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Disclaimer: I could be off, of course. Don’t rate these thoughts more highly than anyone who has seriously (like, hundred+ hours, versus ten) studied and practiced IFS. But after prepping an intro last week, here are the key characteristics of IFS that I think explain why it helps people:
If you’re experientially on the inside of a feeling, IFS would call that being “blended” with that part. By labeling it as a “part,” it becomes something un-blended — an object distinct from your self. That’s cognitive de-fusion, aka ADT’s subject-object shift, an “I have” relationship rather than “I am.”
You can say “I have a part of me that…” without feeling as much responsibility for that desire/feeling/whatever. After all, it’s not YOU saying that — just a part inside you. You’re not saying that you agree with it, or that it would win a vote inside your brain. Thus it’s safer to confess, to face, to listen to.
When we “ask a part” what it wants, we can open ourselves up to listen in a different, more direct/honest way. The key feature of this oracular interrogation is, I think, to bypass the default “explainer” mode of our default narrative-construction process, that ever-present storyteller which to me seems more “on the inside” regarding justifying our behaviors, avoiding aversive thoughts, sounding “good,” etc.
Lastly, what do we do with parts? If you have a part using some poor technique (avoidance, anxiety, panic) to guard you from some traumatic experience… well, that’s still a part of you. I hope you won’t try to bully, coerce, or attempt to obliterate part of yourself. IFS agrees that there are no bad parts. But often a part may relax upon being listened to — and we can integrate its concern in a more-resourced, less-damaging way. IFS points us not towards internal conflict, but towards a harmonization of our council of parts, governed by our equanimous Self.
That’s my positive summarization. Would you add, remove, change any if it were your list?