How do you do the work of true inner transformation? If there are parts of you that are getting in the way – of intimacy, of thriving, of living in integrity – then you’re going to have a tough time realizing the full potential of your life and your relationships. However, you have everything you need inside of you – if you know how to access it! In today’s conversation, we’re getting a return visit from Dick Schwartz, creator of Internal Family Systems. We’ll be exploring this powerful way of finding your core resourcefulness – which he calls “Self” energy – and using it to help heal and grow the parts within you that are holding you back, or interfering with your vibrancy and effectiveness. You’ll learn how to identify the different parts within you, and the roles that they are playing, and you’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be coming from “Self”. And at the end you will hear Dick Schwartz guide me through an actual journey of identifying a part that’s been impacting me in the here and now – and you’ll hear how he works with me, and that part, to heal and transform. It’s powerful, and vulnerable, and all here for you to experience on this week’s episode of the Relationship Alive podcast.
And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.
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Listen to Relationship Alive Episode 26 with Dick Schwartz – How to Get All the Parts within You to Work Together
Read Dick Schwartz’s Books along with others focusing on how to apply Internal Family Systems – both as a therapist, and for your life
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Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner’s Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)
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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. Way back in Episode 26 of the Relationship Alive Podcast, we spoke with Dick Schwartz who is the Founder of Internal Family Systems which is a way of coming to understand how you operate in the world, the various parts of you that sometimes have very different agendas for you and your life. Of course, this can have an enormous impact on how you show up in relationship and just how you show up in life in general.
Neil Sattin: Maybe you can relate to what I’m talking about, that feeling that one part of you wants one thing, another part of you wants another thing and how that can leave us paralyzed or maybe doing things that we’re not necessarily proud of or that we didn’t expect or that our partners didn’t expect.
Neil Sattin: The process of working with your internal family, all of the parts within you and how they interrelate and the process of finding your own self to lead the way, that was what we covered back in Episode 26. This conversation that we’re about to have with Dick Schwartz about some of the finer points of Internal Family Systems and how it can be useful for you in your day to day life to see how it’s impacting you, all these parts within you and to give you some really practical new things that you can try to help you get related to how this is impacting you, how it’s impacting your relationship and that’s where we’re headed today.
Neil Sattin: I’m very psyched to welcome back to the show Dick Schwartz to talk more about Internal Family Systems. He is the Head of the Center for Self Leadership, trains therapists all over the world and also has workshops for lay people to go through the process of self-discovery and healing and integration and bringing all of those parts back into harmony with each other.
Neil Sattin: Dick Schwartz, thank you so much for joining us again on Relationship Alive.
Dick Schwartz: Great to talk to you again Neil. I enjoyed our first conversation and you’re a great interviewer.
Neil Sattin: Thank you. Thank you. We’ll see. I could have gotten worse in the past couple of years. Hopefully, not. I just gave a quick synopsis in that introduction. By the way, if want to download the transcript or action guide from this episode, you can visit neilsattin.com/self2, that’s the word self and then the number two, or you can text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Just didn’t want to forget that because I’m sure we’re going to cover a lot of ground.
Neil Sattin: Given what I had said already, I’m wondering what are the salient points, what’s your elevator speech about “this is what Internal Family Systems is, this is why it’s so important”?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I got to find the perfect elevator speech but I can elaborate a little bit on what you said. It’s my belief that we all are multiple personalities, not in the sense that we have that disorder, but that we all have these what you were saying, we all have these parts that are little sub-minds inside of us and I mentioned too that I just wrote a book tracking the history of that in our culture and in psychotherapy that this idea has been in the field for years and years and comes up and then gets knocked down again.
Dick Schwartz: I’m trying to resurrect it, that it’s almost like that movie, Inside Out, only with a lot more than just the five that were in that movie where they interact with each other, that’s what we call thinking often, and sometimes, one will take over and make us do things we don’t want to do like you said. It’s a little inner family or society that most of the time, we don’t pay much attention to and think of it as just thinking or different emotions coming and going.
Dick Schwartz: If you do shift your focus inside, almost everybody can access their parts and will learn that they’re all in there doing their best. Many of them are frozen in time in the past during traumas or in psychotherapy, we call attachment injuries in your family. They’re as extreme as they had to be back then to protect you and those are often the ones that we don’t like and try to get rid of but you can’t really get rid of them. When you try, they just get stronger usually.
Dick Schwartz: In addition to all these parts, the other thing I’ll say about the parts is that the good news is they’re all valuable. It’s like we’re built with this inner multiplicity to help us in our lives. Even the very extreme ones that screw up your life can transform once they feel witnessed by you and you can help them out of where they’re stuck in the past and then they become very valuable qualities.
Dick Schwartz: The other good news is that as I was exploring all this, I ran into what we’ll call the Self which is almost a different level of entity inside of everyone that can’t be damaged and has all the capacity you need to heal these parts. When I work with people, I help them access that first, that essence that vital resource and from that place, begin to work with their parts. When people access their Self, we were talking about leadership earlier, they just naturally have qualities like curiosity and calm and what we call the eight C’s of self-leadership, compassion, courage, confidence, clarity, connectedness and there’s one I just forgot.
Neil Sattin: Curiosity, calm and confidence, did you say that?
Dick Schwartz: Confidence. I don’t think I said confidence.
Neil Sattin: Okay. Compassion.
Dick Schwartz: Compassion. I did say compassion.
