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.

Share this post

Full Transcription

Today on IFS talks, we are speaking with Michael Elkin. Michael Elkin is an IFS senior lead trainer, who has been involved with the model since 1995. He's been a popular presenter Conducting scores of trainings and workshops throughout the US and Europe and has taught level 1 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 in IFS treatment. He's the author of Families Under the Influence and several other articles.

Mike has just started co-leading an IFS level 2 on Depression, Anxiety and Shame with Ann Sinko. He also has a private practice in marriage, family and individual therapy and is focused on training therapists in the Internal Family Systems model, which Mike believes is the most flexible, powerful and humane tool for healing available. Michael Elkin also specializes in high conflict, couples’ phobias, somatic issues, aftermath of trauma, addiction, eating disorders and cynicism. He has a wealth of knowledge and we are so happy to have him here with us on IFS talks today. Thank you, Mike. 

Michael Elkin: It's a pleasure to be here.
Aníbal Henriques: Mike, thanks for sitting with us. We really, really appreciate it. How is it for you to hear this bio? What parts come up? 

Mike: It's interesting, when I hear that kind of thing about me, I tend to dissociate a little bit. Because it either puffs up parts of me or embarrasses parts of me, so I just sort of drift off until it's over. It's the best and most descriptive bio, though, that I've had read of me, and I think you were responsible for putting it together.

Aníbal: Glad you enjoyed it. Mike, could you please tell us a bit more about your journey into the mental health profession? Was there something in your personal life that was determinant for you becoming a psychotherapist?

Mike: Well, it's very...It's odd because in the 1960s, if you had been a drug addict, you were considered to be qualified to do psychotherapy. Because it was then the...sort of middle to late 60s that drugs and hard drugs migrated from the neighborhoods with people with unfashionable complexions to the places where parents were organized and voting and could make noise, and it was discovered that psychiatry and the sort of the whole health profession was helpless against addiction. They had no idea how to deal with it.

And the only approaches that seem to show any promise were run by ex addicts. The 12 Steps programs, AA and all those, which defined addiction as a disease. And therefore, the people suffering from it were not condemned as being morally deficient but suffering from an illness. And the concept houses which were punitive or fascistic, exploitative sort of residential programs that basically took addicts and would humiliate them, sexually exploit them, and helped them to understand that their only hope for existence was to stay there for the rest of their lives.

Which was much more popular with the establishment because it was punitive and people were very...would project the parts of them that were addicted, the parts of them that couldn't discipline themselves on those bad addicts. And no punishment was considered to be too harsh for addiction. 

Actually, when I was an adolescent, I had sort of decided I was going to become a black jazz musician and I did my best given the circumstance, whereas I had sort of limited talent in both areas. But through a series of, you know, it's a long story, but I wound up going to college with a credential of having been addicted to heroin. I essentially got over it by getting addicted to martial arts instead. 

Aníbal: Wow, beautiful. 

Mike: So, I wound up working in one of these concept houses. It only lasted a couple of weeks because even at my very primitive state of development, I realized that it was just a horrible place and I couldn't be part of it.

But once I had been there, I had been given a tip to apply somewhere else and started working in a residential treatment center for adolescents, many of whom were drug involved, and turned out the clinical director there thought I was a talent. And encouraged me and introduced me to some mentors and I began to be a therapist. I got trained in family therapy. I went to the Boston Family Institute for two years and I was asked to join the faculty after I graduated. And I read a book by Jay Haley called Strategies of Psychotherapy.

Aníbal: That one.

Mike: And I realized I wasn't just a two-bit cool hustler, using essentially poolroom tricks on drug addicts, I was a strategic psychotherapist.

And that book made me take myself seriously as a therapist and also Jay Haley introduced me to the work of Milton Erickson, and I got fascinated with Eriksson's work, but I still didn't take myself seriously enough to go to Phoenix and study directly with Eriksson's. So, I studied with most of his mostly proteges, primarily a psychologist named Jo Barber, was very interested in pain. 

Aníbal: Mike, in such a good company. So, you were a family and strategic therapist, as you just described. You were already feeling close to Dick's work?

Mike: Yeah, well, what happened was I was invited to speak at the place that I had done my clinical internship at the Judge Baker Guidance Center, because by that time I was teaching a lot about how alcoholic families organized around drunkenness. And I was very interested in...And I gave a talk there and the woman who ran the family therapy training program, Cassie, asked if I had written anything about this, and I said, you know, I had a masters’ thesis that I had written. She said she had done a book at Norton and they were looking for books on families. So, she would let them know that I had it. And I thought, you know, it's one of the nice things people say. And I was on a Friday, Monday, I got a call from Norton.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Mike: And they asked me to send them what I had, and I sent them what I had. And they said, well, this isn't a book. How would you turn in the book I got in advance? And all of a sudden, I had a wonderful editor named Carol Smith, who had also edited Strategies to Psychotherapy. She had edited Haley's book that had sort of turned me around.

And she was like a good mommy, because I had a writing phobia. It was very difficult for me to write. And she just played me like a harp. And she was good at getting people who weren't writers to write. And so, I wound up publishing Families Under the Influence in 1984 and became a famous expert.

Aníbal: Beautiful. This is your book that is still in print.

Mike: It is still in print. Thirty-five years later you can still…it's still in print. I got a royalty check for like 9$80 sometime earlier this year. 
But what happened was Rich Simon, who was the editor of the Family Therapy Networker and ran the Family Therapy Networker Symposium every year, invited me to come and present. And at the presenter party, I heard somebody saying...so this guy raised his hand and said, "Aren't you afraid if you do therapy that way, the parents will kill the kid?" And, so I answered, I said, "Yeah, that's what we do in our therapy, we try to get the parents to kill the kid." And I turned and it was Dick Schwartz. And I said, another smart ass. And we hit it off and we started playing basketball together and our circle developed around Rich Simon. And I was in that circle, and so Dick and I became friends and we talked about basketball and cases...And I sort of thought he did about what I did, which is a form of strategic hypnosis, and when I read the IFS, whatever he wrote about it, that was the lens I saw through. 
So, I really didn't get it. And it got to be a joke that we never got to present opposite each other. Every week…we spoke at the big national conferences because that's how you market yourself if you do the circuit. And we never got a chance to see each other present until 1995. Eleven years later, Dick was presenting an after meeting AFTA, American Families Therapy Academy, which is an organization for sort of Family Therapy trainers. And I belong to it, but I never presented there because it's like presenting for your competition. But he was trying to get IFS around, and he was there, and he did a demo. And when I saw the demo, I realized that he was onto something so far beyond what I knew about or what anybody I knew about, know about.

Now, literally, I stopped doing what I was doing that day and started doing IFS. And I went out to Chicago to get trained. And it was a weekend training where I also got a cooking lesson - it was a wonderful weekend - and I came back and became the only IFS...to my knowledge - I said this many times and nobody's ever contradicted me - I was the only IFS therapist in the Northeast. From ninety five, to ninety nine, when Ralph Cohen found out about IFS and asked Dick if he would come to Central Connecticut State University and run a training, and Dick called and asked me if I would help him. And so, the team was Greg Johansson, who's a Hakomi trainer, who now lives in Portland; Michi Rose, who is one of the most creative minds I've been in contact with and I think is the inventor of unburdening...

Aníbal: Yeah. 

Mike: Who has also a PhD in Chemistry and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Ralph Cohen, who was a professor there and me. We were the staff and we ran 8 trainings in there. And I was essentially a PA. 

Aníbal: Beautiful

Mike: And one of the people who came to the training was Mona Barbera, who was the program director for something called The New England Society for the Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation. She asked Dick if he'd present, but, you know, they had an honorary of a hundred and fifty dollars and he's from Chicago, so he didn't do it, so she asked me if I would do it. And so, I found myself in McLean Hospital talking about a hundred and fifty trauma therapists about IFS. And when they saw the demo, you could see...there were two things, there was a demo, you could see there was not a closed mouth in the room. 

And then, when I talk about the fact that with IFS there's no real danger of abreaction…In other words, when I was trained in hypnosis, I was specifically told that in order to heal, particularly sexual trauma, the client had to reexperience the trauma. The client had to abreact. Which made trauma therapy no fun for the patient or the therapist. 

Aníbal: Yes. 

Mike: And with Dick's model there's no abreaction. The client is sitting there feeling compassion and curiosity, talking to a part that is carrying enormous suffering. But they're not feeling that suffering. So, I gave that talk on a Friday. When I got to my office on Monday, my answering machine was...was full and with people who either wanted to be clients on IFS or send their husbands to be clients on IFS. There was enormous interest and I was sharing an office with a guy named Dan Brown, who used to be married to Marushka Glissen, and was a primary hypnosis trainer in Boston. And a sort of a mover and shaker. And he decided to bring Dick Schwartz to Boston. And he did. There was enormous interest and I did the first level 1 in Boston with Sue McConnell...

Aníbal: Susan McConnell 

Mike: Who was sort of my mentor. She already knew how to teach. I was a presenter, I wasn't a trainer, which means I was a stand-up comedian, basically. You know, I showed people what I did, but I didn't really know a lot about teaching other people how to do. I did teach hypnosis. I don't think it was a great teacher of hypnosis.

Tisha: Mike can you share with us whether you have had personal, transformative experience with IFS in your own system? 

Mike: Yeah, what happened was, they used to have these retreats in Tulum, Mexico. Dick and Barbara Cargill ran them together. And it was a very good place to introduce your partner or spouse or something to the Model. And I went with my wife, who got totally hooked, by the way, and still is. I saw Barbara Cargill work. And the minute I saw her work, I said, there's my therapist.

Aníbal: Wow. 

Mike: So, I approached her. I asked her if she would be my therapist on the telephone. And she still is. I mean, I've been working with her, I think 17 years or something, and I'll be talking with her Sunday. So, I've had a couple of very good therapists...I've had a lot of love, I've been very lucky with people in general in my life. And I've had two therapists who call themselves analysts, but did a wonderful job for me.

And then I started working with Barb with IFS and it was amazing to me the kind of...I mean, I had one such, you know, I used to be very cheap, for instance. I mean, it was hard for me to buy anything that I thought I could get cheaper somewhere else, and that I would drive 15 miles to get chicken, 60 cents cheaper than…that kind of thing...

Aníbal: [laughs] I love that part of you. 

Mike: And in one session, I removed legacy burdens and my whole approach to money and generosity changed overnight, radically.

Tisha: I'm so curious where those legacy burdens were from.

Mike: They were from the Ukraine, about four generations before…of ancestors I had no idea I had. Most of my legacy work hasn't been that detailed. But this one, you know, I had a very detailed contact with this man, in the late 19th century in the Ukraine, and, you know, there were programs ran by Cossacks and they buried their potatoes and all that stuff. And anyway, when I gave my burdens back to him, I had a totally different approach to resources. It was a one session to end it. And the whole thing of legacy unburdening, you know, I was aware of the concept before. We very much, I think in the early days, underestimated the importance of legacy and wasn't mentioned in level 1, I bet, 10 years ago. There was no focus on it, even though it's incredibly important and the likelihood that you'll get a traumatic clinical effect from a legacy unburdening is very high. Like, you know, what happened to me isn't unique, or not even really unusual.

And also, I would I have to say, is I had a bias. When I was younger, I was basically a hustler. And I was violent, and I was frightened, and I was, I was a hard guy to be around.

Tisha: Mike, did that come from trauma or family of origin? 

Mike: What?

Tisha: Your hustler part and your violent part.

Mike: Oh, my grandfather, my father's father was a gangster. It was a Jewish mafioso. And my father ran his straight business. And my grandfather was the single most unpleasant human being I've been in the presence of so far. I may meet a more unpleasant human being someday, but...And my father was totally oppressed by him and he flowed that energy down to me. Though the worst thing that can happen to my family is you get played for a sucker. So, yes, that predatory attitude was what I grew up in.

So, because I was playing music and I thought of myself as a musician, I made, over the years I've made hundreds playing music. So, the way I made a living essentially was I...a hustle pool on poker, which turns out to be incredibly good training for psychotherapy.

Aníbal: Strategic psychotherapy.

Mike: It really is. I mean, how do you win at poker? You see what people do and you bet they'll keep doing it.

And then the manipulation involved in keeping somebody playing a pool game with you that they have no chance of winning, can be transferred into other disciplines. So, that's what I did. And then I married a woman who was a seeker. And, you know. I sort of said, she's into creepy studies, I'm into playing pool tournaments, you know, we live in LA, but she started working with something called a Course in Miracles.

And after she'd been doing it about a year and a half, I realized that she had changed rather profoundly. She was much more peaceful, she was less explosive, she was...And I said "What happened? And she said "It's the course." I'm very interested in anything that...any thought system that generates healing. And that's why I got so interested in AA, you know, and that's what I wrote a bunch about that in the book.

So, I started doing it with her and I needed it and I got very into it. And I was in a seminar with Ken Wapnick, who was the editor. He was a psychologist and he was the editor of the course and he knew the course well. He was the most Self-led being I've ever been in the presence of for any lengths of time. I was in a seminar with him for 11 years, for therapists who used the course, and it was the lens I saw through. And the course uses religious terms in a very different way, because they're trying to deconstruct your ideas to religion and God. So, they had a term called the Holy Spirit. And the definition of the Holy Spirit in the course is that memory of God's love in your mind, which, when asked, will correct the errors of ego. So, when I saw Dick do a demo, I said, this guy has figured out a way to mobilize, to manifest and mobilize Holy Spirit without going through all the crap...[laughs] at that point, thirteen years or something like that. And I just, I was blown out of the water. That's still how I see Self. So, Dick and I disagree on the nature of Self to some extent, and we've been arguing about it for pretty close to 40 years now.

Tisha: What's your take? 

Mike: Dick sees it as having agenda. Actively leading, as opposed to, what I see it as, which is an access to reality, an access to what's really true. And that's all. And so, when an exile tells it story to the Self, it's essentially the opposite of shame. Shame is the experience of having your badness witnessed and it's the most painful experience available to people. And then the exile tells the story to Self. And just being in the presence of Self, the exile totally gets it that the way it was treated doesn't mean anything about it. 

A burden, in my opinion, is not just the meaning that a part has given its experience and the feelings and beliefs that proceed from it. It's the moral meaning that a part gives its experience. And moral meaning means that whatever somebody did or thought, mean something about their worth as a human being and the quality of their character, and I believe that our most basic motivator and need as humans is not physical survival. It is to feel morally intact. And that's really hard because we all know we have parts that are vicious and deceitful and mean and petty and vengeful. And what we can learn from Self is that doesn't mean we're bad people, that means that parts were forced into an extreme position. 

And I'm writing about that now and my son, who, by the way, just got trained in IFS by me in Austin, Texas, he was in my training group down there and...has been urging me to talk about not just the mechanics, which is what I talk about, but the metaphysics, which I'm very reluctant to talk about because when you're talking about metaphysics, you're talking about a thing you don't know anything about it. It's all speculation. So, I'm...But the Course in Miracles and IFS were combined in me, and that's where my healing came from. So, I can now - and my wife will tell you - I can go through months and months without getting triggered by anything. I used to be a hair trigger temper as my younger son said "You were intolerable." And he got the easiest part of it. My older son got more of it. So that's in terms of my own healing. 

Aníbal: Mike, coming back to your beautiful and rich journey before you stumble into IFS and you met Dick, how much there was of integration and how much there was of unlearning from you in this process after you stumbled into IFS. 

Mike: Well, my first...for the first 15 years I was a therapist, all of my clients were referred by agents of social control, mostly child protective services, probation officers, parole officers, pretrial diversion programs, all that. And so, one is I developed a technology of working with people that don't want to be in work with, and I actually did. That's one of the things I thought about traveling around the country, is essentially how to translate the legal motivation into a motivation for healing and how to use leverage and how to use tricks to get people to think a different way. And then, of course, along with that, I was studying Ericksonian hypnosis. And Erickson said essentially all hypnosis depends on confusion. So, I use tricks. And I thought of therapy as a competitive game between me and my client. And my job was to essentially cover all the holes they ran into until they had no alternative but to deal with the problem in front of them. And that's the way I thought about it. And, as my heart began to open, I began to sense other things. And then I had an experience teaching Pain Hypnosis at UMS Medical Center. They hired me for something else, but they were interested because I had a typology of alcoholic families. The guy who was head of medical education there, was an oncologist, thought maybe I could develop a typology of cancer families, cancer families that were afflicted by cancer. And what he didn't take into account is he's the Department of Medicine and the Department of Medicine doesn't to talk to families. The Department of Social Services talks to Families and the Department of Social Services says he's not talking to any family. So, I had a two-year contract and I couldn't do what they wanted me to do.

So, we were talking, and he said "Well, why don't you teach pain hypnosis in a palliative care unit?" And I spent two years doing that. So, one thing that exposes me to sort of medical education and expose me...And when I was teaching hypnosis, it really began to force me to understand what was actually going on, rather than doing the tricks I was taught. And I thought I was already beginning to develop a pretty multiplicity understanding of people when I met Dick. And when I met Dick, you know, when I found out about IFS, I finally realized what hypnosis was. I've been teaching it of the years, and I didn't. 

And I also realized at that point that trance induction was unnecessary waste of time. And a lot of the hypnotic techniques I used were much more effective and simple and easily taught, if you thought about it from an IFS perspective, like the phobia protocol, which when I first wrote it the way I did it at first, was 15 pages of anchoring and tricks and is now three quarters of a page, which you can sit with that and cure a phobia. Just guiding your client through a series of steps, because, you know, IFS just creates possibilities out for a therapist that weren't there before.

I don't have to be the agent of healing. All I do is broke a relationship between Self and troubled parts and at any moment an IFS Therapist can be clear on what they're trying to do and what is interfering with that and have tools for dealing with whatever is interfering with that. So, I think IFS empowers therapists in a way that no other model does. 

And if I taught a hundred people hypnosis, 25 would use it and 10 might use it well. If I teach 100 people IFS all of them will use it and all of them will be helpful and the talented ones will be more helpful, quicker with a wider range of people.

Aníbal: So, this is a good example of your process of integration, how IFS can inform so much other models. 
Mike: So, I went into IFS with...seeing it through the lens of the Course in Miracles and hypnosis and so, it's very, it was very friction free. There was almost no tension between the way I thought of, you know, IFS has clicked into place with me and I noticed people who've been trained hypnotically, learn IFS quicker. Because you develop a skill set that's very useful to IFS.

Tisha: You're used to guiding people inside. 

Mike: You're guiding people inside, you're watching very closely for changes in affect and micro-expressions and you're trained to instantly respond to feedback in a way which doesn't oppose, you know. And also, you're trained to be very directive, which is why I never teach level 1 alone, because my style, as you remember, uses a lot of hypnotic technology and I'm very active and very directive. Like Dick and I are the ends of the spectrum stylistically, although we're doing exactly the same thing. I'll use probably 15 words for every one he does when he's working. Because hypnotists just keep talking. [laughs]. So, that's why I always want to have somebody else for be a model of in level 1. Level 2, you know, they know the basics and I'll give them what I've got.

Tisha: Will you share with us about your level 2 that you and Ann are starting to teach. What brought up the topic and how it's going?

Mike: You know, we both are very cognizant of how central...that all the stuff we work with gets generated by shame. And that depression and anxiety are two ways the system responds to shame. And so, Ann got tired of co-teaching level 1, long before she stopped, because she kept doing it as a favor to me. Because I loved teaching with her. But finally, what happened was what she was up to here with it and Rina, who had been our AT for three training, sort of broke through and got very comfortable teaching. And so, we all felt good that Ann could drop, and Rina would take her place. But Ann and I just love teaching together. So, we were thinking about what we could do. And we came up with the depression, anxiety and shame, which was mostly designed by Ann. You know, the description of our teaching was Ann would do the play by play and I would do the color. And I thought that was a pretty good analogy.

So, it gave me a chance to also talk about the stuff that I had developed about shame and moral judgment, moral meaning, because we have a design flaw. And the design flaw, is that we give moral meaning to our experience and we project our moral meaning onto other people's experience. And it is, it's never useful, but it's unavoidable.

Aníbal: It's unavoidable. And so, one of the powers of moral meaning is to shame us.

Yeah, that's exactly. So, we use that as an opportunity to basically package all the ideas that we had both developed over teaching together for 10 years. And putting into a level 2 and we did it in Boston and it was a very successful...As a matter of fact, two consultation groups grew out of that. We were planning to do one in Chicago and one in Boulder and one in Lisbon.

Tisha: So that was your first one in Boston? 
Mike: Yeah, it was the only one we've done so far. We did it online. We did it as continuity circle. We did one...we went out to Boulder and visited with Barb and we taped this online thing and it was very popular. And we got royalties for how many people took it. So it was, you know, also I'm getting paid for work that I did before. That was fun.

Aníbal: Beautiful.

Mike: So, then we were asked to turn it into a level 2, and we did. 

Aníbal: Do you want to say something about how does IFS approach to anxiety and depression and shame differs from other models, because it really differs. 

Mike: Well, I think, first of all, depression is mostly seen as a mental illness. Sort of chemical happening that should be approached chemically and say 15, 20 years ago, if somebody said they were depressed or even sad, and you didn't refer them to a psychiatrist for a meds evaluation, you were considered to be malpractice.

Anxiety is also seen largely that way, as a chemical condition that is treated with diazepines. IFS sees anxiety as parts that are afraid they're bad. And when something happens to the environment, internally or externally, and they get energized, what people experience is their fear out of context and so people are walking around being afraid all the times...By the way anxiety attacks are almost always, invariably, phobic reactions to something that people aren't aware of the trigger….And feels like your life is unclear, an immediate danger, and you don't know what's happening. So, it feels like, you know, some devil dropped on you out of the sky.

I've been just about a hundred percent effective in one session of curing anxiety attacks with the phobia protocol. And how do you cure anxiety attacks? You find the part that's ashamed of its feelings, you explain to it that there's no moral meaning to feelings. And that the way they felt doesn't mean anything bad about them and the phobia's gone. 

So, anxiety is the fear that you're bad. And it's very, very uncomfortable. So, what will happen, often, is parts will act to sort of shut things down and slow things down and lower level of intensity and energy. And so, depression, you know, it's a polarization between parts that want to just cure the pain by anesthetizing. And anxiety are the parts that sort of want to find some way of being good. With some people, it swings back and forth like other polarities, you swing from one extreme to another. But, as you know, many polarities, one side will dominate the other. Both will be constantly motivated by the other to keep dominating. So, there are people who just stay depressed and there are people who are always anxious and there are people who bounce back and forth between parts that are grandiose and either inflated or terrified or active and parts that are despairing and paralyzed.

Tisha: And you say that shame is usually behind this. 

Mike: Shame is always behind it. There are two strategies, both very expensive and unsuccessful for dealing with shame: anxiety and depression.

The nice thing about IFS is you don't need to explain anything. You just follow the affect in and find out who's doing it and bring Self energy. So, IFS has the same diagnosis for every client and the same essential treatment for every client, which is you get the parts that are attracting attention in the presence of Self and find out about them. 

Aníbal: And there you have the shame as an organizing principle in our inner systems, as you say, and Ann Sinko. 

Mike: Right. It's the organizing principle of the protective system. And the thing about the protective system, in case you forget for a second, that irony is the driving force of the universe... 

Aníbal: That one.

Mike: You know, protectors never protect. What they do, invariably, is they energize and attract that which they're protecting against. And they send in more troops. That's what they do. In other words, when protector energy gets generated and protectors get blended and start being you, nothing good is going to happen.

So, when you're working with couples. I just tell them “You know, when I detect protect energy, I'm going to stop you because. There are well motivated, but they have no chance of being of use to you”. So, what we're trying to do is, narrower and narrower the situations that trigger them and get them active. Which means you have to heal the exiles that they're responding to, either to keep the shame of this disgraceful thing out of sight or to relieve the shame that the firefighter feels when they see this bad part and they have to do something to deal with that acute pain and what they usually do to deal with the acute pain causes more trouble and more shame, which needs more dealing with it. That's why addictive process always escalates because it's a polarity. It's an escalating schizomogenic symmetry. 

Tisha: That's a book title right there. 

Mike: Right. I got that phrase from Jay Haley's book, because he talks about formal power theory and manipulation and all that.

Tisha: So, Mike, you've seen a lot of the evolution of the IFS model throughout your time with it. Where do you see it going or where would you like to see it going? 

Mike: That's one place I don't argue with Dick. That's one place I really admire Dick's vision. He sees it as a Paradigm filling in the world. One of the things is that basically...Judeo-Christian tradition and analytic theory both have an extremely pessimistic view of what humans are. Either we are bathed in sin or we are sort of a thin veneer of quasi civilization over this seething culture and of primitive tribes and needs. And it turns out that's not what we are. What we are is compassion and curiosity and covered over with a pretty thick veneer of fear and shame. But when all that fear is willing to move back, what's left is compassion and curiosity. So, it is optimistic at a level that no other paradigm I know is. And the other, you know, we're training more and more, we're training diplomats, we're training media. The more this way of understanding what people are and what we are gets spread, the more possibility it is to be optimistic about the future of humans, because if you'll pick up the paper, you don't see much that helps you be optimistic about the future of humans. 

Aníbal: Yes.

Mike: And I have parts that are in dangerous cynicism, and that's particularly true, I think, in terms of electoral politics, it's really hard for me to get interested in. And I know I have to, you know, I mean, it's what's there, but it's hard. And IFS has protected me against cynicism more than...Because I was brought up to be cynical. And it's such a bankrupt position, but it's so comfortable because you're always right.

Aníbal: I totally agree with you.

Mike: And the Course in Miracles has a question which goes "Would you rather be right or be happy? Know that you cannot be both." And that has proved true in my experience.

Aníbal: Mike, this is a beautiful way to close, you presenting IFS as a model for the mind and a new paradigm. Hoping to see you in Lisbon, 2021 in November.

Mike: My wife and I were planning to go to Lisbon on our honeymoon 20, 22 years ago. We wound up in Crete, which was fun. I've never been to Lisbon, so I really would like to take my wife to Lisbon. 

Aníbal: Please do. And so, Mike, thank you so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha. And my best hope is that we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and our lives. Thank you so much. 

Mike: Thank you. It's nice to see you both again.

Recorded the 3rd June 2020
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu