that were kind of going ahead of things to explain. Thinking parts that figure things, need to figure things out and be in control. All of those parts that my system was heavily dominated by and had been both trained to also use those parts, right. The analyzing, thinking, figuring it out, like that was, you know, figure it out and try to have the best insight, right. And just drop into the body, presence what's ever happening in the body. And if you do that, there's a sort of gentle unfolding. Your attention will just go to what needs attention. And in the beginning it might just be a tight muscle and your body will soften and then you go somewhere else and the body will soften, but ultimately then you're going to end up presencing body held trauma, which we would know, the woman who did this training, her name was Daya Schottky, she had trained a lot with Peter Levine. So, a lot of that work where, you know, stored energies are needing the space, just wanting to release. And if you create the space, that energy is going to move. And it was also like, similar to IFS, it was a coach model. IE, you're coaching someone as they're working with their system. So, that sense of being whispering in their ear as they are in their own process was very parallel. And essentially, you're working with parts and you're working in finding the path towards wisdom. And then, you would drop into this very powerful embodied state of Self-energy, which would feel like this, you know, vibrations or just aliveness. And so, I was blown away. My cognitive parts were blown away by this experience and didn't really have language for it. Just knew I loved it. Right. And I loved it to experience it and I love facilitating it. But then, that was sort of the late, you know, early two thousands and was sort of like around that time, I actually joined the staff of a cancer center, which was a complimentary care cancer center. We had massage and acupuncture and I was running meditation circles and workshops and running groups with people living with cancer. And I got to do this practice because we had massage tables there and I could bring this practice there. So, it was bringing this practice there, but I wasn't bringing it into my psychotherapy practice. And I was like, how am I going to do this? And then one day, it was in 2004. One of my consultees came to me and handed me Dick’s Psychotherapy Networker article, The Larger Self. And she says to me, this seems like you, and like, oh yeah, who is, what is this, the largest Self? And, you know, I immediately, figured it out, got on the online, who is this guy? And where is he and how do I, how do I go to a training? And the next thing you know, I'm at a one-day and the next thing I know I'm on the Cape. And the next thing I know, I'm in a level one. And I feel that IFS really does... It's this comprehensive paradigm. So, that so much of what I learned and studied and was practicing can fit under this large umbrella and be held, and that you can bring this understanding of listening, “oh, is that a part, is that a protector? Is that an exile? Oh, how might Self show up?” Even if it's in the body, even if it's subtle, just noticing this simple, but profound frame of parts, protectors, and exiles and Self-energy and being able to see it, however it shows up.

Tisha: Was there something in you or in your life experience that opened you up more or predisposed you to working with the body, to doing that wave work training at Kripalu?

Fran: You know, probably the most honest answer to that is my own seeking, my own wanting, my own personal growth needs, wanting to find some other ways to heal and exploring, you know, I was doing traditional talk therapy, but also then exploring this other, you know, looking to explore other ways to heal and came into this experience and then delve into that for both personal healing and then as well as trying to offer it. So yes, you know, I spoke to it. It's really knowing, I've had such strong cognitive managers and what happened when we... I didn't know that's what... we were relaxing them or just dropping out of them. Or finding a way to drop out of them. But now I know that's what it was. And I do have parts that want to say if I hadn't done that, you know, I think I would have found IFS still harder to believe or trust because those cognitive parts were so, are so strong.

Aníbal: Yeah. Makes sense. Fran, we understood you have currently different areas of clinical interest, like Direct Access with tough protectors, Direct Access with exiles. Also, a continued interest in bringing the body into the work, the importance of attunement, rupture and repair and also the role of the therapist. Where should we start today? Should we dive into Direct Access today?

Fran: I mean, that's a great place to start. You know, I've been assisting at the trauma training, both with, initially it was with both Frank and Dick, and then now with Frank for many years. And that's a big focus in that training, getting comfortable doing Direct Access and the training focuses on it with tough protectors because that is where you're starting when you're sitting with someone with a lot of trauma history. You're going to be meeting those really tough protectors. So, we do a lot of emphasizing of it. I'll say a couple of things about that, but then I really want to say a few more things about also working with the exiles, because one of the things I want to say that doesn't always get explicitly said in the trauma training, which is when we say you got to work with those tough protectors, what we really mean is like multiple sessions, maybe many times in Explicit Direct Access. Like, it's not a one-shot deal with many of those protectors. And sometimes I think the trainings can... people can walk away thinking it's supposed to be fast or quick and then “what am I doing wrong?” So, I like to say that because you're not doing anything wrong and these protectors will really, really need a lot of attention and Explicit Direct Access, meaning the therapist drops into totally appreciating them and believes it. It has to be authentic, like really wanting to understand why they do what they do and understanding that they may not want to shift and giving them the control. Okay, if you don't want to shift, I totally get it and let's keep talking so that you're staying in the relationship because the relationship starts to matter. Protectors feel the Self-energy, you know, they feel the sense that you care and respect them. And then that's going to be what gives them a little bit of a, “alright, I'll give it a shot, I'll just relax a little bit.” So, I think what I've watched and you know what you do with the training, but then you're also doing consultation and you're doing your own therapy work and you're watching what happens. So, what, you know, you've, you've set up an internal Self-to-Part connection. The client is working with maybe their tough protectors, but of course, what happens in the office is that all of a sudden that's changed and that part is now fully blended and that's when you want to be able to just comfortably just step in, oh, that's just what happened. Oh, that protector’s fully here. Let me just jump right now as the clinician, I've got my IFS hat on, let me just jump into Direct Access with this protector. But of course, the same thing happens with the exiles, right? You're doing, you might be either facilitating an internal piece of work and the client is with their either protector or maybe even with their exile, but all of a sudden, the exile, what happens in the next moment in the office, I just want to sit in your lap. Right. So, what's just happened. So that exile’s just got blended and it just said, I just want to sit in your lap, and what's the next move? Oh, you're here. The little one's here. Sounds like she or he is here fully, or they is here fully. Well, you’re welcome. I want you to know you're welcome. Of course, you want to sit in my lap. That makes so much sense. Tell me more about why you want to sit in my lap. So, in that moment, you just comfortably easily move into Direct Access with the exile. So, we want to do what we do with protect. We want to validate. So, use, of course, you're here. Of course, you want to sit in my lap, tell me more. Now, the therapist has got to work with their parts. Like a ton has to... to be able to do that fluidly, comfortably and staying in Self, IE, my parts aren't getting activated. Can I say to that little one, genuinely of course you want to sit on my lap, tell me more and not, and know that I'm not fostering dependence in a way that's unhealthy, which would have been like, you know, that lens, you've got to know what you're doing, but because what you're doing is validating the longing for that. So, you're going to try to have the parts say, I want that, that's what I needed. You're going to, because that's what they needed back then. And you're going to be able to validate, you did need that back then. Of course, you needed more of that back then. And of course, it makes you feel like you need it right now. I really get that. So, you can be addressing the longing underneath and the unmet need underneath without shaming or distancing. And then at some point we're working on this. We're gonna help you with that. Would you be willing to pull your energy in and off and let Tisha be with you again or Aníbal be with you again so that they can let you know how important that wish or that need is inside of you. Right? So, you're gonna, you know, move to somewhat quickly sort of return to the internal Self-part connection, but you're going to meet the moment fully with embodied Self-energy, understanding the moment, what's happening here.

Tisha: So, it sounds like there's a really attuned tracking when you're working with Direct Access with the challenging protectors. The exile comes through and you are you're there with the exile as you would be with your own exile, from Self-energy. But then there is a softness in transitioning the Self-to-exile relationship back to the client.

Fran: Yeah. The model’s still right, you know. The ultimate healing is that internal connection with those little ones. And it's the moment to moment shifting that can feel unexpected, that can throw people off, what just happened. And that's just what happened, that little exile broke through and said, I want to sit in your lap. And now you want to just like help facilitate the return to the internal Self-to-exile connection, but to do it in a way that's honoring and welcoming of that moment, rather than getting, you know, managerial, I guess about it.

Tisha: Hmm. Does Direct Access with exiles, does it ever get tricky in a way that might be helpful for listeners to be aware of?

Fran: I mean, I think that you were speaking to what could be tricky, like to hold the awareness that you want to be naming that the energy of wanting to be held is actually from the injury of not being held enough. And so, you're not validating that they... and you're not saying sit in my lap. You're not saying, sit on my lap. You're saying, I understand inside the wanting to be held and that you actually did need more of that when you were little. So, it is important to name the root. I would say where the root injury is. And the system just receives that because that is sort of one of those truths that we know like that it's that injury that's showing up in this way right now. So, we want to name that injury. You did need more holding back then. Of course, that's what you're feeling. You needed more, and you did need more. Because the exile is lost in the history, lost in the past and it's activated. I need more holding right now. That's what I need. Right. So, yeah. So, it's important to understand what's happening. So, there is a clinical frame, but once we understand that and we get that and we've relaxed our parts, I'm not saying it's okay to sit in my lap and I'm not saying sit in my lap. If we were in the office, you know, I'm not saying you can sit in my lap, we're not doing that and I'm not going to do that, but I can totally validate the longing and wishing and wanting that.

Aníbal: Okay. So why in your opinion is Explicit Direct Access usually so scary for many trainees.

Fran: You know, that's a really great question. I've thought some about that. It's probably complex and it is probably there's personal parts for each person. What that might be, what I think that's probably the best answer, but it is a return to how do I use myself? How is the therapist showing up directly? Because what, you know, Dick brought with the IFS model is this internal connection. And there was that and there is some initial relief about, oh, thank goodness. I don't have to have all the insights. I don't have to be... So, you know, figure it all out. I can trust a client system and there's beauty in that, but I think there can be parts in each of us as therapists that might feel, might be more comfortable staying distant. Right. So maybe our own healing around, about really being close, it might touch into what still needs attention in the therapist around, is it okay for me to be needed? Is it okay? What comes up for me to be this intimate or to be this close? What parts of me still may need attention that either want that long for it or, you know, shy away from that? Does that make sense?

Aníbal: Yes. Absolutely. So, it’s about therapist parts, right?

Fran: Yes, I think ultimately.

Aníbal: And, would you say there are major differences in doing Direct Access with tough protectors versus our exiles?

Fran: Maybe just understanding what's driving the behavior. Yes.

Aníbal: And when should we invite the part to an Explicit Direct Access?

Fran: When it shows up. Well, or when the inside work is either not possible, right? So you can't even get in. Now you know you're talking to a protector because you know, you can't... and then when the insight IE the client's internal Self-energy has been working internally, and then all of a sudden it stops, then you're in that moment, something has shifted and there's either a confusion or some kind of a block that has terminated the insight process. And now you're in Direct Access. Oh, what just happened? Something just happened, oh, let me see who's here now. Can I speak to what part just might've shut you off or took you out or said no more. Yeah. Stop that internal process. So, either in the beginning, when you're just setting up clients, you're talking to protectors, are they willing and able to go... a client to set up that internal Self-to-Part connection? Or then when that's been happening for a little while in the process gets stopped, those are two big ones. It's probably more.

Aníbal: Yeah, absolutely.

Tisha: Do you ever find that protectors react or come in after you've been doing Direct Access with exiles and how do you work with that?

Fran: That's interesting. You know, that would be about somebody's internal systems. So, when that little exile inside sort of broke through the protectors, and maybe there's a team of protectors you've been helping your client get to know, there might definitely be one that hates that exile and hates whenever it shows up. Those that in trauma system that would be common to have, parts that hate any vulnerability.

Tisha: And there you've engaged with it and seen it.

Fran: And then now that one might show up and either be yelling inside the client, or, yeah... So, either yelling or maybe might say something out loud to me, but that's, you know, I actually haven't had that happen as much as it sounds. It seems like it might, but typically you're trying to have identified what is the cluster of parts that don't want to allow access and the client would have had maybe some beginning getting to know that kind of a tough protective that would really object to that.

Aníbal: Fran, do you believe that this tool Direct Access is a good tool to work with those parts that play a role in ruptures in the alliance during the work?

Fran: I have to think a little bit more about that, Aníbal. You know, the ruptures, when I'm thinking about rupture or even, you know, I've been trying to find a word that doesn't make it even that big, like misattunements, like part of what I am thinking about is how to normalize and depathologize ruptures and, you know, deshame, because I think that what IFS has brought is that whole, we all have parts, we do our darnedest to get our own parts to soften and relax, so that we can show up with the best amount of Self-energy possible in the office, but we have parts and our parts can show up. So, when I'm thinking about rupture and repair, I'm mostly thinking about, or been thinking about it from that lens. Are my parts interfering in some way in the therapeutic relationship? And then how do I own that? So, what amount of self-disclosure is appropriate? How to do it and the importance of doing it and what I feel like I'm almost now on a little kick around looking for even small moments to build the, or to give the message I want you to be telling me if I say a word, or if I'm seem to be emphasizing something that doesn't feel quite right or does it feel like where the emphasis belongs, like really inviting the client to be sort of correcting me, sort of making the attunement really accurate. Really, sometimes I'll say exquisite attunement. So that, if you keep inviting the client to be letting you know, you know that word wasn't right and you said this and that wasn't quite it... Then you're doing so many things I think are so important, which is making the relationship more collaborative, acknowledging that I have parts and that I might not be hearing it in just the right way. You're wanting out, so to speak, parts in the client that might want to please me, or be tentative about correcting me. That's when I'm thinking about attunement, misattunement repair. How do I, own parts of mine got in the way? Yeah. So, I haven't thought about it so much from the Direct Access lens, more around the relationship and the importance of paying attention to my parts. Are they relaxed? How did they showed up? You know, for example, this is maybe a clearer example. Like, sometimes when you're not having access in a system and the client seems to not be able to build or stay and having their own Self-energy, building a connection with their own parts internally. So, you’re kind of getting stuck, and sometimes it's really because you haven't met all of the major players sometimes. Some big protector parts might still be more hidden. And then when they, you know, so you can ask that question, which is a lovely, is there anybody who's really important that we actually haven't met? And then sometimes when that happens, you know, what I can say... You know what, we didn't listen for you and we didn't invite you and you might've sensed it in me, parts that were maybe pushing or, you know, even other protectors that are really tough and don't want to relax. Like, sometimes just using... You might've sensed in me some parts that were kind of pushing past you too quickly, or didn't really recognize how important you really are. And I want to really acknowledge and own those parts because, and then when I say that, I can feel like even just in this little moment, a tiny bit, but when I'm doing that live in the office, I can feel my whole system actually drop into a genuine, I am really sorry about that. You are important and we missed it and we were rushing past you. So, I'm so glad you're here and I want to be with you. So, in that way I'm using Direct Access, but it's to that part, it's to that traumatized system. It's an apology. Yeah. So, all of those pieces come together in that kind of a moment.

Tisha: I'm just appreciating you and appreciating the nuance of self-awareness and connection with clients. And there's a curiosity in me to understand your psychodynamic training and how that plays into this self-attunement and connection, if at all.

Fran: Well, I appreciate your reflection. Thank you. And I think some pieces of me, one is a high value, which is knowing your own... We have the high value in IFS, knowing one's own system and the worthwhile exploration of attending to knowing one's parts really well. And that is both from the psychodynamic world, as well as the IFS world, that the importance of this piece, my own, what I bring, who I am, my parts and my Self-energy, understanding them, my own capacity to be with them and to soften them, and then being willing, there is a kind of being courageous and showing up and being connected, being willing to be that connected. So, I would say it's both early psychodynamic and also IFS that has allowed me that comfort with then seeing the moment to moment movement and shift and showing up in each new moment. Who's here in me and who's here in the client and what's happening now. Like, is my part talking to this new moment? How do I relax that? And what's happening in the client. We just shifted. And now their exiles here, and now their protectors are here.

Aníbal: Fran, another topic of your clinical interest is the role of the therapist. Do you want to speak for this topic? How do you find the role of therapist relevant?

Fran: I think that's what I'm, you know, what we're addressing that, who I am, how I show up, what are my parts? What's my comfort with my parts and my loving, you know, loving my protectors, loving my exiles so deeply and embodying that. I think is part of what I bring and what I feel passionate about is important as clinicians, that flavors and colors the work with our clients. But it also flavors and colors how quickly we can unblend.

Tisha: You have moved into this new promotion position of Co-lead. How has that been? What's that like to co-lead trainings now?

Fran: Well, my first one will be this fall. In fact, that's all administratively just getting set up. So, I haven't had my first gig as we would say, but I'm excited. And I've done a lot of teaching, you know, one-day seminars on IFS in a wide variety of settings. And so, I feel like all of that has, I've definitely grown in confidence and skill and comfort. I enjoy thinking about how to teach it creatively. So, I actually have a part that sort of, you know, I use video and just video off of YouTube, as well as sessions clips and how can we teach some of these concepts creatively. I enjoy, sort of engage in the Q&A, like, where are you wrestling with something and let's wrestle and figure this out. So, all of that. I enjoy leading the guided meditation. So those skills I've really been doing in a lot of different in the one-day seminars. And I'm looking forward to bringing all of that in the ongoing trainings.

Tisha: And this training you're starting, is it online or are you in person yet?

Fran: Yeah. So, this one will be fully online. All of the ones that they're still going to be scheduling for the end of this calendar year will be online. And then I think in 2022, they're going to start with some hybrid. Some will stay all online. And then I think they're going to have some in-person. So, those new trainings are getting planned right now on the backend administratively, and they're going to be enrolled over the next month. It's exciting.

Aníbal: So, Fran, what's coming for you in the future? You have just spoke for this new journey of yours as a Co-Lead Trainer. And also, recently you have been writing a chapter titled IFS consultation, fostering the Self-led therapist for the coming book on IFS and supervision. It's exciting.

Fran: Yeah, it is. Thank you. Yes. The book is due out next calendar year. There are still, you know, it's after you've finished your chapter, there's still plenty more that has to happen on the backside. So, I think the chapter, let me try to say some of what I've been sharing with you that I feel is important, sort of the importance of understanding our own parts and a lot of consultation often is helping a therapist unblend from their own parts so that they can then show up in the office differently. So, that's some of what I do in consultation. Some of the other consultation things that I'm doing that are really fun right now, or like serving as a... I mean, basically sort of doing short-term consultations where people come with... There's a therapy that's sort of in a crunch place. Paul Russell was a very well-known psychodynamic teacher here in the greater Boston area. He wrote a paper called The Theory of the Crunch. So, when there's a kind of a moment, it's sort of the moment in the therapy and what's going on there, how to understand the crisis in a therapy as an opportunity. And I have had the pleasure and the privilege of being in a few cases where that exploration, where it feels like the therapy might be in a crisis and to then have a chance... because basically what IFS brings to all of that is just, okay, let's unpack this. Okay, it's just basically a bunch of parts that are getting activated both inside the therapist and inside the client and let's see whether we can open it up and maybe this crisis might actually have a resolution towards repair. So, I love that IFS has, you know, gives us that frame so that rather than have a, because often what the crisis is, is the moment, is the opportunity rather than the rupture, which can end a therapy. So, I've got that from my psychodynamic training that seeing a crunch. In fact, I worked for a while in an inpatient psych unit in the early days when actually inpatient psych might've been, there were six weeks days and we would often see a crunch in an ongoing long-term therapy. And the unit had a little specialty around offering consultation to therapies that were in a crunch. So, the idea that we can solve those crises and that's something, you know, there's somethings being reenacted in some way, something's coming alive. If we can just sort out all the parts, it could shift towards growth. So, that's been a fun little something I'm excited about. Yeah. I mean, just, you know, doing more of the teaching and trainings I'm excited about. And, you know, I do feel like some of the things, you know, the opportunity to write a chapter just came to me. I hadn't gone looking for it. So, there might be other opportunities that just come that are, that I can say yes to. So being open to what was unknown, but might still come, is exciting for me as well.

Aníbal: So, Fran, such a journey yours and such a joy to talk to you. Thank you so much for sitting with us and focusing such relevant clinical topics. Thank you for all the sharing and wisdom. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives.

Fran: Thank you. Really lovely to be with both of you, thank you for this opportunity. And I really actually do so appreciate what you're also bringing to the larger world in this format. So, thank you to both of you.

Tisha: Thank you, Fran. It's been wonderful to speak with you today.

Fran: As well.

Tisha: Looking forward to more conversations.

IFS Principles Applied to Group Psychotherapy with Sue Richmond 40:30

Sue Richmond is a L3 IFS trained, Certified IFS therapist and IFS Assistant Trainer.
Sue came to the IFS world around 2001 as a result of her going back into therapy at a time where she was feeling disconnected and experienced an existential crisis.
Unbeknownst to Sue, she walked into the office of a therapist who quickly announced, “I’ve just been trained in this model called Internal Family Sytems Therapy, and it’s the only model I’m using with clients now, and I hope that’s ok with you”.
Well, the rest is history.

Sue lives in central CT with her wife and their dog Milo Thomas. Sue has an individual psychotherapy practice, an IFS consultation practice, and has expanded the use of the model by bringing IFS-informed practice into her work with psychotherapy groups. Sue is currently working on a book about bringing IFS-informed practice to groups and will be presenting a module about her work with groups to the 2021 IFS Continuity Program series.

Sue received her BA in English from Keene State College, and her MSW from the University of Connecticut. During her time in graduate school, Sue was also a member of the United States Naval Reserve and served in the Reserves for 5 years. She has presented many workshops, and has a special fondness for the Intro to IFS workshop that she presented to the United States Navy Chaplain Corps, in Hampton, VA.

She has a love for teaching, and taught social work to undergraduates as an Adjunct at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT.

Personally, Sue’s spiritual life has been a great influence in her own personal journey of healing, and she brings that healing into her practice with her clients.

 

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Turning Disconnection into Intimacy, with Mona Barbera 31:09

Mona Barbera, Ph.D is a psychologist with over 35 years experience, specializing in couples therapy, couples workshops, and training psychotherapists. She has been quoted in Better Homes and Gardens, Cosmopolitan,and Mens Fitness and has appeared on Fox25 news in , NBC in New York, News8 in Washington, D.C., Peachtree TV in Atlanta, and KARE11 in Minneapolis.  Her book for couples, “Bring Yourself to Love: How Couples Can Turn Disconnection into Intimacy” is the winner of the prestigious 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award in psychology/self-help, the Bronze medalist in the 2008 IPPY awards in Relationships and Sexuality, and a finalist in the 2009 Eric Hoffer Awards.Mona has written for the academic journals “The Journal of Imago Relationship Therapy” and “The Journal of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy,” and she has a chapter in “Imago Relationship Therapy: Perspectives on Theory,” by Luquet, Hannah and Hunt. She is past chair of the program committee and past board member of the New England Society for the Study and Treatment of Trauma and Dissociative Disorders. She is an Assistant Trainer for Internal Family Systems, a system of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband. She has private practices in Providence, RI and Middletown, RI.
To know more about Mona Barbera please go to http://www.monabarbera.com

 

 

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How Ancestral Medicine informs IFS Legacy Burdens work - with Daphne Fatter 32:52

Daphne Fatter, Ph.D. (Dallas, TX, USA) is a mid-career licensed psychologist, certified IFS therapist and approved clinical IFS consultant. She has a private practice specializing in trauma and addressing legacy burdens including the impact of oppression, marginalized identities, racism, and collective trauma. She also teaches on trauma treatment and on white race socialization in the US. She is an Ancestral Medicine Practitioner and integrates working ancestral guides with IFS. She is a student of animism and has also studied with teachers of Taoist and Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist meditation practices. She has also published professionally on mindfulness.Her ancestors are from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, and Scandanvia. She lives on the traditional lands of the Cherokee, Comanche, Wichita and Caddo peoples. For more information see https://www.daphnefatterphd.com

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Four Types of Challenging Protectors with Chris Burris 46:23

Chris Burris, LPC, LMFT is a Senior Lead Trainer for the IFS Institute. He has been an IFS Therapist since 1999 and is trained as a Marriage and Family Therapist. He uses mind/body approaches of therapy in alleviating traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. He works extensively with individuals and groups.

Since 1990 he has been very active with Men’s, Couples, Self Leadership Groups and Rites of Passage Programs. As the former Director of Counseling at The North Carolina School of the Arts, Chris has considerable experience with performance enhancement with Athletes, Artists, Actors, Filmmakers, Musicians, Writers, and Dancers. He is currently in Private Practice in Asheville, NC.

In addition to being a psychotherapist, Chris has trained in many nature based models with Animus Valley institute, School of Lost Borders, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and The Center for Conscious Eldering.

Today on IFS Talks we're welcoming back Chris Burris. Chris Burris is a senior lead trainer for the IFS Institute. He’s been an IFS therapist since 1999 and is trained as a marriage and family therapist. Chris uses mind body approaches of therapy in alleviating traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. He works extensively with individuals and groups. Since 1990, Chris has been very active with men's, couples, self-leadership groups and rites of passage program. As the former director of counseling at the North Carolina school of arts Chris has considerable experience with performance enhancement. He is currently in private practice in Asheville, North Carolina. In addition to being a psychotherapist and lead trainer Chris has trained in many nature-based models with the Animas Valley Institute, School of loss borders, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and The Center for Conscious Eldering.

Tisha Shull:  Chris, welcome back and thank you so much for joining us again on IFS Talks.

Chris Burris: Great. Thank you very much, Tisha. Glad to be back with you.

Aníbal Henriques: Welcome back Chris. How have you been those days, any developments or transitions in your personal or professional life you'd like to share?

Chris: It's been a busy spring. We've had quite a number of Level 1 trainings. We just finished two pilots with a fairly large group of participants, and we're finished the second black therapist rock training, primarily focused with people of color. So, so yeah, it's been a very busy but exciting spring, lots of new therapists and IFS trained therapists that are now in the field

Aníbal: Chris, as clinicians and counselors, we used to sit and spend most of our time with clients that experienced severe relational trauma. These client systems are usually loaded with really bad relational memories and experiences. And consequently, are very often run by challenging, strong protectors. As IFS practitioners, we have learned that we need to spend time naming, respecting and validating these protectors before they gave you permission to attend to vulnerable traumatized parts. Now, we know that many clinicians end up spending months, if not years with some of these challenging protectors, feeling hijacked by them with no permission to go to exiles and feeling like going nowhere. We also know that bypassing those strong protectors will get us in trouble. So, who are these strong, challenging protectors and how should we address them?

Chris: Yeah, I've been very interested in these protective parts and as you indicated, they work very hard to protect us from vulnerability, from feelings of shame, worthlessness, and not only do they operate in our internal system, they operate in our interpersonal relationships as well as you've indicated. And I think human beings want to feel connected. They want to feel like they belong. Some of these protective ways, you know, do interfere with that process. Not only the feeling of belonging internally, but also the feeling of connected belonging in our relationships.

So, began to kind of highlight maybe four types of protectors that I've gotten interested in. One is Self-like protectors that do have some of the qualities of Self-leadership but carry an agenda. The second is kind of harsh managers. And last time I met with you, we talked a lot about critics and critics kind of fall in this category with harsh protectors, but you know, there's many ways that we have managers that are harsh, they manage other people, or we can even parent from a harsh protector harsh manager. Then, my third is kind of my favorite kind of called these, these runaway firefighters. So, they operate involuntarily and kind of run their own agenda. And a lot of times the managers are trying to kind of get these parts back in under wraps. And so, that's kind of why I call them runaway firefighters. And then we have sort of these involuntary protectors that even a hint of danger takeover, and these are parts that are like numbing parts, disassociation, even sleepy part. So, they operate kind of under the radar, they become, they become very active and reactive to the hint of danger. So those are kind of the four categories that I've kind of gotten interested in lately.

Aníbal: Beautiful. So, how should we address them? How should we address Self-like part protectors, for instance?

Chris: Self-like parts are kind of hard to, hard for us as individuals to recognize. Often, they're very close to our identity and they do carry an agenda. Often the best way to recognize Self-like parts is a feedback that we get from others. So, it's hard to recognize these sometimes, but we can see the way people interact with us. People reflect back that, you know, something in an interaction doesn't feel quite so good. And, you know, and if we can, we can listen to that feedback and get curious about what was the motivation, what was the energy behind that? What was the impact? So, one way of getting to know these Self-like parts. So, as a therapist, we're listening to parts that have an agenda for other parts, and there's a difference between kind of a motivation towards healing and wholeness and agenda, which tends to be more fear-based.

Aníbal: So, you wouldn't say that, for instance, a thinking part or a figuring out part is not a Self-like part?

Chris:  Yeah. I think those are, you know, many times these parts are really helpful and it's not that it's bad. Oftentimes we do, when people discover that this is a Self-like part, somehow that triggers shame, these parts are very helpful. The thinking parts have done a really good job of helping us get perspective. So, the way that we want to interact with them as a clinician is to really welcome them and value them and have them be in more of an aid or a consultant than the primary operator in the healing process.

Tisha: What makes a protector more or less challenging for you as a therapist?

