A brief explanation of IFS and parts

Feeling restless and edgy but don't know why? The Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapeutic model can help you find out what's happening and bring inner harmony.

7 June 2021

Have you experienced this restlessness where something just doesn't feel right, even if it seems like a normal day? There's this sense of being on edge, and yet, you don't know where this feeling comes from. 

One possibility is that different parts of you are pulling in different directions. This has not caused a major problem to you but is resulting in this unsettled feeling. 

Scholars and therapists generally accept and have discussed the multiplicity of the mind (Davies, 1998; Joseph, 2011; Moore, 2013; Schwartz & Sweezy, 2019) from different perspectives, spanning from the biological to the phenomenological views. 

A common example is how a part of you may wish to get out of bed to get going with the day, while another part wants to just lie in bed and relax. Or a part of you wants to eat the piece of cake while another part is distressed over the number of calories in the cake. 

If you are feeling edgy as described in the first paragraph of this blog post, there could be different parts pulling in opposite directions within you. 

This is a purely hypothetical scenario: Perhaps there is a part that is worried about the current Covid-19 pandemic while another part is concerned about your peace of mind and so tries to ignore the worries. The part who wants to ignore the worries could be more in control currently but the part who is worried is still exerting some influence in you. This subtle, unseen tug-of-war within you then leads to the feelings of restlessness and being on edge. 

The above scenario is but one possibility. There could be a different parts involved and even more than two parts. 

What can one do then? One way to change the situation is to get to know the parts, understand why they believe what they believe and do what they do, help them remove past burdens if they are present, and understand the roles of the different parts involved in the issue. 

All these can be done by you, your own Self, so that you can lead, help, support and love your own parts. This is the Self-leadership goal of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model of therapy created by Richard Schwartz (Schwartz & Sweezy, 2019). You can also work with a counsellor at Hope and Heart Counselling on this, or work with other IFS-trained therapists. 

Some people learn the IFS model by reading books on it, and it can lead to a lot of growth and self-empowerment. For many others, they find it useful to work with an IFS therapist, particularly for the initial stages or for more painful and difficult challenges, before they come to a place where they continue the work on their own. 

Davies, J. M. (1998). Multiple perspectives on multiplicity. Psychoanalytic dialogues, 8(2), 195-206.

Joseph, R. (2011). Origins of thought: consciousness, language, egocentric speech and the multiplicity of mind. Journal of Cosmology, 14, 324-348

Moore, M. (2013). Coaching the multiplicity of mind: a strengths-based model. Global advances in health and medicine, 2(4), 78-84.

Schwartz, R. C., & Sweezy, M. (2019). Internal family systems therapy. Guilford Publications.