Neil Sattin: Okay.
Dick Schwartz: Those are what we call the eight C’s of self-leadership but it turns out that everybody at their essence, when that’s accessed, experiences those qualities in others. From that place, has wisdom about how to heal themselves emotionally. That’s as close to an elevator speech as I can get I think.
Neil Sattin: Okay. A couple of questions. First, is that even true for kids? Do kids have a Self Energy that helps them heal their parts?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yes. Very much, and we use this model a lot with kids. There’s a book on IFS with kids fairly recently. It’s quite amazing because you would think that that Self has to develop but even in very young kids, you can access that place. From that place, they don’t know how to do a lot of things in the outside world but they do know how to heal themselves and relate with love and kindness to these different parts such that the parts will transform.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. The other thing I was curious about was whether you could offer an example, just so people know what we’re talking about. Can you think of a time or someone you worked with where they had a part that was really destructive and what that transformed into through working with that part in healing just as an example of how that works?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There are many, many, many because I’m a therapist and I specialized in the treatment of severe complex trauma for years. I worked with people who had intense suicidal parts for example or parts that wanted to hurt them in other ways and would cut them and then parts that were rageful and would hurt other people. I spent seven years using this model with sex offenders too and I’m here to say that all of those parts including the sex offenders when approached with compassion and curiosity would reveal the secret history of how they got into the role they were in and the crime and how much they hated to do what they were doing but they were carrying these beliefs and emotions from their past experiences that drove them to do those things.
Dick Schwartz: In understanding that and also getting them out of where they were stuck in the past, they were all able to transform. If I’m working with a suicidal client for example and I would ask or I’d have the client ask the part why it wanted to kill them, it would say, if I don’t kill you, you’re going to continue to suffer the rest of your life. I would say, if we could get her out of her suffering in a different way, would you have to kill her? The part would say, no but I don’t think you can do that. I would say, okay. Give me a chance to show that we can and then we would do that. We would heal the parts that are suffering so badly.
Dick Schwartz: You come back and now the suicidal part is happy to step out of its role and we help it into another role which often is the exact opposite of what the protector, the protective part has been in. In the case of suicide, it’s often now the part wants to help you enjoy life in different ways. That would be an example.
Neil Sattin: Wow. So powerful because I think one misconception that someone might have would be a part like that where you got to get that out of there somehow.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Get rid of the harming part.
Dick Schwartz: That’s right. That’s the way our mental health system and our culture has viewed these things, not as entities trying their best in a misguided way as to protect us but as destructive impulses that we have to get rid of. The level of suicide is going up and levels of addiction. All is because we tend to go to war against these parts. When you do that, they think you don’t get how dangerous it is and they’ll up the ante and they’ll kick your butt. You can’t beat them most of the time.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. You offer an example in one of your books that I was reading about like imagining you’re on a boat and you have a part that is convinced that something is true. The only way they’re going to keep the boat upright is by leaning out this side of the boat. Then there’s this opposing part that thinks basically the exact opposite and they’re leaning out the other way. The more you try and adjust one or the other, instead of coming both in to share tea and crumpets under the mast of the boat, it tends to push them out further to the edges leaning off the sides.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. When any part gets extreme in one direction, there usually will be a part that will get extreme in the opposite direction. It’s what we call polarization. You find that in other levels of system, for example our country right now is highly polarized such that the more I as a therapist or anybody sides with one side, the more extreme the other part has to get because they think the boat is going to collapse if they don’t lean out in the opposite way.
Dick Schwartz: A lot of what we try to do is get to know each side with curiosity and compassion and then help them come into the boat and trust that it’s safe to do that and get to know each other in a different way and see that they actually have things in common. They both have the survival of the boat in common for example and then help them find a new relationship. The best person to do that isn’t the therapist, it’s the client’s Self.
Dick Schwartz: Frequently, we’re helping people access the Self and then from that place, become their own inner therapist to these polarized parts.
Neil Sattin: Yeah and that’s something that’s noticeably different about Internal Family Systems, the role of the therapist. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about why that’s so important to usher your clients into being in Self energy and then from that place, more or less doing their own therapy.
Dick Schwartz: As you’re saying, that’s probably the biggest difference between IFS and most other therapies and that is that rather than me, the therapist being the good attachment figure, it might be one way to think of it to the client and to the client’s very insecure or hurt parts so that my relationship with the client becomes the fulcrum of their healing. My relationship is important in the sense that if I can be in what I’m calling Self energy, that allows the client to feel safe enough to drop their guard, their protected parts relax, and allows them to access Self.
Dick Schwartz: In that state, they become the primary caretaker to their parts, the primary attachment figure which is very empowering for clients and they can do it on their own between sessions and it becomes a life practice that way rather than there being this intense dependence on the therapist.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. One of the cases that you write about involves treating someone with bulimia and you detail how 14 sessions and this woman was in charge basically of her life again. I don’t know what happened to that particular person but there’s something magical and it makes a lot of sense as well, not magical in like fantasy but more like, yeah that makes total sense when people feel empowered that way to work with the parts in them that otherwise were running the show.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That’s part of why this often takes less time than others because as I said, people are doing this work on their own between sessions and many of my sessions, a client comes in and the first 10, 15 minutes, they’re just catching me up on everything they’ve been doing at home. Then we go in and we do some more and then they take it from there so yeah.
Neil Sattin: A quick stepping out moment, because I know this comes up as a therapist and it also comes up in life. When you’re interacting with other people’s parts, I think you use the term blended. When someone is blended with their part, they’re being that rageful part or that inconsiderate or mean or whatever it is. What’s a way that you use to say in Self energy, compassion, curious, et cetera in the face of someone being potentially really offensive or inappropriate? Maybe I mean this more in terms of interpersonally out in the world versus in the treatment room.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I’ve had a lot of practice given the kinds of clients that I was talking about because they often have parts that as you get close enough to them to do any damage, suddenly, their rage will come at you and they’ve been watching you for session after session and they know your weaknesses and they find just the right thing to say. These clients would be labeled borderline personality which is a very pejorative way of thinking of somebody.
Dick Schwartz: It’s a lot better to just think of them as having this protective rage that isn’t going to let you get close enough. I’ve had many, many practice sessions of immediately noticing the parts of me that come to protect me, defend me and then in the moment now, not before but now, I in the moment, can notice those parts and ask them to just let me handle this, to just let me stay and I’ll feel this shift from my heart being fully closed up and my urge to lash out. That will immediately evaporate and feel my heart open again and I’ll be able to see past the protector in the client to the pain that’s driving it so I have compassion.
Dick Schwartz: I’ll be able to stay calm and simply that presence is very diffusing for these rageful parts. Whatever I say, if it comes from that place is going to deescalate rather than escalate.
Neil Sattin: You notice that huge difference between when you’re coming from Self energy versus a logical, rational manager part-
Dick Schwartz: Yeah, absolutely. I can do that with most anybody now except my wife. When she and I get into it, I just notice these parts coming in. I know that it’s going to make it worse but I can’t get them to step back because she can hurt me like nobody else.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: We’ve learned ways of repairing that afterwards, but yeah. When the protectors, even if it’s a logical, rational one which doesn’t seem so bad just inflames her angry part and my angry part really sets things off. Anyway, yeah.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I do want to mention that we did have Toni Herbine-Blank on the show to talk about intimacy from the inside out which is the way she applies IFS to couples work and for you listening, that’s Episode 52 that you can refer back to.
Dick Schwartz: Great.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I’m curious because – full disclosure, I see an IFS therapist, my wife sees an IFS therapist and so I’m a little biased here-
Dick Schwartz: Honored to hear that Neil…
Neil Sattin: Yeah. The language of are you coming from Self right now? That permeates our relationship particularly when things happen so I know you are just saying that all bets are off when you’re with your wife but I am curious if you have … Yeah, two important things here. One is, is there a way that you found reliably to suggest, wait a minute, we’re not Self to Self in this moment.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: That’s been a godsend. At some point, one of us will say, okay, let’s just take a time out and work with our parts and come back when we can be more Self-led and we do it. That really has defused things. Then the next step and probably Toni talked about this too is to come back and what we call speak for rather than from the parts that were protecting us but also speak for the pain or the fear or the shame that was driving those protectors. When I can speak for what I call my exiles, those parts that I locked up in the past because they were so hurt or scared or ashamed.
Dick Schwartz: When I can speak from Self for those parts, then my wife Jean can hear that rather than when I’m speaking from those parts that try to defend me because they’re so afraid that I’ll feel ashamed and so on.
Neil Sattin: Wow. So many possibilities right now bumping through my brain about where to go. One loose end from earlier in this conversation, when someone comes to you and they’re convinced that they are defective or that they don’t have the resource within them, maybe they don’t have that experience of Self energy that shows them that it’s possible, what do you do to help them see actually, you are the one that you need right now?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. A lot of people start out that way.
Neil Sattin: Right because they’re thinking, if I had all the answers, I wouldn’t be so fucked up, right?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah and they’ve never had that experience of what we call Self. They’ve never felt it in their lives so why would they think they have it? They’ve been told by their families that they don’t have anything like that, that they’re good for nothing so they come in really believing that and I’ll say, I know there are parts of you that don’t believe that’s in there but if you give me a shot, I can prove that it is.
Dick Schwartz: By that, I’d say, okay. Let’s find the part that has this belief and ask it if it would be willing to just give us a little space in there and see what happens. If I’m in Self and my client has some degree of trust, I’ll say just for a second, it can come back immediately, then the client will have this palpable experience of all that self-criticism, getting a little bit of space from it and with that, often will come to some little taste of Self. You never get full Self but just a little bit of a difference.
Dick Schwartz: Then I’ll ask another part to step back and so on. Often, you’ll come to some key ones that had been running things and asking them to step back is more of a challenge because they’ll say, if I step back, there’s not going to be anybody left. I’ll say, I know you believe that but I guarantee you’re wrong. Again, I would love it if you just give me a chance to prove that. You’ll actually like who comes forward and it will be a big relief to you.
Dick Schwartz: I’m nothing if not a kind of what I call a hope merchant or a salesman. I’m selling hope to hopeless systems. If they buy it at all, they’re eager. They would love to have somebody in there that is Self to run things. They’re like in family therapy, we call parentified children. They’re likely kids who when parents weren’t available, had to run things and they’re tired so they’re dying for somebody capable to take over. They just don’t think it’s possible.
Neil Sattin: Could we talk for a moment about just the different categories of parts that might make it easier for you to recognize the different roles that your parts play within you and then maybe we’ll chat about a way that someone listening could, after we’re done, figure out their cast of characters, get related to some of the parts that are operating within them. What are some of the general categories that you see that are most significant in how we operate?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. The word roles is very important to remember because too often, other people, when they come up with category systems, they describe the category as if it were the part. In this system, these are the roles that the parts have been forced in to by what happened to you in your life. There’s really one big distinction and that’s between the parts of you that usually were the most sensitive, these inner children who before they’re hurt are delightful and creative and innocent and trusting and so on.
Dick Schwartz: After they’re hurt, they now carry what we call the burdens from the trauma or the betrayal and so now, they carry a lot of pain or mistrust or fear and shame and now, we don’t want anything to do with them because we assume that that’s just a hurt feeling or that’s just a shame feeling. We tend to try and lock them away inside in inner abysses or caves or jails. We call these the exiles. Most all of us, partly because of these beliefs about who we are from our culture, have a bunch of exiles.
Dick Schwartz: When you get a bunch of exiles, the world suddenly becomes a lot more dangerous because anybody can trigger you. If you get hurt in a similar way again, all that past pain and the parts that are stuck in those past scenes come roaring out and take over and take you down and make it so you can’t function often. There’s a tremendous fear of the exiles and their being triggered. To keep that from happening, other parts are forced into the role of being protectors and some of them are trying to protect you and those exiles by managing your life so that nothing similar ever happens again and you don’t manage your relationship so you don’t get too close to anybody or too distant from people you depend on and manage your appearance so you look good all the time, manage your performance.
Dick Schwartz: These are parts that sometimes find themselves in the role of inner critic because they’re criticizing you to try and prod you to do better or look better or they might be criticizing you to keep you from taking risks so you don’t get hurt but there’s lots of other common manager roles so there are caretaking managers that try to take care of everybody else and don’t let you take care of yourself and so on and so on, but they’re all a bunch of often pretty young parts who are now forced to do this role they’re not equipped to do.
Dick Schwartz: Then the last category of protector, managers are the first, are parts that if an exile does get triggered, have to go into action to deal with that emergency and often, have to therefore be very impulsive and damn the torpedoes. I’m going to get you to do something that’s going to take you away from this right now and get you higher than the pain or douse it, the shame, with some kind of substance or distract you somehow. These we call firefighters. They’re fighting the flames of pain and shame and terror that come out of these exiles.
Dick Schwartz: They’re the unsung heroes because most of the time, they do things that get us more attacked or shame but they’re just doing their job because they know if they don’t do it, the boat is going to sink.
Neil Sattin: Meaning, they’re doing things like indulging in addictions or sexual compulsion?
Dick Schwartz: Right. All of those things. Some of us have more socially sanctioned firefighters like work is one of mine, we don’t get as much … Actually, we get accolades for that.
Neil Sattin: Right, except maybe from your partner who’s like, where the hell are you? You’re working all the time.
Dick Schwartz: Exactly right, but most of my client’s firefighters have been either destructive to them or to other people and so they hate themselves for having them and often, the people around them are critical of them for having them. Again, all of that shaming, both internal shaming and external shaming just adds to the load of these exiles which creates more work for the firefighters that then brings on more attack from the managers. Most people, addicts and so on are in that loop where the harder they try to sit on the addiction through discipline or self-blame, the more that firefighter feels like it’s going to do its job.
Dick Schwartz: You can pump up the managers to the point where they will sit on the firefighters and the exiles but that’s what people call dry drunk, a person become very rigid and the slightest thing could trigger them off the wagon so that’s not the kind of healing that we’re looking for.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I’m curious the word shame has come up several times. What is the healing path for shame?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Shame is usually minimally a two part phenomena. There’s a part that says you’re bad and then there’s this part which is usually an exile that believes that you’re worthless. Before we go to that exile, we’ll go to the critic, the one who says you’re bad, first and let it know we get it’s trying to protect and give us permission to go to the exile. Once we get to that exile, we’ll ask it, we’ll have the Self ask it where it got the shame in the past and why it feels so bad about itself.
Dick Schwartz: Then people begin to witness scenes from their past where they were shamed or humiliated or made to feel worthless and how terrifying that was and how that part just bought into it then and thought they were a total loser and then how other parts had to combat that the rest of their life.
Dick Schwartz: Just that witnessing, once you see and I don’t mean get it intellectually but I actually mean see it and sense it and feel almost like reliving it but not be overwhelmed by it. Once you really get what happened and how bad it was, then the part finally feels like you get it and we know where to have you go into the past in a literal way in this inner world and be with that boy in the way he needed when the shaming thing happened and often take him out of there to a safe place where now, he’s willing to give up the shame.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. There’s this quality of hanging on. This is the burden, right? Hanging on to the shame?
Dick Schwartz: Right.
Neil Sattin: Through being willing to be present with that part’s experience and to do something, I don’t know why the word heroic is coming to mind but something that you … that had an adult, had a caring, compassionate, courageous adult been there that they would have done.
Dick Schwartz: Exactly.
Neil Sattin: if you can do that, then that part of you is getting what it needs, the exiled part and no longer requires the shame.
Dick Schwartz: That’s right. Yeah. People say you can’t change the past but it turns out in this inner world, you can. The part’s literal experience, once you go into the scene, like if you did that for some part of you Neil and you are there with that boy in the way he needed and you maybe … stood up for him against your father for example-
Neil Sattin: How did you know that was what I was thinking?
Dick Schwartz: Because I’m so good. I’m psychic. He watched you do that. That literally changes in that part’s experience, what happened to him. He now becomes attached to you as the caretaker rather than depending on his father anymore and now, he’s willing to leave with you and let you have this ongoing new relationship with him where you take care of him every day which usually doesn’t require more than just a little check-in to see how he’s doing.
Dick Schwartz: Yes. Once, that’s all complete, these parts are more than happy to give up these extreme beliefs and emotions like shame that they’ve been carrying for whatever it is, 40 years.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and this is why it just seems like it’s so important to recognize the personhood of these parts within you to see them that way. It’s like an individual worthy of curiosity, compassion, respect.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That’s a tough sell on this culture because multiplicity has been pathologized over and over both by the idea that multiplicity or multiple personality disorder is a disorder. It’s a scary syndrome and by just our kind of rational culture that says it’s preposterous to have these little beings inside of us. It’s been an uphill battle to try and make this idea sink in.
Neil Sattin: On the one hand, I love it because it’s so empowering. More and more I hear from listeners or clients, people in relationship where they’re like, yeah, I’m with someone who’s … they have borderline personality disorder. I’m pretty sure they’re a narcissist. There’s some relief to knowing what might be going on with the other people in your life, maybe with yourself as well. I don’t know how many people are like, you know what, I think I’m a narcissist.
Neil Sattin: At the same time, what I hear you saying is that everyone has this capacity for healing if they’re willing to honor these parts within them that are causing the behavior that we see.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Again, I haven’t worked with everyone, but everyone I work with, and I’ve worked with people that have been written off as sociopaths or various other labels. They have protective parts that fit the profile but when those parts step back, they have everything else like everybody else. Yeah, I bristle at all those diagnostic labels, it’s like we take a person’s most extreme and maybe destructive part and say that that’s who they are. That doesn’t give you much hope.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. What do you offer someone who … let’s say they are in a relationship with someone who is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies? I think for those people, there’s often this quandary of experiencing the destructive behavior, maybe seeing … especially if they’re someone you love, then you tend to also see their capacity, their potential for amazingness. Yet, there’s this question about do I really stay in this? Do I go? Do I give this person an ultimatum? You got this part. You got to heal it or else I’m out of here.
Neil Sattin: How does that work?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Sometimes, it takes something like that but you can do it from Self so there is what we call Self-led confrontation and I’ve done this with people I’m close to and also clients where you can see that there’s a part that dominates them, that doesn’t serve them and is also getting in the relationship you’re in with them in the way but there’s a way to say that to them with an open heart that is much more likely to sink in than if you say it from a protective part of you that’s so annoyed with the person and also sees them as “a narcissist” or whatever monolithic label you’ve been encouraged to see the person as.
Dick Schwartz: When I’m with someone like that, again, so like x-ray vision, I can see the pain that’s driving the protector and I can try to speak to both even with our current president which is a challenge. You know that there’s just a bundle of exiles in there that drives all this stuff and if you can hold that perspective, then you can speak from a loving place even to very difficult things. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to stay with that person if that part is constantly hurting you and that’s a whole different topic of whether or not to stay but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s possible even with people like that to stand up for your parts without alienating them.
Neil Sattin: What internal work would you suggest someone do to get to Self in order to have that conversation from aSself-led place?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There’s an exercise that I’ll do with groups where you could take such a person and put them in a room in your mind that’s contained with a window and so you’re outside the room looking at that person from outside and have them do the thing that gets to you and then notice the parts that get immediately triggered and come to your defense. As you notice them, start to get to know them and what they’re afraid would happened if they didn’t jump up to protect you that way and then you’ll learn about the exiles they protect and then you can actively ask each of them if they’d be willing to just give you a little bit of space not so you’re going into the room with that person but so you can look at them without the influence of all this protective stuff.
Dick Schwartz: If they’re willing, the person again will notice this palpable shift and I’ll have the person look again in the room and again, when you see through the eyes of Self, you have a very different view. The person looks different, less menacing and the person … I feel sorry for him whereas seconds earlier, they were terrified of him or hated him. I don’t know if that answered your question but that’s an example of what we can do.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. It seems like that … that’s giving someone an experience, a direct experience of that person when they’re in Self that then they can bring to a real life encounter?
Dick Schwartz: Exactly, yeah. To really pull it off, you have to return to your parts and find the exiles that get triggered by such a person so much and do the healing we talked about earlier with those exiles because it’s really hard to pull it off if your exiles are still vulnerable to that person.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Can we get clear too on some of the terminology like when we talk about asking a part to step back or even just asking a part anything, much less what are you afraid will happen, et cetera? How does that process work? Is that something that … What are the different ways it can work I guess because I’d love for our listeners to be able to get a sense of how this process could go? At least to the extent that they could do without guidance.
Dick Schwartz: You want to do a little piece together as an example Neil?
Neil Sattin: That would be great.
Dick Schwartz: Do you have a part you’d like to start with?
Neil Sattin: Let’s see. Is there one? There’s not one that’s like jumping up immediately. Maybe help me get there.
Dick Schwartz: Okay. Is there something in your relationship, your intimate relationship that gets in the way?
Neil Sattin: Clearly. Yeah. Let’s talk about the desire to work, like for me. That was one example you used earlier. That’s true for me as well especially because I can feel like others … There’s always more to do so it’s hard to just close the door and step into time with my lovely amazing wife who would love to see more of me I’m sure. I know that because she tells me.
Dick Schwartz: Right. It’s very similar. Focus on that part that’s pushing you to work all the time and find it in your body or around your body.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. For me, it’s like right in solar plexus area. There’s like a heat and a tension there.
Dick Schwartz: Okay. As you notice it, how do you feel toward it?
Neil Sattin: I guess I’m a little bit annoyed and also at the same time, I’m like wow, there you are. That was easy to see you there. Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Okay. Let’s see if the part of you who’s so annoyed or a little bit annoyed would be willing to relax a little bit and step back in there so we can just get to know the work part because it’s hard to get to know it if you’re annoyed with it. Just see if that’s possible.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. He’s trusting you right now so yes. He’ll step aside for a moment. Relax. I think he like that word.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I will use that word then, relax. Then focus again now on the work part and tell me how you feel toward it now.
Neil Sattin: Wow. What I just experienced was another part coming in being like, wow, I can’t believe you’re not working with me right now. I’ve really needed some time and attention.
Dick Schwartz: Okay.
Neil Sattin: Isn’t that funny?
Dick Schwartz: Do you want to shift or do you want to pass that one to relax too?
Neil Sattin: Let’s go into that because that feels potent for me and it’s just around the wellbeing of my kids and my listeners know that I’ve been through divorce. I have my kids halftime, I love them and yeah, there’s just something about wanting the best for them in a complex world and being afraid that they’ll get hurt.
Dick Schwartz: Okay, good. Where do you find this one in your body, around your body?
Neil Sattin: That one feels like a really intense welling up in my face like a pre-tears kind of feeling and I’m also noticing a hollowness in my belly.
Dick Schwartz: Okay. How do feel toward this part as you notice it, those places?
Neil Sattin: I really want to help this part.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Let it know that and just see how it reacts to your caring for it.
Neil Sattin: How do I let it know that?
Dick Schwartz: Just tell it inside. Just say, I really want to help you. Just see how it reacts.
Neil Sattin: In telling that part, I really want to help you, he feels more teary and I also feel relief like he would say, I’m not alone. I’m not alone.
Dick Schwartz: That’s right. Now, let him know he isn’t alone anymore and see now what he wants you to know about himself and don’t think of the answer, just wait for answers to come.
Neil Sattin: He says, I know the pain of being hurt and I want to save these children from that pain.
Dick Schwartz: Does that make sense, Neil?
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Let him know you get that. It makes a lot of sense that you value that.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. It’s huge. He’s a huge resource for those kids.
Dick Schwartz: That’s right.
Neil Sattin: I just see too that there’s … I recognize times when that fear that they’re not going to be okay is running the show and that sometimes works out and other times, it definitely can keep me from being in Self energy around things that are challenging.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. See if he’s interested in unloading some of that fear and pain that he carries from the past. Just ask him that.
Neil Sattin: He says, if you think that’s possible, then sure.
Dick Schwartz: Tell him it’s totally possible.
Neil Sattin: Totally possible. Dick says so, and I believe it too. I do.
Dick Schwartz: Tell him to show you, let you feel without overwhelming you and sense what happened to give him all that. Neil, you can share with us what you get or keep it private, it’s up to you.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. What I’m seeing are experiences of confusion and pain from different parts of my childhood that didn’t make a lot of sense and it’s just funny, ha-ha, that it does relate more to my father from what we were talking about before in this moment. That’s what this part is showing me. Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Just stay with it. Is it okay to see all this, Neil?
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Tell him you’re getting it and it’s okay to really let you get it all and just stay with it, encourage him to really let you feel it and sense it and see it how bad it was for him.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. In that, I notice there’s almost like a trembling happening in my body.
Dick Schwartz: Let that happen. Just let your body move the way it needs to. It’s all good. It’s all part of the witnessing and just stay with it.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I can feel that pain for sure.
Dick Schwartz: Okay.
Neil Sattin: What I’m noticing is also that it’s not overwhelming me, it’s more like I’m getting the tears. I’m getting the trembling but I’m not losing touch with us, here having this conversation or-
Dick Schwartz: Ask him if he feels like you’re getting this, if this is what he wanted you to feel and sense and see or if there’s more.
Neil Sattin: He says no. This is it and in saying that I also felt this really quick shift to calmness in my body.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah, he’s relieved?
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Ask him if he’s most stuck in one of those scenes or if it’s the whole time period we need to get him out of.
Neil Sattin: He’s like, if you could get me out of the whole shebang, that would be great.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah, we’ll do what we can.
Neil Sattin: Right.
Dick Schwartz: All right. Neil, I’d like you to go into that time period and be with that boy in the way he needed somebody at the time and just tell me when you’re in there with him.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, okay. I’m there.
Dick Schwartz: How are you being with him?
Neil Sattin: I’m taking a stand and saying this is not okay.
Dick Schwartz: To your father?
Neil Sattin: To my father.
Dick Schwartz: That’s great.
Neil Sattin: I placed myself physically between the young me and my father.
Dick Schwartz: Let me ask you, do you see yourself doing that or are you just there doing it and you see him and your father?
Neil Sattin: That’s a tough one. It feels like it’s going back and forth.
Dick Schwartz: All right. See if you can just be there without seeing yourself.
Neil Sattin: Okay.
Dick Schwartz: Keep doing that. Whatever the boy needs. Just keep doing that for him.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I’m there saying, this is not okay and then what feels like it really wants to happen is I turn to grab the boy and pick him up and just take him out of there.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s take him somewhere safe and comfortable he’d enjoy. It could be in the present, it could be a fantasy place, wherever he’d like to be.
Neil Sattin: I’m asking him where he would like to be.
Dick Schwartz: Perfect.
Neil Sattin: I think he wants to just hang out and play with his Star Wars figures.
Dick Schwartz: Okay.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I’m like, okay, where can we do that? Can we do that here and now? I’m imagining bringing him here into the room where I sit which is really convenient because my son has all my old Star Wars figures so I can grab some of those.
Dick Schwartz: Great.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. We’re here now and he’s just doing that and we’re away from whatever was happening,
Dick Schwartz: Good. How does he seem now?
Neil Sattin: It’s interesting because he seems a lot younger than when I was interacting with him as the part that was fearful for my kids but he seems happy to be here and happy that I’m willing to play with him and he seems relieved like that was hard for him and it was a pretty quick turn though to just be here and be safe.
Dick Schwartz: Good. See if now that he never has to go back there and you’re going to take care of him if he’s ready to unload the feelings and beliefs he got from those times.
Neil Sattin: I think he says he’s not sure what they are but yes, he’s ready.
Dick Schwartz: Okay. He could just check his body and see if there’s anything he carries that doesn’t belong to him.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, there’s that like … he’s calling it that weird feeling in my belly, that trembly flutteriness.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Great. Is he ready to unload that?
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Ask him what he’d like to give it up to. Light, water, fire, wind, earth, anything else.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. He’s like, I want it to just get dissolved in light.
Dick Schwartz: Okay. Bring in a light and have that happen. Tell him to let that all dissolve out of his stomach and stay with that until it’s gone.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. The feeling is gone and I’m also noticing that the hollowness I was experiencing in my belly before, it feels warm and full. That feels really important to me.
Dick Schwartz: That’s great.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Tell him now if he’d like to, he can invite into his body qualities he’ll need in the future and you can just see what comes into him now.
Neil Sattin: He says, it’s almost like cleverness, and the word that’s popping into my head is mischief, but like a playful mischief.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Tell him to invite that in.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Actually, and just like a relaxed happiness, contentment I think is one of those, yeah.
Dick Schwartz: How does he seem now?
Neil Sattin: He seems really happy.
Dick Schwartz: That’s great.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: Then before we stop bring in the one who was so annoyed with him originally, so it can see that he’s different now and see how it reacts.
Neil Sattin: The annoyed, I think that might have been more around the work part.
Dick Schwartz: That’s right. You’re right. That’s right. Okay. Maybe think about your kids now and see how it feels.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I feel really confident that I’m doing right by them.
Dick Schwartz: Good. Okay, you ready to come back?
Neil Sattin: I am. That was great. Thank you.
Dick Schwartz: That was very cool. Thank you for having the courage to do it.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Wow. A little window into Neil’s psyche, into the interpsychic space. One thing that I wanted to highlight that you said that feels important is when you talked about experiencing the feelings without being overwhelmed particularly if someone is doing this inner work on their own like being willing to … like having that be part of the dialog with their part.
Neil Sattin: I want to see what you got and you don’t need to overwhelm me.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That was a big discovery maybe 25 years ago that parts can control how much they overwhelm because the trauma field and a lot of psychotherapy has just assumed that if you open that door, you’re going to be flooded and there’s not much you can do it about it other than practice these grounding skills endlessly and so on. It turns out that if you simply in advance of going to an exile, ask it to not overwhelm and it agrees not to, it won’t so we can do the thing we just did with you without a huge fear of that overwhelm happening.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think some people are afraid to open the door. I’m not going to go there because that’s just too much for me and they’ve probably experienced what that too much feeling is like at least once in their lives, right?
Dick Schwartz: Exactly right, yeah. They’ve experienced. When they open the door, they were flooded. They couldn’t get out of bed. They’re horribly depressed and they swore never again. It’s a tough sell in such clients to allow them to believe that it’s possible to not do that. The exile itself to its defense, it’s desperate to get some attention. If you open the door, it’s going to jump out and totally take over for fear of being locked up again but if it trusts that it’s not going to be locked up and you’ll listen to it, it doesn’t need to overwhelm you.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and because the worrying part wasn’t really a part of that thread, we didn’t really get to go there but I’m guessing there’s something similar that happens. I’m not guessing, okay, I know but there’s something similar that happens with the manager where they also get to be relieved of the burden of the protection and to be infused with some qualities that gives them that new assignment, the new role.
Dick Schwartz: Exactly. There are also stuff back in those same scenes where they took on the role of protecting that boy and they need to be retrieved that same way and unburdened. When that happens, then they’re freed up to do something entirely different that they’re much more designed to do and that they enjoy.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I felt like it’s important to say it just because we did that work around my father that my dad is a good guy in case, in the off chance he’s listening or that people who know him are listening. What I’ve noticed as a parent is that it actually is, their kids have things that hurt them.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah. That happens and like my father who isn’t alive anymore but had a lot of untreated PTSD from World War II, so everybody has got trauma and everybody has got extreme parts and when they raise their kids, those parts get triggered.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: My father was a great guy also in many different ways.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. One last thing. I just appreciate how wide our conversation has gone and your willingness to do that process with me as well which I think was very illustrative. You’ve mentioned that your clients, they have a routine or a check-in that they do that helps them do the work as part of their daily lives and I’m wondering what could that look like for someone if they wanted to incorporate something like that into their daily life?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah For some people, it’s as simple as just a 10 minute meditation where you can incorporate it into what you already do for meditating but just start by finding, on your case, would be finding this boy and just make sure that he’s still in that good place and see if he needs anything. In some times, it takes just a few seconds and he is doing well and other times, he does need more or if he feels like you abandoned him and you got to listen to that and help him with it.
Dick Schwartz: Everybody can do this on a daily basis. It becomes a life practice, not just checking with that part but with all your parts and just noticing what they need and taking care of them the way you might take care of your external children although again, they don’t nearly need as much as your external children. Often, it’s just a matter of minutes.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Dick Schwartz: There’s a woman named Michelle Glass who wrote a book on the daily practice side of it. I can’t pull up the name of that book right now but you can find it on our website.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Your website is selfleadership.org, and Dick, you also just recently came out with a book that you’re telling me about before we hopped on the line here. What is that called and what’s it about?
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I coauthored it with a guy named Bob Falconer and it’s called Many Minds, One Self. It’s about ushering in this radically different paradigm of multiplicity and that there is this Self in there too. It’s substantiating these positions I take by going through the history of our culture, the history of psychotherapy, different branches of science and showing how often the idea that the mind is naturally multiple comes up and gets pushed down.
Dick Schwartz: Then also going through each major religion and particularly, the more esoteric or contemplative branches of those religions and seeing how every one has a word for Self, it’s a different word but they’re all talking about the same thing that I stumbled on to many, many years ago that’s in there. Some systems call it the soul or Buddha-nature or Atman or various names for it but we try to cover in some depth all of that.
Neil Sattin: Great. Is that available through your website and is it on Amazon as well?
Dick Schwartz: I’m not sure it’s on Amazon yet. It just came out.
Neil Sattin: Okay, great.
Dick Schwartz: It will be soon but yeah, you can certainly get it from the website.
Neil Sattin: Great. We’ll have links to that book, your website, the Michelle Glass book that you just mentioned.
Dick Schwartz: One more book if you don’t mind.
Neil Sattin: No. Go ahead please.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. I coauthored another book with a guy named Frank Anderson and Martha Sweezy which is a kind of workbook for applying IFS to trauma since we’ve been talking about that today that just came out too with through PESI, capital P-E-S-I.
Neil Sattin: Great. That’s more for the therapist in our audience?
Dick Schwartz: Yes. Yes, therapist.
Neil Sattin: Okay, great. If people want to find out more about getting IFS training or finding an IFS therapist, is that through the selfleadership.org website?
Dick Schwartz: That’s right. There’s a whole section on those issues.
Neil Sattin: Great. Great. One last point of curiosity. We’ve talked about the self and the qualities that if you’re coming from a place that’s compassionate, creative, curious, then you’re in Self energy. Is there a quick exercise that you have people do to help them get a sense of “this is the inner diaspora of characters that are there within you that you can get to know over time?”
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. There’s something we call parts mapping for example where just to describe it very quickly, I would have you start with a part. It might be the same one you started with or a different one and just stay present to it until you could for example, draw it in some form or another on a page and then return to it and stay focused on it until you notice a shift. Another part comes forward and then you’d stay with it until you can represent it on the page and then return to it until another one comes forward.
Dick Schwartz: In doing that, usually, people will map out one circuit of parts, one cluster of parts that are related to each other and it’s very useful for people to do that.
Neil Sattin: By staying with one, others will naturally emerge?
Dick Schwartz: It seems to be. If you can stay in an open, curious Self place, then, if you stay with one, something will come up, some other one that’s related to it.
Neil Sattin: That makes sense to me especially considering what we’re saying about polarized parts earlier that if one is like, I’m here, then the other one is going to be not far behind. Don’t forget about me.
Dick Schwartz: Right. That’s exactly right. Not just the ones that are polarized. You’ll get the ones who protect each other and so on.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. The work is really so fascinating and despite having been speaking here now for a little over an hour, we’re still just scratching the surface. I loved, in particular, the way that you map the relationships between these inner parts as they relate to each other and then how that’s reflected in the outer world. In fact, it seems like that was one of your breakthroughs, right? The sense that you could apply the structural family therapy that people do with the external systems to what’s happening within you.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. That’s my background, is a family therapist, particularly structural family therapy. For an amazing thing, it turns out that this inner system is structured in a very similar way so I’ve become intrigued with the parallels between internal systems and external systems at all different levels including our country and international relations. The parallel is when you really explore them are fascinating and very evident.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. You, I think, make the whole as, is it as within, so without? Is that the phrase-
Dick Schwartz: That is, yeah.
Neil Sattin: It feels really practical and-
Dick Schwartz: Yeah. Concrete.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think getting some experience doing that within is also really helpful in being generative like the contentious moments that we experience in our lives whether it’s with our partners or our parents or just in the workplace and the world, et cetera.
Dick Schwartz: Yeah, being generative and generous. Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. Dick Schwartz, thank you so much for coming on this show again. I look forward to the next time we can talk and your work is just so rich and such a valuable contribution to change and growth and honoring the potential in us. I’m so blessed to have you here, so thank you.
Dick Schwartz: Thank you Neil. It’s an increasing pleasure to talk to you as I get to know you and also feel your appreciation for it, so I’m happy to do it again.
Neil Sattin: Awesome.