I am far from an expert on IFT (Internal Family Systems) but I am familiar enough with the concept of the modality to really appreciate and resonate.
The idea of IFS is that we have an entire internal family of parts helping us navigate life and carry our trauma. I appreciate this concept because I have always felt fragmented.
I have said numerous times that I feel like I have lived three lives, I have even written it in a book; so having a therapy model that acknowledged what I already felt inside is validating.
I try to keep this concept in mind when I am dealing with triggered emotions and last night I had a an amazingly releasing experience. It felt like I finally figured it out.
Wounded Parts Activate
Yesterday evening while watching TV with the family I was suddenly overcome with intrusive thoughts about a family member I made a decision to cut communication with this year.
I began reasoning with myself what reconnecting would look like. Perhaps one more opportunity for her to change how she treats me. I was convincing myself that I am healed enough to do this. Simply unblock her and send a message opening a door again to see if she might show up for me, finally, like I so desperately want her to.
I miss her, I feel the deep loss of family and I began questioning whether I was too harsh in my decision and perhaps she just needs me to be understanding.
The Blended Conversation
I kept trying to reason with myself; acknowledge that I miss my family. I tried to recognize that I am sad, but I don’t need her in my life. I started going over the pros/cons of why I made my decision. The pep talk continued as I told myself what I have done is okay.
I was doing everything I could to reason myself out of the sadness I feel and the sudden desire to reconnect. I just want the discomfort and the self-doubt to stop!
Intellectually I know that the decision I made is the correct one for me. I need it for healing and to feel safe. I also know that what I am feeling are childhood wounds, so I was trying to talk them into submission.
It wasn’t working.
The conversation in my head kept going round and round and my feelings weren’t going anywhere.
The Unblended Conversation
Suddenly it dawned on me.
I was working with a wounded younger part of myself and just like a child, this part of me doesn’t understand the intellectualized reasoning I was throwing at myself.
There were two different parts of me at odds and trying to attend to the same issue. So I changed my internal dialogue with myself and acknowledged the younger part of myself as a separate piece of me that was hurting.
I reached out to my younger self and said:
“I see you little one, and I know how badly you want your family to love and accept you. I know you are afraid of standing up for yourself because that was dangerous for you. I understand that you feel like you should allow them to treat you however they want so long as they stay around. I know how badly you are hurting and how badly you wish your life had gone differently. It isn’t fair and I know none of it makes sense.
But I want you to know it isn’t your fault. I am here with you now, and we are safe. You don’t have to go back to her, the boundaries you have set are valid and you deserve them. It is okay to miss her and to feel this hurt, you and I will make it through this together. I am here with you now.“
The Emotional Release
As I spoke to my young, wounded part last night my tears fell like a waterfall from my eyes as I finally gave this piece of me the space to be seen and heard. I let her know that she is safe, that we are safe, and that it was okay to grieve.
I will not abandon her like our family has and I will do everything I can to earn her trust as we heal, together.
I felt the visceral shift in my mind and body as the two parts of me separated so that they can work together to heal instead of staying tangled together and fighting each other for space.
I can’t intellectualize my healing, I can’t think my way through – I have to show up for myself and yesterday I did that in a whole new way.
This morning as I write this, my young, wounded, inner child is still sad but I can see the separation between her sadness and my emotions as an adult sitting here at the keyboard. She is sitting with me, not as me.
I think this is a first step for me in a new way of learning to show up for myself and manage the emotions of my childhood.
On goes the journey.
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