Legacy Burdens and Heirlooms: a Talk with Osnat Arbel
Osnat Arbel, grew up in Israel. She began her journey in the helping profession during her military service as a social work officer and by now has over 3 decades of experience in psychotherapy.
Ossi has completed her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy, at the University of Northern Colorado, focusing on mindfulness and existential/humanistic therapy approaches.
She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an AAMFT Clinical Fellow & Approved Supervisor. She is also a Certified Marriage and Family Therapist & a Supervisor at the Israeli Association for MFT.
Her passion and calling is in teaching, supervising, and mentoring therapists-in-training both in the academia world in Israel and the US and now mostly through training participants in the IFS model.
Ossi is a Certified IFS Therapist and Supervisor, and a Senior Lead Trainer for the IFS Institute. She is the co founder and co director of the Israeli institute for IFS.
She brings her passion and enthusiasm to leading and facilitating Level 1 and Level 2 trainings, workshops, and seminars. Altogether, she has been teaching, training, supervising and mentoring hundreds of students in Israel and around the world and has been dedicating her professional and personal growth to the IFS model.
Ossi is also offering a "Legacy Meditation - Our Burdens an Herlooms". Thanks much Ossi!
Today on IFS talks we're speaking with Osnat Arbel. Osnat or Ossi, as she is affectionately known, grew up in Israel. She has a PhD in counselor education and supervision with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy. Ossi is a certified marriage and family therapist and supervisor at the Israeli Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Ossi is a certified IFS therapist and supervisor and a senior lead trainer for the IFS Institute. She's the co-founder and co-director of the Israeli Institute for IFS. She brings her passion and enthusiasm to leading and facilitating Level 1 and level 2 trainings, workshops and seminars. Altogether, she's been teaching, training, supervising and mentoring hundreds of students in Israel and around the world. And Ossi has dedicated her professional and personal growth to the IFS model. Ossi, thank you so much for being here on IFS talks. Welcome.
Osnat Arbel: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Aníbal Henriques: Thank you, Ossi, for sitting with us. How is it for you to hear this bio? What parts come up?
Ossi: The little girl in me says "You go girl". And the me who is not a part, you know, I, I am saying that it really feels good to serve a purpose and to bring my passion and my calling, my inner mission, and altogether do something that I love and something that I'm really good at. And something that the world needs, to serve a cause. Really feels good.
Tisha: Ossi, will you tell us about your journey to becoming a psychotherapist and specifically marriage and family therapy.
Ossi: Yeah. I began my journey in the helping profession during my military service and I served back then, it was almost 37....Well, it was 37 years ago. A long time ago. I served as a social work officer taking care of soldiers, officers at a certain area. And after the military, I majored in psychology and became a high school counselor. So, I worked with junior and senior high school students. And since I was always very systemic in my thinking, I kept saying how I need to work with their parents, how it's not enough working with them. And so, then we relocated to the US and I could really fulfill my dream of getting a master's in marriage and family therapy because in Israel, marriage and family therapy is not a distinct academic discipline. It's part of social work and other disciplines. And I really wanted to focus on that because I held such a strong systemic view. I think I may say that throughout my life from a very young age, I was very, very systemic, always remembering myself, actually, you know, being a little girl looking at who said what to whom and who did it impact and how did it impact everyone involved and what kind of ripple effects did it have on the entire system. And so, I really got to do that and that was really a blessing. That was a blessing to be able to do that. So, I did my masters in marriage and family therapy and then I did my PhD later on in counselor education supervision and in marriage and family therapy.
Tisha: And when did IFS find you or how did you come across it?
Ossi: Yeah, so throughout my school years in every program, I also did a... actually, I had a parts party at some point, and I made a commitment and did an MBA as well. So, in all the programs that I was in, I was really kind of a junkie for models. And I really resonated with different models in a very deep way and kind of explored them more than just having, kind of looking at the model itself and having a skill set or a tool set. It was more looking for what I called my way, like a precise way of doing the work that I want to do that will correspond with who I am and with my personal philosophy, like on different aspects, like how would you define good versus evil or freewill versus no free will and all that. And it was really like a very internal journey to arrive at a certain model and to correspond with it and to identify with it. And, so through my own professional development, I kind of went through several models. I remember me as a young counselor using CBT and then later on, I discovered the postmodern approaches and really loved how the non-expert stance is used and manifested. And then on, I focused on mindfulness and existential humanistic therapy approaches, and then, kind of got into Jungian and Psychodynamic Archetypal work while I was facilitating, facilitating dreamwork circles. So, throughout all those, I was kind of looking at models that would integrate everything that I value and I had a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And I really wanted to find that model that would integrate the best of everything. And then I was introduced to IFS and I got to meet Dick and got to train with him and was thrilled, really thrilled to find the exact container that will hold all the ingredients that were important to me. And once I found IFS, it really became a lens, a suit, like a way of life and a way of being. I really resonated with it in so many ways, with the multiplicity, with the systemic point of view. It encompassed everything and I really have a deep gratitude towards Dick and towards the beauty and the richness he brought to my life. You sometimes think that, you know, kind of think back and look at the people that are most influential in your life and Dick has absolutely been one major person that I can attribute this to and I'm full of gratitude for that. So, going back to the reaction towards my bio, that I've heard you, Tisha, reading, you know, there is a very old wise voice inside of me that reminds me, you know, "If you've seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." So, you know, all that has been made possible with the support of many beautiful people and many great mentors. And I have a gift for finding and connecting with really outstanding mentors throughout my life. And it's always seemed to be a mutually valuable, and it's really, really moving, really moving.
Aníbal: And what is this wisdom about?
Ossi: This is like a voice of clarity, of connectedness. Some kind of precise knowing. I call it truth. Sometimes we're seeking the truth, but that's not It. It is being in truth. Knowing that all that I do does not really strictly belong to me. It is with me, it moves through me, but it's not mine. And it took me some years to shed some layers that restricted me from accessing this inner knowing, you know, unloading some burdens, trusting this inner knowing. And it really goes back to our model because this is a constraint release model. And once those constraints are unloaded, one gets access to this inner knowing. And I'm pretty certain that this inner wisdom can be named as a Legacy Heirloom that I was able to own.
Tisha: So today, I know you have many areas of expertise, Ossi, but today we were going to dive into the topic of Legacy Heirlooms. Can you start us off by letting us know what in your eyes or in your experience a Legacy Heirloom is?
Ossi: Yeah. So perhaps I'll take a few moments to distinguish, first of all, between burdens and heirlooms. So, in terms of burdens, everyone that probably listens to this podcast and knows IFS, knows that their parts are carrying burdens and there are personal burdens and there are legacy burdens. And personal burdens are those beliefs, those emotions, sensations or energies that are a result of a traumatic memory that the part holds and personal burdens can be something like I'm unworthy or I don't deserve, or I'm unlovable and they're developed in response to experiences, to traumatic experience experiences we've endured firsthand. But they're not necessarily the memory itself. It is more of the charge that is attached to the memory. So, then when we unburdened the part from its burdens, the memories stay in the system, but in a more neutral way, like, you know, less charged and the more charge there is to the memory, the more unburdening will maybe be needed to free the part to its original form or to what it was meant to be in the first place, what it was born to be. So, you know, we distinguish between memories and burdens and between parts and their burdens. And Dick says something that I love, I love hearing, I love saying that as well "You are not your parts and your parts are not your burdens."
Ossi: Yeah. He calls it one of the laws of inner physics. And Legacy Burdens are also burdens like beliefs, emotions, sensations or energy charges that are not necessarily from our own life experience, but are passed through a certain ancestral line, from one generation to the next. And it can also be passed through cultural, through our culture at large or through certain subgroup and not necessarily through a lineage. So, what it really means is that certain beliefs come from the experience of someone else. Ann Sinko wrote a chapter on it. And it really beautifully explains and gives a beautiful description of this.
Aníbal: So, what is a Legacy Heirloom and how do they differentiate from Legacy Gift somehow?
Ossi: Yeah. So, it would be...Legacy Heirlooms are the Legacy Gifts. You know, I would call that a blessing in disguise. There would be, you know, if the Legacy Burdens are the beliefs, feelings, or sensations or energies that are passed from one generation to the next, held by our parts then, and they didn't originate from our own experience, then the Legacy Heirlooms or gifts or assets, right? Initially we called them, in our experience, when we kind of looked at it in our work in Israel, we called them Legacy Assets and they are comprised of, we would say aspects of Self or Self essences that are really innate and often inherited from our ancestors, but they're really are disguised, they're crusted by the Legacy Burdens. And they are really a fundamental part of the Legacy Burden, but they're obscured and, or they're hidden because our parts are loaded with burdens. So, we don't really get to identify them that easily. But they're really important.
Tisha: Ossi, will you share with us how you arrive at the Legacy Heirlooms when working with clients or within your own system?
Ossi: Yeah. So, first of all, I'd like to really highlight two ways of addressing Legacy Heirlooms in therapy. One would be through like the regular protocol of work when we work with a part in the system and we come to learn that this part is holding a Legacy Burden. And I'll explain that in a moment. And the other way of addressing Legacy Heirlooms is actually through using Legacy Burden work as a Trailhead. So, I can give an example from my own healing process regarding the first example of just working with the protocol and kind of learning that "Oh, this part is holding a Legacy Burden." I want to share that actually my first unburdening ever was a legacy unburdening and it happened in my own Level 1. At the time I have struggled with the intense need and I'm kind of emphasizing the word need to go back to Israel. Like it wasn't a dream. It wasn't a vision. It was like a very intense need. And at the time we lived in Colorado for over 10 years then, and our original relocation timeframe was for two years only. So, it really, it was time, was about time, my daughter just entered high school and it felt like it's now or never. And so, the Trailhead was needing to return to Israel, and it was, it wasn't only a calling to go back home. Came again, with that intensity. And then, I came to learn that this part held really the entire future of the Jewish people, like entire future of the Jewish people on his shoulders. And if I will not return to Israel now, and that's what the part said, there won't be a later chance. And that's really how parts see things. See things in black and white, there is no perspective. And then, you know, this part went on saying that my children will probably marry outside of the Jewish religion and then some parts were really supportive and gave some statistics about that and how, how it's very probable that it would happen. And by asking the part, where did it get its messages from, it was really apparent that this part was holding a legacy of years in the diaspora, of the Jewish religion in the diaspora. And that message, of course, did not originate from my own life only. It was something that was very much a, a cultural or...Yeah, a cultural burden, I would say. So, the next very important question was “Why does this part feel that it needed to carry, that it needs to carry this message or this belief?” And the answer that this part gave related to a larger responsibility towards the group. So, I was asked "Is this part willing to let go of the burdens it is carrying?" And the answer was "No." It was really reluctant to do that. And, in fact, this is what we encounter in most of our work with Legacy Burdens in Israel. So, when the part was asked, what is it afraid it would happen if it were to let go of its burdens. It said that those burdens are a source of connection, a source of belonging, a source of community, identity, and it doesn't want to let go of all those and it is afraid that by letting go of all those burdens it will lose its identity. It will be unloyal to my family or to my ethnicity, or...And this is really, again, this is really common to hear that from parts that hold Legacy Burdens, especially what we hear in Israel, a lot of the work relates to unsafety, to years being persecuted to the Holocaust. You know, when parts hold the belief that Legacy Burden is the only way to stay connected to someone important or to something important and there is no other way to experience connection, to experience relatedness, meaning, but to be carrying this joint burden together, then it is really kind of showing how the parts are holding this "I need to do it or else I'll die." Something that intense, that type of fear. And that's nothing close to perspective. You know, we do know that parts, when they're burdened, they don't hold perspective. So, through my, you know, my work with clients, through the experience that I've had, it was apparent that there was something there that we named assets or heirlooms, or the gifts to the legacy that the part holds. So, if we could separate the heirlooms from the burdens and invite the client to cherish, to embody, to be one with, to breathe into, to own those heirlooms, thrive of them, allow them to blossom and to let go of their burdens, to unload them, to unburden them, those burdens that are associated with the legacy, then the part would be able to transform and the person can manifest the connection that they always wanted, the love, the belonging, all the aspects of Self that they were hoping for and yearning in a whole different way. And that heirloom is part of their repertoire. It's not something that they need to make up. It's just something that they are invited to discover and to differentiate. And this provided hope to the parts and their reluctance really dissolved easily. And the first fear of feeling the emptiness, and if they would let go of the Legacy Burden was replaced by a deep sense of hope and meaning and that was really a beautiful addition and a beautiful depth to the work that was allowed by identifying those heirlooms. So, this is an example, when you almost stumble upon a Legacy Burden and kind of get to discover Legacy Heirloom when the part is reluctant to let go of the burden, and you realize that there's a deeper yearning there, and you can also address the Legacy Heirloom before inviting the part to invite qualities. So, before the unburdening. It would really be important that you would differentiate between the two before the unburdening. Otherwise at times, many times, unburdening is impossible, because the part is reluctant to do that. But also, later on, you can invite the client to invite qualities and those qualities many times are helping the client to continue to embody those heirlooms. So, you know, clients would invite courage or connection or confidence to be able to continue to really blossom on those heirlooms.
Aníbal: So interesting. So, what would be the other way of addressing Legacy Heirlooms? You mentioned it's through addressing it as a trailhead.
Ossi: Yeah. So, there's, you know, there is another way. Let's say a client comes in to therapy to explore a Legacy Burden, to explore an issue that has been part of their family or a heritage or something that is very uncomfortable to them in a cultural sense or in a larger sense. And they're struggling with that. And their system is characterized by parts that are either holding, right, identifying with some inherited beliefs, those beliefs that are transferred through the ancestral line or through a specific subgroup or culture and there are parts that are reacting to those beliefs in opposite ways. So, that's polarization, right? That's what we know of in IFS, we call polarization. So, in my trainings, when I'm leading the day that focuses on Legacy Burdens, I often begin the day, even before the meditation, with a game I call Things my parents said, and my parts heard. So, perhaps you've been experiencing those because we've done some nice PAing together.
Aníbal: Yes, we did.
Ossi: This game is actually something to allow that energy of those messages to just come through and people get inspired by it and actually resonate or add their own and so we brainstorm messages that are heard by our parts from our parents or from the outside world from very important figures like teachers, rabbis, you know, priests, or, you know, community leaders and each person selects that message that touches them in a deepest way possible. And then through a guided meditation that I do in those training days, I invite them to find the parts that are playing a certain role related to this message. And mainly we're looking for the parts that are holding a polarized position regarding the message in both directions.
Tisha: Ossi, can you give us some example of how this may look?
Ossi: Sure. So, I can give you an example from my own system, for my own healing process. So, as a young adult, you know, at the age of high school, or later on, it was after my military service, I was really looking for my professional direction. And I, as my parts recall, I heard a very loud and clear message from my parents "You should be a teacher. It's a good occupation for a mother, for mothers." And my parents grew up in a traditional home, you know, it's like a traditional background and they adhere to traditional gender stereotypes in many areas of their lives. And that includes also, not only their profession, but also out, you know, outside of professional choice, outside of a career choice. My father was a military technical officer until he retired. My mother was a teacher until she retired, you know, and they held the beliefs about what a good mother should be doing or should be working at. But this message was really very strongly rejected by my rebellious parts So, if we take a look at this from an IFS perspective, there are protectors that are being organized around a certain burden, of an exile, and their attempt is to avoid feeling the pain of the burden, right? So, there are actually, it's not only that I've had a strong rejection to this message, but I actually had a polarization around this message. So, there were two main groups of protectors that were organized around that burdened exile and they were polarized with each other. So, one group of parts says it is really important for me to be a nurturing mother, a mother that has the capacity to be with her children and support and foster their development and have free time and be with them in the summer. And this group of parts says "Your choices and your availability will impact the way you are able to care for your children." So, that group of parts is really resonating with that message. And there's another group that says, well, you can not comply with gender stereotypes and complying with gender stereotypes or gender stereotypes is accepting and contributing to the glass ceiling that you're rejecting at your core. And this group is also saying that, you know, I'm powerful and I can do anything that I want and nurturing and supporting my children is not only my sole responsibility, it's a mutual responsibility of both parents, father, and mother and that group of parts is denying this message. So, we have both group of protectors that are trying to fill a protective strategy around the Legacy Burden. And the Legacy Burden is women's priority is to be a mother and the professional choice should take that aspect into account.
