IFS trauma therapy build on the fact that we are all multi-faceted. Everyone has a personality. However, if you allow yourself the freedom to think more openly, you will see that you’re made up of many sub-personalities. Quite often, these sub-personalities are in conflict with each other. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a type of psychotherapy that takes this into account in a big way. In fact, the title is meant to validate each part of you as part of your internal family system.
You want to balance the parts of an external family, right? Well, IFS seeks a similar kind of balance for all the personalities that make up your “Self.” In the process, it can help you recover from a wide range of problems — including trauma.
What is IFS?
This approach recognizes that none of your sub-personalities, or “parts”, are bad. Rather, they’ve had bad roles imposed upon them. They are wounded and deserving of healing. Healing your parts brings harmony to the greater Self. Again, you can think of a family for context. If each family member is healthy, the whole family is healthy.
Working with an IFS therapist has been found to promote:
- A calm reaction to the inevitable symptoms of daily stress or previous trauma
- A deeper understanding of oneself
- Preparation for emotional difficulties that lie ahead
What is Trauma?
You probably know many of the common causes of trauma, e.g., neglect, abuse, disaster, disability, and more. The causes are many, but they typically fall into a few broad categories:
- Too much happens too soon
- Too much happens for too long
- Losing personal power and the resources to deal with that
- Not having access to healing options
This adds up to some of your many parts — your internal family members — being traumatized. Some sub-personalities have shifted into permanent emergency mode. They seek to protect you even in the methods are not functional. Obviously, bringing these parts back into balance can facilitate recovery.
How IFS Trauma Therapy Can Help
IFS reminds the trauma survivor that they are not “just” a traumatized person. In fact, some parts of our internal family are not carrying negative memories and sensations. Integrating the different sub-personalities can help identify where the pain lives. You’ll better understand your triggers and visualize paths toward healing. Your IFS therapist creates a safe environment in which this work can be accomplished.
Some IFS Techniques
To better grasp how the recovery happens, it helps to know a little about the general approach taken with IFS. Firstly, the many sub-parts of you are broken into three general categories:
- Firefighters: As the name implies, these are protectors. They put out fires, but you’ll still have to get to the root cause of those fires.
- Managers: These parts plan diligently to help you avoid triggers. This saves you from painful experiences but, again, does not deal with the sources.
- Exiles: There are also parts that are vulnerable. Usually these are young parts of us that are kept “exiled”, or hidden from yourself and others. They commonly carry old unresolved painful emotions and beliefs.
What Happens Next
You’ll need to find where the sensations emerge from. It could, for example, feel like tight neck muscles. If so, that’s where your focus must be aimed. Some steps you will take:
- Learn from the part of you that feels the pain the most. Is that pain tied to an emotion or a particular memory? Does it grow from a certain time in your life?
- Identify how you feel about this sub-personality. This will help both you and your therapist surmise how important of a role it plays.
- Challenge yourself to become friends with this part of you. Find out where the fear comes from and see if friendship releases it.