The Theory of Internal Family Systems


Internal Family Systems Theory starts with the multiplicity of the mind. IFS is a bit of a troublemaker spearheading the groundbreaking image of a multiple personality not as a disorder but as a natural characteristic of every healthy mind.

Internal Family Systems theory – PARTS

Our diverse subpersonalities called PARTS have many skills. They help us get around in the world, choosing the best strategies in specific situations. One situation often activates more than one PART. It is when their strategies do not match that we get stuck and may either have trouble making decisions or repress one side of the argument. The repressed part soon reemerges advocating its cause even stronger, sometimes using somatic symptoms to call for our attention.

In a healthy balanced system, PARTS cooperate for the benefit of the whole. Their intention is always good. They do the best they can.
The trouble is that PARTS get frozen and stuck in the past as a result of attachment injuries and trauma. Painful emotions and memories that were too difficult for the system to cope with at a particular moment, get attached to parts as burdens.

Some burdens are a legacy that children take on from ancestors or society. Parts that carry them get exiled and locked away by other parts that take the role of protectors. Protectors guard the system from overwhelm by an uncontrolled outburst of emotions and pain.

Now there are contradicting forces at play. The exiled parts suffer. And they want their story to be known. The protectors do everything for the story never to be told for fear of pain.
This is how parts get stuck in roles they do not like. They are only willing to take them on to protect the system and help it function in difficult circumstances.

As life goes on, parts form alliances and hierarchies as in large family systems or a community. Whatever happens within a system impacts external systems and vice versa. Everything is connected and interdependent. Personal healing reverberates on others.

Internal Family Systems theory – SELF

In IFS the key healing force is SELF. Each individual system is centered around an entity called SELF. It exists in every single human being. SELF has a particular energy that is healing for PARTS. It helps instore trust and progressively unburden parts so they can regain their freedom and other qualities lost during the exiled. And it can choose the roles that suit them and support the whole system much better.

Self-leadership is the ultimate condition of a healthy balanced body-mind and a balanced community. Read more about Negotiating For Self-Leadership In IFS.

Do you want to learn more about IFS therapy?
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Founder of Life Architect
Michael Pasterski is founder of Life Architect, Planets and Foundation for Conscious Education He is also the author of the “Insight. Road to Mental Maturity” book and blog about psychology and personal development which are read by more than a million people a year. You will find English version of blog on Every day he works as a coach and personal development trainer.

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