I had the absolute pleasure of working with Tammy Sollenberger as she drafted, pitched, and published The One Inside: 30 Days to your Authentic Self. Tammy is an IFS therapist and host of The One Inside Podcast. For those of you who SMH at IFS (Scratched my head) (Internal Family Systems), here you go:
IFS is one of the fastest-growing healing modalities because it is accessible and immediately useful. IFS is an approach to healing that welcomes the voices in one’s head (parts) that work at cross purposes– a part that loves comfort eating and another that wants to lose five pounds; a part that is sober-curious and a part who loves being the life of the party; a part that wants to write and another that is convinced that shame, humiliation, and failure await any such a risk. These “inner family dramas” are the heart of IFS. The idea is that as these parts learn to listen to each other and accept leadership from your inner essential Self, in IFS parlance, there is more inner harmony.
Maybe you can tell from this thumbnail sketch that IFS is well suited to self-inquiry. The model is simple and clear and can be used easily on the most chronic inner battles with great effects. For anyone interested in an accessible IFS primer, Tammy’s is perfect. She introduces the model and uses it herself on her various parts. Each chapter explores a word, tells a story, does a bit of teaching, and offers an inquiry. The best way to explain what makes this book so useful (and fun) is to give you a taste. Here is an excerpt from a chapter on honesty.
One way I know I am blended with a part is when I overuse the word “fine,” as in “I’m fine, everything is fine, we are all fine.” The overuse, or the use at all of this word, is a cue I am in a part.
A part of me says I am not honest when I do this. When people ask me how I am doing, I respond, “I’m fine. How are you?” This part is a major player in my system, and I call her Fine.
I have a very powerful, wonderful part who has pretended she is Fine, that I am fine, for a very long time. Because I believe strongly that I value honesty, I know she must have a good reason for being an active part of my system.
When I check in with her with curiosity, she says she thought this kept people happy and me emotionally safe. She has a fear that if she tells someone she feels a certain way, they will tell her why she is wrong to feel that way, making her feel worse.
When I was little and someone asked me if I wanted something to drink, I always said, “No thank you.” I was always thirsty so the chances are I actually wanted to say “yes.” My mother overheard me once and gave me permission to accept by telling me it was not rude to accept. I thought I always had to be fine in order to be loved, even when it came to basic needs like thirst.
In order for me to be honest now about my feelings, I need to get to know Fine and help her with these fears. As I connect to Fine by putting attention on the numbness I feel when she is blended with me, I hear her say she believes she is too needy, she will upset someone else if she shares her feelings or asks for what she needs.
I let her know she does not have to be the one to speak to how I feel. I can do that. She is younger and she would rather be playing with dolls, not telling adults how she feels.
My fine part has strong numbing capacities. Sometimes I actually don’t know how I feel; I just feel fine because this Fine part has blocked all other feelings.
My fine part works hard to find ways to not stay in my feelings. Sometimes it uses a side show to distract me by focusing on gossip, criticizing others, making light of a situation, or being silly. I let her know I see how she is trying to help me by distracting me in order to protect me from bigger feelings. I ask her, “What are you afraid would happen if I just stay, stay with whatever I am feeling?”
I hear, “it is dangerous. I would have to defend and explain myself. I will be minimized or dismissed. I will be invalidated and made fun of. I am too sensitive to handle this. It is easier to smile, be polite, and eat cookies later.”
I let her know this makes a lot of sense and thank her for how hard she works for me.
I am curious what is happening for you as your read this. Do you have a Fine part? Maybe yours is called Numb or Distracted. Maybe you have a strong assertive part who believes she has to be louder and more extreme in order to be heard. Be curious about what parts of you are up around expressing yourself.
For more connection today:
Notice what you ‘lie’ about, especially around sharing your feelings with your support systems. Who is afraid and what are they afraid of? Name this part. Get to know this part of you with compassion and gentleness. Notice what this part tends to use as a distraction so you don’t stay with big feelings. Remind them you can take on this job and stay with hard feelings. Ask what they would rather do.