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No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma & Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model


Dr. Richard C. Schwartz has decades of experience in working with clients to help heal trauma. He has published numerous books and articles regarding the IFS (internal family systems) model and I can personally vouch for it's effectiveness.

Anyone who has been to group or family therapy will understand the dynamic each person has in any given family. For example, I'm sure we've all seen some siblings assume the role of mentor, caregiver, or protector in a dynamic where maybe one of the caregivers is incapable or incapacitated to do so. One might even assume the role of a victim to offset the responsibility for one's own actions. The point is that whatever role, it was created out of necessity to care for and protect the survival of the whole, the self. Likely, Dr. Schwartz uses this external model in the case of the individual being made of the sum of its internal players. One might have an angry part, an addictive part, an abusive part, and funny part, and many other parts some of which are considered negative parts. The idea is that these parts were created internally out of a coping necessity therefore just as one would address a role within the external family, one would address a part within the internal family.

I really appreciate this concept as it moves away from the mono-mind idea that we are only whole in our one-ness and that makes the individual. In the outward world, most people view multiple personalities or bipolar as a disorder and are negatively labeled as such. "The only difference is that people with Dissociative Identity Disorder suffered horrible abuse and their system of parts got blown apart more than most", Dr. Schwartz explains. In that case, each part is more polarized and disconnected. However, in the case of anyone else with less severe trauma, we are still on the spectrum, and our parts are connected and working as part of the family. It's interesting to note that many modern mindfulness meditation practices direct one to quiet the parts and maybe at certain times that can be a great thing, however when actively using the IFS model one would want to take the time out to listen carefully to what these players are trying to convey. In many cases, they have been ignored for decades. Like a child being shooed away, ignored, reprimanded, and thought of unfondly so too are the parts begging to be acknowledged. Ideally, once tended to they can ease up once their role and the reason their role was created are addressed. In many cases, space is freed up for these parts to assume of more positive and healthful role without or internal family.

Personally, this book and learning about IFS has given me permission to learn to love the parts, that otherwise might seem unloveable and in doing so alter the internal dynamic, thus altering myself and my unconscious thought patterns as a whole. It's also helped me get to a place to actively listen to the parts, instead of trying to manage behavior alone, which is only the outward expression of the inner world. Lastly, it's redirected my view of my meditation practice to incorporate time to listen. I would never think about telling someone "What you're saying isn't important and neither are you" so why would I meditate with the purpose of annihilating my parts? It's altered my meditation to listen first and then make space for resolve.

The book is to divided into an explanation of how IFS works and examples of sessions and exercises. It's fairly all-encompassing so if one wants to try the process on one's own there's a groundwork to start from. I have the physical book, however, I listened to it audibly also, and although it does the, audibly can be a little choppy because some of the sections are the session and exercises. Furthermore, I know therapists that use this system with clients that are dealing and serious trauma in conjunction with ketamine therapy and have seen great results. There is definitely something to take away from digging into this book.

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