Internal Family Systems defines our human psychology - our internal system - as constructed of multiple parts. Parts of us hold burdens and parts of us have distinct roles, all designed to support our survival and our inclusion in this difficult life we encounter. We also have what's called Self energy, which is the (always) undamaged field that exists in every one of us and can be accessed and experienced as the qualities of calm, confidence, courage, compassion, connectedness, creativity, clarity and curiosity. IFS has helped me tremendously in my healing journey and though I've been actively studying and employing this modality for several years now, my appreciation for it continues to grow. This past week I realized that parts of my system have continued to shop for healing results by using Self energy as a means of getting there. Trying to be curious with the parts of me that are in pain, that are anxious or sad. Remembering to send them compassion. Doing it well.
Not bad. Not bad at all. But...something opened up for me last week that I would describe as a new flavor of surrender. I felt some painful feelings brewing inside, feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt, and instead of working with them - I just yielded to them. It felt safe to let them in, and in they came.
They didn't heal instantly or disappear. They peaked and subsided though. And while they were surging through me, I stayed open to them, interested and receptive. They were colored with shame and fear and aloneness, and that was ok with me.
When the feelings subsided a couple of minutes later, I noticed my system felt more relaxed and less tense. I realized I wasn't resisting those painful feelings anymore, so they could be acknowledged (even now), without taking me over and also without other parts of me trying to wrestle them out of awareness. My parts weren't struggling. There was more breathing space and I felt humble and present, openhearted. And here's my takeaway:
Self energy is capacity, willingness, openness to be gentle with whatever experience is here.
It's not about trying to help it.
Or trying to unburden it.
It's more like..."I'm here with you now. Please let me know you, in your fullness and truth."
The feelings don't just go away or miraculously heal. (I thought that was the goal, and it was, for many of my parts.)
The painful emotions actually expanded and reverberated inside me. For a moment I felt tears and pressure, sensations of hollowness, heat, yearning. These sensations come waving red flags, and historically, my system always pushed these feelings away.
I have the privilege and the luxury of welcoming the worst now.
I've been practicing this anti-delight of deliberately and enthusiastically welcoming my worst feelings. I'm understanding Self energy differently now, as a confident, open surrender to being with my parts.
Written by Jessica Sorci, LMFT, PMH-C