The Internal Family Systems

Have you ever had the thought: “part of me feels …” ?

Turns out there is whole part of modern psychology focused on understanding humans a collection of parts. It’s called IFS, short for Internal Family Systems, and was first described by Richard Schwartz in the early 1990s. The general idea being that our internal mind can be represented a bunch of different personalities inside our head, each trying to protect or do some job for us as humans. At the core, there is a concept of Self, or the governing body of your person. When one is in control of the self one can understand what each of the parts wants and make informed decisions about actions.

There is much more to IFS, including the formation of parts from traumatic events, but I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not trained in any way with IFS except to view myself as a combination of parts. There are categories of parts that are designed for different purposes.

I was first introduced to this concept of IFS while reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessle Van Der Kolk. I’ve been practicing talking to my parts for over a year now, and while they are still often not in balance, I definitely am more aware of their existence in my daily interactions. This has helped me calm down or see why I’m getting too involved in a small piece of nuance.

The reason I’m writing about this is because I’ve had several conversations this week that really bring this to the front of my brain. I’ve talked to some people about defining my personal values and the conversation was so akin to IFS, I couldn’t ignore it. I had a conversation with a dear friends sister who is a psychologist who has attended an Van Der Kolk conference. I’ve also been keenly aware of my own parts playing out in my daily activities.

With all this pervasive parts talk in my week, I just wanted to call some awareness to the concept IFS and throw some interesting resources out there. In addition to The Body Keeps The Score I’ve also been reading Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life. Would recommend both.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks post on psychology. Back to normally scheduled writing next week.

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