Tisha: So, as you uncover this polarity, Ossi, how do you identify the exile underneath?
Ossi: So, yeah, when we look at the exile that is underneath those two groups, you know, that specific exile that was there was holding a message or a feeling or a belief that she's not good enough, and she's not a good enough mother. And we would, or she would not be a good enough mother. And being a good enough mother would depend on her career choice. And this is...very often we will find that exiles hold this kind of a stretch between be concerned with holding safety and security and attachment versus wanting to express themselves in authenticity, to find meaning, to find freedom and it was exactly, you know, the case. That exile was really holding those two yearnings, one would be to have that attachment to my future children and the other one to also find meaning. And those two group of protectors were really arranging themselves around that exile. So, you know, if we take a look at that Legacy Burden of good mothers choose to be teachers, that's the message as a Trailhead and we take a look at, you know, this beautiful woman, my mother, and if we unburden the intensity around being a good mother and unburden the cultural message that women are the only ones responsible for the safety and nurturance of children, if we unburden the beliefs that being in a teaching profession is all about being a mother or opposite, being a mother is all about being a teacher, if we unburden the charge around how it is to grow up in a traditional family with gender restriction role, restricted roles in the home and outside of the home, we arrive at the Legacy Heirloom, the Self essences, the assets, and those were a big part of that message, but they were obscured. They were ensnared and caught by the protective mechanism of both of my mother's protectors and my own protectors, because the protectors organize around burdens in an attempt to avoid feeling the pain of the exile and that's when the heirlooms maybe missed.
Aníbal: So interesting, Ossi. So, what is the essence of that Heirloom that you did receive or find?
Ossi: So, really, it's about the essence of teaching. It's about the essence of mentoring, of guiding others, of connecting with others, of allowing them to blossom, to grow. And that has been passed to me as well, but it was completely covered with a certain message that was burdened. And that burdened message was loaded with fear of me getting hurt, of my mother's own experience of being vulnerable and overstretched while, you know, juggling career and home and raising children, by the hardship of attempting to break the limits set by gender, by the pain of, you know, adhering to gender restrictions, but the essence of teaching, the Legacy Heirloom of being, or having the soul of the teacher when I was able to unblend it from the Legacy Burdens, I was able to honor that, to celebrate that and to embody that and to arrive at, actually, at what I was hoping for. So, you know, Legacy Burdens can be released, and heirlooms can be embodied, can be celebrated. And the beauty of that work is that after the polarized parts and the exile underneath are unburdened, there can be a choice in the system, whereas with Legacy Burdens, our parts are carrying the energy of burdens, of a burden without having the choice. So, here there can be a choice about what part of the message do I want to adopt and what part I chose not to adopt and discharging the reactivity around it. So, we're really sending healing to the collective, to the ancestral line, to the wider circles, to the larger culture. And we know this work is really changing our nervous system and changing our brain. So, all in all, this is really a very precious work. So, this is how we would work with Legacy Burdens as trailheads. And this is really a highly significant work because at times, Legacy Burdens are kind of obscuring the heirlooms and can prevent a person actually from fulfilling a life calling or drive a person to make decisions based on burdened parts rather than on Self and that's never, you know, a good direction. Had I given into this Legacy Burden or gotten a different, made a different decision based on the Legacy Burden, based on some point in this polarization, I wouldn't say that I could, that I have fulfilled my calling because that would have been just adhering to a burdened part rather than really getting into the essence of the message, the essence of the asset, the essence of the heirloom, and allowing me to get the real gift that is, that was underneath all the fears, all the restrictions, all the burdens.
Tisha: Ossi, this is just such a fascinating topic. And there's so much richness here. It makes me think a lot about how different cultures honor the ancestral gifts in different ways. And I can see how in many cultures, especially in America, we have a lot of disconnection from our ancestral heritage and these gifts, these heirlooms...You've worked teaching people from all over the world, are you noticing or learning that there are certain cultures that are connected to these gifts as a part of their culture? This is something that you're bringing to everyone by nominating the heirlooms, but do people...Are there certain cultures that are doing it well?
Ossi: You know, I think we're in a new age, in a new era and we are cherishing and coming back and are willing to and are maybe even able to give that respect to those gifts. You know, Dick and Deran Young are doing a summit, an Heirloom Summit very soon in October, sorry, in February. And this is something that will, that of course would, you know, no doubt will have an impact on many, many people. Jung talked about the collective unconscious. We all talk about collective unburdening. And so, honoring those gifts is maybe more related to Eastern and to shamanistic cultures. But I think we're, you know, with the mindfulness gift that we're, that we can see as a trend with the many ceremonial aspects in therapy, we are definitely giving that a big place or a new place or a renewed place and that is really a message of hope.
Aníbal: Ossi, in what other ways have you been able to embody Legacy Heirlooms?
Ossi: So, yeah. So, as I continued to unburden, to work with my system, to do the work that my parts are hoping for, are yearning for, seeking, I've learned and I continue to learn to listen to my intuition, to my inner wisdom, to my inner voice. So, some of the messages I've heard over the years, we're actually going against this inner voice, this inner wisdom or inner intuition. And it's not only about our, my upbringing. It is, it is also all around us. Mainstream psychology is looking for evidence-based, that's really important. That's really significant for a model to be accepted that way, to be accepted by a larger...by the institutions, by the mainstream. But as I am looking into my own parts, my own inner messages, as I'm able more and more to unblend from parts that are untrusting inner knowing, untrusting inner wisdom, doubting it's, being skeptical about it, this inner clarity appears and makes much sense and through that, I can bring more gifts to the world around me and to my, you know, to my own system. And, you know, one of those examples is a very strong teaching and experiential piece I did in Level 2 around Self-like parts, which I would love to share in the future. It was almost like being channeled or channeling something that was beyond my wisdom that was beyond me and it just became very clear, it became very structured and it came out and it is something that is definitely benefiting and can benefit others. So, it's more about listening inside and trusting my inner voice, my inner wisdom and relaxing, calming down those doubtful, those skeptical parts, those parts that need some kind of proof.
Aníbal: Yeah. Beautiful, well said. So, Ossi, thank you so much for bringing such an interesting topic on Legacy Burdens and Heirlooms, and for offering our listeners a meditation on this topic as well.
Ossi: Yeah, thank you.
Aníbal: We are running out of time for this episode, but I want to remember a beautiful piece of work you did on Legacy Burdens in our Level 2 in London with this amazing participant from Germany, married to an English man and living in the UK. And the problem she wanted to be addressed for this demo was the humiliation she was suffering every November in the UK media, during the remembrance holiday, when she felt all Germans were pictured as Nazis and aggressors. And she went through a beautiful Legacy Unburdening throughout many generations from her grand grandfathers to their children and grandchildren. Such a beautiful work you did together on such a difficult and traumatic event, the World Wars. And it was so amazing that the Jewish therapist was guiding a German client burdened with Nazi ancestors and the world war collective trauma. So, I just wanted to share these with you and to say that was one of the most beautiful demos I have ever seen.
Ossi: Thank you. Yeah. Thank you. That is a gift actually, to be able to be there for those healing processes. And I don't think that it was by a coincidence. I believe that there needed to be my involvement or, you know, it was a calling for me to be there. And it was really something that has impacted me and gives me hope, gives me hope for future Legacy Burdens to be unburdened and Heirlooms to be cherished and celebrated.
Tisha: If listeners would like to find out more about you, Ossi, or find about your future teachings, how can you be contacted and known?
Ossi: Yeah. Thank you. I have a Facebook page called Osnat Arbel PhD LMFT, and I have a website called osnatarbel.com that is not as much up and running as I would like it to be, but it's very basic so they can contact me through there, they can write me an email email@example.com. And I would like to refer our listeners to a workshop organized by Michael Pasterski in Life Architect, focusing on Legacy Burdens and Heirlooms, and it'll take place in February. And we would love to see you there.
Aníbal: So again, it was a joy to be here with you and Tisha, and I hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives.
Ossi: Thank you. Thank you, Aníbal.
Tisha: Thank you, Ossi.
Ossi: Thank you, Tisha. Thank you.
Recorded 2nd January 2021
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu