Embodying IFS with Susan McConnell
This is an IFS Talks with Susan McConnell. Susan has taught IFS throughout the US and in Europe since 1997. Her involvement as Senior Trainer with the Center includes developing training curricula, training IFS training staff, and designing and leading somatic psychotherapy retreats and seminars. In her private practice in Chicago, Susan specializes in recovering the wholeness of body, mind and spirit, drawing from her bodywork and movement experience and her Buddhist practice. She brings commitment and passion to her work and her play with her partner and her dogs along Lake Michigan shores.
This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connection with the internal family systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners and users. Today, we're interviewing and talking to Susan McConnell. Susan McConnell has taught IFS throughout the US and in Europe since 1997. Her involvement as a senior trainer with the center includes developing training curricula, training IFS training staff and designing and leading somatic psychotherapy retreats and seminars. In her private practice in Chicago, Susan specializes in recovering the wholeness of the body, mind and spirit, drawing from her bodywork and movement experience and also her Buddhist practice. She brings commitment and passion to her work and play with her partner and her dogs along Lake Michigan shores.
Aníbal Henriques: Thank you, Tisha. How is it for you, Susan, to hear this bio? What parts come up?
Susan McConnell: [Laughs] It's fine. It's fine. You know, my dog has died, but I have a new one now. So, I guess it could be a singular dog, but, yeah, and my partner is now my wife, or my spouse. But anyway, it's a little embarrassing. You know, bios are always a little embarrassing for me, but they have to be, you have to be written So, people have an idea. And I like how you read it Tisha. It was good.
It makes me think about how I actually find myself going back to those early days. And actually, I feel very grateful that I got in on the ground floor, you know. It was just a very potent and exciting time in the development of IFS, and I got to be in a pretty close relationship with Dick and just felt like I had a lot of influence on helping to forge the direction of IFS. There's something about those beginnings that...I mean, almost the beginning of anything, that just really sort of brings out the best in me.
Tisha Shull: So, it sounds like I read a little bit of an outdated bio and it brought you back to the early days of IFS. What was it, Susan that brought you into the mental health profession to begin with?
Susan: You know, my early professional life was sort of hopscotching in a way back and forth between the field of the bodywork and somatics and movement and touch and then the field of mental health, beginning with working with survivors of domestic violence, when the first shelter for domestic violence opened up in Chicago and I was one of the counselors. And from there I went into bodywork. So, I was always interested in integrating the two. So, after I had been in that field for about seven years and I was called into bodywork primarily because, you know, it was very common for us to burn out back then because we weren't really very well prepared for what we had, what we were going to be facing, the complexity of things and how complicated helping people extricate themselves from violent situations was. So, none of us lasted very long. But after seven years, I had some physical symptoms that western medicine really couldn't explain or fix. So, that took me into the field of different alternative medicines and eventually became a practitioner of different forms of bodywork. And then, of course, even as I was learning it, I was really fascinated with how this might...how our emotions and our belief systems might be showing up on our bodies sometimes in my body structure.
So, I think that the fascination with the body came very early in my life. So, actually my first extensive real experiential training in psychotherapy came with Hakomi training. And that was, I think back in the early 80s, when body and mind were hardly spoken of in the same sentence, let alone offered in a training. So, when the Hakomi training, which was a body centered formal psychotherapy, came to Chicago, I just jumped at the chance to learn Hakomi. And I was very, very content with the model and doing a combination of just seeing people face to face, but also seeing some people on my table and whether they were sitting in a room with me or laying on my table with touch, I was always working kind of at that interface of mind and body.
Tisha: This IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connections with the internal family systems model.
Susan: And then it was actually the need for consultation that got me in touch with Dick Schwartz. Some of my Hakomi friends had joined a consultation group with Dick, and they were saying that, in this consultation group he offered not just consultation for our difficulties with clients, but he also was teaching this model that he was just putting together.
Aníbal: That was the 80's?
Susan: Well, no. Hakomi training was in the 80s, but the consultation group was probably around 94, 95, something like that.
Aníbal: The 90s.
Susan: Yes, the 90s. So, I thought, well ok, I'm happy to learn this model. People are saying IFS integrates really easily with Hakomi. It isn't like a huge leap into a whole other paradigm, but it was also involving mindfulness and exploring our inner systems. Yeah, so, I found myself, even though I wasn't really looking for a new model, just looking for some help with a client that had attempted suicide. I was really, really happy with Dick's approach and consultation, which wasn't really to say "Well, you should try this or what about that," but it was helping me explore my own parts that came up in the relationship and doing like a session with me and helping me find my own parts. And I found that my relationship with my client improved because I was, you know, more and more, a lot more in a greater state of Self-energy. And I had been when I was so concerned about her not killing herself. So, I was in the consultation group for a year or two and just kept learning more and more about the model as we met, and he explained it as he was...right around that time his book came out. His first book came out.
Aníbal: Yes, 1995, I believe so, yes.
Tisha: This is IFS Talks an audio series to deepen connection with the internal family systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners and users.
Aníbal: So, for you, Susan, there is a before and an after IFS, like it was a steppingstone to you.
Susan: Yeah, it was the consultation group as a steppingstone, and then it was actually a dream that launched me into teaching. Dick had said to me "You know, if you want to learn the model much more thoroughly, Susan, you could consider taking this training I'm going to be offering in Chicago." And I said "Well, I'll think about it." And then I had a dream where in the dream I was at one end of the table with some Hakomi people, and then I saw Dick at the other end and I got up and walked down because I thought "Oh, I want to ask him about the training." So, I got up to ask him about the training and he said "Yes, well, I have two trainings and one has about 30 people in it, and the other training has like four people in it. And that's the one I want you in." Now, that made no sense to me because I had no idea how Dick organized the training back then. But what he said to me when I told him that was that the way he was organizing the trainings was that he basically taught the first like three fourths of the day, talking and sharing about trying to teach people to model with - and by the way, no handouts whatsoever, he's very auditory - and then doing a demo, and then people talk about the demo. And then he said "I want four people to take a small group and lead the small group." And when he told me that he would expect me to be able to perhaps to do a little demo and answer people's questions, come up with experiential exercises and lead the small group, I said...because at that point I was a Hakomi teacher and had been doing a lot of curriculum development as I developed a training of Hakomi for bodyworkers and doing various workshops and trainings in Hakomi.
Aníbal: So, you have already some experience teaching, yes.
Susan: Yeah. So, "Oh I could do that." And he said "Yeah." And I said "Oh absolutely." So, he said "Well show up at the training. I'm not really sure who’s going to be my trainers for this training. So, I would love it if you would be willing to be one of the assistants." Now, he didn't, back then, he didn't insist that the training that the assistants show up for the whole day. And I said I couldn't imagine not showing up for the whole day and then leading a group. “I have to be there, you'd care?” He said "No, no, it's all right. Just, you know, you're not required." So, I was actually the only one of the four who was there for the whole day. And so, I got to learn the model along with the students and tried to stay one step ahead of them. And from then on, I was kind of hooked. Actually, that isn't true. I decided to teach in one more, to assist in one more training, because at that point, Beth had decided to learn the IFS model and she was going to be in the next IFS training in the Chicago area. So, I assisted in that one as well. And that was nice to share that experience with Beth and to learn even more deeply this model, which sounds, of course, on one level that sounds fairly simple, but I was beginning to understand the depth and complexity of it and glad to get a chance to be more confident in it.
So, I was ready to move on to something else after the second training, when the third training started, and I found myself just wishing I could be a part of it. And I called up Dick to find out "how did it go, how did it go?" And then I said, "Oh, I just missed you all so, much." And at that point, another of my friends and colleagues have joined the training and he said "We could really use you if you'd like." And I'm like "well, the training is already started." And he said "Oh, that's ok, come." So, then I was in the third training and at that point he was starting to get requests to teach IFS all over the country or in several places in the country and asked if I could travel and at that point my daughter was old enough to make it possible and I said "Yeah, I could travel." So, that's when I started teaching in other states. And then I think it was 2000, I was teaching in Germany, which was a big leap for me to teach with a translator and to teach for six days in a row.
Tisha: This is IFS Talks an audio series to deepen connections with the internal family systems model.
Susan: So, that's kind of my early beginnings. Oh, I didn't finish the dream. So, that was kind of a fun ending of a dream, because when Dick said “I want you to be in that small group of four people” in the dream, the music started. There was this music started playing and we both stood up and we started dancing, only I was in the lead and Dick got this really sweet smile on his face and he said "I like not having to lead all the time."
Aníbal: So, you danced with Dick in your dream, am I follow you well?
Susan: Dancing in the dream. And he likes not having to lead all the time. And when I reflected on that dream, and particularly as IFS was already starting to spread, perhaps because of the publishing of his book...
Aníbal: That was late 90s?
Susan: It was 97. Maybe 98, 99. Yeah, late 90s. So, I realized at that point that Dick wasn't going to be able to teach in all of these trainings. And I started imagining, I thought I would like to teach in some of these trainings, but I started thinking "well how can I do that because I can't be Dick, I have to be me." And so, I started copying down his talks and introducing some of the experiential exercises that I and the other assistants were starting to just come up with kind of on the spot because we recognize that...Well, I particularly found that experiential exercises were so useful to adult learning. So, I started recording these notes, recording his talks as well as the exercises, and eventually put it in the form of our first training curriculum.
Aníbal: It was a really, really short period from learning the model to training, was it?
Susan: Yes, compared to now you're right, Aníbal. Compared to now where people might go through, you know, how I don't know, assisting in, what, five, ten...
Aníbal: Decades. Sometimes decades.
Susan: Yes, decades. And for me, it was just a couple of years. It was really, well, I didn't even take the training, as you can tell. I just basically started assisting immediately.
Susan: And then, as time wore on, there were weekends when Dick couldn't make it, either because he had double booked or was sick or something. And so, myself and a couple of other assistants were kind of acting first as substitutes and then later, as, you know, sometimes last minute substitutes, and then the trainings began to be organized in terms of, well, “I'll do four of the weekends and you do two and then I'll do three and you do three. How about if you do all six?” And anyway, that's really, it just sort of morphed into a form of organization based on the evolving needs, you know, as the training...as some different people were wanting to be trained...
Aníbal: And so you could witness the beginning of all this movement.
Susan: And it was, you know, I remember flying on the airplanes next to Dick and getting chances to just talk with him and I remember one moment that was, that kind of solidified things for me in terms of whether IFS was really something I wanted to commit to from my professional life, because it took me a few trainings before I was really ready to do that. We were in Asheville and I wasn't really sure at that point because I felt that the model was a little too formulaic for me. I tend to be a little bit more kind of organic, go with the flow, just tune in and see where it's going to unfold, you know, and we were teaching very step by step approach.
Aníbal: Directive way sometimes.
Susan: Yes. Yes. But then I would watch Dick do sessions and I could just tell that even though, you know, there was something just very much that transcended this formula, that was something very alive and almost pulsating or something, you know, in my soul, when I watched him work and it was it was very inspiring for me. And so then I got a chance to really share all this with Dick and then numerous times, share meals together, sit together and talk after the trainings. And I told him about my concern that was sort of too wrote and I said “But I see you work and I know it isn't." He goes "No, no. You know, the steps of the model are just there to help people safely enter an internal system. But no, the model is not defined by that map. You know, the work is very much more than that. And that was really, I think, the moment when I thought “yeah, this is for me.” So, from then on, I've been just finding ways to help out primarily as a trainer, but I think some of my other loves has been to, you know....Dick saying "I don't I don't want to have to lead all the time" or "I like it when I don't have to lead." I thought, you know “I can't lead all the time, I need to really develop others leadership as well, other people to first assist and then become trainers.” So that became a real focus for me as I was teaching in different places in the country and particularly in Germany. I thought “we can't be flying across the Atlantic Ocean. We need to develop leadership over here. And however the IFS model is going to flourish in foreign soil, we need to make space for that.” So, that became one of my passions, along with my continued interest in integrating the somatic aspect into IFS. And from the beginning, I felt permission and encouragement from Dick to do that. And I think if I had not felt that, I again, would have probably just gone back to Hakomi.
Tisha: This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connections with the internal family systems model.
How did that piece translate into your clinical work with incorporating somatic and IFS together? How did that show up with your clients in the office?
Susan: Well, that's a question I wish I could answer. I would think that it was such a process Tisha. It was really just really years of exploration. And one thing that grounded me in that, sort of not just grounded me, but also encouraged me on that path, was Dick telling me that he learned the model from listening to his clients. So, he really took a fresh start, of course, integrating what he learned from his structural family therapy background, but also holding it somewhat aside and just offering different things as they popped into his mind with his clients about parts and eventually Self, and really, really listening very deeply to his clients to put that into...to integrate that into the model. And I think similarly, my process involved...Well, I think first, probably integrating some of what I did with Hakomi into IFS. Actually, now that I think about it, Tisha, at the beginning, I tried to set a lot of the Hakomi and my bodywork background to the side because I really wanted to learn pure classic IFS. I felt “if I'm going to be teaching this, I want to really do this certainly in my demos and in the trainings.” But also, at that point, I was getting more and more referrals from people, you know, requests for doing therapy, because of IFS. I wanted to do the model in a very pure fashion.
But it was almost as if in time the body orientation kind of wanted to creep back in. It didn't want to be exiled. So, I certainly was noticing my own body as perhaps a consultant in the therapy office. So, if I would feel agitated, it might be an indication that there's something going on in the relationship or perhaps with my client or even perhaps in other body symptoms like a headache or something, or feeling tired might indicate if it wasn't mine, it might be something communicating to me from my client. I also, because of my training in bodywork and in Hakomi, which was a lot of extensive practice and experience with observing people's bodies, their posture, their listening to the voice, the prosody of the voice and noticing little movements and unconscious gestures and involuntary movements. So, I was just trained in tracking that stuff. I couldn't really help myself but to keep noticing that. And eventually I found ways to bring that in to my IFS interventions.
Tisha: This IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connection with the internal family systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners and users.
Aníbal: In your chapter Embodying the Internal Family, you introduced this concept of embodied Self and you describe the 5 tools of Somatic IFS and you say these tools are Somatic Awareness, Conscious Breathing, Somatic Resonance, Mindful Movement and Attuned Touch. And so, these 5 tools. And then you described their applications to cases involving addiction, complex trauma, chronic illness, as well as body image. Could you tell us more about what exactly these tools are and how do they help in the...
Susan: Yes. In the years since I wrote that chapter, I've switched it just a little bit. Someone suggested that the word tools didn't quite work, and I came up with the word practices. I like that work better. So [crosstalk]…the five practices of Somatic IFS and I felt like I used somatic too many times and Somatic IFS and then Somatic Awareness. So, now I thought about rather than somatic resonance, I wanted to think of another adjective. And so, I came up with radical and radical, the Latin root of the word radical means root actually. So, with resonance we go back to the root, even back to the embryological roots of attachment of the attachment process.
But yes, you know, I guess I could say that I wanted to come up with a way to convey people who were wanting to know "What is it that you're doing or something you're doing, something a little different." But some of the other trainers sometimes in trainings where people were having Dick as a trainer and then me as a trainer, they'd say "there's something different you're doing. I'm not sure if it's simply because you're a woman and there's sort of a gender difference or if there's something else.” So, I was really, you know, attempting to come up with a way to convey what it is I do and how to integrate the body more fully into IFS for those people who wanted that. And it wasn't really because I feel that the IFS model is lacking in any way. And yet, like I said, there are some people who want to have a more embodied approach to their therapy, particularly because it's just becoming a lot more popular and it's becoming, particularly with a lot of the neurological research, people are aware that there's a real body component to trauma and to relational trauma and attachment ones, as well as almost any psychotherapeutic issue. So, I came up with those five practices as a way to help people begin to bring the body and. So, I could sort of try to summarize each of those, if you'd like. You want me to?
Aníbal: You were somehow honoring your past experiences as...
Susan: It was more bodywork, really. [crosstalk]...bodywork for quite a few years. I did study some different movement. Practices as well and different somatic practices. As a professional body worker, I was doing structural therapy and craniosacral therapy.
Aníbal: Yes, and also honoring Hakomi, once Hakomi is so much body based.
Susan: Yes. And other things too. I've studied with quite a number of other approaches. Pat Ogden and Susan Aposhyan...Just different people to integrate different body orientations, different somatic psychotherapy orientations.
Aníbal: Yeah, and I understood that those tools are practices and tools to assess Self, that helps you to assess Self and helps others to assess Self. Being in Self.
Susan: Not totally. I mean, I say they lead to a sense, to a state of embodied Self. But I would say that these practices, combined with the IFS Model, take us to embodied Self. So, that they each of the practices can be used with every step of the model. So, they help us with those F's finding the part, with focusing on the part, of course, obviously help us fleshing out the part. They help us with how do you feel towards the part, and they help us with witnessing the part story, through the body, through movement, through touch and through resonance, of course. And they also help us with unburdening and with the integration and restoring of all the resources after unburdening. So, I find myself that each of these practices, you know, when I begin to get stuck or don't quite know what to do, and my client has a part that's very blended or they're getting overwhelmed, I just pull out one of these practices and use that right in that moment and it gets us back on track.
Aníbal: So, the body as a safe resource, as a safe place to come back or as a resource to help in all those processes that you just described.
Susan: Of course, for some people, the body is not a safe resource. But for them, you know, for a person who has severe trauma or even relational wounds that make for them the body a threatening place, then I would work differently, trying to help restore their sense of the body being a place where they can be at home and be safe. And that, I think, helps to round out a person's experience So, that they're not just healing verbally and cognitively and even emotionally, but they're also healing somatically, restoring their aliveness in their body and their abilities to really be fully embodied.
Tisha: This is IFS Talks, an audio series to deepen connection with the internal family systems model.
Would you be willing to share an example, either specifically or kind of a general theme that you have run across around working with IFS somatically? Something that you've noticed that happens, that creates shifts in the system.
Susan: Let's see? I was thinking about a client who recently contacted me because he has physical symptoms that, again, no one can explain and even IFS - he's been through the IFS training - but IFS, the demos he's had, the sessions he's had working with an IFS trainer has not really, even doing past life stuff, it hadn't really made a dent in the early paralyzing physical situation he was in. So, I've worked with him now three times and then in those sessions I used certainly somatic awareness, you know, just bringing his awareness to the symptoms, to the physical sensations that he feels and also touch my touch and his touch and imaginary touch. And in the last session, we actually worked prenatally with having him...I don't remember exactly now why I did this, but I had him go inside and...This is some of the some of what I've been learning in my studies with this teacher on embryology, which is that our cells organize within the first week or two before we even have any identifiable features in the fetus. That it's organizing along a vertical line with the front body and the back body. And the front body changes, organizes and reorganizes until eventually in our bodies, the front body becomes the digestive organs and the back body becomes eventually the skin and the nervous system. So, in our front body we have nourishment, right? Which is what each of us need in order to survive and the back body provides protection, which is also a very basic need. Now, this man...His parents have been married for 12 years before they had a child, and it was never explained to him until we found out from another source that his mother had several miscarriages and obviously never processed her grief around that. So, I think that is really why I went to the womb, actually, because I wondered whether the source of, basically the body story wanting to be expressed in his body perhaps went that far back to when his mother first realized she was pregnant. And this is the radical resonance here, because I just imagine that, as I remembered how delighted I was when I found out I was pregnant and I wasn't burdened by multiple losses, that would have maybe shadowed my delight and excitement. And I just thought how a woman who's experienced all those losses would have fear and a reluctance to feel any excitement at all. And I just started wondering if this could be the cause. So, I had him get in touch with through his own touch and his awareness and his breath with his navel and had him reimagine forming, you know, from that front body outgrows the stock, which plants like he or his developing organism made the powerful decision to reach out and connect with his mother's body, the placenta. And in the back body eventually became an amniotic sac which held him in this wonderful safe bubble. And then, of course, like I said, both the umbilicus and the amniotic sac then changed in multiple way. Again, this is such a tribute to our very young organism's ability to be creative and to communicate and to collaborate to just keep functioning, to give us the nourishment and the protection that we need throughout our lives.
Tisha: This is IFS Talks in audio series to deepen connection with the internal family systems model.
Susan: So, that's probably the most recent example I can think of, where I've used quite a number of those practices to hopefully begin to get at the root of some of these mysterious body symptoms and emotional symptoms that seem to be just preventing him from moving ahead in his life.
Tisha: It sounds like a mix between your intuition and his Self-energy and knowing that brought him to a place that cognitively he wasn't getting to.
Susan: Yes, at the end, he felt relaxed. Mostly a big reduction in his symptoms. And just really hopeful that the direction that we're moving in is it for him So, sessions like that are very...Or clients like that kind of keep inspiring me to keep trying to synthesize this somatic IFS. To really keep bringing together what I've learned and what I continue to learn about the body.
And like you say, Tisha, my own, just my own intuition, whatever that is, I think that's some combination of, you know, is very right brain, I think. And so much of our communication, particularly in the therapy office, is really right brain to right brain communication. And much of it we are not attending to. Much of it we're only attending from our left brain to what's being spoken. And so much of the part stories are happening before we even have the words or the cognition to recount the story. So, I think if we're not paying really good attention to what's happening in our bodies and then our clients bodies and helping our clients to bring their awareness to that as well, then we may not be helping our clients as much as we could if we're only listening to half of the story in a way, you know, and maybe not even the most important half.
Aníbal: Yes, and reconnecting with our bodies. So healing per se, isn't it?
Susan: Yes, I mean, I really don't think I'm somebody who's walking around fully connected with my body. I mean, I think many of us get distracted, right? We get distracted all the time by our devices and working and thinking. And, you know, so, for me, it's continually just coming back and "what's going on right now? How can my body inform me about who I am and what I'm needing and what I want to say." So, for example, in an interaction, you know, I might feel reactive, but if I take a moment and just stop and before I speak, before I behave, before I act, I might just take a moment and tune in. That helps me find the vulnerability or find the part that wants to defend me against the vulnerability. So, it's for me a continual process that helps me be more in Self-energy. And that's why I have that adjective Embodied Self-energy just to remind me and ourselves that it's a state that, those C words are really embodied states.
Aníbal: May I quote you again, Susan, because I find this really remarkable how much you stress out the importance of the body. And you say, again in that chapter that you have, I believe it's called Embodied IFS. And you say “in addition to the process of finding the burden in the body and releasing it through the elements, burdens may be released through breathing, sound, movement and touch. We can be aware of the spontaneous unburdenings occurring in the tissues, in the nervous system and in the body's alignment.” So, this is it, somehow burdens are in the body for you and unburdening also happens through the body? That's how you see it?
Susan: Yes, I would say unburdenings happen also in the body and sometimes they happen first in the body and at least the way I work seems to be kind of the way I maybe naturally, organically work, what's most comfortable for me. It turns out that in my work with my clients, these unburdenings tend to happen more spontaneously and as a process, rather than as a more kind of orchestrated event where we say "Are you ready to let go of that burden? Can you find that burden? How do you want to release the burden?" It's more like, it almost feels like there's different sort of layers of unburdening. So, for example, when a very isolated part that has never been contacted before, all of a sudden feels welcomed and feels trusting of Self-energy. In a way that's a bit of an unburdening. And you see that the voice changes and the person's body changes and their coloring and their eye contact changes, their spine might lengthen then and that more and more things are possible. We can just sort of feel or sense all of the other parts in the system begin to shift a bit. So that's maybe the first shift or you could call it unburdening that happens. But then, as the part then forms that relationship with Self and then the story is witnessed and then one gets a sense of what this part has been suffering from, what they've been carrying around over time, then you can be more specific. And of course, oftentimes, you know, I mean, even in traditional affairs, we say where in your body is that burden? And sometimes, though, in a sort of ironic way, sometimes my clients don't find the burden in their body, you know. So, sometimes I'll just be acknowledging what is being released. "So, you're your breath is now coming deeper, and your abdomen seems like it slowed down. Like, let's let that happen." Just bringing your awareness to that actually brings about a change. Awareness itself is transformative, you know.
Aníbal: Owning that body.
Susan: Yeah. Like "What do you notice with your breath? Well I guess I'm breathing kind of shallowly and kind of fast. We'll just watch that for a little while. It's funny. As I watch it, it begins to slow down a little bit, gets a little bit deeper." So, in a way, just simple awareness of what's happening in the body begins to bring more Self-energy into the system. And that's why the foundational tool of all of the Somatic practice, the foundational practice of all the Somatic IFS practices is awareness, because that really holds all the rest, leads up to all the rest of them.
Tisha: This is IFS Talks and audio series to deepen connection with the internal family systems model.
Aníbal: Thank you, Susan. You had a wonderful and long journey with IFS. Maybe about 25 years. I don't know...Maybe...
Aníbal: That long? Yeah. And I know you are saving some time now for writing your book, but you still train. You are still leading...
Susan: I do Level 1, Level 2 trainings for Center for Self-Leadership. Not too many anymore. I used to do maybe one a month but I'm not doing that many. But I'm also trying to reserve some of my time to offer trainings in Somatic IFS because no one else is doing them and there's an increasing desire to be trained in that. So, I tend to do more of those lately.
Aníbal: So, what do you enjoy more in those trainings? There are the sharing of the group, the demos, the meditation, the lecturing…
Susan: What a great question. I think my first answer is I think I like it all. Yeah, I really surprised myself actually that I still get such pleasure and satisfaction with teaching, even the basics, you know. I never get tired of it. Um, I think, you know, I've realized recently - not all that recently, but anyway - I've realized that my intentions when I'm teaching are, of course, to try to help people learn the IFS model. That goes without saying. But I'm also wanting, in addition to people finding their own individual Self-energy, I'm wanting the people in a group to discover the Self of the group, to really have a felt sense of the group coming together in a coherent wholeness that is bigger than the Self of any individual.
Aníbal: It's a larger Self, yes.
Susan: Yeah. So, we begin to really sense that Self-energy is not something within me or within you, but it's something that maybe is that nothing that we think of as that space around us and the whole universe that we think of as nothing but is actually everything. Perhaps that's Self-energy. And it comes into individuals and comes into a group that is working with their burdens and unburdening them and growing in trust and growing in connection and growing in love and compassion and understanding of each other. And that to me is a palpable felt experience. We felt it in the last the last training, 33 people and the 13 or whatever assistance that we had. And I can tell from WhatsApp that the energy just keeps expanding and expanding as far as people are continuing to support each other and inform each other. And the love just keeps flowing. So, when that happens and it doesn't happen in every training, but in my experience, it's happening more and more often for whatever reason. But when that happens that really excites me and satisfies me. So, that I think happens through each of the components of the training that you named. You know, it happens a lot in the demos, it happens a lot in the practice groups. It happens a lot just the assistance holds Self-energy within themselves and also hold...
Aníbal: And the groups become larger and larger, right? Because now you can have up to 45 people in the room.
Susan: Yes, and I used to really think that the groups needed to be smaller, but as you know, that was just an idea that I had. And as I've held that idea more lightly and just waiting to see what does happen in a larger group, I'm finding, in fact, even in my Somatic IFS retreats that I do every year in Costa Rica, I used to hold the group at 15 and then 18 and then 24. And now I'm experimenting with even a few more than 24. Like last year we had I think 27, 28. And at each year I think it gets bigger and I think it gets better. So, maybe there is something about the multiplied kind of exponential factor of Self-energy.
Tisha: I just wanted to note that, that you have accomplished so much as a psychotherapist and as a lead trainer and a pioneering advocate for the wisdom of the body. I'm curious if there's something yet that you aspire to. Some dream to chase.
Susan: You know, I'm not yet in a state, you know, I think there's a certain sort of spiral maybe that we go through. And with writing my book, I'm sort of in a place on that cycle or that spiral where I'm integrating and synthesizing and putting it all in written form and looking forward to it being published and going out to the world. And about a little over a year from now, about a year from now. And I'm anticipating that when that process is complete, that then the energies then will be ready to flow in me in a different direction. And it might be a related direction of which is born out of necessity, of training more people to do what I do, because it's likely that with the publication of this book, I will be getting even more than the already numerous requests for therapy and consultation that I'm getting. And I will want to be able to refer people out to them. So, I'm thinking that sort of a very practical next dream will be to find a way to do more of that teaching. But I might be surprised because it might be that when I'm really complete with, you know when I've really completed this process and the book is out there, who knows, maybe I'll take up, you know, parasailing or something...[laughs]
Tisha: Some surfing with me.
Aníbal: Enjoying yourself.
Susan: So, stay tuned. But you know, this talk about the Self-energy just spreading and spreading, you know. I think what the two of you are doing is...And also like with the online circle, you know, it's just kind of getting out there in cyberspace. Just the frequencies of embodied and resonant Self-energy is, I think, really traveling and hopefully influencing all the places that this planet and the people on it and the beings on it so sorely need. So, I think if I don't have a dream, I at least have a prayer and a wish for that to happen.
Aníbal: Thank you. Thank you, Susan. Thank you So, much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha. And I hope we can keep meeting and sharing this mother our work, our lives.
Susan: I feel the same way too. I feel just energized by your wonderful questions and, well, both of you just always warm my heart. So, thank you for giving me this time.
Tisha: This was an IFS Talks episode, an audio series to deepen connections with the internal family systems model through conversations with lead trainers, authors, practitioners and users.
Aníbal: And you know, Susan, today we have to honor Dick, Dick is celebrating, is turning 70.
Susan: Yes, I know. I want to send him an email about that. I always remember September 14th. Just a few months younger than me. I always tease him about being....
Recorded the 23th September 2019
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu