Internal Family Systems Theory: An Archetype for Understanding Ourselves
By Matthew M. Ready, LMSW, CAADC
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
- C.G. Jung
We enter this world as creative, courageous, calm, confident, curious, compassionate, clear, connected, accepting, non-critical and secure human beings. As life begins to unfold, we gradually become subjected to experiences within our immediate and extended developmental environments where our needs are not met or are marred by confusion, contradiction, inconsistency, uncertainty or neglect or abuse. In response, as adaptive humans, we are forced to pivot and adjust and fortify ourselves psychologically in order to cope and survive. Our well- intended protective parts emerge, our defensive armature is erected and our personalities (thoughts, beliefs, feelings) are shaped. Within this process, we often times end up evolving into who we've had to become as opposed to who we've wanted to be.
We often times end up evolving into who we've had to become as opposed to who we've wanted to be.
Just below our often times pervasive troubling and frustrating way of being, there is a core version of ourselves that has unlimited capacity for healing, direction, change and peace. Reconnecting and rediscovering that true self, founded in compassion and curiosity, and using it in our healing work is what IFS therapy is all about. One of the most revolutionary characteristics of IFS is the ability for the client to become their own therapist in a way and learn to identify, manage, lead, heal and integrate their own internal parts in way unlike any other treatment modality. Getting in touch with that true, deeper part of ourselves is invaluable in that it doesn't just undo a disorder or help us challenge unhealthy cognitive and behavioral patterns, it rather serves as a watershed moment which allows us to recognize and make sense of some of the more problematic aspects of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors. In IFS, from the compassionate curiosity of our core healing/leadership Self, we come to understand and appreciate some of our more troublesome parts or defense mechanisms of our personality and learn what they are trying to do for us and how they are trying to help and protect us. Once we allow these parts to unblend a bit from self, we begin to gain an understanding of what they are, where they originated within our development, how they view us, how they are trying to protect us and what they are trying to do for us. We learn to be with our parts instead of being in them. We learn to talk with them instead of talking from them. This creation of space between true self and our parts allows for the healthy integrated and the ability for our true self to lead and heal as intended.
About the Author
Matthew M. Ready, LMSW, CAADC
Matthew M. Ready is a licensed Master's level Clinical and Macro Social Worker and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He has been practicing with HRA Psychological Services since 2009 with particular treatment emphasis in the areas of substance use disorder treatment and adolescent developmental issues. He also provides marriage counseling and standard mental health treatment for adolescents and adults. Prior to his practice with HRA, Mr. Ready provided years of service within the field of child welfare before shifting his efforts to Mercy Health Behavioral Health Services and the Drug and Sobriety Court program with the 60th District Circuit Court in Muskegon, MI.