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Internal Family Systems has been one of the most beneficial modalities informing my coaching life & my internal work.
So how do I describe this modality super simply as you’re watching the kids play at the playground or driving the kids to Forest School? I’ll use your language, really, everyone’s language.
Here’s what I mean: we say, “One part of me is excited about the upcoming homeschool mom spring retreat, but another part of me is concerned that I don’t have the time to be truly present at the retreat.”
This modality, Internal Family Systems, is all about honouring each of our parts. One part is excited for the time away & get clarity and another part is worried she doesn’t have enough time and feels bad that her kids are at home without her.
Here’s why I want to discuss Internal Family Systems for homeschool moms: because I think we need to honour all our different parts.
So, on today’s episode, I’m going to introduce you to Internal Family Systems (a super simplified, likely oversimplified flyover of IFS). I introduce it to you because I think it’s a truly valuable modality that can help you in your journey toward increasing health, wellness, and healing.
And certainly, the healing work through Internal Family Systems for Homeschool Moms will move you toward authenticity, confidence, and purpose and that’s what Season #5 of the Homeschool Mama Self-Care Podcast is all about.
According to Psychology Today, this is a synopsis of Internal Family Systems:
“Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an approach to psychotherapy that identifies and addresses multiple sub-personalities or families within each person’s mental system. These sub-personalities consist of wounded parts and painful emotions such as anger and shame. Also, parts that try to control and protect the person from the pain of the wounded parts. The sub-personalities are often in conflict with each other and with one’s core Self. This is a concept that describes the confident, compassionate, whole person that is at the core of every individual. IFS focuses on healing the wounded parts and restoring mental balance and harmony by changing the dynamics that create discord among the parts.
IFS was developed by psychologist Richard Schwartz. In his work as a family therapist, Schwartz began to observe patterns in how people described their inner lives. “What I heard repeatedly were descriptions of what they often called their “parts”—the conflicted subpersonalities that resided within them.” He began to conceive of the mind as a family, and the parts as family members interacting with one another.”
So today, I’m going to unpack and introduce you to Internal Family Systems (and why it matters).
If you want to do a deep dive with me and an IFS coach and facilitator, Christine Dixon from @theordinarysacred, you’re welcome to join me this Wednesday in the Patreon Support Group.
If you want to discuss one of Dick Schwartz’s books, No Bad Parts, join me in the Homeschool Mama Book Club.
Why would you even care about doing this work? Because you matter. And you want to live a life of authenticity, confidence, and purpose and you want that for your kids too. Your life matters, so does your kids.
Christine Dixon, the IFS coach, shares this:
What if loving all the parts inside yourself is practice for loving all the parts or people outside yourself?Christine Dixon, Wounded Healer @theordinarysacred
To whatever extent you enable that for yourself you can do for your kids.
Once again, how you approach yourself influences how you approach literally everyone in your world.
So time to learn to love all the parts inside yourself, even the shamed parts, the invalidated parts, the uncomfortable parts, the parts you don’t want others to see, and the parts you don’t want you to see yourself either.
I began my learning about Internal Family Systems through Instagram. Classic learning for us these days: on the interweb.
(Entire side note, our graduating daughter, our third daughter, routinely shares what she learns from TikTok. Though I don’t have a TikTok myself, and won’t find myself with a TikTok account, once again, learning happens everywhere, even on TikTok, but I digress…)
You can learn more about Internal Family Systems on the interweb through Christine Dixon’s resources:
- YouTube: The Basics of Internal Family Systems
- Instagram: Where she hangs out on Instagram
- Website: You can find Christine Dixon here
Principle 1: We have an internal family, not just an external family.
Is there a part of you that wishes another part of you didn’t respond so reactively?
Or a part of you that goes into a fight or flight response whenever your kiddo doesn’t do what you say, is unkind to another sibling, or says something unkind or disrespectful?
Or is there a part of you that hides and doesn’t declare what she really thinks and feels when someone or something threatens her sense of wellbeing?
Is there a part of you that must keep the house tidy, must keep the kids on task and inline, especially in front of Aunt Matilda, or must insist that you do sixty two things on your to-do list today before you prepare for dinner?
Ultimately, these are all different parts of you. These different parts are part of your internal family.
They all matter. They all have a reason for being within you. Some of them are hyper protective, some of them manage your internal environment so you feel in control, some of them hide and allow the other parts of you to manage and fight and protect.
We have an internal family, not just an external family.
Principle 2: There are parts of us that had to shoulder the big cares and responsibilities of our younger selves when we experienced attachment injuries or trauma.
And to this day, those parts continue to advocate, or take control, or manage, or parent, the other parts.
These parts are overworked and overburdened. They need healing.
Dick Schwartz says this about our overworked and overburdened selves:
“When you were young and experienced traumas or attachment injuries, you didn’t have enough body or mind to protect yourself. Your (true) Self couldn’t protect your parts, so your parts lost trust in yourself as the inner leader. They may even have pushed you out of your body and taken the hit themselves—they believed they had to take over and protect you and your other parts. But in trying to handle the emergency, they got stuck in that parentified place and carry intense burdens of responsibility and fear, like a parentified child in a family.”Richard C. Schwartz, No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model
Let’s talk about your parts.
When I share about these vulnerable parts, these overburdened and overworked parts, these defensive and overmanaging parts, what comes up for you?
- Where do you overmanage or overprotect?
- Do you recall when you first noticed these parts?
- What are the messages you’ve received at those pivotal moments?
What parts of you had to shoulder the big cares and responsibilities of your younger self?
Principle 3: Your overprotecting and overmanaging parts have served you. We don’t do anything that doesn’t serve us somehow.
Here’s what Dick Schwartz says about these parts:
“Your protectors’ goals for your life revolve around keeping you away from all that pain, shame, loneliness, and fear, and they use a wide array of tools to meet those goals—achievements, substances, food, entertainment, shopping, sex, obsession with your appearance, caretaking, meditation, money, and so on.”Richard C. Schwartz, No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model
Because we don’t want to feel shame, pain, loneliness, or fear, so when we do experience them, we find ways to overwhelm them with things, activities, caretaking, and maybe even homeschool caretaking.
Certainly that was a subconscious intention of mine as I began homeschooling my family, attempting to build utopia out of a painful, tumultuous family-of-origin story: attempting to capture my charmed life, the name of my website.
Therefore, every effort and energy we expend toward disabling our shame, pain, loneliness, or fear, disables our true self from experiencing life, being present in our lives, and thereby disabling our authenticity, confidence, and purpose.
But, how do we disable the overprotectors and overmanagers that want to protect and manage our shame, pain, loneliness, or fear?
Principle 4: According to Internal Family Systems, we need to listen to those parts, honour their stories, recognize their patterns, understand what they’re protecting and managing, why they’re protecting and managing, and integrate these parts with our true (self).
So the true Self can arise.
Dick Schwartz says that Internal Family Systems can be seen as attaching to ourselves. He says this:
“IFS can be seen as attachment theoryRichard C. Schwartz, No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model
taken inward, in the sense that the client’s Self becomes the good attachment figure to their insecure or avoidant parts. I was initially amazed to discover that when I was able to help clients access their (true) Self, they would spontaneously begin to relate to their parts in the loving way that the textbooks on attachment theory prescribed. This was true even for people who had never had good parenting in the first place. Not only would they listen to their young exiles with loving attention and hold them patiently while they cried, they would firmly but lovingly discipline the parts in the roles of inner critics or distractors. (True) Self just knows how to be a good inner leader.”
So, if you’d like to learn more about Internal Family Systems, you can access Christine Dixon’s course, Internal Family Systems 101, you can learn more about the IFS Model and how to apply it to your own inner system.
Purchase and follow this course to learn about this transformative process!
Learn more about Internal Family Systems and Dick Schwartz’s book, No Bad Parts here.
If you want to discuss one of Dick Schwartz’s books, No Bad Parts, join me in the Homeschool Mama Book Club.
Big Emotions Journal for the Homeschool Mom
Introducing the Homeschool Mama’s Toolbox, a set of resources designed to help homeschooling mothers deal with big emotions and specifically address their thoughts. Your brain and thoughts are important tools that need to be regularly sharpened, and the Toolbox is here to help you do just that.
Incorporating mindfulness practices into your homeschool is one of the most effective ways to separate yourself from your thoughts and be present. The Toolbox includes three questions from Dr. Amen, author of Change your Brain, Change your Life: What am I feeling? What is the thought behind my feeling? What is the story behind my thought? These are questions that you can practice regularly to get the most out of them.
The Toolbox also encourages a daily meditation practice to help you distance yourself from your thoughts and just be present. Guided meditations such as Guided Meditation on Controlling Negative Thoughts and Guided Meditation for Inner Peace & Calm can help you get started.
Additionally, the Toolbox offers a Thought Care Checklist to help you deal with challenging situations that may arise in your homeschool. By considering alternative perspectives, you can reframe your thoughts and deal with the situation in a more positive and constructive way.
With the Homeschool Mama’s Toolbox, you can learn to influence your thoughts and create a better reality for yourself and your family. Download the Toolbox today and start sharpening your tools!
People also ask:
- You can learn more in this discussion with IFS coach, Christine Dixon, and me on the podcast.
- Homeschool Help Podcast for Your (Real) Homeschool Mom Life
- 16 Practical Self-Compassion Tools to Help Homeschool Moms
- Homeschool Help for Mom: Dealing with her Big Emotions
- How Kristen Neff Informs My Homeschool with Self-Compassion
- Useful Self-Compassion Strategies for the Homeschool Mama
Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod