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Understanding Your parts in more detail. IFS Internal Family Systems Parts work

IFS Internal Family Systems Parts work is based on two key ideas: that everyone has parts, and that everyone has a Self.

What are the IFS parts?

In IFS therapy, the focus is on two primary types of parts: protective parts and vulnerable parts. Vulnerable parts hold painful emotional states and/or negative beliefs about themselves from past wounding experiences

The first key idea is that people have different parts inside them, and these parts do not always agree with each other. Have you ever had a hard time making up your mind, because you had two different opinions about something? That is an example of having different parts that don’t agree with each other. The concept of ‘parts’ helps people gain clarity about what’s going on inside of them.

Within us, there are many different parts in the same way that in an orchestra there are many different musicians. We are each an orchestra unto ourselves.

In other words, the natural state of the human mind is multiplicity.

Of course, if we only had parts, that would be chaos. That would be like an orchestra with no conductor.

To make it easier to talk about parts in general, these specific parts could be referred to as “your parts.” These parts are not the same, because they have different reasons for their behavior and they choose different ways of expressing their urges.

Your parts could be broken down to make it easy to understand.

Your parts: Who you are at work is different to Who you are socially. Those parts who show up for work, might be the same parts to show up to have fun and be socially connected.

The solution to the problem of the chaos of parts is the SELF: The Self is the conductor of the orchestra. The self leads the parts.

The Self has 10 powerful qualities that enable it to do this. The Self is:

The Eight Cs are confidence, calmness, creativity, clarity, curiosity, courage, compassion, and connectedness.

2) What are the 8 C..?

IFS trusts that every person has the positive resources of

Self energy at their core, with Self being the natural, active leader.

It is often described as a state of calm, well-being, and lightheartedness.

There are many ways to describe the resonant qualities of Self energy and what it looks like when energy is in the lead. 8C is offered as a way to recognize its presence in yourself.

The Self is not superior to the parts. It’s just the leader, in the same way a conductor is not “superior” to the musicians in an orchestra.

The goal for the Self is to be in relationship with all the parts.


Now that we’ve talked about the Self and its relationship to the parts, I’ll talk about the parts in more detail.

1) Are the Exile and the burden the same part, or are they separate and what do each of those mean?

The Exile is the hurt inner child

The Burden is the difficult emotion this Exile is holding/carrying. So the burden and the Exile are not equal. The Exile can release his/her burdens, and that's the way healing is happening.

Protectors are the parts who protect Exiles (inner child). They adopt protective strategies so that Exile's pain doesn't overwhelm us.

Managers, Firefighters and Exiles: know your major Parts explained.


Good impact: Very generally speaking, managers are interested in getting work done and being productive. At their best, they keep you organized, on-time, and engaged in meaningful work.

Negative impact: At their worst, they criticize and overwork you, giving you a guilty feeling when you try to relax. At their very worst, they never loosen their grip on you for a second.

Extreme managers may isolate people so that they never take time for themselves, their families or friends. Very extreme managers may turn people into robots who never seem to feel anything or connect to anyone. They may work people so hard they get sick.


Good impact: Very generally speaking, firefighters are interested in having fun and relaxing. At their best, they keep you from getting burned out and overwhelmed by stress, encouraging you to go see a movie or take some time to unwind after work.

Negative impact: At their worst, they seek stress relief obsessively, insisting on overeating, over-drinking, or smoking.

At their very worst, firefighters can drive people to do extreme things, in a misdirected attempt to get some relief from inner pain by lashing out at others. These very extreme firefighters may shoplift, engage in crimes, scream at other people, or become violent.


Good impact: Very generally speaking, exiles are interested in experiencing the world just as it is. At their best, they fill you with child-like awe at the sunset, or make you stop to look at the fuzz on newly unfurling leaves in the spring.

Negative impact: However, because exiles are the most vulnerable and sensitive parts of people, they are easily hurt. They are the ones that were ridiculed in second grade when they said something wrong in school. They are the ones that take criticism to heart, developing beliefs that they are worthless and unlovable.

Over time, exiles may accumulate so many hurts that they end up appearing as hurt and unhappy parts. At their worst, they may sometimes surround people with a fog of despair. At their very worst, they may zap all the energy of a person, bringing them down into a pit of hopelessness for long periods of time. They may trap people in a chronic state of depression.

How do you use the parts and Self in IFS?

Here’s a simplified list of steps to using IFS on your own as a beginner. (This is not the complete IFS process, it’s just a very simplified, beginner’s process).

1. Go inside yourself.

2. Recognize parts.

3. Check to make sure there’s enough Self to work with.

4. Get to know parts, proceeding at a pace that is comfortable for you.

5. Thank the parts and go back outside yourself!

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