Origins of Parts Work
This is a perspective of the psyche as being composed of several different parts with a central Self within. This concept of a pure Self at the center of our being is similar to the Buddhist idea of “Bodhisattva” nature (that we are all born as full enlightened beings). The Hindu’s of India have a greeting “Namaste” to describe the Self. Namaste means: “I bow to the Divine in you” recognizing that the Divinity (Self) within me, is the same Divinity within you. This pure Self within is not subject to traumatic experiences, the superficial personality, or any other defining qualities. The parts that we are talking about are aspects of our ego personality. These are fragments of the self. Due to life circumstance they have become exaggerated/frozen into one form or another. One may identify entirely with a part, temporarily separating themselves from the Divine Self within. From the Yogic perspective we are reconnecting with our inner witness, where we can look at our personality (ego self) without reaction or identification. The goal of parts work is to help the client disentangle from these parts and access the Self within. From this calm, connected, and centered place we can then witness objectively what these parts need and what purpose they have served.
Internal Family Systems (Richard Schwartz)
Richard Schwartz has developed a therapeutic approach to working with these parts called Internal Family Systems. He discovered this natural system working with considerably traumatized people. Clients were able to revisit disturbing memories without being absorbed by them. In this way healing can take place without re-traumatizing the client. He classified three major parts common in traumatized populations (most everyone to varying degrees has experienced some form of trauma)
1.Managers: The main role of this part is protection from internal/external threats. They try to prevent painful experiences from flooding ones awareness. This is the gatekeeper to the inner dimension.
2. Exiles: These are parts that are shameful, in pain, fearful, or traumatized. This usually occurs in childhood. Managers and the last category of firefighters try to exile these parts from the conscious mind to prevent re-traumatization.
3. Firefighters: These parts work to distract a person when the exiles come to the surface through behaviors like overeating, entertainment, drug use, violence, and inappropriate sexual interactions. They can also divert attention through obsession or hyper focus on a subject/aspect of self.
An important concept in IFS is that every part has a positive intent, even if their actions/perspective lead to further dysfunction. The therapist helps the client to create harmony between the parts, working to see them in perspective.
Healing Within’s use of Parts Work
Parts work is a therapeutic perspective that reflects and compliments that natural workings of the body, mind, spirit connection. It is for this reason that so many people experience their own authentic inner confirmation of the inherent wisdom of this practice. Although Shannon is not a certified Internal Family Systems practitioners, she integrates parts work with EMDR therapy to help clients process trauma. Visit our contact page if you would like to explore parts work with Shannon M. Foley LMFT.