Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy
We don't just have thoughts; instead our thoughts are talking to each other. [...]
Is it just that you have an internal discussion with yourself, thinking one thing and then the other? If you really stop and listen, it feels more like two separate personalities inside you having a debate that feels familiar: each time you encounter something that challenges your worldview, one part of you takes the skeptical side around the issue and another stays open. If you were to slow things down even more by focussing on just one of those inner voices and, from a place of pure curiosity, ask it some questions and wait for an answer—without trying to think of the answer—you would learn that it was not just a transient thought.
So what is it? Once you accept the possibility that the minds contains components that interact, you are faced with the following questions:
1. Are these interacting components ephemeral—new ones arising and disappearing as we move through the day—or are they consistent inhabitants of some kind of inner community?
2. Why are they there? Are they the natural state of the mind, or were they created by the splitting of the unitary personality by trauma, or by the internalization of significant people, or by practicing a social role?
3. How autonomous are they?
4. Are these interacting components unidimensional (for example, the sad part is just sad), or do they contain and express a range of emotion and thought (for example, the sad part also contains fear, anger, and so on, and is a full range personality)?
5. Relatedly, are they the role they are in (the inner critic, the angry part, and so on), or is there more to them? Do they contain valuable qualities that are obscured by their role? How much can they transform?
6. How much power do they have to affect the actions and feelings of the person they are in?
Different theorists and spiritual leaders have reached different conclusions regarding the questions, and their answers, in turn, have determined the rest of their theories, psychotherapies, or spiritual paths.
For example, if you consider these interacting components of the mind to be transient, ephemeral thoughts with little power or autonomy, it makes sense to try to help people ignore them and, instead, to stay centered in a more rational or mindful state. If you believe they are distortions or internalizations with considerable power, you might encourage people to counter or correct the irrational things they say.
But if, instead, you consider them to be permanent inner residents of the mind with full range inner personalities as well as abundant intelligence, autonomy, and power, and if you think they contain many valuable qualities and resources and that they reflect the natural state of mind, as a therapist you will encourage people to listen to them with genuine curiosity and respect, and relate to them in a compassionate loving way. This is the position of IFS regarding parts. (Schwartz & Falconer, 2017, pp. 8-9)
Schwartz R. C. & Falconer R. R. (2017). Many minds, one Self: Evidence for a radical shift in paradigm.