Are you aware that you have different “parts” or aspects that live inside of you? Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a powerfully transformative, evidence-based model of therapy. IFS is an approach to therapy that identifies and addresses these multiple parts within each person’s mental system. It is talk therapy in which you work to identify and understand the specific parts that make up your internal mental system. According to the Internal Family Systems model, parts often play three common roles.
Managers: Managers are protective parts that function to control people’s surroundings and manage emotions and tasks to navigate daily life. They are the parts of us that tell us how to be in the world. Managers are driven by social norms and expectations. They are the parts of us that we feel most comfortable showing to the outside world.
Exiles: Exiles are parts that hold hurt, fear, or shame from early experiences, and they carry the difficult emotions and memories associated with those experiences. Managers aim to keep exiles under control and hidden from conscious awareness to avoid distress and pain. If we are triggered by external events that remind of previous times in the past when we were hurt, our exile part re-surfaces.
Firefighters: Firefights are activated when exiles produce overwhelming, painful, or threatening emotions. Firefights are there to “hose down” the situation. They aim to inhibit those difficult emotions by any means necessary, such as substance use or binge eating.
IFS also believes that everyone has a core Self, or genuine self, waiting to be accessed. The Self can identify, observe, and help these parts become less extreme, more productive, and coexist together.
One of the most important differences between IFS and other forms of therapy is the fact that all parts within an individuals’ system are seen as trying to help or protect the individual. All parts are doing their best to bring ease and comfort to an individual.
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