Chris: Well, the longer parts have been in these roles, the more inflexible they become and the more determined they are that if they shift or change something really bad is going to happen and it, and all these parts make sense at the time in which they were formed. So, that the inflexibility and the really stacked up fear makes it challenging to really reassure these parts that if we work with the vulnerability or the burdens that actually the whole system's not going to fall apart. Is going to function much more fluidly and in cooperation. So, I think the immobility of the parts make it challenging for clinicians.

Tisha: So, you see that with people living out like relational cycles over and over, the harsh protectors come in, those critics come in, the managers come in and they get really locked in and it's hard to change that cycle.

Chris: Yeah, I think it, you know, if we get hurt in some way or not seen or not valued, it really feels like we have to defend ourselves and that we, so those, so reality seems like this is the thing to do, and that the impact of that actually we get defensiveness back, so those parts feel like they really are in jeopardy and sometimes we may become in jeopardy, but usually we're less in jeopardy than we imagine we are, but those parts are really determined to save our life and protect us.

Aníbal: Chris, could you give us more examples of harsh managers like critics? Do you see perfectionist parts or obsessive parts as included in those harsh managers?

Chris: Yeah, I think the harsh managers can be perfectionistic parts. They can be parts that have a rigid schedule, that have a determination that if they don't drive us with fear that somehow we're going to be lazy or incompetent, unsuccessful, but, you know, so I think what makes it harsh managers, there's not a lot of trust in Self, and there's not a lot of trust in our own natural motivation that we have a natural motivation for connection, for inspiration, for expression. And so, these harsh managers use fear to motivate us because they haven't learned to trust our own natural inspiration

Aníbal: And how should we address them?

Chris: Well, the way, you know, obviously addressing whom from our Self-energy. So, the first tip is to really appreciate that their intention is to protect. And I usually say our protectors make sense in the context in which they were formed. So, they, if we, and we may not fully understand the context as working with them, but they make sense in that context. So, being able to see that at some point in this person's life, that protector made sense. And often people don't experience having mentors that are encouraging or inspiring. They maybe were parented in a harsh way and went to school with teachers that corrected children in a harsh way. So, they don't have a lot of reference for inspiration and motivation.

Tisha: Do you have from your own work and your base of knowledge around working with extreme protectors, do you have any examples you could share with us of transition points of you working with a client where it gets revealed that that protector has been doing what it's been doing for a long time?

Chris: Well, I mean, in my own system, I need some of my own managers of, you know, like one of my managers operated like some instrumental people in my life. So, and being able to help that part see that inspiration, that that actually respond better to inspiration. Those tend to be really pivotal points. So, not only them stepping back, but also seeing the circular nature that there's actually something inside of me that responds to this different way of interacting, much more efficiently and effectively than this harshness. So, parts don’t often see the impact, you know, so I think some of the...so reoccurring bringing back to that part, you know, how much better I respond to encouragement than I do to fear within my own system is I think that those are monumental changes that the parts don't see that, they don't know that there's another way. So, I think the change happens when they began to see that, that the system might super respond better to encouragement or validation or cooperation than fear, judgment, or shame.

Aníbal: Chris, could we deepen a little bit on firefighters and runaway firefighters? Can you give us some examples? And again, hoe should we address them?

Chris: I think some of the runaway firefighters, food tends to be one of those items that the firefighters tend to focus on, maybe alcohol or drugs, relationships, so that, so they tend to operate on involuntarily, you know, for some reason, Aníbal, 10 o'clock at night, you know, ice cream becomes the thing that I'm fixated on, you know, and there's a bit of a runaway firefighter there that, you know, that, you know, that's kind of ice cream time. And sometimes it's hard for me to feel like I have charge over that part. So, that's kind of that runaway part that has its own agenda and it, they have somehow ways of getting executive control, you know, so they may have a craving, they may have a preoccupation and they may have access to some memory of some feeling of satisfaction or excitement, you know, so that, so they have very complex tools to motivate the system to being able to get in that driver's seat. And so, that's a little bit why I refer to them as kind of runaway cause they tend to, you know, they tend to be like the teenager that's, you know, stolen the family car, you know, so it's very interesting to me to see how we tend to have these and often how little control the rest of the system feels like they have over there.

Tisha: Well, I feel like what I think about as you're describing these protectors is how like myself as a therapist sits with them in the room. And I, you know, I think about all the therapist parts that come up with challenging protectors and there's a number of them, but yeah. What sort of advice or input do you have for therapists working with clients with these protectors that are locked in?

Chris: I think it's a really great question because these are the parts that tend to activate our own managers. And sometimes these parts do have very devastating impacts on the system, you know, and they activate our own fears of what might happen to this person if we don't somehow contain this part. So, the first thing we have to do is track our own system. As we know, managers, firefighters tend to polarize with managers. So, if we get into a managerial state with these parts, we actually create more extreme reactions from them. So, we have to be able to track our own reactivity to that. The first thing we have to do is acknowledge that they're somehow protecting the system. So, it's not about the impact of the part, but it's the intent of the part. So, we have to validate the intent of the part is to bring something, you know, beneficial, that often suicidal parts, the intent behind those parts are to be able to escape the pain that the person's living. The pain of living is so much that they don't have another way. They don't believe there's another way to escape that pain. So, validating that that part is trying to help the system, the intent is to help in some way, and that they don't have other tools to alleviate the pain of living. So, us being able to hold that perspective with the part begins the process of other parts of the system to see that part in a different way, that it's a part with a really difficult job. Doesn’t mean to cause us trouble, but that has limited tools of how it could benefit and help the system.

Tisha: Do you feel that IFS therapists get to a point where you can be with the suicidal part without also having a part in the background that's worried and concerned and...I feel like for myself, like there's always just that, you know, that part that's been trained, you know, outside of the IFS model where it's like, oh, suicide, it's pretty scary. And what, yeah. What sort of like, it's a manager, it's a worried manager, but it seems like it's a long slide as much self-energy is as can be there.

Chris: Yeah. Well, I think that part is always going to be there. I think it's human nature for those parts to be there with other people. The question we have is how much of that part is influencing the dynamic with our clients, you know, so we can own that, yeah, I have a part that's afraid for you, that's scared for you. And I have a part that wants to try to manage you, you know, and, you know, and I can have that part give us space so that we can get to know this part of you and see if we can help it. So, we can acknowledge that we have those parts is and often acknowledging that we have those parts really puts it on the table, so that can be, you know, something we can talk about with the client. So, it's not about getting rid of our parts, it's being able to see how much, you know, how much executive control do they have. And, you know, and there are times that we may have to, you know, have someone involuntarily committed or that we may have to do something that, you know, gets them to a safe place. A lot of times we can do a lot of negotiating with parts to get an agreement, to see if we can reduce the pain of living. So that, so that those other measures of safety, you know, don't have to be in place, but in place,

Tisha: How does that negotiation go?

Chris: Well, we want to negotiate specifically with a part, with a firefighter, with a suicidal part. So that negotiation looks, usually goes something like, so if we could help the pain of living, so it wasn't so overwhelming or that there was other resources to reduce that, then would you be willing to give us time and space to try to do that? Would you be willing not to take the person out to see if we can reduce the pain of living? And I really get that you don't feel like there's any hope for that, but, you know, if you would give us time and space to work with that, I think that we can reduce that pain of living in ways that maybe makes it so that you don't feel like you need to take the person down. Now, often these parts, it's not that they want to die. It's that, that this pain of living is just so overwhelming that they don't believe there's another way.

Tisha: Yeah. So beautiful. Chris, thank you.

Aníbal: Chris, we now all sessions begin with direct assess, the implicit way. How do you see the role of Direct Access when it comes to deal with strong, challenging protectors?

Chris: That skill, direct access is a really valuable skill for protectors. Protectors need to feel seen, heard, and valued, you know, so being able to reflect back in a direct way to them, that we understand them or that we can listen to them, you know, or that we see that their intent is to do something protective, for them to feel like, to feel seen by us and understood by the practitioner and have some empathy and compassion for them. And that's the first step in them being willing to open the door a little bit and consider that there may be help for them. So direct access, so that's what we're reflecting to them in direct access. And because parts seem to be so polarized, especially with some of these extreme parts that we may have to hold that space, so the polarization relaxes a bit for more Self-energy to emerge. So sometimes it's what, you know, Dr. Schwartz says, is lending Self-energy, you know, that we're lending that to soften that polarization actually create space for there to be more Self-energy.

Aníbal: And what about the group that you call the involuntary protectors, dissociation, numbness, sleepiness, destructiveness, any recommendations, how should we address them?

Chris: Yeah, sort of what I found with those parts and it's something Dr. Schwartz said, I heard him say one time is, sometimes we have to do a little preemptive work with some managers. And that kind of got me curious, because I would notice some clients that would come in, maybe they have a sleepy part and they would come into session and soon as we moved, even hinted towards moving towards something vulnerable, the sleepy part would take over and their body would shut down and it seemed to take like a 20 minutes to kind of wake them up, you know, to do work. And so, what I began to do is try to work with those parts before they caused that shutdown because it seemed to be easier to preempt that than actually try to raise the energy level back up. So, preempting those parts and getting them into a collaborative relationship with us so they don't take over. And these parts are kind of like an overactive fire alarm, you know, so we may have a fire alarm in my house that tends to go off just when we, you know, make toast, you know, it can be the tiniest hint of a smoke, then this fire alarm goes off. And that's kind of what we see with these parts is they learn just the hint of vulnerability or the hint of a feeling or the hint of going anywhere towards that traumatic material will cause them to come in and take over. So, working with those, preempting those parts kind of before we move towards that vulnerable material, asking them not to do that. And, oftentimes if we say to the client, do you feel like you can handle this feeling? Do you feel like you can handle this material that you're getting ready to work with? And if the client says, yes, I feel like I can handle it, then we connect that confidence with that preemptive protector so that it knows that the Self, the person's Self-energy feels confident of working with that and it doesn't have to take over. So, and then at different times we have to check back with it. So, we're trying to kind of help the person stay in, you know, an alert state, not in a disassociative state or shut down state while we're working with this material. So, every so often I'll go back and check with that sleepy part or that numbing part, how's it doing so far? You know, it's a little bit, you know, like my dentist would ask me, you know, I had my dentist yesterday, you know, how's it going so far? Are you okay so far, you know, it's sort of checking in with me, you know, so we weren't checking in with that part in that way.

Tisha: If the dissociative part just comes in or the sleepy part comes in, regardless of the preemptive work that you do with it, what's your strategy with that?

Chris: Some parts start like between the car and the office. So, you know, I have had the experience of sort of meeting a client, you know, at their car, you know, and beginning to sort of talk about beginning therapy with that part as we're walking to the office. So, we may have to preempt that really early cause they're so reactive, they kind of know what's coming and they may operate even before that. So, we have to sort of determine when we have to preempt it. It's hard to work with one of these parts when the body's shut down. So, you know, while you're sleepy, it's hard to work with sleepiness, you know, cause there's not an alertness there to work with it. So that's why we have to kind of preempt it before it really takes over the system.

Tisha: Chris, have you ever had the experience of a client system putting you to sleep or activating a really sleepy part in you?

Chris: That’s fascinating, isn’t it? I would, you know, I would sort of start a session, you know, I worked with a client remotely and I think he was a good 2000 miles away and I, you know, I'd be alert, and we'd sit down and start a little bit, I'd just start getting the sleepiness. And I would, it gets really interesting. I think we're such relational people that there's kind of an attunement, you know, that kind of happens with that. I think it's good to kind of know your system and know your own alertness. You know, if I get sleepy at one o'clock every day, I don't want to schedule that client, you know, at that time, you know, so I want to schedule that client at a time that I'm alert and you know, I don't usually get sleepy between eight and one o'clock maybe or three o'clock, you know, so to know that I'm being influenced by that, you know, and it's not just me, you know, so sometimes naming it in our system, naming that this sleepiness isn't mine, that I'm attuning to this other person and I don't have to do that. So if I can name it as not mine, that helps me, you know, I have asked people parts, if they could sort of pull back their influence a little bit, that they're influencing the person so much, that I'm actually feeling that influence. So, could they kind of pull that back a bit and not be so strong with it, you know, and then as we get more and more able to come preempt those parts, we don't come in a resonance with it that way, but it is fascinating.

Tisha: So, it feels like it's the empathic connection between you and the client, rather than it activating a protector in you that's protecting your own vulnerability.

Chris: I think it’s more of, you know, to me, it's, it could be a protector of me, but I think a little bit more, it's kind of...we tend to kind of be in a resonant field, you know, or an energetic field, or however you want to think about it or just in a proximity, you know, that we tend to attune to each other a little bit, you know? So, I think that we kind of get in that resonant place and we're influenced by it.

Aníbal: So, we have a dilemma, how can we work with those extreme protectors that are so contagious, right? And you say it's hard to work with dissociation because it causes dissociation with sleepiness because it causes sleepiness. So, can we prevent this from happening and reduce this contagiousness?

Chris: Yeah. I think that's where this preempting the part before it causes the body to shut down or causes that. Because it has a really way of affecting the nervous system, you know, and it's harder to sort of rise the nervous system than to lower the nervous system. So, we want to get it before it causes, you know, that shut down in the system, that's a preempting it. And in our own system, how well we're kind of able to hold our own space, hold our own bubble if we're kind of overly empathic, meaning that we're feeling the other client's feelings, then we're susceptible to the influence of that even more. So, as you said before, Tisha a little bit, sometimes we do have parts that operate in that, that have learned that I need to feel the other person's feelings in order to be compassionate and helping those parts not do that. We only kind of get need about three or 4% in order to be empathetic. You know, we don't need to feel a hundred percent of the person's feelings, just three or 4% tells us, okay, this is shame, or this is fear, or this is worthlessness, so we don't have to. So, we confuse, sometimes we confuse compassion with commiserating, that actually feeling the other person's feelings is more commiserating, compassion as a loving or open-hearted kindness.

Aníbal: Chris, where should we put a perpetrator part regarding these four types you speak for the challenging strong protectors?

Chris: It’s a really great question. I could probably add that to the list, you know, at times I think about perpetrator parts as parts that have been hurt and that are hurting other people as a way of trying to discharge that or parts that have over-identified with, you know, maybe their own perpetrators, you know, and believe that somehow this is enabling strength. So, you know, kind of hurt people, hurt people. Parts that make sense in the context, you know, in which they were formed. So, often being able to kind of get to those parts and see and help them see the impact they’re having begins to have the motivation towards changing that.

Aníbal: Chris, and what about unburdening protectors? Is it possible to unburden protectors before unburdening exiles?

Chris: Yeah. I Think often you find even sometimes perpetrator parts, they can be young parts that are acting out their own injuries on to other people. So those parts carry burdens. So, these protectors are often aren't that much older than the parts they're protecting. So, in that sense, they're young themselves. The role that they're carrying is a burden, often the beliefs and experiences they’re carrying are burdens. So, we can unburden these protectors alleviating the role that they're in, is sort of another form of unburdening that occurs for them. But they also may carry beliefs and emotions and feelings in their bodies that, you know, much like the exiles parts.

Aníbal: So, there is no big difference in the way you do this work with protectors or exiles.

Chris: I think the major differences that we have to be able to hold a perspective  that the intent of these parts are not the same as the impact, you know, and we have to be able to see them, that the intent may be to overcome worthlessness or helplessness or inadequacies. And so...but the impact is they actually cause the thing that they're trying to avoid. So, I think it's the perspective that we hold with these parts that are a little bit different. One of my teachers, David Calof would say, it's, you know, it's easy to kind of snuggle up to these young, vulnerable parts. You know, it's much more challenging to find compassion for parts that harm other people and to find curiosity with those parts to find out, you know, how do they come about being in this way? It doesn't mean that we naively are subjected to those parts so that we validate the impact. We're, you know, we're very much holding the space at the impact really, you know, isn't tolerable, but we get curious about the intent. What is this? How is this trying to protect you? How's it trying to help you? Or did you get this way of interacting internally or externally?

Tisha: Has there been a time when someone's protector has really surprised you or even your own?

Chris: Yes, there has, absolutely. The extent to which sometimes protectors will go has been quite surprising. I've worked with musicians that had, you know, maybe a crack addiction and would be, you know, in a crack house for four or five days, you know, so the extent to some of these protectors will go to and how far out of character it is with the rest of the system, that's all about why I refer to them as runaway protectors as somehow they have hijacked the system and they're not within the way the person really experiences himself and the way that they feel in integrity with the rest of their system

Tisha: With that, what do you recommend for therapists working with those kinds of protectors? I know you've been over it a few times, but, you know, accessing the compassion for a part that takes someone to a crack house.

Chris: Yeah. I think getting really curious about this system. This client, what we found was for the most of part time, this part didn't, wasn't really a runaway protector. It tended to, it was a bartender and, you know, and every now and then he would get a bit lonely. And when he got lonely, he would kind of drink with some of the, you know, patreons after his shift was over. And as that, as alcohol hit his system, you know, the other parts that kind of kept that intact, you know, the game offline, and then this craving would take over, you know, and the craving for the endorphins that are released by this type of drug is, you know, it can be very overwhelming, you know, to the system. So, being able to kind of work in sequence, you know, what are the sequences in place that causes us this runaway behavior. And so, you know, if you felt pretty bad and lonely, the craving for an endorphin, it can be really, really high, you know? And so, the part's not meaning to cause us trouble, it's looking for that endorphin that's kind of missing into the system.

Tisha: So, you don't feel the loneliness, don’t feel the pain.

Chris: So, you don't feel the loneliness, the pain.

Tisha: Yeah. Great, great advice.

Chris: So, what we see a lot, I think we could probably, you know, look at most of the DSM four as a book of, you know, kind of loneliness and disconnection.

Aníbal: Yeah, absolutely.

Chris: I guess, five now, right.

Aníbal: Chris, you have recently presented a workshop on using IFS with groups.

Chris: Yeah.

Aníbal: And also, you have been working on a book on this topic to be published soon. Can you say more about those groups? Is it a to be discovered and deepening horizon for IFS?

Chris: Yeah. I think that for some reason, I'm not quite sure, but group therapy seems to become much less of a modality, you know, over the past 10 or 15 or 20 years. And, there's less training in that. It's became interested in me we decided to train people on IFS in a group setting. So we go through all the stages of group development of, you know, the forming norming and storming performing, we go through all of those stages, you know, and we train people to learn about their internal system and to work with their internal system in a group setting. And Dr. Schwartz founded that that was actually the preferred way to learn the model. So, it got me really curious around, well, maybe groups is actually the preferred way to actually do the therapy and in my own process of offering groups and doing groups really, really beautiful, meaningful, deep work can happen in group settings. So, I’ve been in groups since I was 24. I think my first men's group was, I was about 24 years old. And so, I've been in some type of group for, you know, most of my life, you know, and so I think it's a really great place to do the work. There are a lot of things you can do in groups, such as sculpting and psychodrama, role plays, you know, having someone, you know, direct access, having people witness your work, seeing other people's work. So, all of these modalities that we use to train are available to people as part of their therapy. And if in... lot of times it's going inside, it's insight process can feel kind of vague and obtuse, you know, cause we're trying to work, you know, with our own system and it’s highly covered up. So, being able to see someone else's parts acting or in a psychodrama helps us get to know our own parts in a more direct way. So, I'm very, very excited about the implications and applications to IFS and groups. We're also finding that the IFS therapists seem to be in high demand and a lot of the certified or level one, or level two psychotherapists are full. People can't get access to IFS therapists. So, the more that we get, especially people of color and people from marginalized populations find someone that comes from your same culture, you know, maybe really challenging. So, if we can have more groups available, then we can also serve a wider, you know, better populations with that

Tisha: I remember getting to do a demo in one of my IFS trainings. And it felt like for my exile, it was really important for her to be seen by the group. It was wounded in a group. You know, it seemed like a really important part of the healing process that might not have happened in the individual setting.

Chris: Yeah. I think, you know, I think it's Alfed Adler that said that all problems are relational problems, you know, so yeah, so we're hurt or injured in relationships. So, to heal in relationship, I think really goes to a much deeper healing and more potential. We also do find that these demos, as you're referring to go much more deeper and have much greater potential just from having other people hold that space with us and witness us in that space.

Aníbal: So, Chris, do you see IFS with groups to be more powerful even for the work with challenging protectors?

Chris: It could be. It depends. You know, it's hard to kind of say, I mean, I think we'd have to have some type of empirical study of outcomes around that, you know, but being able to kind of role play what we did, my colleague and I, Kevin Davis, a close friend of mine, we ran couples groups and we primarily ran couples groups with these protectors. So, we looked at these interactions between protectors of couples and the couples being able to see the exact same pattern played out by someone else, you know, gave them a deeper recognition of when they themselves get into those patterns. And so, it's really interesting that these couples found like this infinity of patterning of interacting between there, you know, the defend defend, or the defend attack or attack defend that other, this theme seems to be a universal dynamic, that cause couples trouble. So being able to see those protectors played out by another couple or actually being in that roleplay with them, seem to go and help them get a much bigger, quicker grasp of that. We tend to...this pattern, we tend to learn it and forget it, learn it and forget it and learn it, forget it mainly because of how triggered we get and maybe our significant relationships. But yeah, I think that groups have a lot of potential to really be able to see that protector and see it in action and then know it when it gets into action in our own life.

Tisha: Are there some trainings that you have coming down the pipeline that we can participate in?

Chris: Yeah. I think we're working on that. Sue Richmond, one of our trainers is going to do an online circle, talking about groups. We're talking about trying to have some plenary about it at IFS conference. We just got through doing intro last week on IFS groups. So, you know, I think there's a lot of interest. We had a lot of folks sign up for that intro. So, I think there's a lot of interest. I think the Cambridge health Alliance is running some research on groups, Nancy Sowell did a research study on groups. So, I think it's, you know, it's going to get more accessible for folks.

Aníbal: Beautiful. Chris, can you share a bit about your coming book that we would like to address with you soon on another talk?

Chris: Well, it's been a long process. I have pretty severe dyslexia, so writing is quite arduous for me. So, it's been quite a long process, so I have two more chapters to finish and then sort of need to get it, you know, to an editor. So, you know, I have lots of runaway firefighters that will do anything but write. You know, so it's kind of like ABD, anything but dissertations, so anything but writing. So, I have to create space. I have to work a little bit with my firefighters to not, you know, take me off to all the other interesting things that I would much rather do than write.

Tisha: So, when you are able to write, it sounds like we have a great book to look forward to.

Chris: I hope so, so I'm hoping it's beneficial. I think it's got some formats to it. It's got some facilitator skills looking at applications for different culture populations. So, I think it...I'm hoping that it has at least a groundwork that people can have, and then can creatively spin off of that. And, you know, all kinds of different ways of doing groups. There’re many ways of doing it and you know, and we're doing a group work with lawyers, trial lawyers. And so, there's some really amazing creative ways of helping them be more effective. So, there's a lot of applications for it.

Aníbal: Chris, thanks again, for this amazing time together, we have been learning so much from you and I’m confident many will learn from this conversation today. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and it's my hope, our hope that we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives.

Chris: Thanks a lot. Thanks for all your work, getting these really valuable resources out to the public.

Meditations and Ceremonies for Healing - with Monique Lang 42:36

Monique Lang, LCSW, author of Healing From Post-Traumatic Stress and coauthor of Journey to Wholeness: Healing From the Trauma of Rape, has more than 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of trauma. A psychotherapist in private practice since 1980, she has been staff counselor at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies since 1998. She also has been a student of meditation for the past 20 years.
In addition to providing psychotherapy to individuals and couples, she is a certified Reiki practitioner and leads yearly vision quests and wilderness retreats. She offers a variety of workshops, and teaches clinicians how to use a multi-modal approach in their practices.
Lang is on the executive committee of the Trauma Studies Program of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy and teaches their group process module. In addition, she has served on the faculties of Columbia University School of Social Work, the State University of New York at Stony Brook’s Department of Child Welfare, and Mercy College Department of Psychology.
Now a New Yorker, Monique Lang was born in France, grew up in Central America, and has lived in many different states and countries. “Although moving around was difficult at the time,” she says, “it allowed me to experience different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and spiritual orientations. This understanding is helpful in my work with my clients as it enables me to understand and put into context each person’s particular background and way of viewing the world.”
Today we will be discussing her latest book, Meditations and Ceremonies for Healing: Handbook for Personal Growth and Wellness, published in 2019.   To know more about Monique consulting or training and teaching activities please go to https://moniquelanglcsw.com

 

Transcription soon

All experiences welcome: IFS and non-ordinary states with Stephanie Mitchell 48:38

Stephanie Mitchell is a psychotherapist, trainer and group therapist . She specialises in working with complex trauma and experiences which often get labelled as 'mental illness'. Stephanie is interested in how healing and change occur in the human to human relationship, within spaces of safety and acceptance and outside the constructs of diagnostic labels.Stephanie's primary focus for all therapeutic work is on creating a safe space where all parts of a person are welcomed and valued, and the pace of therapeutic exploration is set by the client. Stephanie works from a deeply compassionate place that believes that all patterns of behaviour, thought or feeling come with important and valuable, hidden meanings, and that as the client and therapist work together to listen to the parts who hold these important and previously unknown meanings and offer them a space to be heard, witnessed and deeply understood, that deep change and inner transformation is stirred up. Stephanie’s initial training included 3 years of advanced studies in Transactional Analysis and she has since trained in Open Dialogue, Family Systems Therapy and Person Centred Therapy before moving over to working almost exclusively with Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS). Stephanie is trained to Level 3 in the IFS Model and has undertaken extensive supervision and personal work within the model.Believing that a therapist can only take a client as far as they themselves have travelled Stephanie has undertaken her own long journey of healing from significant childhood trauma over many years of psychotherapy and human loving.She states: “My healing work with an Internal Family Systems Therapy Practitioner has offered me a profoundly life changing experience - something that years of work with other therapy models has not offered me”. 

Stephanie is also a passionate advocate and activist for social and systems change towards non-pathologising and compassionate approaches to mental distress and is involved at national and international levels around mental health reform.

Here some references Stephanie asked us to share:
John Reed et al, (2014) The traumagenic neurodevelopmental model of psychosis revisited. Neuropsychiatry Journal
 
Giulia Pavon & Jeroen Vaes (2017) Bio-genetic vs. psycho-environmental conceptions of schizophrenia and their role in perceiving patients in human terms, Psychosis, 9:3, 245-253, DOI: 10.1080/17522439.2017.1311359
Bio-genetic vs. psycho-environmental conceptions of schizophrenia and their role in perceiving patients in human terms: Psychosis: Vol 9, No 3 (tandfonline.com)
 
Effects of biological explanations for mental disorders on clinicians’ empathy
Matthew S. Lebowitz and Woo-kyoung Ahn
Effects of biological explanations for mental disorders on clinicians’ empathy | PNAS
 
Book: *Toward a theory of schizophrenia (1956): Bateson, Jackson, Haley and Weakland
 
Double bind theory slide share link:
https://slideplayer.com/slide/5267472/
Andrew Moskowitz, 2015
 

Dreams Work and IFS with Heloisa Garman 29:04

We can find many theories about dreams. Freud called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.”  Jung believed dreams were a gateway to the “collective unconscious”.  Indigenous cultures believe dreams are a way to communicate with spirits and other beings that do not live on this earth plane.  For neuroscientists dreams are mostly a way for the brain to integrate experiences and reconsolidate memory. Other cultures believe there is different types of dreams: teaching dreams, in which we are taught something useful in our waking life; prediction dreams that let us know ahead of time what will happen.

Heloisa Garman is a licensed clinical psychologist, educated at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and have been in private practice for over thirty years. Heloisa was trained in family therapy at the Juvenile Research Program at the University of Illinois. Also received training in the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model . As a Brazilian American, she  specialized in cross-cultural psychology. Heloisa’s doctoral dissertation was on the impact of migration on the family structure of those coming from impoverished areas seeking work in the city. Her masters thesis took place in an Indian reservation in Brazil. Heloisa has extensive experience with families, couples and individuals experiencing grief, loss, depression and anxiety. Treated families with children who suffered severe early traumas, and conducted evaluations for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Previously affiliated with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, taught and supervised family therapy at two major universities in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Heloisa utilize dream work and mindfulness training with clients,  published articles and presented workshops on dreams in conferences at the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD).

Today Heloisa walks us through the 4 steps she practices when applying IFS to Dream work.
Hope you enjoy the episode.

Full Transcription soon

The IFS Couples Therapy Skills Manual with Martha Sweezy 34:55

Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are joined by Dr. Martha Sweezy.  Dr. Sweezy is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, a program consultant and supervisor at Cambridge Health Alliance, and the former assistant director and director of training for the dialectical behavior therapy program at the Cambridge Health Alliance. She is a co-author of multiple books, including Internal Family Systems Therapy; The IFS Skills Training Manual; and Intimacy from the Inside Out: Courage and Compassion in Couple Therapy.  She is also an author and the co-editor for Innovations and Elaborations in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Internal Family Systems Therapy: New Dimensions. She has written articles on IFS for the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration and the American Journal of Psychotherapy. Most recently she has co-authored, along with Toni Herbine-Blank, the Internal Family Systems Couple Therapy Skills Manual: Healing Relationships with Intimacy from the Inside Out.  She has a therapy and consultation practice in Northampton, Massachusetts. 

INTRO/ LEXI: Today, on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are joined by Dr. Martha Sweezy. Dr. Sweezy is an assistant professor, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, a program consultant and supervisor at Cambridge Health Alliance, and the former assistant director and director of training for the dialectical behavior therapy program at the Cambridge Health Alliance.

She has co-authored several books on IFS, including:

1.    the Internal Family Systems Couple Therapy Skills Manual: Healing Relationships with Intimacy from the Inside Outwith Toni Herbine-Blank

2.    the 2nd Edition of the book Internal Family Systems Therapy with Richard Schwartz

3.    the IFS Skills Training Manual with Frank Anderson and Richard Schwartz

4.    the book Intimacy from the Inside Out: Courage and Compassion in Couple Therapy with Toni Herbine-Blank and Donna Kerpelman

Additionally, she co-authored and co-edited two chapter books on various applications of IFS with Ellen Ziskind:

a.    Innovations and Elaborations in Internal Family Systems Therapy

b.    Internal Family Systems Therapy: New Dimensions

She has published articles on IFS in the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration and the American Journal of Psychotherapy.

She has a therapy and consultation practice in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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The Development of a Therapist with Lou Cozolino 59:29

Dr. Lou Cozolino practices psychotherapy and consulting psychology in Beverly Hills, California. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA and an M.T.S. from Harvard University. He has been a professor at Pepperdine since 1986 and lectures around the world on psychotherapy, neuroscience, trauma, and attachment. 

With more than 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist and coach, Lou works with adults, adolescents and families as they face a wide variety of life’s challenges. 

Lou’s primary method as a therapist is one of connection, attunement, and interaction. Working primarily from a psychodynamic model of treatment, he also employs strategies and techniques from the other forms of therapy he has studied including CBT, family systems, and humanistic/existential.

Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are welcoming Dr. Louis Cozolino. Dr. Cozolino has been a writer, professor, and practicing psychologist in Los Angeles since 1986. He is the Series Editor of the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, and he has authored numerous books, including The Neuroscience of Human Relationships, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy, The Pocket Guide to Neuroscience for Clinicians, Why Therapy Works and many more. Today we will be speaking with him about his latest book, The Development of a Therapist: Healing Others Healing Self, published in 2021.


Alexia Rothman: Louis, thank you so much for joining us today.

Louis Cozolino: My pleasure.

Anibal Henriques: Dr. Cozolino such an honor to sit with you. You have been an inspiration for many psychotherapists around the world, helping them to apply neuroscience in their clinical practices, even to become neuro fluent. You have been helping us to understand our social and executive brains, how they relate, and also how therapy can both positively affect the brain and be guided by brain functioning. Your dedication and attention to the training and career of psychotherapists is also admirable, showing so much care for both the profession and for the clients we care for.


Anibal Henriques: So again, thanks so much for all you have been doing an offering to the field of psychotherapy. Lou how do you differentiate your precious 2004 first book, The Making of a Therapist: A Practical Guide For The Inner Journey, and this new one, The Development of a Therapist: Healing Others, Healing Self ? Did you feel there was a need and good reasons for an update?

Louis Cozolino: Well, it's, let's see, it's not really an update. What it is, it's sort of a continuation of The Making of the Therapist, was a book that I wrote based on about 25 years of teaching on master's level and doctoral level students, the basics of psychotherapy. So that book really is what guided me in that in writing that book, was thinking about all the things I wish someone had told me when I was beginning to be a therapist. And also, I think that the core of that book is to give people permission to be confused and frightened and not know what they're doing because they don't know, none of us know what we're doing, when we start. We're sort of faking it until we make it, but also, it's a real, we really do feel, most of us anyway, we should feel a responsibility, first of all to do no harm. And second of all, to figure out some way we can help the people we're seeing, even if we aren't new and the feeling of being everyone has to start somewhere. And so that book really was sort of a, almost like a, I felt almost like I was, I wanted to sit behind the new therapist with my hand on their shoulder, trying to comfort them and soothe them and be there with them through that process. You know, a supervisor is very in their quality, their availability, their personalities, and many people aren't really lucky enough to get a good supervisor who, who cares for them as a person and also is very dedicated to their learning. So, my hope for that make for The Making of a Therapist was really to be supportive, to be getting therapist. And there were a lot of things in writing that book that I put sort of to the side, because I felt that they were deeper, more complex and not the types of issues that beginning therapist should occupy their minds with. And so, I thought, you know, after a year of practicing or so, after you feel confident and comfortable in the room, most of us after we get through that phase, realize again, that we don't know what we're doing. And so, then there's that question. Well, now what? Now we're working with people and were stuck with this one in one way and another client in another way. And so, what, what are the real, you know, what sorts of things can we remind ourselves over? Can we learn a new in order to make progress? When were, you know, when we're going forward? And so that's really what the impetus for the development of the therapist was as well as I wanted to inject a little bit of neuroscience that I think is really important. And I'm also the issue of, and it wasn't as much of an issue when I wrote the book about internet addiction. And now after the pandemic, we're all addicted to the internet. And so, the issue is that we're sort of exceptions in that articulated in this book are now sort of a rule for all of us because therapist and clients', everyone's addicted to, to where the internet and it's having an effect on all of our psyches on brains are, you know, social relationships. And so, I guess it was a very timely, although I wish I would have had a little bit more of a chance to write about the effects of the pandemic, but maybe that'll be another book.

Alexia Rothman: So, it seems that from what you're saying, and in reading the work as well the primary focus of this new book is on helping therapist to really deepen their understanding of how to use their minds, their brains, and their bodies to become more effective in their clinical work. And this brought to mind for me, the fact that unlike in some other professions where workers have physical tools or technologies to help them do their jobs for therapists, our own minds, our own brains, our own bodies truly are the instruments of our profession. So, your book seeks to help us make a deeper use of all that we are to be maximally effective with our clients. And I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit?

Louis Cozolino: No, I mean, I completely agree with you. I do think, having had, having spent some time with Carl Rogers many years ago, I was very impressed with, I mean, he really was the person who impressed upon me, how our own hearts and our spirits and our bodies, or the instrument of our work, what I've noticed over the decades, I think, as counseling and therapy have become a more and more deep professionalized, what you see is therapy, much of therapy, i would maybe even venture to guess the majority of therapy that I see is very formulaic and driven by workbooks and brief therapy models. And what I hear for my students, especially beginning students and even some very experienced ones is that they don't think of therapy as something you do with a client, they think of it as something you do to them. So, it’s sort of a reversion to the medical model and the hierarchical structure in a way from intersubjectivity and the interpersonal aspects of it. And so, in some of, you know, some days I feel like I'm, you know, sort of crying into the, into the darkness, with this where I am, but I've been very heartened to find the response really from all over the world of people holding on like they haven't in a sense been, I don't know, a capitalism hasn't sort of a completely absorbed their thinking about the conveyor belt notions of therapy. And so, I'm getting, I think a lot more interest now in Asia and in Europe, South America, just about everywhere in the world, I'm getting, you know, people contact me, and they're interested in, I just got a memo today of a person who translated Why Therapy Works, which is one of my books into Farsi. And so even in Iran, there is a, you know, there's an attempt to try to understand and work with these things and weave it into the culture. So, I feel more like a cultural warrior now and you know, sort of for, for the human connection than I am specifically for a psychotherapy.

Anibal Henriques: Beautiful. Lou in your clinical work, you say your primary methods as a therapist is one of connection, attunement and interaction. You working primarily from a psychodynamic model of treatment. And you also employ strategies and techniques from other forms of therapy you studied, including CBT, Family Systems and humanistic existential ones. How familiar are you with the IFS (Internal Family Systems) model or do you identify yourself or feel closer to any specific family of therapies or a particular model?

Louis Cozolino: Well, I mean, I guess if … it's really difficult because I really do feel like an alloy of all of these different works. I mean, I feel, I feel Rogerian in my body, in my connection, certainly sort of the, the theoretical richness of object relations therapy and intersubjectivity are also in front of mind and, you know, given my interest in neuroscience, in evolution, I'm thinking, I always think in terms of Family Systems, which are both external and internal, right? And I'm thinking about the multigenerational effects of, you know, shaping behavior and epigenetics, all of those things that a, you know, because for many clients their problems really can't be understood within themselves, within the organism, and they also can't even be understood within the generation that you're talking in that, that they're in. You have to think a, you know, go back to three, four, maybe more generations, because everyone needs to be placed into historical context. We have all been influenced by our culture and the struggles and the tragedies and triumphs of the people that we send from. And I think it's everywhere from the unit within us, from the molecular to the spiritual levels. And so, a lot of things go through my mind and I think that's how I stay so interested in doing therapy because my mind is a constant, it’s sort of a carnival of ideas and I'm always also trying to match the metaphors and the language of my clients because I think a narrative and storytelling are so important, it connects to the person's core, to their culture, to their fantasies and dreams. And so, yeah, you know, I think the thing that I, that I kind of sort of a push back against is anyone form of therapy that sold as a panacea.

Alexia Rothman: You had talked earlier about one of your aims for this new book was maybe to integrate a little bit of the neuroscience. And so, it seems like what we know is that for clients to be able to truly benefit from therapy, to really be able to learn and to experience change, it's important for therapists to be able to facilitate them reaching a less aroused, more regulated state in their nervous systems. And something I loved about your book was your discussion of the therapist role as an amygdala whisperer. So, I was wondering if you could help us understand what you mean by that concept and how therapist can learn to function well in that role.

Louis Cozolino: I guess it's all, it's all predicated on this, on the idea, and … it's all predicated on a sort of a neuroscientific apart conception, which is that we have at least three executive systems and the primitive executive system that’s centered in our amygdala actually has the ability to down-regulate and even inhibit our other executive systems or cortical, you know, problem solving, abstract reasoning system or in which, and also know that, which we use to navigate through space and also the system that's responsible for our sense of Self, our imagination and our ability to connect with other people. And so, for me, I think with the sort of rule one of therapy is to figure out how to calm someone's arousal. If the, in fact they are hyper aroused, so that the other executive systems in their brain can be active and engaged and they can be integrated. Okay. So, I think probably the reason why the psychotherapy outcome research over, I mean, I think over and over again, it shows that the key component is the relationship like with, with the therapist, a key component of change. And I have to believe that it has to do with the fact that a safe relationship is something that creates a state of mind and brain and the client that allows them to think, to reflect, to feel as fully as they can because their brain isn't being impaired with inhibition, you know, anxiety related inhibition.

Alexia Rothman: And I think what you're saying there, it brings to mind the way we work with protective parts and IFS Therapy. So, when we focus on those parts of the clients that can be associated with states of hyperarousal or hypoarousal, and we help those protectors be able to step back, the client then accesses that optimally aroused state we referred to that as Self. And then they can take full advantage of neuroplasticity for healing, for new learning in that state.

Louis Cozolino: Okay. So, for you, if you are using Self on the term, sort of the, with a capital S like they do, you know, in Buddhism… the Self requires, all of these different brain systems that are involved in or, you know, cognitive and emotional capacities as human beings. I think it's what Freud talked about, you know, I think that's the Ego strength is related to, from a dynamic perspective on. Freud talked about, you know, when he defined trauma, he said that it's a surpassing of the stimulus barrier and there wasn't much neuroscience back then, but you know, what I think that the translation of that is, is that, that the amygdala becomes so activated or our autonomic nervous system becomes so activated that these other systems that regulate, filter, modulate our reaction to things in the environment become inhibited to the point where it just washes over us and we're victimized by it. So what it got to do is …holds us. And there's no way internally for us to be able to process it in a way that allows us to regulate what we're experiencing. So, I think that's also, I think the core of the definition of trauma as well.

Alexia Rothman: So, for optimal functioning, then these individual systems have to be integrated and functioning in a harmonious balance.

Louis Cozolino: Yeah, Dan Siegel uses the word complexity. I think that's a good word, although I don't tend to use it because I don't like to invoke complexity theory, because then what I think that does for most people is it lets their intellectual defenses takeover, and they start asking questions about quantum mechanics and all of these things. So, I tend to focus just basically on the fact that all of these systems have to develop and communicate with each other. And, when we feel we're really ourselves and when we were as smart as we can be and doing as well as we can navigating problems in navigating space and time that works, what we're experiencing really is a modulation and appropriate modulation of our autonomic nervous system and the participation of the parietal and frontal system, as well as the default mode network.

Anibal Henriques: Lou, in this new book, you suggest five survival tips for therapist starting their careers. And I love them all. And I'm going to name them if I may. One, think of a training as a lifelong process; Two, seek out colleagues and supervisors dedicated to expanding their knowledge and skills; Three, continue to learn from experts, but avoid becoming a devotee; Four, find the best therapist you can and stay with them; and Five, be aware of smoking your own banana. What do you like to comment on any tip in particular?

Louis Cozolino: Well, it's funny smoking your own banana has become, it is a term… It was a term that, that I remember from my high school days, because the backend in the sixties with a hippie culture, we were looking for anything we could to smoke to get us high. And there was someone who actually started a rumor that smoking banana peels would be, would actually get people high. And of course, the interesting thing is if you smoked banana peels, you will get high or you will get something it's not clear what you get, but the placebo effect is so strong that people would get high from smoking bananas. And so, you know, the term is still in use, now, in fact, I hadn't thought about it for years, but I work with some people like Google and other tech firms. And so, it started to come back as a term that's being used again. And that just means that you kind of, that you sort of, and I say, you make up some fantasy that, that you think is true, and then you believe, so, smoking your own banana is believing the lies that you tell yourself. I mean, Donald Trump will be a good example of someone who smokes his own banana.

Anibal Henriques: Thank you.

Alexia Rothman: So, you talk about the fact that therapists need to be able to move the focus of their awareness back and forth. So vertically between their own minds and bodies and also horizontally from their own systems to that of their client throughout session. So, I was wondering if you could describe this process that you referred to a shuttling and how it's beneficial in therapy.

Louis Cozolino: Yeah, I mean, I think that one of the things that are especially when we're, when are anxious, but I think most of us in the west think of our consciousness as an existing in our skulls, right? It's like somehow magically our brains admit this consciousness and it's only in our, in our, between our ears, but, you know, identity and consciousness really are imaginary processes. And so, what I found is very helpful, you know, from experiences and meditation and other, other sorts of self-help processes, different types of practices that I've been engaged and is that you really can move your consciousness from your, from your mind and think of it as moving down into your body, and as you do that, you are able to be more aware of your somatic state of often have your emotions are a variety of different things. And so, I encourage my students to, you know, to sort of relax enough, like we have a lot of my students do, and this might just be because they're students, is that they're so afraid of missing something. I think they want to pay attention to every word. So that's one thing. And the other thing is, they really feel like they've got to be smart. And so, while they're listening to every word, they have to somehow simultaneously come up with something very clever to say or make an interpretation. And so, they, in a sense, get stuck in their heads and therapy becomes a source of intellectual word game. Right? So, what I try to encourage them to do is to, to shuttle up and down. And in other words, to certainly be thinking and be speaking, with also taking a break from that and seeing how it feels and what kind of messages, you know. I often use the metaphor is I think of your body as a kind of a satellite dish and that there was this broad bandwidth of, of social information that's conscious and unconscious coming from your client, and you may not be aware that it even entered your body but go down and use what you are feeling as clues to something that you may be picking up from your client. You never know, you could have, you know, you might have indigestion and that might be you right, but so, you shuttle back and forth. And then you, you know, also to imagine, you know, what it would be like to be your client in sitting in the room and try to try to move your consciousness, of course, in imagination over to them and use whatever you feel or think, or impressions or associations use a mass potential hypothesis to, you know, to test with a client, to see whether you're picking up on anything that's about them and not you.

Alexia Rothman: That's beautiful, what you're suggesting, just getting out of our thinking lines in more in connection with our body, it allows us to really sense aspects of our client's unconscious processes. And then we're actually able to bring those up. Like I said, maybe it's about us, maybe it's about them, but we can explore that in a collaborative way.

Anibal Henriques: Lou you also say that the ability to be simultaneously thoughtful and emotional, to mix the poetry of human connection with a scientific mind is the essence of a youth psychotherapist. Can you say more on these?

Louis Cozolino: I mean, if I think of psychotherapy, psychotherapy is a relatively recent sort of professionalization of human connection, right? I think that what we're trying to do is we're striving for wisdom. And the difference between information and wisdom is information are facts and wisdom is information in a sense that is tailored to an individual to help them grow. So, you might call a good interpretation, might be wisdom, if it hits home and if it helps someone to expand their awareness. And this is something that's existed, I'm sure, you know, for tens of thousands of years in human communities and human tribal life. And I think that as we've become more professionalized, as we, you know. I see this in my students, worry, they're worried about the, there are the DSM diagnosis. They’re simultaneously worrying about ethics and morals and legal issues, and they don't want to get sued. And they're worried about, you know, a hundred other variables related to their what's going on with the client. And I think that many people lose, they… they no longer are a human being in the, in the relationship. They're kind of a human doing. They're doing things, they’re kind of like a clerk. And you see this now too with physicians, when my son's pediatrician, when we were going to him, he had his laptop out the whole time. And as you're talking to him, he's typing the entire time because he is, he has got to, he's got to record all this information, just because to cover his butt. The legal issues, right? And so, how does a child experience a doctor who was just typing, right? And if that's your experience with doctors, and I think, you know, most people before they ever come to a therapist, see lots of doctors. So, when they come in to see us very often, they want to just want to lay down and have us fix them to this sort of a passive model where you are, you’ve got the technical knowledge and you're just doing it to them. And so, you know, we're in a position then because of the lack of the appreciation of healing in Medicine, we're many of us are in the position of having to educate clients. So, this whole model of, you know, of collaborative of the journey of psychotherapy. And I think, you know, going back to the, to the basis of your question is that, you know, psychotherapy is not, is not a science. You know, we can, we can use science, but it's not really a science evidence-based treatment. The evidence, the evidence really is not good. People hold on to this notion of evidence as this as if the evidence matters, but having been, you know, at Harvard and UCLA for, you know, for 10 years and being inside of research groups all the time, I see that, you know, research groups find what they are looking for. And you can train clients in therapy to respond to certain measures that you keep giving them. And then of course they get better at taking your measures. And of course, if you don't look at response biases in all of those things, yeah, it looks like those are evidence-based treatments as opposed to treatments where no one's collecting that data. But I've got to say, I just, I just don't believe it. Right? And the problem is people get into the field who were more who really look like to me, they should be engineers. And they take that engineering that left hemisphere, doing it to the client and healing the client through words, or having them fill out forms and do exercises and homework. They take that much to seriously and they don't look at other evidence and they don't follow up very, very long after their treatment. And I think another thing is that they're looking, they're looking at someone's verbal responses to measures as opposed to their lived lives. And so, again, I guess as far as evidence-based treatment is concerned, I don't think I believe most of the evidence.

Alexia Rothman: I can't even tell you how deeply I appreciate everything that you just said. These are things that have been on my mind for literally decades now, in the way you just captured all of that speaks to so many concerns I've had. Thank you for laying that out that way. I also really appreciated in this newest book, you're a discussion of resistance. And part of what I appreciated is that I could really see from the way that you laid at the topic, that you have a deep appreciation for the fact that whatever seems like resistance now actually served survival at some point in the client's past and coming to understand what underlies the resistance is really essential to making progress in therapy. So, you said in the book, resistance isn't a hindrance to therapy, it is the heart of therapy. So, I was interested in hearing you talk a little bit about your views on resistance and how to understand it and work with it.

(27m 52s):
Louis Cozolino: All right. I think, you know, there are two pathways in my mind, to my perspective, the first was the, the rift between Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich and Reich was, you know, for the listeners who aren't aware of him, he was one of the four disciples and he wrote a book called Character Analysis. And the first 100 pages, 120 pages of that book, is probably one of the most influential pieces that I've ever read in my lifetime. And what, you know, what Freud… Freud had an idea of discovering, you know, thinking of the talking cure and trying to get to those traumas and those crises that someone experienced and doing everything he could to get to those things as quickly as he could, but what he didn't really articulate well, I think, was the fact that, the defenses for the vast majority of people are actually the aftereffects of defenses that were necessary earlier in life in order to survive. And so, I think what… Reich took a step in the direction of saying, okay, these defenses are a part of the character armor, they’re part of a personality and they exist, not only in there in their physiology and their musculature, their posture, their gestures, it also exists in their manner and their bearing and their attitude towards the therapist. Right? So, he really, I think moved Freud's notion in the direction of not only because, you know, rolfing and somatic therapy is really they owe  their origins to Reich. What also this notion of that, the real focus on transfer is in the analysis of transfers and that the transference is the embodiment of this sort of what, what I think the psychodynamic folks would  and say, you know, this is, this is really a part of attachment schema that attachment researchers don't look at, right? Is for some people intimacy and connection is associated with terror or is associated with, with hatred or with, with distance or, you know, all of those things. And so, I think, you know, that's a big piece of it. And another big piece of it is that if you study brain both evolution and development, what you see is not the vast majority of, you know, a sensory motor system develop a very early in life, way before we develop episodic memory for our lives. And so, we come into conscious awareness when we're five, seven, nine, however old we are having already learned all of these different things about the world, about the, the safety and danger of relationships, on the environment, of sociality and really the foundation of our identity. And I think we really saw that, you know, he really saw that. And then I think if you, if you fast forward a little bit to Alice Miller's object relations work in the 1960s and 70s, you see sort of a manifestation of that therapy in her view as kind of like, as an archeologist, or more sort of an anthropologists of the history of that year. And it is a partnership with your clients where you try to help them get back into touch with their perspective on not of their childhood from an adult, but like what it was like to be a child as a child, you know, and she talked about double amnesia. You know, the fact that many of us have to forget who we are as children. And then we have to forget that we've forgotten. So, the process of psychotherapy really is first knowing that there's something there to find or having as an intuition or an inkling about that. And then going through the process of discovering that little girl, a little boy, that we have to leave behind an order to survive. So, it's those concepts from multiple perspectives that inform that belief, set of beliefs of mine.

Alexia Rothman: Yeah, absolutely. And you also talked about how, if we do manage to work effectively with what we might call resistance or an IFS protection, that sometimes bringing those methods up into the conscious awareness of the clients might make the methods may be less effective. And so, we have to be prepared to sort of deal what comes up when they get back in touch with what it felt like to be that child, for example. Yeah, it was wonderful to see how you had an appreciation for resistance as adaptive as a form of protection and as what can happen when we're able to help the clients become aware of it. And it does start to step back.

Anibal Henriques: Lou you have coined the terms, social synapse and sociostasis. Those concepts are psychotherapists to understand how their work can change and help power struggling brains. Could you say more on how these theories and concepts can guide or inspire our work as therapist?

Louis Cozolino: Well, I think if, from studying… from studying, even just briefly, how neurons develop and grow and survive and if you look at the fact that there were no individual neurons, they just die, if they’re isolated. I think that having this concept of, of the fact that evolution has conserved this strategy for taking simple structures and forming more complex structures, and in our case, it would be the simple structures it would be us. And the complex structures would be our families, our relationships, our families, or communities. And that, even though, we are… communication with each other now, as human beings is … is not so much, how can I say, it's much, it's much less chemical and electrical, and it's more symbolic, it's more gestures, and you know, we developed these brain systems to process all of these different ways we communicate with each other. I think that this notion of the social synapse and sociostasis, which by the way, is a word I learned from one of my professors, I didn't make that up, one of my teachers, Hans Miller used to use that term, and he was a physiologist as well as a clinician, by the way. So, it's interesting, he bridged those things as well, but there's just this notion that when I'm, you know, when I'm interacting with, with YouTube, for example, what's happening in my brain is being affected by what you're saying, the expressions on your faces, your emotions, the interests that you have. That's having an active and biochemical effect, you know, a neuronal effect on me and vice versa, right? And so, we come together and we're creating this organism, which we're calling this tree, you know, a threesome that we have this morning. And I think that in the therapy session, when you think of getting connected with your client in that way, it makes, it makes me more aware of the fact that my posture, my gestures, the things I’m saying and not saying, are all coming to bear, there are all having an effect. And, you know, and I'm thinking too, it's like, there's this other track in my mind, there's a simultaneous track of, you know, what sorts of things, what memories, what emotions are being conjured from my own life, by what my clients are saying? And so, there's another track of awareness, which is, well, how much of my reaction to my client is a function of my history and how much of it is a function of their experience and where I need to be now. So, I think what it does is, it keeps reminding me that I'm connected, but that the connection has so much information and I can never really be a hundred percent sure that what I'm thinking or feeling has to do with my client. And so, everything is a hypothesis. And when I do demonstrations in front of my students, they are always surprised as to how uncertain I appear, because they imagined that someone whose been doing therapy as long as I have, must know exactly what I'm doing, I must be able to read my client's minds. And so, I just said, you know, we don't know, it's just, that's not what's happening. I mean, I think I've gotten better, I probably have a higher hit rate than you will because I had been doing it for 30 or 40 years, or you're just starting. Right? But over time, you're hit where it will increase as long as you learn to keep quiet and listen. I mean, I certainly know, I certainly know therapist that are my age, who don't seem to be able to listen to anyone or understand anything going on around them. They might as well be politicians. And so, but that usually doesn't happen, but I'm just saying, you know, I can't remember who said this, but maybe was probably like Socrates or someone like that. They're there saying, you know, age and wisdom often come together. What sometimes age shows up all by itself.

Alexia Rothman: I saw that quote in your book, I loved it. I've used it like 20 times since reading it…

Louis Cozolino: Its yours. If you bought the book you own the quote now.

Alexia Rothman: Yes, it's on page 17 or something, but, and you know what you were just saying, brought in to mind another idea that you talked about in your book, which is it's estimated that 90% of the brain is involved with processing information. That's already contained within the brain such that, you know, only about 10% of our experience involves what's coming from the outside. So, you were just speaking to all of that right now. And it made me curious about how specifically you work with the idea transference and countertransference with your supervisees.

Louis Cozolino: Well, I find that I can't go very far with it because the training, the training is not that good. In other words, they… students are no longer required to be in their own therapy. And so, you know, again, you've get, you probably get three-quarters of the student's in a class and maybe more who haven't been in their own therapy. So even the, even teaching the concept of transference and countertransference, it's easier for them to understand countertransference because it's something that the patient is doing, but the fact that they're, who they are and their being and their awareness distorts, what they're hearing from the world, it's kind of like trying to teach people like, it's like the, one of the problems in the black lives matter movement is like trying to teach white people that they're privileged because they don't feel privileged. Right? And they don't experience the contrast between how they live their lives in how people who are targeted all the time for being black lived their lives. And so, it's similar, I think in some way, to try and to teach students about countertransference, it's almost like an assault or an affront to them that they're misunderstanding something or not getting it. And also, I think another piece of it is that too, the degree to which we're distorting, what we're hearing to, the more severe distortions are tied to our own pain in our own survival, right? Like for me, when I started doing therapy, I was fortunate to have really good supervision and sort of hour-to-hour supervision. Every hour I was seeing the client, I had someone watching me or listening to a tape and  can't imagine that happens much anywhere anymore, you know, but … the initial feedback back I got was you're, why are you joking so much with your clients? It seems like when they get, when they are going towards some negative feeling, you know, you're joking, you're trying to distract them from it. And that was very hard. That felt like a criticism to me. I know that I'm a good therapist, even though I didn't know what I was doing, right? And the problem was, is in order for me to see the fact that I was trying to cheer them up, what was the fact that I had a lot of trauma related to my mother's depression and I spent my childhood trying to cheer her up. And so, it wasn't just learning sort of a fact. It really was a part of me having to face something that was very painful for me. And I think that's one of the reasons why it's a, it’s so difficult to work with students who haven't had any experience as clients, because you really can't do that work in a group in a classroom, you know, and expect, expect to make progress. You know, it's a lot easier to work with senior therapist who have already gone through that who have had 20 years of trial and error and failure, to where are they going to be? Oh, that's right. I am, I am a jerk. That's right. And now I know, and I can accept it. So, when you're having the conversation about the fact that we're all jerks, they're not defensive they are more curious. I missed that way, that I was a jerk tell how, you know, tell me.

Anibal Henriques: Lou, in your book, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy, you synthesize the field of psychotherapy with findings, from Neurology, Neuroscience and Neurochemistry to provide a model for the underlying mechanisms of action in the therapeutic process. You describe four key principles for enhancing neuroplasticity in the human brain and mind the complex secure relationships allow to a moderate level of physiological arousal, a balance of emotional and cognitive processing and the construction of coherent narratives about the self-relationships in the world. This is a beautiful map and metatheory for any kind of psychotherapy journey, I would say. Can you elaborate on the last one, the construction of coherent narratives about the Self, why this one is also so important?

Louis Cozolino: It's based again on a neuroscientific and evolutionary belief in that is that our, brains, our social brains, that contemporary human brain co-evolved with narratives and the, and that narratives actually serve a neurological function, which is to integrate physicality. Well, I should say integrate space-time, the experience of space-time, our emotions, and our abstract reasoning. So, as we, just to put a little more meat on that bone, as our brain became more and more complex, and you had a user of all elaborately complex systems related to all of these different specialty areas. The role of keeping them integrated became a bigger and a bigger challenge. Right? And so, I think one of the, one of the mechanisms that evolution was able to, to leverage was sociality and storytelling. Because if you look at a story, right, it was a narrative is a, it's a, it combines, it combines space with time. It has a beginning, middle and end ramp. It combines thinking with feeling, and it has some social relevance, like other people can relate to what we're saying. And so, with that, those things, it's not really a narrative. It's usually liked some boring story our uncles telling us that it has no point, right? What the narratives reflect, I think the primary needs of our brains to have a, an intersection between all of these different structures or the structures that are necessary to create a coherent narrative. We have to have, we have to use our parietal and frontal areas in order to create a sequencing in time and space. So, we paint a picture of them will tell him the story. Stories without emotions don't really matter to people. And so, we have it, it forces us to integrate and to communicate with our left and right hemispheres to mix, you know, these are concepts along with our feelings. It activates our bodies, when we're talking, especially Italians, we can't talk if we can't move our hands. And so, we have gestures as part of that. So, my suspicion is that the existence of narratives is one of the things that's allowed our brains to develop the way they have. And if you take this people's stories away, you strip them of their culture. And in a sense, they, and in that sense of identity and the sense that are lost, and there've been many, many authors and philosophers, and the people who have talked about this related to, you know, cultural appropriation or, or imperialism, where you go in and you take us a culture story away, and a very easy to tame them because they have no organization or direction. Right? And so, that's really why I think the narratives are so important. Now, having said that there are situations like with children who are, who are pre-verbal, or maybe not particularly verbal, the narratives don't necessarily have to be in words. They can also be symbolically played out in stories and sand trays and the drawings and all sorts of other things, but human beings really have evolved to use words for the most part. And so again, I think the reason why our brains are, are so complex is because we have stories. And I think the reason why we're so vulnerable to dissociation whenever we're, we, we have a higher sustained level of stress, is that we lose integration between these different networks, our experience becomes fragmented along with our narratives, and we don't have the narrative then to serve as a, sort of a, an integrating process and also kind of a map to go forward. And, and I think, you know, Mary Main in her work with a, you know, what the adult attachment interview, really just beautifully when she looked in and she didn't analyze the content, she analyzed the coherence of the narrative and creating a coherent narrative reflects on brain functioning on the executive functioning and on executive functioning integration. So, her work is just brilliant.

Alexia Rothman: Speaking of executive functioning and executive functioning integration. I really enjoyed what we were talking about earlier today about that. And in your book to how you talk about, despite the fact that there's this bias in western psychology towards understanding executive functioning, as a purely cognitive top-down function, it is actually a very intertwined with emotion with self-awareness and empathy. So emotional functioning really plays just as large a role in executive functioning as cognitive abilities do. And I know you mentioned earlier that you included a small section, hopefully, maybe another book soon, but a small section in this book on how the development and functioning of the three executive systems that you talked about earlier could be negatively impacted by internet over use or addiction. I didn't know if you wanted to say, this is a little bit about that here.

Louis Cozolino: Yeah. I think the, you know, the development and integration of the three executive systems depends, I mean, our brains are social, that's how they've evolved. And the… in developing the narratives, you have to have the right, the emotional regulatory functions going, and it's much more difficult, I think, especially for younger people to gain that kind of socio static regulation on the internet. And I think what I've learned, I mean, sort of like this last year of being forced to be on the internet for teaching, for therapy, for all sorts of things, I’ve realized how important it is for me to be able to really connect and focus and almost like dive into the eyes on the face of the person that I'm with, I'm interacting with to get that sense of an intimate connection. What I'm seeing from my… I first, sort of like, was alerted to this with a client of mine who was a, I think he was a 15 year old high school student. And, and he came in, he said, you know, I think I've got, I, I either have attention deficit disorder or I'm psychotic, or I have some brain damage. And I said, well, what makes you think of that? And he said, well, my teacher gives me an assignment that she says is an hour assignment, but it takes me eight or nine hours to do it. And so, I asked him, well, you know, show me, you know, bring your computer next time and bring your assignment and let me just sit next to you, right doing it and what would he, and I should do it exactly the way you do it at home. And what he showed me was that he has about five or six windows open while he's doing his homework, he's returning text, he's watching the video, he is playing a video game, scanning for information, and I looked at him, I said, well, I don't think I have brain damage and it will take me nine hours to do that assignment as well. And so, I think that along with the internet, the Internet's a tool. The problem is that the, you know, the social engineers that construct them, drive the internet, don't want it to be a tool. They want it to be our whole lives because every time we click or a swipe or do something, the cash register rings, you know, from one of these companies and they compete with each other, right? For our attention, and they compete with sleep for our attention, and they compete with face-to-face relationships for our attention. And they're very clever in, there are lots of psychologist, there are lots of social engineers, they call themselves in Silicon Valley that, that focus on these things. And so, in a sense, we've been kind of taken over, you know, even the people that haven't been taken over by QAnon have been taken over by Google and Facebook and TikTok and everything else. And so, I think, you know, it's… we're not going to get rid of these things, these things are here to stay, but I think we're kind of, we're not yet aware of how powerfully they're impacting us. We're noticing now that the uptick in anxiety and depression and suicidality in younger and younger people, we know, if you have a maybe someday, if there is a mass shooting every day of the year, people will think, maybe there's something wrong with us, as opposed to just habituating to it. There are lots of, you know… I don't know how long it takes for people to wake up to it, but hopefully that'll happen soon.

Anibal Henriques: Lou in your book Why Therapy Works?, you propose the theory of social status schema that relates to shame, so present in our lives and clinical work. Could you please tell us how this theory can help us psychotherapists?

Louis Cozolino: Well, I think the, you know, the… the thumbnail version of it is that, before we had language and organized thinking about how we interacted with each other, evolutions challenge with, with all the critters, but especially social animals, like, you know, elephants, dolphins, human beings, how do you… how do you get when you bring individual organisms together to form groups, then you have another layer of evolutionary selection. There is a just individual selection, there's a group selection, right? And so, the question is which group is going to survive? And probably over time would happen, this is my evolutionary fantasy, you know, this is… evolution is like a roar shock. So, we have to kind of come up with theories that make sense and see, and, and test them if we can. But I think what happened in evolution is that one of the ways in which mammals were organized were through social status hierarchies, right? And so, in elephants, you have the oldest female being the alpha and her existence and her interactions serve socio status purposes with the biochemistry of all the members in the group, and it's the same thing I think with the, with primates, if you look at all primate groups, they have different manifestations of this. But all primate groups have alphas, betas, omegas, is just the way things are organized. So, I think what we have is this… into our deep history, is this hierarchical organization based on social status as a way to organize groups. And there's plenty of plenty of evidence that this is still going on in humans, right? The problem though, with, with so many of these things that have been conserved in evolution is that with the development of a very large mind, or a very large brain and self-identity and imagination, these things get manifested in ways that were never intended to happen early on. You know, when we were, when we were chimps and primates and bonobos. And so now not only do we have a physical hierarchy, but now we have an, like a, a Self… a self-identity hierarchy. So, most of us spend time worrying whether we are thin enough, whether we look good enough, whether we fit in, on whether we've got the right clothes, you know, all like comparing ourselves with the neighbors, especially acutely in high school and with young kids. And so, shame is kind of a manifestation, and I'm not talking about shame, appropriate social shame for doing something bad to someone, I’m talking about shame about who and what we are. And this is a kind of a holdover from our evolution. It's like our tailbone, it's a vestigial organ. So, I think one of the ways that… one of the ways I think is helpful and the way I've used it is educating my client's and the people that I work with and all different walks of life to say that shame about yourself really is not about you. It's a historical artifact based on how we use to organize society. And so, you've got to begin in a sense, exercising and, and, you know, like freeing yourself of those particular concepts. They're not going to go away because we are hardwired to believe those things, but you have to realize they're not true. So, it's like any, it's like a, it's like a delusion. You have to figure out how to say, okay, this solution keeps popping up. I have to figure out ways to counterbalance it, but not worry, you know, not worry about the 10,000 things that the Kardashians may want us to worry about so that we look more like them.

Anibal Henriques: Thank you.

Alexia Rothman: Lou, I noticed that you and I actually attended the same doctoral program in clinical psychology at UCLA, and just reading your work, I was reflecting that while I was there seeing my first clients, I was completely convinced that all I had to offer was curiosity and compassion in my own humanity and that what would actually make me a truly effective clinician was learning more tools and techniques and theories, and it's funny that, you know, 23 years now, after starting that program, I'm back to where I started, and that I've learned that when I'm actually at my most effective, I'm deeply attuned to my own system, to my client's system. And I just felt your work really spoke to this in so many different ways, including in giving us the neuroscientific perspective on it. There are commonalities across modalities that various techniques and theories can absolutely be helpful, but that at core, we're going to be attuned, integrated and connected both internally with our systems and externally with our clients’ systems is really what helps us be maximally effective. So, I just want to thank you for all your brilliant work really. That has helped me so much over so many years and others as well.

Louis Cozolino: You’re very welcome and thank you for saying that. I had to survive UCLA more than enjoy it. And so, I had G.I. symptoms whenever I would drive up Westwood boulevard towards the campus for about five years after I would start getting my stomach would start rumbling and I have to make sure I had some tums close by.

Alexia Rothman: It's a super, super intense program. I was lucky, my sister was there with me. We were probably the only siblings that ever attended that program. She's a neuropsychologist. She was at the NPI.

Anibal Henriques: What's coming for you Lou for the coming months and times? What are your future projects?

Louis Cozolino: Let's see… no future projects right now, I’m gonna read novels for a while and spend time at the beach. I'm going to see, and maybe that will evolve into retirement. I don't know. I was going to write a book on trauma and I did the proposal and it got accepted, and then I started thinking about it, I'm not sure I'm going to do that. I think I like just to relax for a while. We'll see what happens.

Anibal Henriques: Thank you so much for your time and for having us and for such a lovely and inspiring conversation, wishing you all the best for the coming times.

Louis Cozolino: Well, thanks so much for having me guys. This was fun. I hope it was helpful to your listeners.

Alexia Rothman: Thank you so much.

Louis Cozolino: Thanks so much. Good to meet both of you.

 

Experiential Psychotherapies and Memory Reconsolidation with Niall Geoghegan 35:47

Dr. Geoghegan is a Clinical Psychologist and Certified Advanced Practitioner of Coherence Therapy.   He collaborated closely with Bruce Ecker on creating the Coherence Psychology Institute’s Training and Certification Program prior to 2015.  He was a contributing author to the groundbreaking book “Unlocking the Emotional Brain” on Coherence Therapy and Memory Reconsolidation.  In recent years Dr. Geoghegan has headed the development of the Experiential Psychotherapy Institute.  Its mission is to educate practitioners on the theory and techniques of a whole family of related experiential therapies. 
To visit the Experiential Psychotherapy Institute please go to https://www.experiential-psychotherapies.com

Transcending Relational Trauma - Frank Anderson’s New Book 00:00

Frank Anderson began his professional journey as a chemistry major at the University of Illinois in the pre-pharmacy program. He quickly developed a fascination with the workings of the human body and switched into a pre-medicine program. He happily entered Rush University Medical College, initially wanting to become a pediatrician due to his love of children, but switched into psychiatry after a close family member developed significant mental health symptoms. He was deeply touched by this experience and also keenly aware of the impact it had on others. During his residency program in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he noticed that many of the clients struggling with major mental illness had also experienced significant trauma in their lives.

The pain he witnessed in others activated something deep within himself and compelled him to enter into therapy, which quickly connected him to his own trauma history. Becoming a psychiatrist at the Trauma Center in Boston under the direction of Bessel van der Kolk was a natural fit for him, where he learned more about trauma while simultaneously continuing his quest of helping others heal. He was fortunate enough to meet Dick Schwartz at a conference during this time, and his career focus instantly came into full alignment as he was able to integrate his knowledge of neuroscience and trauma treatment with Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy.

Dr. Anderson is the former chair and executive director of the Foundation for Self Leadership, an organization focusing on IFS research and the expansion of the IFS model beyond psychotherapy. He authored the chapter “Who’s Taking What? Connecting Neuroscience, Psychopharmacology and Internal Family Systems for Trauma” and coauthored the chapter “What IFS Brings to the Treatment of Trauma.” He also coauthored the book Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual.

He is a lead trainer and program consultant for the IFS Institute, is an advisor to the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP), and maintains a private practice. He is passionate about teaching and enjoys providing psychotherapy consultations, as well as teaching IFS-related workshops throughout the world. To learn more, please go towww.FrankAndersonMD.com.

Transcription

Healing Ancestral Lineages with Daniel Foor 55:05

Daniel is a teacher and practitioner of practical animism who specializes in ancestral and family healing and in helping folks learn to relate well with the rest of life. His recent ancestors are settler-colonialists to Pennsylvania and Ohio from England, Germany, and Ireland. He is a doctor of psychology, marriage and family therapist, amateur naturalist, life-long student of earth-honoring traditions, and the author of Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing. Since 2005 Daniel has guided ancestor-focused trainings, community rituals, and personal sessions throughout North America. Training as a therapist, living in other cultures, and immersion in different lineages of ritual all inform his kind and non-dogmatic approach to ancestor and earth reverence. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. For more information on Daniel's trainings to come please visit his website here

 

 

Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are welcoming. Dr. Daniel Foor. Dr. Foor is a teacher and practitioner of practical animism who specializes in ancestral and family healing and in helping people learn to relate well with the rest of life. He is a Doctor of Psychology, marriage and family therapist, amateur naturalist, lifelong student of earth honoring traditions and the author of Ancestral Medicine Rituals for Personal and Family Healing. Since 2005, he has guided ancestor focused trainings, community rituals, and personal sessions throughout North America. His recent ancestors are settler colonialists to Pennsylvania and Ohio from England, Germany, and Ireland. He lives with his wife and daughters in the blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, traditional Homeland of Cherokee peoples.

 

Lexi Rothman: Daniel, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Daniel Foor: It's great to be here. Thank you.

 

Aníbal Henriques: Daniel, thank you so much for having us. Your book is such a nice challenge to our traditional Eurocentric, positivist and empiricist models of mind used to disconnect from everything, not so real as the visible and touchable present or our physical bodies and their needs. So, many congratulations for putting up such as a spiritual and epistemological challenge and solution in such difficult times as we are living now globally. How do you find your book and its spiritual suggestions are being welcomed by the public?

 

Daniel: Good, I think. I'm busy. There's a lot of interest in the Ancestral Healing work. And I think there are a lot of factors to that. I think a big one is that folks who have, for whatever reasons, ended up down lineage from cultural disconnection or a disconnection from frameworks that situate humans in a larger web of kinship with the ancestors, the plants, the animals, the land, the spirits, the deities, when we're born into a condition like that, where we don't have a framework for those other kinds of relationships, I think it's a natural instinct to want to come back into connection, especially when we observe that some others are enjoying those relationships. And we see that ecologically and culturally, a lot of the ways that we're moving in the world, aren't working that well. And it is natural also to wonder, how did things get off track? What, in my own Ancestral Lineages lead to this severing or break from a more relational way of moving in the world into a more reductionistic way. And in that sense, there is a lot of interest in reclaiming our ability to relate with the ancestors and with which, when I'm speaking to them, I mean fairly specifically the human dead and the ones who were previously incarnate, but who are not right now or the extended body or a consciousness of our species as it exists in the present. So, the souls or the spirits, or the consciousness of the larger species of which we're embedded, which is one, it's not the only entry point, but it's one great entry point to come back into relationship with the rest of life. And there is a lot of folks who are already doing that, who weren't born into it, better have learned it and are reclaiming that, nonetheless. And there is a much larger demographic of people who are really curiously fetishizing that outside the window of the restaurant, they're looking in and they're like, that looks interesting. I think I want that. I intellectually like it, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to officially openly participate in it. But I see a lot of people walking in and out of the restaurant and I'm hungry and I'm not sure what to do. Yeah.

 

Lexi: Well, given that the majority of our listeners are therapists, and you're a Doctor of Psychology as well as a marriage and family therapist, would you share your view on how taking an animist approach to the understanding of an alleviation of human suffering would differ from the approach that has been taken by traditional largely Eurocentric models of psychology?

 

Daniel: Sure. I think for one, there's two differently, legitimate ways to use the word psychology. One is to refer to the field per se, that grows out of a Eurocentric background, but it's not inherently limited to that forever. And is increasingly diversifying in having to confront international realities and trying to articulate their understandings that are not inherently Eurocentric, et cetera. And then there's the more general use which must recognize the Eurocentric Psychology is but one regional psychology and that there are traditional African psychologies and Aboriginal psychologies and Chinese psychologies and indigenous Indian cosmologies and psychologies. And so, if we use it in, which is ultimately a more humble use of the word psychology, and say there are already many different psychologies we can be curious, what are the features of Eurocentric psychology when placed alongside or in a collegial conversation with these other often older pre-existing psychologies, which continue to change and be dynamic in their own right. And when we do that, we notice that personhood, which is where we think of relational intimacy...If I say to your listeners, who are your most important relationships, the most people tend to reach for other living humans, or maybe humans who have passed in some way, but there's not an automatic assumption that that includes mountains, spirits, the dead, certain deities, et cetera. Yet, for most of the earth and most of human history, the way that humans conceptualize their own existence is in a relational web or a network of others that are not limited to just other living humans. So, we include the ones I mentioned, the dead and et cetera. And, in so far as psychology has interested in sort of our inner life, but also the psychodynamics or the, just the dynamics between us and others, the relational field that we live in. Those mountains have their own psychology. Rivers and ancestors and deities have their own psychology. And there are different, the interesting psychodynamics between humans and the plants and the animals, spirits, et cetera. And so, in that way, Euro, euro American, let's say, you know, white people, relatively recent psychology has created and unconsciously replicated anthropocentric, a human centric, a human supremacist assumption that only humans have full personhood. And that reinforces loneliness and isolation for one. And the correct of the antidote is to say that psychology at its essence is not limited to humans, that the birds and the trees and the stones have their own psychology that is in conversation with us.

 

Lexi: So, the traditional, maybe Eurocentric models, aren't even taking into account that perhaps there are influences on our suffering or even help for our healing to come from the other than humans or the land.

 

Daniel: Oh, for sure. And so, in that way, it to say it in a generous way, the model of reality is fundamentally incomplete. What is good about psychology and the psychology I trained in a marriage and family therapy, even progressive models like IFS, Psychosynthesis, voice dialogue, parts models. There is a tremendously important wisdom about how living humans relate with other living humans and with themselves that's critically important. And it's just incomplete. And what's interesting about it as the insights that come from that depth inquiry often apply to the dynamics between humans and other than humans when I, or other than incarnate humans. When I guide people through ancestral reconnection with their own ancestors, if someone has a lot of really insecure signs of codependent, “Am I okay? Are you okay?” Like anxious underlying energy, they'll tend to bring that same baseline way of relating to their relationship with their ancient ancestors or with the land or whatever. And so that, you know, it's a exporting of our suffering to other meaningful relationships, but it also means that there are new opportunities for having an emotionally corrective experience or a different kind of thing happen in a different kind of attachment or secure bond that may not easily be possible with other living humans.

 

Lexi: That's really interesting what you just said, because several times over the course of starting to get familiar with your work, I feel like my eyes have been open to something that I was unaware of, and it just dawned on me that I don't think I have considered that possibility that we carry some of the ways that we relate to other humans, to the ways that we relate to the land or to our ancestors. I'm feeling like that's a new piece for me

 

Daniel: In English, the language that I've encountered. And I, there's a debt of gratitude to Graham Harvey, who was a British pagan scholar. And, then the people he in turn has learned from like Irvin Hollowell and Ojibwe people, but the is the language of personhood, and it might be different in Portuguese or Russian or any other language trying to articulate animism in a common way. But in English, at least, we tend to contrast people and objects. And when I say interpersonal relationships, I'm saying that not all people are human. And so, if you're relating with an ancient Greek goddess or with the plants that grow in your home, those are plant people, they are deity people. And in that way, there are fraught relationships. So, the ones that can include projection and all kinds of, you know, tangled up things, but they can also include relational intimacy that translates into our everyday life and into other relationships

 

Lexi: On this relational piece, I had noticed in studying your work that very interesting parallel between IFS therapy and your description of both ancestor work and animism in the sense that they're all highly relational, which is all what you're talking about now. You were saying that, you know, essentially what matters is not just thinking about the trees, for example, in IFS thinking about the parts of our internal systems, but actually coming into direct connection in relationships with them, asking questions, actually waiting to hear the answer from them instead of imposing our views and these respectful intimate connections build trust and facilitate healing. So, I appreciate you having spoken to the idea of the relational nature of the work that you do.

 

Daniel: There's no center of an ecosystem and there's no fundamental center to us, as I see it. We could say I'm coming into relationships with these parts of me. But what you're also saying is the I, that speaking has hijacked the center in that moment, where is positioning itself as the normative objective Self, whereas from the perspective of every other Self it's also the center. And so, in that way, we're asked in honest therapy or animist ethics to have ability to shift perspectives and to ideally empathically understand the perspective of many different voices or community members. So, yeah.

 

Aníbal: Daniel, for didactic reasons, can you tell us what is this ancestor reverence that your book and your work is trying to repair and also what is ancestral connection and ancestral healing?

 

Daniel: Yeah, of course. So, many, but not all cultures on earth give some consideration to the ongoing relationship between the living and the dead and of those who do in some form or another, which is most cultures, there are a lot of common elements. And the common elements that I have observed that I hold as cross-cultural enough to build a methodology upon are there are five, one, is that something continues after the death of the body or some things plural. There is some of that consciousness is not only the physical body and that the dead are not all equally well or healed in the spirit. Just being, not incarnate, doesn't make you wise and kind and loving. It just means you're not incarnate anymore. So, in that way, the condition of the dead reflects that of the living. Some living folks are quite troubled, and others are quite loving and integrated, and the dead can change. So, even if they're not at peace that can shift just like with the living and we can communicate with them, that can be solicited, intentional communication, or it could be a spontaneous communication that they initiate through dreams, or you might be a devout atheist and suddenly you have like dead people communicating to you, which is terribly inconvenient and ego-dystonic and unpleasant for your worldview. And so, you have to figure out what to do with it. You can push it away or try to make sense of it. But communication is normal between the living and the dead. It happens. And then, inside inherently helpful any more than communication between the living. And then finally, the level of impact between us and the ancestors is really substantial. And we can bring that conscious, and in that way, work with it, and it's not inherently helpful or harmful. And it's, as I say it, at least it's not optional, it's structural. And just because it's not conscious, again, doesn't mean it's harmful. Some people enjoy a lot of blessing and support in their life from the ancestors. They don't frame it in that way and that's fine. Their life just is working. And so those are some underlying principles, but then in practice, I try to keep the methodology or the how to go about it, pretty sparse so that people can find their own style within that. But one principle when focusing on healing work with blood lineage ancestors, which is a much more narrow focus within the larger terrain of relating between the living in the dead. When we go with that focus, which is a lot of what I'm teaching is the lineage-based healing work with blood lineage ancestors. One of the core principles is that we call on those who are already healed and well and whole in spirit and we ask them to bring about the healing. So, I'm not in any instance asking others, nor am I personally seeking to relate directly with those among the dead who are still troubled and those who are still working things through. We are asking the elders of the lineage, those who are already in a vibrant, loving condition, even if it means they're much older before remembered names and before what we associate with our recent ancestors, we ask those ones as a collective force to step in and shift things and heal them up.

 

Lexi: I love the idea of that collective aspect to healing. Sometimes we spend so much time as individuals efforting so hard on a personal level to try to make big changes and healing in relationship and connection.

 

Daniel: It's true. The way I've worked and encourage people to work in realms of ritual are just coming back into relationship is not through primarily through personal effort, but through making a connection with the powers that will bring the healing or the quality that are needed. Yeah.

 

Lexi: And there is a parallel there, I think to IFS for so many times, we have hardworking manager, parts of us that are trying to figure things out, solve things, make things work. And when those parts are able to step back and open space, it seems that something much greater happens and...

 

Daniel:  Yeah, like that.

 

Lexi: There are parallels here. And how might, how have you seen that, working in a healing way, with those in our blood and family lineages who are no longer incarnate, how can that help us? How can that help our clients?

 

Daniel: Well, there are layers to that. On a most immediate level, if the dead who are troubled are a source of interference or an intrusive problematic energy in our lives, then helping them to get the peace that they need to kind of bring immediate relief to anything from a physical ailment, to a mental, emotional distress, to a misfortune in your life. So, if the dead who are troubled are up in your space, it's functionally anywhere from a deep possession to energetic clearing or a lifting of a cloud of turbulence around your space. Beyond that, having healing with the ancestors tends to bring more clarity about life purpose and our gifts. We see that a lot of the challenges, but also blessings that were down lineages from our connected to our destiny and our path. So, we can get more clear about what we're here to do, the ability to actually carry that out, the guidance, the protection, the usable energy in backing can be increased by relating with them. A sense of belonging can be enhanced. A lot of folks who don't have a real sense of rooting and anchoring here on the earth in a specific way that respects their cultural origins and all of the complexities of that. So, it was good for a sense of belonging. When we're born into systems of oppression in one way or another, whether we're down lineage for more of the trouble or more of the enacting of trouble, being identified with and in relationship with blood lineage ancestors positions us to participate more effectively in the repairs, as we can say, yeah, I understand I’m part of this group, there is a obligation to participate and some kind of structural change and repair because of that. So, belonging comes with responsibilities, and with that there's a chipping away at the extreme individualism that a lot of people, at least in the United States, and I think that applies in other places, are conditioned into. It’s isolating, it's confusing, it's psychologically unhealthy and relating with the ancestors is a corrective for that. Yeah.

 

Aníbal: Daniel, you just said you use the term ancestor more narrowly to refer to those souls who are well in spirit. In that usage ancestor is a kind of compliment. It refers to an inherited or acquired status and contrasts with ghosts, the trouble dead, or those who are not yet ancestors. So how do we differentiate between an ancestor and a ghost?

 

Daniel: Yeah, that’s a great question. And it's, I can respond to, and it's important in responding that when we're describing someone in status of not yet ancestor, which in English the word ghost can capture that valence. It can have an edge of judgmentalness to it, and it's not the spirit of it. So, the most generous way that I know to refer to the dead who have not yet arrived at the status of ancestor is just the, not yet ancestors, as it holds out the vision of them arriving there. But think of the death of the body as a kind of rite of passage that doesn't really complete until the one who has passed has been received into or accepted by the larger collective body or wisdom of the dead. And in that way, the ghosts they’re are still dying, they’re still in process, even if it's been years, like they are still, they haven't arrived to their new condition yet. And some attributes of ancestors as distinct from those who are not yet arrived at that, are that the dead who are healed and well, and generally safe to relate with, although they might be intense, tend to function more as a group consciousness or a group energy, they tend to be more in touch with the spectrum of qualities as love and wisdom and kindness and humor and levity. That there's a sense of just radiance and goodness about them. And the ones who are still troubled often, we recognize that energy, this is characterized in say Christian mythologies of the post-death experience of how purgatory heaven, aside from the heavily moralistic aspects of that. If we think of them as different states, there are many flavors of suffering in hell or in purgatory. And in that way, the dead who are still confronting the choices of their life, or who are just in a state of confusion, we can sense it. Like we can sense it from the living.  When someone's really in touch with love and kindness and is an ethical person, there is a kind of quality of energy to that. And when it's something other than that, then, well, something often feels a bit off. And I don't share that with judgment. It's just an important function of engaging in any kind of relationship to have discernment and just dying doesn't automatically generate wisdom.

 

Lexi: You mentioned this a bit earlier today, but I just wanted to follow up with it a little more that all of us humans are descended from people who are at one point were earth honoring and in conscious respectful relationships with the other than humans on our planet. But you were saying at some point in history, different times for different Lineages, there was a break and we began to inflict a tremendous amount of harm on this planet that sustains us. And we're seeing a lot of the consequences of this with many more to come, unfortunately, but how would you describe the connection between the ancestral work and the healing of our planet?

 

Daniel: Well, I tend to be hard on the histories of European colonialism because my own ancestors participated in the occupation and genocidal harms toward indigenous peoples in the Americas and enslaved African peoples, and I mean not so super directly in my own lineages, but nonetheless, I mean, European settler colonialists are implicated, and that said, bad behavior toward others and empire and enslavement of people and occupation of land is not limited to some Europeans who enacted that, that's a behavior that has been played out by a lot of human groups, toward other human groups, all over the earth for a lot of history. And at this point, it is imperative of course, that as many people as possible to start shifting the systems that are so harmful toward the earth and toward other humans, and those systems are upheld in a lot of ways by the ghosts, by the troubled dead, by the ancestral difficulties that haven't been metabolized. Those are the ones who drained up the systems in a lot of ways, whether it's white supremacy or patriarchal sexist systems, or, you know, et cetera, we could detail the kinds of cultural troubles. And once a person chooses to engage in service up and or transform those systems, and I think it's very important to keep a focus on the systems and on the structures and not just on arriving at the correct view, that's fine. But if the systems don't change, then you don't really get the structural changes we need. So, when we endeavor that you come to see that the systems have their own guardian spirits, they have their own homeostasis, they have their own kind of sentients or spirit. There are people in a way, and anyone who's actually tried to protest oppression directly, or has it been bitten by those systems directly knows that. And the people, while we're speaking all over the earth who are being imprisoned or poisoned or killed directly by standing up to oppression, are...they are trying to impose the very real spirits energy, is people that are those troubled systems. And is it likely to go a bit better when we have ancestral backing and guidance? I think so, there's not, there's no magical antidote. I'm not suggesting to people who are being beaten down by police or being shot at protests are not spiritual enough. Certainly not saying that, but the troubles are deep and the, the need to address them is urgent. Yeah.

 

Lexi: Troubles are deep and... something I appreciated that, I hope I'm interpreting correctly from what I know of your work is, you know, there's so much out there there's so much work to be done, it can be overwhelming for people. Sometimes they can shut down and do nothing, but there's a piece of this working with the ancestors and I think in good psychotherapy too, that helps us really connect to who we are. What do we have to offer in our unique ways, and then engaging in doing that and in some way contributing, but it was definitely a new perspective for me, even though I think I, I live in it, but I don't think it was in my conscious awareness that these gifts passed down from the ancestors are part of why we each can do what we each can do. That's special here...

 

Daniel: I see it that way. Yeah, it is overwhelming. If we try to just take on all of it, because it's not, it’s not effective for one, and if we want to be effective, we need to really, just very specifically be ourselves and to, to do our specific self very well, and to hold that piece very, very passionately and effectively and sustainably if possible. And if we're not clear what that is, then trying to get clear about it is a good focus. Alright, we'll have more sort of a spiritual backing, I guess you could say, if we're doing specifically what we're here to do, and we might like what that is. If we happen on the ego level to feel good about what that is, bonus, but you might find what you're here to do is quite unpleasant. And in that way, there needs to be a gradual surrendering or a, almost like a breaking of the ego to, entrain to the demands of the soul. And that's harder, but you feel better after you're dead if you do it that way, but it's a, hopefully when we make the investigation, we find that we actually enjoy our destiny, but either way...

 

Lexi: And we can really feel like we've lived with some purpose and meaning.

 

Daniel: Yeah.

 

Aníbal: Daniel, your book strongly asserts four assumptions. One - consciousness continues after death. Two - not all of the dead are equally well, three – the living and the death can communicate, four - the living and to the death can strongly affect one another. So, those are strong assertions. Can you elaborate more on one of those, for instance, the first one consciousness continues after death.

 

Daniel: Yeah, for sure. And I, you know, I alluded to them further earlier, I sometimes add the fifth - the dead change. And I see it as a correlate of the not all of the dead are equally well, and also they change, but the first that something continues after the death to the body, what I would add first is that any system that I've found real nourishment from whether it's a Yoruba traditions or  (..) cosmology, or (…)  traditions from my own ancestry, a little bit of involvement in Lakota traditions or Jewish mysticism, like many traditions, different traditions around the world recognize that the soul is a convergence of more than one thing, there's more than one essential aspect or a part of the soul and the multiple soul framework, and there's not just one of them, of course, allow us for the possibility that some aspect of what we are returns as a reborn or as reincarnates and some other aspects of what we are don't do that, or they settled into the earth or whatever it might be. And some aspects of what we are that return might follow the bloodlines and others might not. And they might be the source of what people report as past life memory from other times and places. And so, there are more than one storyline happening at once, which I find very congruent with parts models like IFS. And additionally, the way that time has conceived of in a linear fashion, and a lot of, at least modern Western cultures, is not necessarily how it is spoken up in a lot of traditional cultures. And so, when we say something continues after the death of the body, we could also say that we're made of patterns or stories, which recreate in different forms or octaves or expressions throughout many lifetimes. And these underlying patterns or stories or narratives are well for one they're tenacious. They can include both troubles and blessings. And when we try to resolve intergenerational troubles, it is part of why we reached for the intergenerational blessings or antidotes to those troubles. But the story is, they do a strange thing to, in our experience at a time when we see that a story from 150 or 1500 or more years ago is suddenly recreating in our lives. And is this kind of the same moment in time, I'm in the same pattern. What do I do with this pattern now? How do I shift the pattern? Because we can transition out of it, but if it is still there, it's still going to germinate next lifetime or in a lifetime of my great grandchildren and have I really done the deep healing. So, consciousness is multiple, time isn't linear and the idea that we're this individual self is really suspicious, where made of a lot of different ingredients. Yeah.

 

Lexi: That's great. That you were saying kind of brings to mind that in IFS we work with what we call legacy burdens. So, these include these constraining negative feelings, beliefs, patterns that are passed down through a generational lines in our cultures. And we find for us, for our clients, when we're able to release these burdens from our systems, clients can experience real shifts in how they perceive the world, how they navigate it thereafter, it seems very congruent with what you're talking about in one, we do talk about the gifts or the heirlooms that we also have from our lineages, our culture. But I've never heard it expressed the way you just did in terms of that these gifts, these blessings are the antidotes to the burdens

 

Daniel: Sometimes in therapy. And I have a ton of respect for therapists of all sorts, even though I also give them a hard time as a part of having done my time to get my licenses and get a PhD that I can give other psychology people a hard time. And one of the things that people unknowingly do sometimes is that clients who will come up with a lot of real earnest desire to transform what are clearly intergenerational troubles or toxins, whether it's a legacy of sexual abuse or addiction or a disconnection or whatever it might be. And the therapist sometimes would be like, great, let us proceed to transform those collective level of troubles with a personal level skills and tools. I mean, it might not be said so outright, but the disadvantage of that as someone who's also ritualist or primarily ritualist, is that you're setting someone up for failure. You're asking them to transform the momentum, which proceeds them without having a similarly strong antidote or a momentum. So, we need a collective level of blessings and we need to understand, to access that there needs to be a sense of belonging or participation or seeing ourselves as part of a bigger system. And if the harms have come from one's ancestry, recent family, let's say, it’s often the case, it is important to not just abandon the structure that is family, but to go older and bigger than just the recent ones. So, the, the healed already whole well energies that are also part of that bigger ancestral system can contain and surround and transmute the toxins that the individual client experienced. If you don't do that, then the abandoning of the structure of family, it's kind of like, Oh, there's love over here, but family is a mess. I mean, great take in the love wherever you can get it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but if you don't somehow reclaim family from the harm that has defined it, understandably, then there'll be a lack of belonging that goes unaddressed. And so, working with blood lineage ancestors in particular has the potential to reclaim one's place in lineages and in family in a way that is, makes the harms that someone experienced, even if they are intergenerational, there's still bracketed, there is still contained, there is still not allowed to define all of one's lineages through all times and space

 

Lexi: Makes a lot of sense. I'm just sitting here. My brain is processing so fast, but I'm seeing so many parallels with how we work with the internal world in IFS to what you just said. Kind of alluding to what I was saying earlier about sometimes we have these parts that feel like they are alone, that there are independent entities trying to effort and make things okay and fix things and cope with trauma and all of that. And when we go in experientially and we allow them to notice, you know, what else is there? The whole of the system, the Self-energy, what's beyond that, because when they stepp back, we often have so much more access to what's beyond us, and we feel an interconnection with everything around us and how helpful that is for the parts to know you are not alone in this. And while some therapists, I imagine may be really open to this idea that clients can engage in ancestral healing work, where they can connect with benevolent guides or be impacted by negative energies or hazardous forces. Obviously, this is not part of the worldview of every therapist, but I think what's interesting about being a therapist is kind of doesn't matter, regardless of what we may believe personally, there's tremendous diversity among our clients. So sometimes therapists will be faced, I think, especially when we're working with experiential models, rather than more cognitively based models, we will be faced with a client who suddenly finds themselves in connection with something who is not them, you know, a guide, an ancestor, a negative energy. So, I was wondering if you can give us a sense of how, if this happens in our sessions, how might we be present with this in a helpful way while also clearly acknowledging our limitations?

 

Daniel: Well, yeah, that's a, it's a big set of questions, really. There's no substitute for training in how to guide ritual process or relating with the dead. It's as involved as relating with the living. And, and so it is important to recognize one's limitations in general, aligning with what is healed and whole, and, you know, just instinctual alignment with what is fundamentally good, will help us to help a person without the training to navigate through a lot of tricky situations. But there are hazardous spirits and powers and forces and everything happening in the physical observable world and in the news has a subtle, energetic, or unseen compliment to it. And so, the torture and the abuse and the really predatory behavior that humans are enacting toward one another also has a so-called spiritual or unseen compliment. I think that psychology in general as a field has unfortunately internalized, to a large degree, the desire to be accepted along criterias of empirical science. And as a so-called soft science sometimes feels like it's trying to prove itself relative to things like chemistry and physics and biology. And so, the need to seek acceptance in that way will sometimes the people to feel afraid to do what really serves a client in the moment, or to legitimize their experience of relating with the spirit, something like that. But, you know, I have a license from the state of California to work with a human psyche, if people get licensed as a mental health professional, they have some permission to work with mental, emotional, and to a degree, because it's not compartmentalized spiritual health. And so, in that, I just, I encourage a very pragmatic approach that people would be open to whatever works. If you're trying to indoctrinate your client's with a certain materialistic ideology, we'll check that, that's inappropriate and it's your job as a healer to care for someone's soul and their whole being, and to activate the capacities within them that are self-corrective, and that know how to do that already. And in that way, you do whatever works. And, one other thing I saw this when doing my doctoral research is on the use of shamanic healing methods in a clinical mental health setting. And at least at the time, the American Psychological Association was fine with the idea of referring a client who's a native American to a traditional healer. Okay. A good start. But what if the native American traditional healer is also a clinician? What then? Or what if someone is not a native American but relates with the spirits in the ancestors or whatever? What if they're a person who just talks to the dead? Is that okay? Or are we fetishizing an animist view, a world where there are spirits and things like that onto native peoples? So, if we're doing that, then that's a subtle problematic kind of racism.

 

Aníbal: Yeah.

 

Daniel, you say modern psychology tends to be skeptical about or even pathologize individuals who claim to talk with the spirits of the dead, you just said it. This is unfortunate as most contact with the ancestors, whether real or imagined, doesn't have nothing to do with psychosis. So how do we distinguish talking with spirits from psychosis?

 

Daniel: Yeah. A lot of times it's pretty straight, is pretty obvious in the sense that you can notice how that's functioning in a person's life. Is it causing distress? Is that causing upset? Does it seem ungrounded? Is it functioning...is it causing clinically significant distress? You know, it's not that simplistic because sometimes someone could actually be having a psychotic process and it's not yet causing distress, but it's sort of a strange behavior. And, to be clear, not all traditionalist or people in the, or whatever, automatically accept on face value, the claims of individuals who are relating with the gods or the spirits or whatever, there needs to be a track record that shows that a person is actually sort of getting results or that there's a grounded, functional reality to it. That one's life gets better because of it or the, you know, the test is in the results in some ways. And being actually in an active psychotic process, having a psychotic break, something like that usually is accompanied by all kinds of other symptoms of distress or are not functioning well in one's life. And that does happen. It does happen where people make claims that they’re relating with the dead or whatever. And, it's part of some other process, which is not, not healthy and not serving them and would benefit from even medication or whatever it might be. But in a lot of ways, it is a test of whether or not it’s working for the person and their life. And if someone is having, occasionally, someone may have a legitimate contact from the dead or some other power, a deity, whatever it might be, and it's very incongruent with their sense of self, and that gap is what's causing the distress, and so, it's a, it's a worldview distress, rather than some other kind of problem with it. And in that way, normalizing it and helping them to have a framework can lower the level of distress. And it also matters what, who they're in contact with, If someone is in touch with their really loving, supportive, nurturing ancestral grandmothers, that is very different than being in touch with the troubled ghosts who are massacred in the land, were you and your family live. So, it depends who a person is reporting, being in contact with. Yeah.

 

Lexi: Slightly similar, but one question that can arise for those who do believe that consciousness continues in some form after death, that we can continue to relate is the question of, you know, what is me and what is not me. So, especially for those of us who have subscribed to a model like IFS that appreciates the natural multiplicity of the mind and all of these diverse ways that our parts can manifest, is there some helpful way for people to differentiate between a part of them, let's say that carries the energy and the behavioral tendencies of a deceased parent versus actually being in connection with that deceased person in real time?

 

Daniel: Yeah, I understand, the me, not me question is one that has a very deep, fundamental, mystical roots. There is no a quick way to navigate through the, just the contemplation on self and other and the others or not you in many ways are the grounding when you get into inflated or super expanded spiritual states and it's like, okay, great, and what about these others? What about the suffering? This is also your body. You're also the one doing it. Why are you doing that? Come back. And so, there's that. Often people benefit from opening up a bit more and recognizing the aspects of themselves that are like the animals, the plants, the elements, the other than humans, et cetera. And so, I think there tends to be a bit of a sort of this iterative back and forth process of strengthening your sense of self for integrating new things, and then coming into people, human or otherwise who challenge those assumptions, and then breaking down your sense of what you are having to flex or learn new things, and then getting more integrated again, and then having a challenge again. And so that is good to normalize that process. And yeah, we need a healthy sense of self to navigate the world. And there needs to be a sense of being flexible about it and recognizing the most horrific things we can conceive of live in the space of our own heart. That's the only safe place to put evil is like within our own heart and psyche

 

Aníbal: Daniel, how active are you becoming now offering these perspectives to the psychotherapy field or beyond?

 

Daniel: Yeah, I did a thing last fall that I really enjoyed for the first time in probably a decade because I worked with a therapist and all of that, but mostly I've been teaching about ritual arts and in a more broad way, but I finished my PhD in 2009, but then last fall I started an online course and, you know, begins again in the spring, called animus psychology, where I tried to succinctly and somewhat experientially transmit what I've been learning about the intersections of psychotherapy, psychology and animus to values and ethics, including with ritual, but not only with ritual. And it was great, was well received, and if I had more time, you know, I'm a dad, I have two daughters, and busy with teaching, try to not work all the time, I would be happy to dive even further into that intersection, but I hold out hope for the field of psychology to gradually incorporate the respect for the personhood of the other than humans and to recognize in that way that the psyche is not only human, culture is not only human, culture arises also from the earth and if we want to articulate a more sustainable and like perennial and intelligible to indigenous peoples sense of what we are, and a sense of self, psychologies of the self, then we need to include not just the existence of, but the voices and the wisdom of the other than humans in our very sense, fundamentally of what we are. And like, if I were to say, hey, it's problematic to act like white people are better than non-white people. That's not a super controversial thing to say these days, I would hope. And, yet I'm saying that supremacy in another form, which is to say that humans are more people than the animals, the plants, the rivers, the mountains, that same kind of human supremacy. It's the same pattern really. And I'm saying it's as problematic. And the people who have always been living from that stance are like, “hmm mm, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's kind of what we'd been saying in for a long time”. But yeah, I recognize that human supremacy leads to the massive extinction of other beings and climate change and all of the things, the catastrophe that we're inflicting upon ourselves. And yet psychology relegates that to religion or spirituality or a superstition, that's colonialist, racist, arrogance. And that's the part of psychology that needs pro-actively challenged and uprooted. So, in that way, I have a fierce condemnation of the perpetuation of that kind of arrogance. It's ecologically and psychologically destructive and the field of psychology perpetuates it.

 

Aníbal: Exactly. Such an inspiring conversation. Thank you so much for all of that you gave us today.

 

Daniel: Yeah, for sure. It's a, it's a delight and I know I am and ending out a little bit of a fierce note there, but I would just underscore that coming back into relationship with the others is also a delightful and accessible and learnable for anybody, yeah.

 

Lexi: It’s something actually that I'm so glad you actually got that fierce about it because I wanted to actually express some personal gratitude to you. I, in reading your work just over the last week and a half, I feel like so many seeds have been planted in me. Some of them have begun to germinate and I noticed something, it brought me some grief yesterday, but I'm sitting with it. I went to pet one of my cats and I realize as I was reaching out, because I felt like petting them, that I had never had a conscious intentional practice of seeking consent from this other than a human being in my life. Do they want to be scooped up and cuddle? Do they not? I know it may sound small to some people, but the grief in me was I clearly unconsciously had bought into that idea that humans are in some ways superior. So, if I wanted to pet my cat, I could pet my cat and I stopped myself. And the words of Maya Angelou came to me, just, you know, do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better do better. And I felt a lot of gratitude for you because I feel like you've helped me to know better and now it's my responsibility to do better. So, I thank you for that.

 

Daniel: You’re welcome, that’s beautiful.

 

Aníbal: Daniel, it was a joy to be here with you and Lexi, and I hope we can keep meeting and share our work and our lives. Thank you so much.

 

Daniel: Thank you so much.

 

Lexi: Thank you, Daniel.



Recorded the 13th April 2021
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu

From EFT to IFIO with Liz Phillips 36:10

Liz wound her way into therapy after a circuitous route through a few degrees: English, Fine Art and Education; and after a career in Communications writing. Her passion for couples work led her to a training in couples therapy two years before she was even accepted into a formal therapy school. While Liz was studying to be a therapist, she simultaneously trained in Levels one and two of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples. But it wasn’t until she bumped into IFS and IFIO that Liz felt she found her therapy home. She has completed her Level 1 in IFS and Level 2 in IFIO and has run two of her own IFIO-informed workshops to introduce the model to her Canadian community. Currently based in Toronto, Liz is a self proclaimed coffee snob and loves long winter runs along the waterfront. You can find more about Liz at her website: https://www.lizphillipstherapy.ca

Full transcription soon

Compassionate Practices and the Peer Collective with Tim Desmond 01:00:03

Tim Desmond is a psychotherapist, author, Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Antioch University New England, and student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Founder of Peer Collective, and co-founder of Morning Sun Mindfulness Center, he lives in Alstead, NH, and teaches mindfulness and self-compassion practices audiences around the world. His publications include Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy (W.W.Norton, 2015), The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook (W.W.Norton, 2017), and How to Stay Human in a Fucked Up World (HarperOne, 2019). You can find Peer Colective Project at https://peercollective.com

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The Role of IFS before and after Ketamine Assisted Treatment - with Robert Grant 46:38

Dr. Robert M. Grant is a physician specialized in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, and HIV medicine. He has more than 30 years of experience with research and clinical practice in sexual health and pulmonary medicine.  He pioneered the concept of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, for HIV prevention by leading the iPrEx trials that led to FDA approvals and transformed clinical practice globally - an achievement for which he was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012.

After a deep personal loss in 2014, he pivoted to face the challenges of human connection more directly through psychotherapy.  He completed a certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2016, and trained in ketamine assisted psychotherapy at the KRIYA Institute in 2017.  He is a a board member of the American Society of Ketamine Physicians.  

He has trained in psychotherapy modalities including Internal Family Systems (as a fully certified IFS Therapist) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. He has provided ketamine assisted psychotherapy in San Francisco since late 2017. He serves as an investigator for an FDA-approved MDMA trial at UCSF and has assisted for FDA-approved psilocybin trials for people living with HIV.

Full Transcription soon

Multiplicity in Psychotherapy and Beyond, with Robert Falconer 33:20

Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are welcoming IFS counselor, teacher, and author, Mr. Robert Falconer. Robert earned his undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology, with a focus on the history of religions. In the early 1980s, he pursued his Master’s degree in psychology. In his career as a therapist, Robert spent considerable time at the Esalen Institute and decades involved in Gestalt therapy. For 15 years, he was the executive director of the Institute for Trauma-Oriented Psychotherapy. Over the course of his career, Robert has been extensively trained in multiple therapeutic modalities, but he has completely devoted himself to the Internal Family Systems model for the past 10 years, as he has found it to be the most compassionate and potent way to work with severe trauma. At this point in his career, he is increasingly focused on the spiritual dimensions of healing. He has published 6 books, co-edited four, and most recently co-authored a book with Dr. Richard Schwartz, the developer of the IFS model, entitled "Many Minds, One Self: Evidence for a Radical Shift in Paradigm". Today, we will be speaking with Bob about this wonderful book. Robert is teaching a lot now. If you want to study with him go to Bob's website at https://robertfalconer.us 

Trigger warning: this episode may contain trauma events descriptions that may be triggering for many.
Please be aware of that possibility so that you can choose not to listen to the episode. Thanks.

Full Transcription

Alexia Rothman: Today on Explorations in Psychotherapy, we are welcoming IFS counselor, teacher and author Mr. Robert Falconer. Robert earned his undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology with a focus on the history of religions. In the early 1980s, he pursued his master's degree in psychology. In his career as a therapist, Robert spent considerable time at the Esalen Institute and decades involved in Gestalt therapy. For 15 years, he was the executive director of the Institute for Trauma Oriented Psychotherapy. Robert has been extensively trained in multiple therapeutic modalities, but he has completely devoted himself to the Internal Family Systems model for the past 10 years, as he has found it to be the most compassionate and potent way to work with severe trauma. At this point in his career, he has increasingly focused on the spiritual dimensions of healing. He has published six books, co-edited four and most recently co-authored a book with Dr. Richard Schwartz, the developer of the IFS model, entitled Many Minds, One Self: Evidence for a Radical Shift in Paradigm.
Today, we will be speaking with him about this wonderful book.  Bob, thank you so much for joining us.

Robert Falconer: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Anibal Henriques: Bob thank you so much for having us. It's an honor to start off this podcast series with such an interesting and foundational reading. This title you have authored with Dick Schwartz in 2018 is a beautiful and extensive work that helps us understand the origins and development of our multiple minds. You walk us through multiplicity in the general culture, in science and in psychotherapy. You cover so many different fields of knowledge as archeology, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, psychotherapy, spiritual traditions and more.
So, thank you so much to you and Dick Schwartz for these work that shows in an evidence-based way, the ubiquity within the scientific community of the awareness that the mind is not unitary. As it shows the continuing resistance to this idea of multiplicity throughout time. So, Bob, how and when did the idea of this book came up to your mind? What was your main goal in writing this book?

RF: Well, I was assisting Dick at a training and I had just been re-reading some Nietzsche, and I said Dick, you know Nietzsche had a multiple model of mind? and he went “no, what?!” And then I said, well you know, Plato had a multiple model of mind and he's going, he'd never heard of it, he had no idea. And so, he got really excited and said, well could you, could you send me some notes on this? So, I sent him some notes and I said there's so much more Dick, and the first thing I suggested is let's organize a big interdisciplinary academic conference and get all the experts from all these fields who can talk about multiplicity in Plato's philosophy, multiplicity in Islam, you know, and I laid out a bunch of the fields and he said, well that sounds like sort of a drag. And then I said, well let's do a book then. I thought it would actually be easier if we organize the conference and then publish a book of all of their papers, but I love doing research and the idea of working with Dick was really fun so, I jumped on it.

AR: The subtitle of your book references this radical shift in paradigm. So, can you tell us about this paradigm shift?

RF: Yeah, there's several that have occurred in the social sciences and psychology since, most of what I was taught as an undergraduate it's now known to be completely wrong. A big one was the standard model, when I came up was that, as you’re born the mind is a blank slate and everything that's it's in your mind was first in your senses. Now everybody knows that's just wrong, you know, that's gone, that's over and I think there's another very much like that now, is this idea that my mind is unitary. I mean, it's still held onto, but it's more, it's almost a religious belief. The wonderful anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann talks about how in the West we do worse with psychosis than they do, like in Africa and Southern India in all these other places. And she says or she suggests, one of the reasons for this is we have this model of mind, where the mind is like this citadel and everything inside it is us and it's one thing. And if any, like voices or something come in there, it's a devastating experience. And in these other cultures that have a looser model of mind it's very, very different... So anyway, multiplicity is a big part of this vaster looser model of mind. It's just demonstrated everywhere now, but you know, people claim to this citadel model of mind because it gives them sort of a false sense of security, I think, but it's very, very fragile.

AR: So, this false sense of security, like this idea that we have some control in some way.

RF: Yeah, for this citadel where this fortress of mind, and we control what comes in and goes out and, you know, we're all one part, you know, it's like most protectors as we know in IFS, it tends to elicit what it fears the most. And it's, it's brittle, it's not strong. You know, even though it appears strong.

AR: In terms of the… in the world of Psychotherapy, how do you see these mono minds view as having been damaging to people? He started alluding to it, and I think with Luhrmann's work.

RF: Okay. What was it Franz Kohut? His first name, right? Heinz, Heinz. He thought that the biggest fear that humans had was psychic fragmentation. And he thought even the fear of death is actually a version of this fear of psychic fragmentation. So, if a client of his started hearing a voice or hearing from a part, he fended that off like the devil, you know. He would not encourage him into action with that and forming a relationship with a part that was, he thought that was collusion with mental illness and, you know, absolutely horrible.

AR: I'm actually really glad you brought that up, that idea about the fear of fragmentation, because any time I introduced the IFS model to people who have not heard of it before to clinicians, they ask this question: would encouraging people to interact with their parts lead to fragmentation? What's the IFS perspective on that?

RF: That actually, the path to healing is forming these two-way relationships between the Self and the parts. That is the way we heal, not something that therapist brings to the interaction or, you know, it's the real healer his within the client. And it's that relationship with these voices, fragments, aspects, whatever you want to call them.

AR: And I can appreciate how Kohut and others could have had the idea that there was this fundamental fear of fragmentation, because we hear that from the protectors. Sometimes they say “we're going to fall apart”, “we're going to become a mess”, “we're going to be overwhelmed”. So, if we don't have this way, that the way that you were just talking about, if we don't have this safe way to create these relationships, you can get overwhelmed when you go to a traumatic material.

RF: In IFS language, this is managers, you know. Managers have this fear and those other therapies, and a lot of CBT still is, it strengthened in the manager's, you know, whereas with Dick with an addiction, you'd befriend the part that's indulging in the addiction. You don't join with the manager and clamp down, even harder on it. You'd befriend it and get to know what's going on with him and dialogue with it, form a relationship, it’s 180 degrees from what went before.

AH: So, Bob, how would therapists and non-therapists benefit from reading your book?

RF: It's aimed at a wider audience than just therapist, because I think it's important for many many fields to loosen up this idea of the mind as this citadel, this unified thing that's impervious, you know. That model leaves us with a very limited view of the world, and it leaves us in a very fragile position. And I think this book, it pulled together a great deal of the evidence for many many many fields and many different cultural traditions that the mind it's made up of parts and it has to be. Oh, I want to say this. You know, Dick threw out close to a half of the research I brought him. He said, this was way too much, nobody will read this much stuff. And there’s one part he really didn't want a lot in, and that's the mathematics.  There's this called the mathematics of complex systems. And it shows that any system of a certain degree of complexity has to have this structure of relatively encapsulated parts that are relatively sparsely interlinked. And artificial intelligence shows this. At MIT they tried to build this little machine, that its job was to take a bunch of colored boxes, that were stacked up over here, restack them over here in the same order. They could not do that with one central processor, not possible. They had to make all these encapsulated submodules that are sparsely interlinked. And now, only within the past 10 years are less, they've developed on a mathematics that can describe how systems like this operate. The mathematics that describes the behavior of a… the stock market after a crash, it's the same mathematics that describes the aftershocks of an earthquake. And this guy who was a geotechnical earthquake engineer realized this, and he was really good at the math for describing aftershocks of earthquakes, and he went and made a fortune on wall street.

AR: That's an investment strategy.

RF: Yeah. So that math really works. And this math says any system have a certain kind of complexity, has to be parts sparsely interlinked. So, I think there's kind of… it's systems theory. You know, I think it's really, really important in many, many fields.

AR: So much more broadly applicable than to just the field of psychotherapy and mental health.

RF: Yeah, and you can understand why people would find it difficult at first, but I think it's really important because it frees up so much.

AR: Anibal, actually, I like your question about how can therapists and non-therapists, Rob was addressing, how everyone can benefit from this book, but I'll say it as a therapist reading this book, I've benefited in a really specific way, because in doing IFS, of course I'm seeing evidence of multiplicity every day in sessions, I'm seeing it on my own system, but I know humans have this tendency to notice what appears to confirm our own biases. So am I seeing multiplicity because I believe it's there, or because I'm doing something to elicit that kind of language from my clients, or because it's really there? So, what I loved about this book is how you and Dick take us on this whole interdisciplinary journey. And now I'm learning that you even had way more research than is even in here and there are fields you didn't even touch on. But, you know, like Anibal was saying earlier, evolutionary in cognitive psychology are covered in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, complexity theory, all kinds of religious and spiritual traditions. And so, it was really comforting to that sort of empirically oriented part of me to see that people from many disciplines with many approaches, and diverse methodologies are all coming to the same types of conclusions about this multiplicity phenomenon. So, I love the book in part for just that.

RF: As a clinician, I don't give this book to clients unless they're like academic types and really need all the intellectual background. But those that do, I think it's a pretty overwhelming amount of evidence. And I want to say, this is not a new idea either, this is the way Plato thought, it's the way Socrates thought, there's one, one of the Plato's dialogues, Socrates and one of the students are talking and they just, you know, they say “all minds multiple”, and they say, yeah, it's obvious, you know, we can have two sides of an argument go on in our head, yeah minds multiple, and they just go on, like everybody would know this. So, at one, one classicist  actually says that Plato's Republic where he describes the three classes and how all these things interrelate, actually it was an elaborate metaphor for the human mind. So, this is not new it's been repressed, I think primarily since the enlightenment, only in the past few hundred years in the upper crust of European intellectuals.

AH: Rob, among the contemporary therapies that embrace multiplicity, you name, voice dialogue, schema therapy from Jeffrey Young, contemporary psychoanalysis, focusing, and many others. So, multiplicity is out there, in so many approaches and models, but not always shining or even fully named, right? Why is that and how damaging it can be?

RF: Well, I think there's an arrogance to the Western mindset that likes to think, you know, our mind is a citadel. We know all this stuff, we’re in charge. There’s a couple… there’s a neuro side, and I always get these things back backwards. This neuroscientist said, we are like a stowaway in a lifeboat on an ocean liner thinking we're running the ship. And this cognitive scientist said, we're like the guy who sells newspapers in the lobby of the empire state building thinking he controls the building…

AH: And it feels good…

RF: Yeah, and I think it's like that. And multiplicity gives you a model that can explain this and that's awfully hard on people. You know, at first.

AR: I found it interesting in kind of reading through this historical overview that you presented with Dick about, this concept in Psychotherapy. How you talk about some theorists within Psychotherapy actually initially had some insights into this way of understanding the mind has multiple and then they either sort of backed off from it or  completely rejected it. So, you know, I was just curious about, about that, just that the reactions to this concept that we're starting to, we're touching on a little here.

RF: Well, hopefully now there is such a weight of evidence that it won't get reburied again, it has come up repeatedly and been reburied. Hermann Hesse’s book Steppenwolf. The big thing was, this skully guy who has got this other part, that's a wild wolf of the steppes. And he goes to this place, the magic theater where, and they give him this thing, treat on the Steppenwolf. And they say, Oh, you're not two, your many, many, many, many. And in that part of the book Hesse described in great detail why the Western world won't tolerate this idea and all of the ways it's been repressed. So this is not, this is not new or original with Dick and me.

AR: You mentioned this paradigm that you and Dick are presenting in the book. One piece of it, of course, is this element of the multiplicity of the mind and then the other piece, is that we all have at our core, this essence, that undamaged essence, that we refer to as Self in the IFS model, but it has been referred to as many different ways. So I, I really love how you detail in the third section of the book, how this concept of Self is at the heart of virtually every spiritual tradition. I was hoping you might elaborate on that a little bit.

RF: What I'll say is not really what we've got in the book, but it's, I think it's what I, the way I'm thinking about this more and more now is that the concept of Self is like in quantum mechanics, the idea that light is a particle and a wave. And within us, it's a particle, you know, and, but there is this vast sense of Self that you can tap into, that's like a field or a wave. And one of the things we say in IFS, is a little strange is that even the parts of us have Self. So, when you have this particle and wave view, that that all makes sense, and it was relatively comprehensible. That is, that is both of these, you know, and it's only, it depends on the observer, which one you see.

AR: And you mentioned too, that, this essential Self is actually much easier to access, then most spiritual traditions have actually believed, and we certainly see this is true in IFS, but I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit.

RF: Well, this is a whole section of the book that Dick threw out. I love big words and Dick does not like big words. The big words for this are Kenosis and Apophaticism. In the history of religions, they talk about these as being characteristics of almost every religious tradition, but basically what they mean is the way to the spiritual is you just get stuff out of the way, you just remove things. Constraint release is the phrase Dick uses all the time. That's who we are. It's absolutely undamaged. It’s like the sun after a storm, even if the storm mudslides ruined your house, everything in the sun is absolutely undamaged.
Now that’s very, very different from every other kind of Psychotherapy I’ve read into. And I come from a big trauma background, and this is such an important message for people with severe trauma, who they really are is undamaged. It is not even dirtied by all the horrible things that happened to them. That message in and of itself can be lifesaving for people who are, you know, basically they've been told, you know, too bad, you've had a bad childhood, take a lot of meds, don't expect to have a good life and this is fixed messages but is the exact opposite: you are undamaged. So, Kenosis and Apophaticism. Kenosis means you get to the divine by getting rid of all your ideas about the divine, basically. And the last biggest obstacle to the divine, to God, is your idea of God. So, you have to get rid of all that, and that's what Dick is talking about. So, he is the heir of a multi-thousand years spiritual tradition, and Apophaticism is the idea that the only way you can talk about the divine or the big Self’s field is by saying what it is not, there is no positive descriptor, that's big enough. So, I see IFS in this particular part of it as being heir to a multi thousand-year spiritual traditions that occurs in Christianity, Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, it's pretty much all over the place.

AR: When I actually saw what you were saying, resonating with a curiosity that I had, because, you say, you talk about it in the book, whether you believe that the wholesome factors of the mind are in here and merely you have to be uncovered or, or whether you believe that they're constructed through this intense and discipline practice, whatever view you have really informs your whole approach to spirituality and psychotherapy. So, I'm curious, you know, within Psychotherapy, how you've seen that play out, whether we believe its constraint releases as we do in IFS versus building it up like a muscle or, you know…

RF: Yeah, constraint release gives hope to the most severely damaged people. Number one.  The building it up is a muscle, encourages what in IFS we call manager kind of energies, discipline and it also can re-exile the tender hurt parts of us that are not functioning so well, because we just crushed them in our attempt to get to do our spiritual life. And you know, so many people do the spiritual bypass thing where they start to have a tender vulnerable feeling and they go, “Oh let me meditate or a few minutes and it will go away”,  you know. This relates, I think to the idea of counteractive change, you know, that certain levels of change are counteractive. You know, like the CBT thing of you have this negative message that you go, you have to say a positive message over it all the time. Well, that sort of works, but it leaves you with this terrible counteractive struggle.

AR: It's like you are always having to build up that new message, and there still all of the old stuff in there without having been changed at all.

AH: Bob, it looks as if there is a tendency in us to resist multiplicity and come back to this unity or mono mind feeling. So why is it so difficult for many of us to go with multiplicity? Is it about also economics in our bodies and brains or do we also need this unity perception kind of feeling?

RF: I think it's the little guy in the lifeboat, on the ocean liner, not wanting to admit that he's not the captain. That's hard, you know, humility really difficult, to let go of that. And it's actually immensely freeing, it reminds me of, you know, in IFS we have this idea that the real healer is the client, and the client's Self, not the therapist or the therapist's Self. And at first, it was hard for me to let go of. I've been trained for decades on how to have these wonderful insightful interpretations to offer. And at first giving up that position, you know, that was hard, but then it was this immense relief. Oh, I don't have to do all that junk anymore, I can listen and ask and enjoy my client and know they're the real healer. To me, accepting multiplicity is very much like that. At first, it's like, “Oh really?”, I'm just in the lifeboat over here, and then it's this big relief, “No, I'm not trying to drive the ocean liner, I'm not piloting the 747”.

AR: Remember you saying something in the book about where this multiplicity paradigm was most kind of thought with historically. At times, when there was a really rational perspective dominating, and so it's almost like there is, I think you used the word that there was a dethronement of a part, when we have to look at it this way. And that's who you're talking about. That little guy on the lifeboat. No, you are not in charge. You don't have to control all of this, is at first scary, unknown, uncertain would it then when it, who am I, if I'm not this and what's going to happen, if I'm not in control and then what a relief I don't have to do all of this, can lean into something greater. Something that you and Dick mentioned in the book is that this paradigm shift, and not only toward multiplicity, but also toward recognizing the essential Self, it gives us this way of understanding ourselves in relating to others that has this enormous potential benefit for humanity. So, wondering, you know, given our highly polarized world, how do you see this paradigm is potentially helpful at the level of larger systems, more than just the individual’s Internal system?

RF: Well, it gives us a flexibility and a resilience that we didn't have. And I also think it makes it possible to be compassionate for behaviors and people, we could not be compassionate for before. Knowing that when somebody acts in a truly horrible way, it's just a part of them. That Self is still in there undamaged and they can give us a lot more tolerance, compassion, flexibility. I think those are the big ones.

AR: Absolutely, and I know that an area of interest of yours that is not mentioned in the book is the idea that not only is the mind multiple, but that is also porous, and I'm just curious on your perspective of that.

RF: Well, that's, that's the next book I'm working on, and this one, I mean, if you stop and think about it for a little bit, I think it's undeniable and obvious. Every living cell is surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane. It has to be or it's dead, right? Every human being is permeable. You take in food, you excrete wastes, you take in information, you know, we are not these like rock, like citadels, like this myth of the mono mind, is what Dick would call it, but we're also permeable, you know. And I think one thing that clearly shows this is, I think it's Siegel of interpersonal neurobiology, he talks about our number one way of regulating our own internal states is through relationship with other people. Our emotional mind is very, very permeable. So, I think if you put this together with this idea of multiplicity and Self, it takes this paradigm shift to a whole another level.

AH: Bob, as a Portuguese fellow, and like to leave this lovely conversation with a quote picked from Antonio Damasio, referring the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa that says and goes, “my soul is like a hidden orchestra, I do not know which instruments grind and play away inside of me, strings and harps, kettledrums and drums. I can only recognize myself as a symphony”. So, even for the poets, the need to see myself as an integrated coherent symphony, co-exists with the aknowledgement of multiplicity?

RF: Yeah, beautiful, beautiful Anibal. And he, he wrote under heteronyms, I believe. He had all these different identities that would write different sets of poetry.

AR: I found that is so interesting. You mention that in the book, various writers would do that, It's not synonyms, but these names where they would actually right from different parts of themselves. I had no idea.

AH: Bob, what is coming for you? Are there more writings coming?

RF: Yeah, this book I'm doing on a permeable mind and I'm teaching a lot now. And I'm getting a very interest in IFS in the third world. I mean, the Western model of one-on-one Psychotherapy is just too expensive and too slow. For countries where are the average annual income is $10,000 or something. So, China has a really interesting program, inner peace coaching of Dr. Hailan Guo, that's reaching many, many, many people. I just led a training in Pakistan where we are trying to develop something like that for Pakistan. This wonderful woman there, Dr. Yasmeen Khan, she got a bunch of those, sealand containers, you know, those big metal boxes, they have in the back of the freighter ships. He took them, cleaned them up, put them in the worst slums of Karachi and they are walk-in mental health clinics. We’re helping train her staff, and the goal is to get people who live in those neighborhoods, who don't have any education, basically some kind of basic training and then hierarchy of supervision above that, so that we can reach very large numbers of people and relieve human suffering on a much faster scale than one-on-one Psychotherapy could do. So that's, that's one thing that I’m very into.

AR: That's incredible.

AH: Bob thank you again for having us and for this amazing work you and Dick Schwartz have done, tracking the unity multiplicity pendulation throughout times. It's always a joy to talk with you and learn from you, so much wisdom and love you share. So, my hope and Lexi’s hope is that we can keep meeting and sharing our work and our lives. Thank you so much.

 

Recorded the 10th March 2021
Transcript Edition: Sara Costa

Toni Herbine-Blank on IFIO and the new IFS Couple Therapy Skills Manual 47:31

Toni Herbine-Blank, MS, RN, C-SP, is a Clinical Specialist Psychotherapist and Senior Trainer for the IFS Institute.

Toni was trained in Family Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned both her RN and advanced practice degree in Psychiatric Nursing. She began training students in Internal Family Systems Therapy in 2004 and since has been instrumental in designing programs and writing curricula for Levels 1 and 2 IFS training programs.

Toni has been in private practice since 1996 specializing in the treatment of couples and individuals. In 2009, after designing a training for IFS therapists to apply the model to couples therapy, Toni offered the first Intimacy from the Inside Out© Training Program in Boston, Massachusetts. Since then the program has been received with great enthusiasm across the United States.

Toni has authored, with Martha Sweezy, a brand new manual on couple therapy called "Internal Family Systems Couple Therapy Skills Manual: Healing Relationships with Intimacy from the Inside Out" (Pesi-2021). She also co-authored "Intimacy from the Inside Out: Courage and Compassion in Couple Therapy  (Routledge-2015) with Donna Kerperlman and Martha Sweezy.

Toni's passion is in guiding therapists to become courageous, clear and confident. She has a reputation for being a creative, lively, and fiercely compassionate trainer. Toni currently lives in Durango, Colorado with her husband Jordan. They enjoy the magnificent outdoors whenever possible accompanied by their horses and dogs.

If you want to learn more about IFIO trainings here IFIO website.

Today on IFS Talks we are honored to be welcoming Toni Herbine-Blank. Toni is a clinical specialist, psychotherapist and senior trainer for the IFS Institute. She was trained in family therapy at the university of Pennsylvania, where she earned both her RN and advanced practice degree in psychiatric nursing. Toni began training students in Internal Family Systems therapy in 2004, and since has been instrumental in designing programs and writing curricula for Levels 1 and 2 IFS training programs. Toni has been in private practice since 1996, specializing in the treatment of couples and individuals.

 

In 2009, after designing a training for IFS therapists to apply the model to couples’ therapy, Toni offered the first Intimacy from the Inside Out training program. Toni is the author along with Martha Sweezy and Donna Kerpelmanof Intimacy from the Inside Out: Courage and Compassion in Couples Therapy and of a new book co-authored with Martha Sweezy called Internal Family Systems Couples Therapy Skills Manual: Healing Relationships with Intimacy from the Inside Out. Toni currently lives in Durango, Colorado with her husband, Jordan. They enjoy the magnificent outdoors whenever possible, accompanied by their horses and dogs.

Tisha Shull: Toni, welcome to IFS talks. Thank you so much for being here with us today.

Toni Herbine-Blank: Thank you so much for having me.

Aníbal Henriques: Thanks much, Toni, for taking the time to speak with us. It's such an honor to have you in the show. How is it for you, Toni, to hear this bio, what parts come up?

Toni: You know, I always have a little, some nervous parts when I am being interviewed and I always, I have a part that thinks I'm going to have a brain freeze even after all these years of teaching IFS and teaching IFIO. So, but just talking to the two of you before we get started, I feel those parts have relaxed, I feel pretty good and I'm actually grateful, grateful you invited me. And I know it's taken me awhile to say yes, but here I am so...and great to be talking about IFIO and my journey with IFS.

Aníbal: You're welcome.

Tisha: Will you share with us a little bit about what oriented you to couples work?

Toni: May have something to do with my childhood. You know, that's an interesting question because I'm not really sure about that. My husband and I signed up for Imago therapy couples’ workshop before we were even married, so probably 30 years ago. And I had just earned my advanced practice degree and I really loved that model and it gave us a lot of insight into ourselves. And I think that was the beginning of that. My older sister and her husband are also couple therapists and I think I was very influenced by them as well. And I, soon after my husband and I took that workshop, I signed up to be trained as an Imago therapist. And so, it all just started to steamroll at that time.

Tisha: Was there anything in your childhood that oriented you more than others towards couples’ work?

Toni: Well, my sister and I laugh about this, that both of us ended up being couples therapists and that there was most likely something going on in our family system that, or our awareness of our parents relationship that's motivated that. I sometimes joke when I'm teaching students that my couple therapy practice began when I was four years old. I started tracking my parents' relationship and deciding as a young child that I actually could coach them on how their relationship could improve. So, I just started, I started noticing a lot at a very young age about their relationship and the relationships in the rest of the family. So...

Aníbal: And Toni, when and how did you get across IFS? How did you come to be involved in the model?

Toni: I was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an east coast city. At some point, I'm trying to even think of the year of that, but I can't bring it up. And I was in an Imago relationship supervision group and there was somebody in that group named Chris Mathna who had just taken the IFS training. She was also an Imago relationship therapist and she would come into that supervision groups so excited about IFS, and none of us could figure out what she was talking about. So, she encouraged me to take the training and I put her off because I didn't really understand. I bought the IFS book, but I still didn't. It wasn't catching me. And then, a year later she was really, she was really adamant. You really need to come and find out about this. So, I signed up out of peer pressure and I went to Connecticut to take the IFS Level 1 in, I think it was either 1999, end of 1999 or beginning of 2000. And Dick was our trainer. And a lot of people whose names you know, Mike Elkin, Pamela Krouse, Ralph Cohen were our assistant trainers and people like Ann Sinko and Mona Barbera and Paul Neustad were in the training with me. So, it was at one of the early trainings and some of the current trainers came out of that training. And so that's how it all started for me. And I always like to say, because this is not people's usual experience, I didn't like it much. I had a lot of issues with it. I, you know, I've had a lot of resistance to it, to the model and the two things that really changed my mind were when I started watching Dick work and it really peaked my interest, how safe he could make it for people to do such deep work in such a short amount of time. And so that peaked my interest. And then my trainer along with Dick was somebody called Michi Rose. I don't know if you've heard of Michi but Michi is the one that I started to learn from and where things began to really start to make sense what we were up to in this model. So, you know, it took me a little while, but obviously, eventually, I did take to it.

Tisha: So, do you recall what the resistance was about? Cause I'm sure a lot of people meet the model with that.

Toni: Well, first of all, I was a psychodynamic therapist. So, the relationship is very key in that, you know, when you're working dynamically with people and Dick's big message to us was “Get out of the way, get out of the way, get out of the way.” And it wasn't until much later when we started having conversations with Dick around, yes, we need to get out of the way, but the therapeutic relationship is critical to this work where he had to succumb to that. And he actually wrote a chapter in the book about it. So, my resistance first was, you know, the sort of the dismissing of the therapeutic relationship with that, which I hold with great value. And then there was something about the spiritual aspect that was difficult for me. I had spent some years in a yoga ashram living in a yoga ashram. And so, there was just a little bit of, I don't know, a part sort of talking to me about, be careful here because you know, we're not going to just walk blindly into this concept without being discerning, without trying it on without paying attention to what my gut was telling me, because for years I just dismissed those things. So those were probably the two big red flags in the beginning for me. And we had a really wonderful staff in that Level 1 training. And they were really available for people's freak outs about what was going on. And so, I just remember having lots of conversations with lots of different people and getting lots of different perspectives and being given a lot of permission, which I think is one of the strengths in this model, a lot of permission to just don't take it, just don't do it because we say it's great, you know, have some discernment, ask your questions, be thoughtful, challenge us, you know, challenge the model, challenge the theory. And so, it was helpful in that way. I didn't feel like I had to fight, you know, nobody was going to fight me on any of my parts with resistance. So that was a lovely thing.

Aníbal: Toni, when did you start leading IFS trainings and finally designing a brand-new couples therapy model?

Toni: I was an assistant trainer. If I'm remembering correctly. I had my first assistant trainership in 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts, and I actually did two of them simultaneously. Back then, there weren't a lot of trainers and there weren't a lot of assistant trainers. So, and as IFS was growing, there was a greater need. So, I believe I did two in one year being an assistant trainer in 2004. And even before I was an assistant trainer, you know, back in the day in a Level 1 training weekend 4, Dick or whoever the trainer was, introduced the idea of working with couples and I had already been a pretty seasoned couple therapist by that time. And when I, when they taught us, because Dick had three protocols that he developed, that he used with couples and when he taught those to us, they made a lot of sense to me, but I was a very, very seasoned couples therapist, so I could translate it quite quickly. I could translate this to that, this to that, that to this. And I remember saying to him “You know, this could be very powerful”. This was even way back, you know, before I was a trainer, this could be powerful if we helped, you know, therapists really apply this to their work with couples. So, the conversation started early. And then, then I had the experience of not wanting to work with couples anymore and just work with individuals because it was such a beautiful process and took less energy and was easier to access Self-energy. So, I stopped seeing couples for a while and then somewhere along the line, I thought, yeah, you know, this has been a passion of mine for so many years, maybe I don't have to toss it. Maybe I don't have to just throw it all away. And so, I started thinking about going back to seeing couples, adding some IFS perspective to my couples’ work, and then started thinking more and more, how could we translate this? Because it's, you know, IFS itself is very, very nuanced. So how can we take the nuances of individual therapy and start to develop a program where IFS therapists could start learning how to apply this in their couple work. And it just kind of took off. And in 2010, I believe the first training was a pilot. And, you know, I've changed the curriculum honestly for probably nine years until we, I feel like we finally got it right. You know, and we'll always be going back and thinking about how to make it deeper, richer program.

Tisha: I'm really appreciating what you brought to couples’ work. And I'm curious what that was like for you to see this process unfolding with the actual couples you are working with. What was, what did you see happening and what was it like to kind of take that in and make adjustments?

Toni: One of the things that I love love about IFS is this idea of unblending, which is to me inherently affect regulating. And when I was, you know, as I was just getting into IFS and working with couples, I was in a situation where I was being referred a lot of couples who the therapists that worked around me were saying nobody can help these people. So, I was really faced with a lot of challenges and I was an Imago relationship therapist, since I started to add some of IFS, I saw that the Imago process worked way better if people could understand the concept of unblending. So that was a first thing that I saw is how do we create, you know, this unblending is a way to create more safety. The other thing that unblending offered me was a way for people to, in IFIO and IFS now we call it a U-turn. But what I noticed is that in order for people to do these attachment behaviors that we're asking them to do, to listen, to tune in, to meet each other's needs, to listen skillfully, to speak, you know, to speak honestly without wounding, they really had to have some kind of a sense of inner connection in order to do that well. And that's another thing that unblending offers couples is I can be with myself first, so I can get regulated, I can listen to myself, I can hold on to myself, maybe someday love myself. And in doing this, my relationship with my partner is going to become less reactive. And that's another thing I saw, a big shift is, and a lot of help from me, a lot of help from the therapist in order to do that. That's not easy when your protectors are really activated. You know, when our protectors in relationship are focused on getting something or hurting the other person, it's very hard to ask them to go this way, to ask them to go inside. But once we do, my experience is it really shifts the dynamic. And once people understand that vulnerability is what drives these protectors, exiles is what drives, you know, the needs and the wounds of exiles, is what drives these protectors, it changes their thinking, you know, and even just mentioning to people that this feeling that you have is just one part of yourself, it's not all of who you are, that changes, that's a game changer in relationship as well.

Aníbal: So, Toni, what is IFIO and how do you differentiate IFS from Intimacy from the Inside Out? How do they differentiate?

Toni: Well, Intimacy from the Inside Out is the application of IFS to couples’ therapy. So, I just, I want to say that, that there is a differentiation, but it is the model. You know, it is the model. And also, Dick Schwartz had these three protocols that he taught us in our Level 1 training. And so, the basic protocols are born out of those. So, the model is all about parts and Self. And what differentiates it from individual work with IFS is that the system is larger. You know, we're working with a bigger system, more parts, more parts, more legacies, more cultural differences, more cultural burdens, you know, that everything is just bigger and more dramatic...

Aníbal: Eventually fun as well.

Toni: And more therapist parts, right? So, the bigger the system, the bigger the system. So, you know, in the IFIO trainings, as with the IFS trainings, we are continually asking the therapists to check in, check in, check in, check in with what's happening for them.

Tisha: Are there sort of normative therapist parts that come up working with couples that you've identified, you know, like the top five or...

Toni: The top one that I observed and I'd be interested too in what my other trainers - I have 10 trainers at this point - would say, but is the exiles that get caught in the triangle of a couple therapy, because if you're sitting in front of a dyad that reminds you of an early dyad, then your system is going to start to respond. If you're not aware of it, your system will start to respond as you did in your, in where, you know, in your, you know, I don't want to say family because not everybody grows up in a family, but where your early childhood experiences took place, you're going to, you're going to begin to respond that way. Your parts are going to be, going to respond that way. Does that make sense? What I'm saying?

Tisha: Absolutely. Yeah. And it's not something that I considered. But of course, right? Yeah. So that's a big pitfall to be aware of.

Toni: So, in the beginning of a training, we talk about triangles and how a therapist has to create a safe triangle and actually not get triggered into childhood. Because once you're triggered into a child part, then you're no longer in Self anymore. So that's a big one. I would say another one is, and it probably all leads back to the same vulnerable exiles, you know, from childhood, but parts that can get annoyed because the parts in the clients aren't being compliant or...not being compliant, but you'll be working with an issue and everything's going well and then all of a sudden a protector comes up just like out of nowhere and triggers the, it can trigger the therapist. So, I think that's another pretty significant one. People come into these trainings and they take the training anyway, but they're scared to death of doing couples therapy because it's conflictual often, you know? So that's another part that comes up, the parts that want to avoid conflict. And they're usually young also, like this is scary, you know, what am I going to do, I don't know how to do this, what am I going to do parts, that's another one that comes up, anxiety comes up. So, these are some of the top ones.

Aníbal: And could you say, what are the main goals of IFIO?

Toni: I can. It’s funny that you asked that question, because, you know, as I've been working on this curriculum over the years, I've also been doing international trainings and in international trainings you are often being translated or interpreted. And so, you have a long, you have long spaces in between the questions, you know, or between what you're saying, you know, you say something and then the interpreter speaks and then you answer questions or whatever. And a couple of years ago when I was in France and I was talking about the goals, there were so many goals, it felt so cumbersome. You know, we have so many goals and I thought, you know, I have to, I have to get a little more concise here. Which I did, and one big goal is to help people decrease, you know, to, and I want to say, love their protectors into less reactivity, like less reactivity of the protectors will lead to more space in the inner system. And when there's more space in the inner system, people have more choices in how they want to respond. So, one of the big goals is to help people lessen the reactivity between them. And we could also say to help them get to a place of affect regulation so they can think and feel and pay attention to their parts and pay attention to how they want to respond to their partner. So, you know, all of that lessening, reactivity opening up more space inside, softening, you know, softening those protectors so that they're not on such high alert in the nervous system. So that's a big goal because I do believe that when people are blended, reactive, dysregulated, nothing really can happen between them that's going to lead to a more open-hearted loving connection. So that's another, another goal is how can we help people connect, reconnect? And that, you know, we haven't talked about what happens right in the beginning of therapy, but one of the things that happens right in the beginning of therapy is we ask the couple what they want. So, we're going to be, we're going to be with them on their journey that they have decided they want. And I hear so often we want to stop being reactive, we want to feel connected again, and we want to be able to communicate better. So, I listened to that, you know, I listen to people what they want and that's how we, you know, that's how we develop the goals with an individual couple. Another goal of IFIO, if the couple is interested in this, is changing how they communicate. And I am a huge proponent of helping people change their conversation. Not all couple therapy models have a dialogue process folded into their model. And I was in an Imago relationship therapist and that's a dialogic model. So, I took some of the beautiful things from that model and incorporated IFS into them. I believe that all couples, all couples should, if they want to be able to have any conversation, no matter how difficult. And I think this concept of speaking for parts and listening from Self is really, really powerful, you know, because when we're having difficult conversations, what we're doing is we're inviting ourselves to listen to the impact that we have had on our partner. And that's a tall order to ask people to listen to impact. So, we invite listeners to be aware that their feedback to us, that they're, you know, what they're sharing with us is not necessarily the truth about us, but more their experience of us. Am I making any sense here?

Tisha: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. That's fascinating.

Toni: Yeah. So, we do a lot of working. We do a lot of work with the listener, you know, how to unblend and prepare yourself to be open enough, to hear something that your protectors might not like. So, you know, we spend a lot of time there and I think, you know, what I've found over the years is that there's a lot of appreciation for how much time we actually do stay with the person who's listening. You know, we do a body scan, we check for protectors. We want to make sure that all of the concerns of all the protectors that are listening, we address them before we ask them to listen. So, and in the beginning, we don't dialogue, we, you know, we invite people to experiment with unblending, speaking and listening differently. So anyway, that was a long answer to your, to your goals. And I think one more goal that I'll say is that people can envision or revision their relationship and also learn how to heal from betrayals big and small, you know, the betrayals of everyday life. When I snap at my partner, because I've had a hard day or, you know, bigger betrayals that can occur throughout the lifetime of an intimate relationship.

Tisha: Do you find that exiles benefit from being witnessed by someone's partner? Like, is that something that happens and is needed? I know Self to exile witnessing is really important, but does something else happened when a partner witnesses your exile?

Toni: We call that, when it's done well, we call that a relational unburdening. It's very different than an individual unburdening process. So, something that occurs in couple therapy in IFS couple therapy, IFIO, is when we do individual work with one person, we want to really make sure that the witnessing, that their partner is really available for that witnessing. And that means they're unblended, they're regulated, their heart is soft, Their protectors are stepped back or relaxed or softened because in my mind, we don't want to set up a situation where the exile gets rebounded by a partner who's starting to get blended with a defensive reactive part. So, we're careful when we do this, you know, we're careful about this. And when a partner, I believe, when a partner can really witness the other person doing a deep piece of work, which where they are also witnessing their exile, that exile is being bathed in Self-energy...

Tisha: So sweet.

Toni: I know, isn’t it? And then the therapist is also holding with all this Self-energy. So, in my mind, there is no way that that exile isn't letting go of something. So the process, you know, even if the person doing the work doesn't even get to a complete unburdening, I believe wholeheartedly that that exile that is being bathed and all of this love and care is letting go and having a corrective experience, which is what we do when we're witnessing exiles internally. So, there is a corrective experience happening, and that exile also has the opportunity to see that the partner is also there for it. So, it's just a very beautiful relational experience of, you know, open-heartedness, love, letting go and holding for the exile. And I believe that's brain changing as well, you know, heart opening and brain changing. An exile being witnessed that way is powerful. Thank you for asking that question. I might've forgotten to...

Tisha: I’ve been curious about that, yes.

Aníbal: Toni, you, I guess you also coined this term courageous communication. What is this about?

Toni: What is this about? So, you know, I believe that asking partners to slow down to unblend, to listen skillfully, to speak with language that is not wounding, to self-disclose in a responsible way is an incredibly courageous act, because it's not intuitive. When parts, when exiles are wounded and protectors are energized, they want to, they want to speak for themselves, right? You know, they want the permission to attack, withdraw, shame, blame, because that feels in the moment like it's going to take care of whatever the wounding is. And so what we're asking, we're asking couples to please trust us that if they can do this this way, this is what's going to bring relief, not the attack, which is the impulse, you know, the impulse to attack or withdraw, that is not ultimately going to be bring relief and it's not ultimately going to reconnect you with this person who, you know, who you want to reconnect with, if that's the goal to reconnect with them. So, that's why I use that word courage, because I think it takes a lot of courage for the protectors to step back, for the exiles to feel safe enough to allow the conversation to go on.

Aníbal: Thank you, beautiful.

Tisha: Toni, in your bio, I named that you have a new book coming out, and I wonder if you would be willing to share about your process a little bit and about what the book offers?

Toni: Sure. First, I want to say that I do have a co-author and her name is Martha Sweezy and I want to just make sure that everybody knows that because this is a project that would never have been completed without her. So, Martha and I wrote the first book together, and I'm trying to remember how this all unfolded because I swore, I would never write a book again. So somehow somebody invited me into this. It might have been PESI itself. Who's the...

Aníbal: Publisher.

Toni: Yeah. So, I went back to Martha and I think, would you be willing to do this with me? And of course, we couldn't write the same book because it's a different publisher and we decided, or actually PESI wanted us to write a manual. They didn't want a book. They wanted a manual, which is a little bit different. And Martha is already the coauthor with Dick Schwartz and Frank Anderson on the trauma manual and they wanted the exact same format there. And over the years, since the first book I've been changing my thinking on several fronts and also wanted to start adding a section on neurobiology in couples therapy and some of the thinking about the power, more on the power of unblending, more on where I think we're going with unblending and just more on shame and more on this and more on that. So, we just decided that we would do it, and it would be really much more of a how to, so less theory, more cases, more roadmaps, more exercises for couples and, you know, so we just embarked on it. And, you know, because I already had the model, the basis basics of the model, it wasn't, we took the basics of the models. So, in some ways it's a reflection of the first book, but it's a little bit more of a how to, you know, where couple therapists can really, therapists can really, can read it and see, okay, now you do this, now you do this, Now you do...

Aníbal: So, Toni, this is the manual for therapists. This is not the manual for couples.

Toni: Right. Right. And, you know, I do have a part that says never again, you know, it's always saying never again. I'm never writing another book. I'm not a writer. It doesn't come easily to me. I go through all kinds of pain and suffering, writing, always have.

Tisha: So, it's been a challenge.

Toni: Yeah. So, maybe someday there'll be a book for couples, you know, IFIO manual for couples. Because we have tons of exercises. I mean, my trainers make up exercises. We're making up exercises all the time. So, it would make sense to get it into a manual at some point.

Aníbal: Toni, what are most couples asking for when they look for you or for us for help? What are their needs? What are they asking for?

Toni: So interesting, because there was the before COVID, and now there's the during COVID, you know, I think we talked about that earlier that couples are really struggling right now. I think domestic violence is on the rise it's, it's, it's really challenging. So, you know, in my experience, people come to get help because, well, there's the presenting parts and then there's the underneath thing. You know, people come, and they're so determined that their partner is a big problem and that's what needs to get fixed. You know, if I think I have some beliefs about human beings, all human beings, you know, I have a nervous system long to feel safe. And that couples long to feel connected in ways that they did early in their relationship. And you know, over many years of discord or disconnection or miscommunication or pain and hurt, you know, the protectors take over. And so, they've, they're missing the vulnerability and they're missing the heartfelt connection. And I think, and but what they say is, you know, we've had a terrible breach, we've had a terrible betrayal, we have to figure this out, we don't know if we're staying together, we don't communicate anymore, since we had children, we don't have sex anymore. You know, so those are the presenting parts, but I think underneath it, all people want to feel loved and they want to feel connected and they want to feel safe. And, even getting to that sometimes takes a while with people, you know, but I think, I think ultimately that's what, what people are asking for, but I listened very closely. You know, the other thing that I hear actually, which is what I start my trainings with, I believe that not only do all people want to feel connected, all people want to feel, or I'm not going to say all, many people want to feel that they can be themselves and be loved by the other person. Does that make sense? So, IFIO is a model of differentiation, which says, we want to help you create a relationship where both of your individualities are welcome and that you can be yourself and also be connected because I will hear often comments like I can't be myself with you when you do this, you'll give me hell, or, you know, there's a lot of conversations around. I just can't be. I don't feel like I can be myself, so I have to succumb to you, which is never what we want people to feel. Either people feel I have to succumb to you, or I have to get away from you. And one of our invitations is what if you could have yourself and the other person at the same time, especially, especially during conflict so that you didn't have to disconnect during conflict, but actually you could hold onto yourself and feel like you were a full person with a full Self and a whole set of parts that are valid and welcome. And, you know, that's a new one, that’s when you (inaudible) people, really, you know, that we could offer a trajectory, or we could offer a path where people could feel solid inside themselves and also connected to their partner, even when times are difficult. So, first there's curiosity there. And sometimes it takes a long time to get there.

Aníbal: Toni, in your website, you offer different modalities to get familiar with IFIO. You say you provide trainings, workshops, and retreats for therapists and people everywhere, seeking a liveliness, hope and meaningful change in their relationships.

Toni: That's our mission, right?

Aníbal: That’s our mission. So how do you differentiate those modalities you offer. How different they are?

Toni: So, the trainings are the trainings and that's a Level 2 training and IFS Level 2 training. So, it's under the umbrella of IFSI. And that is a 72. The basic training is a 72-hour training for IFS therapists who want to learn the basics of IFIO. And then following that, we have advanced trainings and post advanced trainings that are for people who want the nuances of the model, who really, really like it, love it, and want to dig in and learn how to use it in their offices. So that's the training track right there. And then before COVID, we, I have a little team and we offered IFIO couples retreats once a year in a beautiful place where couples could come in a safe environment, we have, you know, I have staff with me learn about communication, learn about the exile protector relationship, learn about how they can start to think about parts and Self in relationships. So, it's highly experiential. We have yoga teachers. We have, we always go somewhere. You know, we've been going to Mexico the last few years, but that's on hold for right now. So that's a highly experiential retreat, open to couples. And then, Aníbal, like the introductory workshop that you took, we offer those on occasion, you know, to, you know, honestly, between you and me, right after COVID started and everything got shut down, IFIO, it felt like we hit an iceberg actually. And I didn't know, I'm pretty small little operation. I have me and one assistant or two assistants and then these 10 trainers, and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. This was before all of a sudden everything went online. It shook me up a little bit. And my, at that time assistance said, why don't you offer a workshop and see what happens? And it was, so it was welcomed in such an overwhelming way that then we did another one. And I think you were in the second one. So, we'd never done that. I never done a workshop like that online before. So that's something we might do. You know, again, I don't, I don't really know, but the other thing is that we'll be invited to do all different kinds of introductory workshops here or there. Two of my staff just did an introductory sexuality workshop online. We're going to do some things on the brain and IFIO. And, you know, sometimes somebody will write to us and say, would you come and do a workshop for this group of people or that group of people? So, so that's, those are the workshops and those workshops are not, they don't, they don't give you, they don't give you any credit toward your, you know, your Level ones or your Level two IFS trainings. But we do always, even in the retreats, offer IFS CES. So, anything, anytime anybody does anything with us, you can use that toward your certification or your recertification.

Aníbal: Toni, I was going to ask you regarding the future for the IFIO model, what are your wishes and wonderings?

Toni: That's a question that I am in process with right now, currently. You know, I've been doing this for a long time, and I have polarized parts, you know, on one hand, I want to slow down and have a little bit less complicated, more peaceful life. On the other hand, as IFS is exploding worldwide, IFIO is right behind it. And so how I'm going to, honestly, how I'm going to deal with that, I don't know. I don't know right now. I'm in the process of, we are, my team, we're in the process of doing some anti-racism training and thinking about how the model can be taught in ways that is more inviting for black indigenous people of color, different cultures, you know, we're coming to you Aníbal. We were just in, you know, we just did a training for the Spanish. We're going to be training the French ongoingly. So, I'm really thinking about how can we really open this up and expand our thinking on one hand. So, I'm really at a crossroads. I really am. I literally right in the middle of, should I go straight? Should I go, right? Should I go left? Should I start peddling backwards as fast as I can.

Aníbal: And the world is changing as well.

Toni: The world is changing. Everything is changing. So, and you know, now that we're online, people from all over the world that could never get to these trainings are now able to get to these trainings. So, I'm just in a state of wonder about it. I have to admit.

Aníbal: Thank you.

Tisha: Yeah, thanks for that honest answer. Hopefully clarity will come your way with that.

Aníbal: Toni, thank you so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, your model, our work and our lives.

Toni: Well, thank you both. Nice to meet you both, finally.

Tisha: Yes, thank you, Toni. Thanks for your time today and all your wisdom and all the work that you've done. All your contributions.

 

Recorded 3rd March 2021
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu

Alexia Rothman on The Therapeutic Dose of Empathy in IFS 48:45

Dr. Alexia Rothman is a licensed psychologist and Certified IFS therapist in private practice in Atlanta, GA.  She is a United States Presidential Scholar who completed her doctoral work in Clinical Psychology in 2003 at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.  She has formerly held adjunct professor positions in the Psychology Departments of Emory University and Agnes Scott College.  Dr. Rothman was drawn to the IFS model through her therapeutic work with trauma survivors, and she began her formal training in the IFS model in 2011.  Over the past 11 years, Dr. Rothman has served as a Program Assistant for many Level 1, 2, and 3 experiential IFS trainings.  In 2016, Dr. Rothman combined her passion for psychotherapy and her love of teaching and began offering full-day workshops to introduce the IFS model to clinicians.  She now regularly teaches both introductory and more advanced IFS workshops throughout the United States and abroad, and she serves as an IFS consultant, helping clinicians to deepen their knowledge of the IFS model while working with their own systems to facilitate maximal access to Self-energy in their professional and personal lives.  Dr. Rothman is married to an IFS therapist and is the mother of two human children and three Tonkinese cats.
You can find more about Dr. Alexia here at her website

 

Today on IFS talks we're speaking with Dr. Alexia Rothman, Lexi. Lexi is a licensed psychologist and certified IFS therapist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. She has her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Lexi has held a junk professor position in the psychology department of Emory university and Agnes Scott College. She was drawn to the IFS model through her therapeutic work with trauma survivors, and she began her formal training in IFS in 2011.

Over the past 11 years, Dr. Rothman has served as a Program Assistant for many IFS trainings. She's combined her passion for psychotherapy and her love of teaching, and she's begun offering full day workshops to introduce the IFS model to clinicians. She now regularly teaches both introductory and advanced IFS workshops and serves as an IFS consultant, helping clinicians to deepen their knowledge of the IFS model. Lexi, welcome to IFS Talks, and thank you so much for joining us today.

Alexia Rothman: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here, a little nervous and excited.

Aníbal Henriques: Thanks much, Lexi, for joining us. What parts come up today hearing your bio?

Lexi: What I was noticing as I was listening to the bio is a really deep sense of gratitude, and this comes up for me, actually, anytime I think back over my professional journey, just gratitude that I have gotten for so many decades now to spend my time doing what I really love doing and what I'm interested in and what I feel comes really naturally to me. So, being a therapist, teaching IFS, it doesn't feel so much like a profession as much as it feels like me just being me in the world. And, as I'm saying that, I'm feeling this joy coming up within me and right next to that, I'm aware of a part that is acknowledging that this is not the, this is not the story for everyone. You know, that things like your interest and your curiosity and being yourself can always be the guiding forces in your professional life. So, I have an acknowledgement that it is a great privilege, that that's been the case for me. And really also I have a sense of a desire to share whatever has been helpful for me along the way in my journey with others and I have gotten to do that as a therapist. I think for all of us, the more that we learn and grow, the more that we can really offer to our clients. But in recent years, I've found that I can do that on an even larger scale by teaching the IFS model to clinicians.

Tisha: Can you tell us about your journey as a psychotherapist? Was there something that was predeterminant in you becoming a therapist?

Lexi: Yeah. When I've thought back over my life, I think there are really two main starting points for my professional journey. So, my journey as a therapist started in high school. When I was 14, my mother and I were trained to work on a crisis hotline six hours a week. So, I was only 14. They were not putting me on the calls with the people in crisis because I was too young, but I was actually allowed to attend all of the trainings and the supervision sessions and assist the counselors. So that's when I really started to first learn some of the skills that are involved with being present with someone who is in acute emotional distress. And by a few years after that, actually at my university, I actually had become the head of the crisis hotline at the university. So, I was able to put some of those skills into practice. So that's my training as a therapist, I guess it informally started at 14, but my journey as a psychologist, I think as a student of human behavior and of the human mind and that desire to engage with people with interest with curiosity started much younger than 14. And I really attribute this to my mother because her story, she grew up very poor, she lived in a housing project in New York city near the Queensboro bridge and didn't really have money, so, she didn't really have toys to play with, so, people were her entertainment. She's always had a fascination with how people think, how they behave, their habits, their verbal and nonverbal communication styles, their impact of their cultural background on their life experience. And she transferred this curiosity to me. And I actually remember distinctly, I was five or six years old. This is the earliest memory I have of her kind of transferring this curiosity about people to me. I was coming back from school on the bus and I saw a boy on the bus bullying another child and I wasn't in tremendous distress about this. So, I didn't really need anything very much emotionally, but I had some confusion about it. So, I came home, and I told my mother, this is what I saw. And I didn't really think much about the nature of her reaction at the time. But when I became an IFS therapist, it became really interesting to me how she had chosen to react because her response was one of pure curiosity. So, she said “I wonder what's going on in his life that's making him act out that way.” And then she turned the question on me “What do you think some of the reasons might be that he's bullying this other child?” And we talked together, we thought about the different things we knew about his life and possible stressors and the function that the bullying behavior might be playing for him, what it might be doing to help him. And I remember the next day, because I was only probably six, I actually proceeded to tell this boy all of the different reasons why he could have been bullying the other child. And I don't think it went over very well, but he didn't do it again. But what was important, I think, for me about the fact that she had this interest in people and this curiosity about what made them tick was it gave me the sense that human behavior really does have a logic to it. It makes sense in some way, even if it's confusing at first, that it really does make sense, even when it's awful. So that really supported my natural curiosity, I think.

Tisha: I hear so much compassion in that too.

Lexi: Yeah.

Tisha: Right? She didn't jump to being in a judgmental manager, which I think would be so easy, you know, and then it kind of brought out your compassion to have that enlightened perspective.

Lexi: Yeah. I appreciate you saying that because that is how it felt to me. And I'm grateful for that because she could have put different perspectives in my head that would have been about her and her parts. And she didn't, there was openness, there was interest, there was compassion. I guess those were the more informal beginnings of my journey. And then when I was a teenager, my mother actually went to back to graduate school. She earned degrees in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. And so, she was trained in family systems therapy and gestalt therapy. So, then her perspective in our discussion started to be flavored by these approaches. And when it was time for me to start my formal studies, I moved from New York. That's where I had grown up. I moved down to Atlanta, to Emory University and I'm still actually sitting across the street from that university right now in my private practice office. And I had a wonderful mentor for my undergraduate studies, Dr. Stephen Nowicki, who is clinical psychologist, master professor, wonderful public speaker, researcher, author, all of this. And I still have a close relationship with him to this day. And we did a lot of research together on nonverbal communication. And that still, I think, informs my clinical work, but of all the things he did for me, and there were many, what stayed with me the most is something he would repeat to me over and over again which is, he'd say “Lexi, remember relationships are everything.” And it was excellent advice. But I used to only think about it in terms of external relationships. So my relationships with my family or colleagues or mentors, my clients, and once I started learning IFS, it just took on such a deeper meaning for me, because almost everything that we're trying to do as IFS therapists is to facilitate the development of these internal relationships between the Self of our clients and the various, you know, individuals that make up their internal systems. So, the importance of that is a big theme for me.

Aníbal: So, it looks like your graduation in psychology started home. But how did you become involved with the IFS model?

Lexi: I finished up my doctoral training. I was out in the University of California, Los Angeles for about five years. I came back to Atlanta. I opened a practice in 2004 and I was using at the time a very integrative approach to therapy. So, I had been trained in CBT a little bit of DBT, some psychodynamic approaches, interpersonal therapy. I was kind of blending everything together and I really felt strongly if I was ever going to work primarily from one theoretical orientation, it needed to be one that I guess included or integrated all of the elements that I had found really useful or helpful about the other models I had learned. And around 2010, I was working with three different clients that I started learning where survivors have much more severe and extensive childhood trauma than I had actually realized before. And part of why, even though we had worked together for a couple of years at this point, part of why I hadn't realized the full extent of their trauma was because a lot of the traumatic material was actually walled off within their own psyches for protection, which makes sense. So, we had spent a couple of years working on other material, other traumas that they had access to. And as the work progressed, they started to reveal more about what had happened to them early in life. It became more accessible to them. They started to talk about it. And unfortunately, and I know many other clinicians have been in this position too, as this happened, as they got more access to the traumatic material that had been buried, their suicidality increased, their self-injury increased, addictive behaviors, dissociation, all of this. And I, two of them actually also had full blown DID, so we'd be in sessions and they might switch and suddenly become four years old and not have any idea who I was. And that felt new to me. I felt really out of my depth, I guess. So, I went up to the international trauma conference in Boston that Bessel van der Kolk hosts, and I met Dick and I went to his introductory workshop on IFS and I really fell in love with the model because IFS did integrate everything I had loved about the models I had used before. So, there's this list that I made for myself about five years ago when I started teaching IFS about all the things that I felt that IFS included about the models I had used before. And so, I'd love to just say that list for you because it matters to me, it was one of the reasons that drew me to this model. But what I say is that I feel like IFS included the mindfulness component and the emotion focus, the cognitive behavioral elements, the attention to the body and what is held there, the importance of the therapeutic relationship and specifically the presence that the therapist can hold to facilitate healing; the merits of attachment theory, both externally and also taken internally between the clients’ Self and the parts of their own systems, the wisdom of systems thinking, the power of the hypnotic trance state, or a similar type of state for healing and connection, reprocessing of traumatic memories, techniques for emotion regulation, effective ways of working with transference and countertransference, spiritual elements, if desired. So, I have this whole list of things that I felt that IFS did. And what I loved about the model was not only that it was so comprehensive that it has all of that, but that it manages to wrap it in this package that looks so simple on the surface.

Aníbal: Yeah. We can find it all.

Lexi: And so, it's important. It's felt important to me when I'm introducing this model to clinicians to tell them about how much is actually there, because it's really surprising how much power is in this model when you really can fully start to get it and start to apply it from some degree of Self. So, I guess I ended up doing the different levels of training, and I was really fortunate that Dick offered me a spot in his personal monthly supervision group. So I was with in that for over three years, and it was great because not only did I get to learn more directly from him, but he also, primarily what he did with us was actually have us work with our own systems, with the parts of us that come up when we're working with our clients to do some healing work and so that we could have more access to Self-energy as therapists. So that was important for me.

Aníbal: So, you started with the master.

Lexi: Yeah. And I really started off with him because he was one of my lead trainers, even for my Level 1. He and the amazing Paul Ginter, they shared the weekends, it was a wonderful way to be introduced to the model. So, then yeah, I did a lot of PAing and still do. But about five years ago, I realized that nobody in my home state of Georgia, five people maybe had ever been trained in the IFS model, and two of them were myself and my husband. And so, I decided to start offering full day, continuing education workshops, introducing IFS to clinicians and Dick had given me permission to do that. And at this point there've been over a thousand clinicians just in Georgia that have been to one of these workshops. So, IFS is really spreading here. And then Dick actually asked me if I'd like to teach more broadly. So, he arranged for me to work with PESI, which is a large continuing education organization. And I started traveling all over the United States, you know, three to six cities per month doing these full day IFS workshops and got the chance to do this in the UK as well through PESI UK. And of course, we've been virtual now for over a year, unfortunately, but I'm looking forward to returning to teaching live at some point.

Tisha:  I can really hear how much passion you have for the model and I'm curious to know how you're enjoying teaching and what that brings up and what it's like for you to teach IFS.

Lexi: It's really, even hard for me to actually put it into words how important it feels to me, how much I love it to be teaching this model, how much joy there is for me in doing this. Before the pandemic one of the things that I really loved when I was in live workshops was being able to look out, you know, into the faces of the participants and see different things, I guess, in their facial expressions that were so touching to me as they were first introduced to this model. So, you can see that moment when a piece of the material would really land with them and it made sense, and they started to make all these connections in their minds to things they had observed over decades of clinical practice and suddenly it was making sense in this whole new way. And, and I would imagine that that's what they were feeling, but they would come up to me on the breaks and tell me that that's what was actually happening for them, just like fireworks in the brain.

Aníbal: So rewarding.

Lexi: Really, really rewarding. And another thing that I guess, personally, that's meaningful for me about teaching IFS it’s teaching is an activity that really connects me to my father. My father is a college professor, actually in New York. He's been an educator for many decades now. And he is the most Self-lead teacher that I can imagine. There's a palpable Self-energy surrounding him when he's doing what he loves. So, he loves his students, he loves the material and more than anything, he has a tremendous respect for the role that he gets to be in. As a teacher, as a professor, he grew up, these are his words. He describes himself as a peasant boy. He grew up on the little Island of Lemnos in Greece and he was the son of the village shoemaker. And his father eventually became the village priest, but he, they had no electricity. They had a one room schoolhouse. So, the eight children in their school would share one school book, 30 minutes each, each evening and they had to study fast because once the sun went down, that was it for their studying. So, learning time was so precious. And he came to this country when he was 26, no knowledge of the language, no money, nothing. So, he started by cleaning the bathrooms in the church and singing in the church. And he slowly learned the language and he worked harder than anyone I've ever known. At one point in my childhood, he literally had 15 jobs, my siblings and I wrote them out for him because I don't think he realized how much he was doing, but he eventually got two master's degrees and a doctorate in political science from NYU, from New York university, which blows my mind. It was hard enough to get a PhD in my native language, I don't understand how he did what he did, but so being a professor to him, it just means something so deep. I mean, and you can tell that it's just deeply meaningful for him to be doing this. And I can understand that because even though my journey to becoming a teacher is so different, when I'm doing it, it feels so meaningful to me, my parts give me so much space to be there in a way that's really engaged, really connected, playful, I enjoy it. I love connecting with the participants in the workshops. So, I feel a connection to him and to how much he loves being in this role and offering whatever he has.

Tisha: So, there's really a legacy heirloom that comes up. Yeah, that's really...

Lexi: Yeah, definitely.

Tisha: A beautiful illustration of how that can happen.

Aníbal: Lexi, IFS is also an experiential model, and I'm curious if you, when you teach the model, you also go experiential?

Lexi: That's been actually very tricky for me because when I'm doing these large workshops, I mean, I can have up to 300 people in them. So, it feels very much like a risk for me to do too much of the experiential work in that format in case somebody gets activated. So we'll do a brief, like a 15 minute internal exercise that's designed to help them notice when a part gets activated and what it would be like to notice that and to try to have some interaction with a part, but I keep it pretty light. So, what I do love to do in terms of the experiential, because I think you're absolutely right, there's something so different about cognitively grasping concepts versus experiencing, learning through experience. So, I work individually actually with clinicians and in small groups to help them learn the model through having it done, you know, within their own system.

Aníbal: Is there a particular IFS related topic that is of special interest to you that you'd like to expand on a bit for us today?

Lexi: Actually, yes. I'd love to. One of my favorite topics to teach about is actually the presence of the therapist in IFS therapy. So those of us who practice IFS, we know that the presence that the therapist holds in each session can either really facilitate the client's ability to access their own Self-energy and connect in a healing way with their parts or it can actually interfere with that ability by maybe activating, causing more activation in some of their parts. So, as I talk about this, I do want to make clear that in no way do I want to put all the responsibility on us as clinicians for how much our clients are able to access Self because I think there are a lot of factors and some of them have nothing to do with us that play into whether or not a client can access Self-energy in their sessions. But with all other things being equal, I do think that the presence of the therapist has a significant impact. So, just to be more specific about the piece of this that I'd like to share here, there's something, there's an aspect of our therapeutic presence that I personally like to call the therapeutic dose of empathy. And so, before I give a couple of my ideas on this, I just think it would be best if it's okay with you if I give a little bit of background, just to make sure that everyone who's hearing it can start on the same page.

Aníbal: Yeah, please do that.

Lexi: Just having been trained as an academic, it's very important for me to give credit where credit is due. So, this background that I'm saying comes primarily from two sources. So, the research of Dr. Tania, who's a psychologist and a neuroscientist who studies compassion and empathy. And also, the brilliant mind of Dr. Frank Anderson, you know, most of us know he's a psychiatrist, a senior lead trainer for IFS, and he teaches about, among other things, IFS and neuroscience. So, Frank was actually the first person that I heard start to translate neuroscientific concepts into IFS terms several years ago. And I heard him talking back then about the way that he understands empathy and compassion through an IFS lens, and I found it so helpful. So, to paraphrase Frank here, he says “We can understand empathy in IFS terms as a blended state.” So, when we're feeling empathy for someone else, our parts that hold feelings or hold burdens that are similar to theirs, they're feeling with them in that moment. So, for example, if we're sitting with a client, who's talking about the grief that they're experiencing around losing a parent, and if a part of us holds that same type of unhealed grief, it may get activated such that we are feeling the grief held by our part while the client is feeling the grief held by their parts. So, then we're empathizing. So, Frank sums this up kind of in a funny way, but he says empathy is, you know, I'm feeling mine while you're feeling yours. So, we're feeling with the person, but we're feeling our own material when we're empathizing. And where Tania singer's research comes into play here is, she found that, neurobiologically speaking, empathy and compassion are not only not the same thing, but they actually involve different neurocircuitry. So, when we're empathizing or feeling with someone or in IFS terms, when we are blended with our own parts, that can resonate with the distress of others, there's circuitry involved in feeling pain and negative effect that's actually activated inside of us. So, we're actually suffering to some extent when we're empathizing with someone. So, it's a state that could drain us, it could lead to burnout. But compassion on the other hand is what we can understand in IFS terms as more of the unblended state of Self, it's one of the characteristics of that unblended state. And in that state, you know, we certainly care about our clients and we're engaged with them, and we have that motivation to help them, but we're not in a state of distress or pain as we're sitting with them. And Tanya singer found that in fact, neurocircuitry related to reward is activated. So, there is an aspect of being compassionately present with someone, even when they're in distress, that's rewarding to us on a biological level, which I thought was amazing. So, I have this part, you know, who hears things like this, and it likes to translate everything I hear into IFS terms and figure out, you know, how might this research and the way that Frank translated empathy and compassion into IFS language, how can this help us in practical ways as IFS therapists? So, I'll give you a few of my thoughts on that. So, first, people might be thinking “Well, okay, based on what you just said is empathy a bad thing then? Do I not want to experience empathy when I'm with my clients?” And actually, that's not the case because some degree of empathy has a lot of therapeutic value. It can actually be necessary in therapy. So, in fact, the right dose of empathy seems to enhance the process, you know, in the sense that it can help client parts feel felt and feel deeply understood. So, this applies externally, you know, how much empathy do we as therapists want to have going on and want to be conveying to our clients. But it also applies internally in the sense that when our client is with one of their parts, you know, we know that some degree of separation is necessary in order to form that Self to part relationship, but some degree of blending or empathy is actually really helpful so the part feels felt, and really connected to, and really met in their experience. So here I'm, in the interest of time, I'm just going to talk about the external, the therapist and how much empathy is going on for us and how much we're conveying it. And how do we know, you know, how much empathy would be ideal? Is there some secret ratio of empathy to compassion that would make us maximally effective as therapists?

Aníbal: Yeah. We need both.

Lexi: We need both. Absolutely. We need both. And the question to me is what is the therapeutic dose of empathy? How much do we need? And, you know, I've got a manager that loves to know all these things exactly, you know, and would love to have an answer like, well, it's 80% compassionate and 20% empathy, and then you're at your best. But, you know, this is where we're really talking about the art of psychotherapy, you know, and not, not one size fits all answers or protocol type answers because the level of nuance like with anything else clinically is incredible here. So, I've found that the ideal mix of empathy and compassion since we do need both, but the ideal ratio not only varies from client to client, but also within each client, depending on the part of them we're working with. And also, over the arc of working with that part, it can vary. But since Dick tells us, you know, and it's true that our parts are capable of adjusting the amount that they blend with us in any given moment, we do have the ability to sort of play with that ratio in real time, you know, how much empathizing we're doing internally, how much empathy are we conveying, you know, through our nonverbal and verbal behaviors to our clients. So, that's why in my mind, I was thinking about this concept of the therapeutic dose of empathy, because I believe that in any given therapeutic situation or moment, there's a range of empathy that would facilitate the process and going outside of that on either direction can hinder it. So, I have this series of considerations that I take into account. I have somewhere in the back of my mind when I'm sitting with someone about this, and I do realize that because I'm laying out these considerations, you know, for you in like a list form, kind of a cognitive process, that it can make this sound like a very managerial thing, but that's not actually how it unfolds in the moment. So, fortunately for us, when our parts allow us enough space to be present with our clients from at least a critical mass of Self, we have access to something that is far more powerful than managerial decision-making, which is our intuition, you know, our capacity to be deeply attuned to the person we're with and to all of these subtle energetic shifts and these signals that they're giving off. And we can flow with this in a very fluid way. So, when I'm actually with clients, I'm not often consciously thinking about how to manually adjust my empathy to compassion ratio, it just sort of flows up and down, but it can, I've found, and especially teaching IFS to beginning clinicians, sometimes it can be helpful to break down this concept and have just a few key considerations in the back of our mind in case we actually need in a given moment based on what we're picking up from our client, that's something about our mix isn’t working, in case we need to do a manual adjustment in the moment, which really means to unblend. So, I'm just going to, you know in IFS unblend means get more space if we need to.

So, for me, I've got there about maybe six or so client level considerations that I think about. And one of them that's very significant, I think, is if I'm doing it insight work with a client, they're inside, they're connecting with a part of them. You know, the client has enough access to Self, so that the part they're working with feels really met in their experience, feels really felt by the client's Self, then too much empathy on my part, too much of me feeling and conveying what I'm feeling can actually pull them out of connection. You know, so as Dick says, you know, if our clients are in a tuned connection with their parts and their parts are getting everything they need from them, we need to get out of the way. So, that is one indication to me to unblend a bit just to ask my parts to allow me to stay quiet and just hold Self-energy from them as they do their work. Second consideration is something that Frank offers and he says, think about, is the client physiologically hyper aroused in this moment? Are they panicked or rageful, very keyed up? And if so, we actually want to dial back on the empathy. So, they don't need us to add any of our energy to the mix, either our anxious energy or be overly warm and overly nurturing, because it can actually cause increased activation in their system. So, with these hyper aroused clients, we pull back on the empathy, we ask our parts to give us a little more space so we can be calm and clear and confident, hallmarks of Self. You know, so compassion is there. The third one is also from Frank and it's about clients who are physiologically hypo aroused. So, do they have very low energy, maybe a bit disconnected from their experience? And if so, sometimes it could be helpful to allow a little bit more empathy in, adding a little bit of our energy to the room. Our parts energy can be helpful sometimes here because there's so little of their own energy available. So, it's nice to feel a little resonance with us. For me, the fourth consideration is really important, and it involves working with clients with highly developed caregiver parts. And I work mostly with therapists, nearly all of my clients have these hardworking, really skilled, highly developed caregivers. So, these caregivers are very used to being out front and scanning everyone else to make sure that they're all okay, because if everyone externally is okay, that means their system will be safe. So, since these parts are out front all the time, they may not even know that a greater power exists within the client. So if you finally get one of these caregiver parts to relax back a bit, your client accesses some Self-energy, they're inside, you know, they're working with an exile and you're empathizing too much or in too obvious way where the caregiver starts to sense that something's going on with you, you know, that you're resonating with their system's pain, such that now you're actually in a little bit of distress, they'll pop right out of connection to make sure you're okay because that's how they make sure the system is safe and they're not going to be able to step back and allow the client to take care of their own system in that moment, because now that no longer feel safe to do right now. So especially if I'm with clients who either have highly developed caregiver parts, or other types of hypervigilant protectors who are always scanning and seeing if everything's safe, I want to actually ask for a lot more space in my system to be present more from a compassionate place, more from Self, rather than having that flavoring from my own parts or conveying that too much. And I realize I'm laying these things out as though I'm some sort of expert, but the reason I, the reason I know some about this is because I've learned the hard way a lot of times, you know, where some, some blending on my part or a bit too much empathy on my part has caused reactivity, you know, in protectors, or has broken the connection between the Self and the parts. And I've had to, and I continue to do, you know, a lot of personal work around that. You know, when that happens for me. So, the fifth client level consideration for me involves the issue of systems where too high a dose of empathy on my part might, in some way, unintentionally bypass their protectors and violate the pace of the system in terms of allowing premature access to exiles, meaning access without permission. So, sometimes we only know if this is going to happen through trial and error because I've seen it happen both ways. Sometimes when we offer very heavily protected systems, a dose of empathy, sometimes for the first time, it actually helps them connect with some of the feelings of their exiles in a way that opens the door for future healing. But as I've also seen the opposite to be true. So I've learned to watch for this, for example, some of my clients who have had protectors who keep a very tight lid on their exiles, when I've shown higher dose of empathy, as I'm listening to a protector narrate something in a very disconnected way, when they can see in my eyes or in my body language, that I'm really resonating a bit with what they're saying, and they feel a lot of warm, sometimes the exiles have just stormed the gate. It's trickled all the way down past the protectors, the exiles are getting a sense that someone's here who's really, really connecting with, with what they're feeling. And then it's like the exiles are trying to get past the protectors to me and they want to share their story and they want to attach to me, and the protectors get very upset by this. And the person says things like, I just want to run out of the room, or I don't know if I want to come back for the next session because so much got stirred up within them. And so, from having some things like this happen for me, with clients where maybe, I don't know at first, which way is going to go, and then I see which way it went, and it went this way, I tend to air now on the side of really asking my parts for space across the board when I'm working with systems where the protectors are really, really, really concerned about access to the exiles and flooding, so that I'm coming very much from a lot of whole lot of Self. And I guess the final client-related consideration that I'll say something about is that sometimes where I found it could be helpful to offer a little more empathy is when you're doing Direct Access. So, this is because, by definition, if you're doing Direct Access, the client doesn't have access to Self in that moment. So, the part is blended with them and is not feeling met or feeling felt by their Self. So, since their Self is not available to connect with the part, and you're the Self in the room in that moment, it can really help if the part sees that you don't just understand what they're saying intellectually, but that you actually feel it to some degree as well. You can appreciate it on a visceral level. So, some of your parts energy here can help the part feel met and feel felt by you since their Self isn't available to do it right in that moment.

So, in terms of therapists’ level considerations for, okay, when what might we unblend a bit, when might be we adjust this ratio, it boils down to two questions I think for me. So, one is that I ask myself, right, “Is my level of blending here helping or hindering my ability to facilitate something therapeutic happening in this session?” So if my level of blending is so great that it's obscuring my clarity or my access to my intuition, my ability to be attuned and present with my client, then it is too much, no matter what the client may prefer, it's too much because I'm not helpful. So, I ask for some space there. So that's more relevant to our effectiveness as therapists in the moment. And then there's the other question of, “Is the level of empathy that I'm experiencing so significant that it's negatively impacting me as the therapist, you know, do I feel drained after sessions? Am I dreading sessions because more gets stirred up in me than feels, okay?” So, those are all indications for us as therapists to try unblending. And thinking, you know, there all these considerations, but if we had to go with a general rule, fortunately we have one in IFS, which is that if you're in doubt at all, if you're not sure, unblend, because I can't say that I've ever gone wrong with too much Self onboard or too much compassion, but I absolutely have gone wrong with too much empathy. And so, if, you know, if I'm in a good place and I've got access to my intuition and I'm really attuned to my clients, then that ratio is going to go up and down as needed. I don't need to do much, but if I'm not in that space, as much as I'd like to be, I may have to actually do a manual adjustment and ask for more space from my parts until I can get back in that rhythm.

Anibal: Beautiful.

Tisha: I really appreciate your ability to illustrate the nuances here in the art of being an IFS therapist. I find this incredibly helpful and really appreciate also your enthusiasm about it. A unique topic.

Lexi: Thank you.

Tisha: I'm curious about your, you know, what's going on currently for you with IFS and a little bit about your plans for the future. How would you like things to unfold?

Lexi: That's interesting question, because most of the time I don't really think about how I'd like things to unfold, they seem to just start unfolding and I catch up, but I guess over the past five years what's been happening it's been a natural transition and it's been lovely for me is that my private practice has transitioned to the point where about 80% of my clientele is now made up of clinicians who are interested in what Aníbal was talking about before learning the model experientially through working with their own systems. So, I'm really loving that work and looking forward to continuing that. And at the moment I'm doing that individually, I have some small groups of IFS clinicians who do this sort of experiential consultation, but I have had requests for more consultation groups. So that's something that if I can make the time in my schedule, I would like to do, so I'm going to make that effort, and if those offerings become available, I can post them on my website if someone's interested. I'm continuing to teach my IFS workshops, introductory, and more advanced. I've got some more in progress that have started to form in my mind, so, hopefully by June, I'm going to have the next one out. And then I'm finally, actually in about two weeks Aníbal and I are launching a new podcast called Explorations in Psychotherapy. So, we're going to be exploring all kinds of topics that are relevant to psychotherapy, including IFS, not limited to IFS though. And through interviewing authors of books of articles and engaging in discussions with therapists who are reading really valuable material and integrating it into their clinical practice, into their IFS practice. And that's an entirely new venture for me, one of those examples where I didn't plan it or go looking for it, but it's here, I'm terrified...

Aníbal: Me too.

Lexi: But also, very excited. So, it will be a giant learning curve for me and I'm looking forward to really learning alongside everyone from the people that come to speak with us.

Aníbal: Lexi, I understood you are married to an IFS therapist?

Lexi: Yes.

Aníbal: How is it being married with someone belonging to this community where you can use parts language? And I am asking this from a part feeling some envy...

Lexi:  Oh, I'm telling you it is such a blessing to be able to have someone who does speak the same language, to be able to have someone who can, both of us, we do this for each other, where we can look at whatever's going on for the other person through this non pathologizing lens and through this lens of the natural multiplicity of the mind. So, if one of us is sort of in a part in some way, there is that underlying certainty that their Self is still in there and that it will reemerge as that part unblends and that if we can bring Self to the interaction, that it will facilitate the unblending and we get our partner back faster, and it's been a godsend for being a parent, I've got a 13 year old, almost 14 year old daughter and an almost 11 year old son and being able to view their systems that way it has been incredible. And I know I'm a better parent because of having this perspective and some of the skills that go along with it. So, I'm incredibly grateful.

Aníbal: So, you can use this parts language with your kids as well?

Lexi: I can, I can actually, and sometimes I don't always use it explicitly in terms of referring to parts, but the perspective is underneath everything I'm saying, I don't really know how to explain that much better, but it's whether or not I'm specifically talking about parts with them about them, it's how I'm viewing them and how I'm interacting with them from that place. But I will use parts language with me so that I'm modeling, that so that, you know, when I'm talking about something I'm doing, like they knew I was coming on here today to talk to you and they were asking me about it in the car last night, we were driving home from my office where they do their homeschool, and I was able to talk about, you know, parts of me that were really excited to be here and parts of me that were really scared, because I haven't ever been a guest on a podcast before, you know, and sort of the blend. And they can hear that, and it helps them, I've noticed, think about their own systems that way. So, they can talk about things from reflecting their own natural multiplicity, rather than getting blended with one thing and overwhelmed.

Aníbal: Exactly. Such a gift.

Tisha: It reminds me of your story that you shared with your own mom looking at the bully from a lens of multiplicity.

Lexi: Yeah. And it blows my mind that she did that because she didn't know IFS, she wasn't even trained as a therapist then, she was a music teacher. I mean, this was just who she was naturally...

Aníbal: Amazing.

Lexi: From very young, very curious, very curious person.

Aníbal: So, Lexi, thank you so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha and we hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives.

Lexi: Absolutely. It was wonderful being with both of you and thank you for what you both have done over the past couple of years for the IFS community and beyond. Thank you.

Tisha: You're so welcome. And I just wanted to say for our listeners that might want to do some consulting with you or learn more about you, that you have a website.

Lexi: Thank you. Thank you.

Tisha: We’ll put it on the show notes.


Recorded 26th February 2021
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu

A Talk with Robert Fox on OCD type Parts 40:34

Robert Fox, a therapist in Woburn, Massachusetts, also wishes more people knew about IFS. Diagnosed with obsessive- compulsive disorder at age 21 after a lifetime of unusual compulsions, Robert spent 23 years receiving the standard care: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response  prevention (ERP).

Neither had much effect, especially ERP, which involved repeatedly exposing himself to things he was anxious about in the hopes of gradually habituating to them. “When you think about it, it’s a very painful method of therapy,” he says.

Robert discovered IFS in 2008.Before, he had always been encouraged to think of his compulsions as meaningless pathologies. Now, for the first time, they began making sense to him as the behavior of protectors who were trying to manage the underlying shame and fear of exiles.

( in “Inside the Revolutionary Treatment That Could Change Psychotherapy Forever” July 21,2020. Elemental)

For more info about Robert Fox please visit Rob's website

 

Today on IFS Talks we're speaking with Robert Fox. Robert Fox is a therapist in Woburn, Massachusetts, who wishes more people knew about IFS. Robert was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at age 21 after a lifetime of unusual compulsions. Robert spent 23 years receiving the standard care – cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure response prevention. In 2008, Robert Fox discovered Internal Family Systems therapy. Before, he'd always been encouraged to think of his compulsions as meaningless pathologies. Now, for the first time, they began making sense to him as the behavior of protectors who are trying to manage the underlying shame and fear of exiles. Now, Robert is an IFS level 3 trained and certified and EMDR certified therapist. He's also trained in AEDP. Robert, welcome to IFS Talks and thank you so much for being here with us today.

 

Robert Fox: Thank you. It's great to be here and I appreciate the warm welcome.

 

Aníbal Henriques: Thanks much, Robert, for sitting with us and willing to have such an open conversation. Robert, this bio of yours that Tisha just read, was published in July 2020 on this article called Inside the Revolutionary Treatment That Could Change Psychotherapy Forever. And it also says “After two particularly powerful unburdenings, his symptoms abided by 95% and stayed that way.” And then this article quoting you goes: “OCD used to be almost like kryptonite around my neck when I would have serious flare ups. I feel a lot of freedom and peace and I really owe it to Dick Schwartz and the model. So, Robert, was this symptom reduction of yours really like this article reports?

 

Robert: Well, you know, the humorous thing about OCD is there's a lot of doubts sometimes when OCD is pretty extreme, it's kind of a doubters disease in a way or doubters condition. And when you say that question, it's interesting because I can quickly flashback to “Oh, is that really true? 95% reduction, maybe, maybe it's overstated.” But I do feel really good. I mean, compared to where I was back in, say 2010, it's been an amazing journey and I have to say, yeah, it's pretty good that I'm at this place.

 

Aníbal: Amazing.

 

Robert: And I'm so grateful for it.

 

Aníbal: Beautiful.

 

Tisha: I was wondering if you would share with us what it was like to be diagnosed with OCD and what some of your symptoms were like?

 

Robert: Yeah, so, I was diagnosed as the introduction said at age 21. I had a psychiatrist who actually told me over the telephone when he seemed to have been a little bit frustrated with me, which is understandable because OCD can be so challenging even for very very, you know, experienced therapists. And he was a bit, I think if I'm not mistaken, a little bit frustrated at the time with some of my symptoms. So, at 21 is when I was diagnosed, but I had the symptoms pretty much since I was, as far back as I can remember. A lot of symptoms of needing to confess things to my parents or others due to extreme guilt. The word shame was not part of my vocabulary back then, but I certainly felt it as I now look back on it, for sure. That is a hallmark that I have found in my work with clients with OCD is that it seems to be shame is a very big part of what drives some of the symptoms of OCD.

 

Aníbal: And not so easily seen by those that carry this kind of struggle, right?

 

Robert: Right. I didn't see it myself until one day I was out for a walk with my dog Gizmo around my block, walking around the block with him and I had been to all these lectures about shame and I was walking one day and all of a sudden it was like, it just came to me “Holy, Holy, Holy shit. I carry that shame.” And it was like a dark cloud that was overhead and just kind of followed me wherever I went. And it was actually not an awful thing to realize. That's what had been basically walking around on my back for so long. It was this deep shame.

 

Aníbal: Besides this need to confess things to those around you, what type of obsessions or compulsions have you struggled with?

 

Robert: Well, I had the usual, like a need to hand-wash, need to touch things a certain number of times to feel just right. I remember very much being a little kid, my parents would call me for dinner, and I'd be downstairs needing to touch something so many times to land on an even or odd number or a number of times that I touched something in order to feel enough freedom to move to go upstairs. And until I did that I was left with this sort of aches in my body. So those are pretty typical that are out there in terms of what others suffer from. Yeah.

 

Aníbal: And what has been your lowest moment in your struggle with OCD?

 

Robert: Ah, you know, it's hard to say the lowest because there's so many, but, you know, fortunately that feels in the distant past, but I think when I was riding on a shuttle bus or van to the mall, when I was a patient at a hospital here in Boston -McLean hospital, and I had been in that unit for about five weeks and on the weekends it's a very, it's like a skeleton crew there. And they would take us on these like field trips. And I was sitting on the bus and I just felt very hopeless, like “Wow, how did I get here?” That was probably one of my lowest moments.

 

Aníbal: How old were you back then?

 

Robert: That was a 2010. So, I'm 56 now. So, 40, 46, well 45 years old. Well, one way I was grateful that I was getting treatment. There's so many people who don't have access to treatment, but what made it lower than low was I was actually getting worse even after four or five weeks in the hospital there. And so therefore my hope was fading. I still had some hope, but it felt pretty dismal that I wasn't improving.

 

Aníbal: What kind of treatment where were you having at that time?

 

Robert: I was receiving what was considered sort of the gold standard still in, you know, in terms of evidence-base, which is a type of CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure response prevention, where a person is repeatedly asked to expose themselves to a very unpleasant material. Material that's very triggering for the anxiety. And it's understood that that will happen, that you will habituate to that anxiety after it gets to a certain peak and then it'll start to come down and that can be in the form of behavioral or thoughts. And it's hard. It's hard to watch. There was a young lady in the unit who had a difficulty with feeling contaminated by like things in bathrooms. So, she was asked to rub her hands all over the toilet, the sink all around and then put her hands in her hair and then be with that feeling for a certain amount of time and just sort of habituate to that anxiety. But it's meant to be, it's meant well, the intentions are good, but unfortunately, it's painful work, no doubt.

 

Tisha: It sounds incredibly painful.

 

Robert: Yeah.

 

Tisha: Yeah. Did it ever feel for you like it was supportive?

 

Robert: In the five weeks that I was there, it's strange, but I never did the type of, well, I’m not here to blame people in the unit that had good intentions...

 

Aníbal: Of course.

 

Robert: But my type of issue was called sort of relationship OCD. I obsessed about whether the person I was married to was the right person. And I never really got into that work in that unit. I was just sort of living there. It's strange that I never got to that work, but even when I did an outpatient, I didn't benefit from it, you know, the typical ERP or exposure response.

 

Tisha: So, it sounds like, we're piecing together more of your story and your life experience, it sounds as though it's been something that you've been living with for a really long time. It sounds like it was there when you are young around relationship with parents and then morphed into relationship with your wife or your partner.

 

Robert: Absolutely.

 

Tisha: What was it about growing up that brought these symptoms on? What were some of the circumstances that set the environment for you?

 

Robert: Yeah. I like what Gabor Maté says, you know, he's a person who works with addictions and trauma. There's no benefits of blaming parents, their intentions are always, are usually very good as was my parents. My parents, I know, love me very much. They're still both alive, not knock on wood. I was very attached to them emotionally when I was a kid, a psychiatrist that I saw said we were almost attached at the hip, that we were so close. And being sensitive and being very close to my parents I had tremendous anxiety whenever I would leave their presence like to go to camp for overnight. So, you know, I was so anxious when I was not in their presence that these obsessions and compulsions was probably my way of being able to almost regulate, in some way, the anxiety that was way too much for me when I wasn't in their presence, that was a harsh way for me to regulate, but it was a way for me not to probably be overwhelmed with something going on around me, whether it be the social scene at camp or school and college where freshman year, I was like, remember sitting in the dining hall, my freshman year, feeling overwhelmed with extreme feeling of loneliness frightened out of my mind.

 

Tisha: You're answering it so beautifully and I also appreciate like the parts language in there of understanding the purposefulness of what the OCD was doing, you know, and how helpful might have been early on to have that functionality of the parts that were checking as part of your language and part of the understanding.

 

Robert: I never knew that's what the OCD was doing. I never realized how much of my feelings were dissociated in a way from...you know, I was definitely anxious. I knew that, but I didn't know that the OCD was a way that my body was trying to help me get through

 

Aníbal: Ok, makes sense. Tell us, Robert, how did IFS help your OCD?

 

Robert: Well, after that hospitalization, I was, as you can imagine, in a pretty, pretty dark place. I came out of the hospital due to my insurance running out, but I actually was glad at that point to not be there anymore because I was getting worse and worse. Again, I'm not here to blame the hospital. I just, I was in a rough spot when I left. So, I was actually, I had already done Level 1 of IFS training and it was in Level 2 that I really struggled. And it was during that Level 2 training of IFS that Dick Schwartz did a demo with me, which is not uncommon in trainings. And I was so desperate for some healing and I already knew Dick by then that I could trust the process. So, we did this unburdening where this load of emotion came out. That was transformative, as you all know, because you all been through these. So, you know what it's like, I remember going out that night with my friend who had come to visit me in the hospital and I just felt so lighter in just that one demo and unburdening, I knew I had a lot more to do still, but I already was on my way, like something there clicked. And it was like, you know, like the sun was coming up again, you know,

 

Tisha: Are you open to sharing what the exile was carrying or what it was that got unburdened there?

 

Robert: It's interesting, as you say that I can feel in the back of my neck, this tingling, because it's still very powerful just that one time. I was dating someone who I couldn't decide whether to stay with or not at the time. No, it wasn't during the training. It was that the demo I did with Dick Schwartz was about what I carry from dating someone years ago. And you know, that was the theme. I couldn't decide whether to stay with her or not this girlfriend. And I carried a lot of anger, particularly at my dad who in the best way, or his intentions were good and that he said “If you don't stay with this young woman, then you can't come home.” I was, at that time, the time I was dating this young woman living with my parents. And he said, “You cannot come home and live with us anymore. You won't be welcomed.” And that statement from a father would have been so loving, hit me like a ton of bricks. And I remember in the demo yelling out something, all this anger, because I'm a fairly soft-spoken person. I don't usually get angry. And I was able to express that anger, which really was a protector of a terrible fear that my father was dumping me as a son basically. And that anger was protecting that awful feeling. And I had held that in my body for so long, that anger. And when I was able to unburden that exile of I'm shameful or something for having not done what he told me to do, which is stay with her...That's the feeling I had, it was like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. And I remember Dick said “Are you open to looking around the room?” This was in the demo and seeing the faces of your peers. And I remember almost like I wanted to look through my fingers so I wouldn't see all their faces because I was worried that they would be looking back at me with shame. And instead I saw, just what I'm seeing right now, your two faces with this big glowing smiles. And it was the most, it was the most powerful sense of love that it gives me tingles right now because that shame was being unburdened. And that's when I knew I was onto something, well, Dick was onto something...

 

Aníbal: You both.

 

Robert: Or the group that, the energy of the room again, you know how it is. It's just unbelievable.

 

Aníbal: I know. Yeah.

 

Robert, this relates with what you say. You say that “when emotions are suppressed, particularly anger, these emotions find themselves attached to a compulsion.” Can you say more about this that you just illustrated so well?

 

Robert: Yeah, I didn't quite really realized this until about a year ago. I believe it, or two years ago I was working with some clients with OCD and I came to this realization that when I had the physical compulsion to like put things in a certain place, like sweaters, it brought me back to an argument I was having with my wife where I didn't feel heard or understood by her. I actually felt like I was being dissed and she just walked away. And I had this urge to redo what at the time I was arguing with her, I was putting things in my closet and I had this urge to straighten them out again. Almost like my anger was stuck in these clothes and having straightened it out. And it was like, I had taken that anger that I didn't allow myself to seal and almost transferred it to an obsession or compulsion. It was a protector, because I was afraid of my anger. I was afraid that that made me bad, which is a common theme for a lot of my clients, that they're bad. And would it be like if they were bad or I was bad, which is really a definition of shame, that I'm bad. So, when I talked to some of my clients, now I say, I asked them “Do you feel that you're bad?” It's a very important question. Anyway, I know I'm rambling a bit, but...

 

Tisha: Oh no, that's, it's very clear. We know that in your work that you work with clients who also struggle with addiction and you have noted that there's similarities to OCD. And, you know, I'm appreciating the, as you're describing, the way of working with the sweaters to transmute the anger that...I'm just appreciating the sophistication of the protectors. And so, I'm curious about your observation of the similarities between addiction and OCD.

 

Robert: Well, first of all, a lot of clients with addictions, whether it be chemical or behavioral carry shame as well. And there's a feeling of, with OCD of not being able to stop something that you're doing, even though there's a rational part of the brain that says “I know that this is excessive. I know that what I'm doing is out of the ordinary, but I can't stop.” So that's why addiction work felt in some ways, very similar. While drugs and alcohol or gambling and things like that weren't my vice, I still had a compulsion to do something, which I never realized was trying to, in a way, help me. I always thought of it as it's just a problem that I need to get rid of. And that's one of the wonderful benefits of IFS is that when we look at these firefighters, as we call them, behaviors, if we look at them in a new way with compassion and curiosity, rather than something that we need to get rid of, it's understandable we want to get rid of them, they're causing us problems, but we need to open in a way, if we can do it with the help of a therapist, to how these parts are trying to help us as I do with people with addictions, whether it be heroin, alcohol, most people say “I hate that part of me, or I hate that I can't stop.” But if we get curious about it and we show, you know, we help these clients see how that part's trying to help and help those parts become more moderate rather than extreme, then things start to happen.

 

Aníbal: Yeah. Beautiful.

 

Robert, you say also that OCD clients will do anything to avoid an intrusion. And you say intrusions may mimic intrusive thoughts from parents. Can you say more about this?

 

Robert: Yeah. Some of these things have come to me just only in the last year or two, believe it or not. Intrusions are debilitating for clients with OCD, as well as myself. They have been. Intrusions for me were often thoughts, like “What if I can't? What if I'm not good enough? What if, what if I'm inept as a therapist? What if I'm shameful?” One such intrusion happened after I had a panic attack in 2010, when my OCD hit a head, I had a panic attack in front of a couple. And from that point on, I thought “What if I can never focus again because I'm so worried about having it happen again?” And what Dick taught me was, if you don't fear the part - was the statement - If you don't fear the part and one has to fill in what the part is, then it can't hurt you. And for me, the part was shame. If you don't fear that you're shameful or that I am shameful. If I don't fear that, then that doesn't own me. It doesn't run my life. So, you asked about intrusions, one such intrusion was “What if I am not good enough? What if I'm, what if I have another panic attack and someone sees that and judges me?” So, in a way it's kind of like going back to exposure therapy. “What if I accept that if I make mistakes, what if I do have a panic attack?” And I learned to almost say “So what? I'm still a decent person. I may even be still a decent therapist.” So, intrusions, if we almost start to not fear them, then they don't run our lives. Now, my parents, a