I’m so excited to spread the word about Parts Work, because on my own highly sensitive journey toward healing and holistic wellness, Parts Work was the final piece of the puzzle that fell into place. It’s like I could get 90 percent there with all the other tools and strategies, but Parts Work took me the last 10 percent of the way to finding and maintaining inner peace.
This tool has lots of promise and an abundance of applications for highly sensitive people, so let’s dive into it.
WHAT IS PARTS WORK?
Parts Work is based on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) theory, which was developed by Dr. Richard Schwarz in the 1990s. According to this theory, we have a core Self that is healed and whole, but we also have an infinite number of subpersonalities or Parts, each with their own characteristics, motives, and beliefs. It makes sense if you think about it. We don’t always act the same way and we are often mired in internal conflict.
Parts Work is the process of:
- Getting to know your Parts
- Learning to access your Self Energy
- Using Self Energy to meet the needs of your Parts in a compassionate way that helps you live out your life’s purpose
And now you may be wondering about Self Energy. What is that exactly?
THE SELF AND SELF ENERGY
According to IFS theory, we have a core Self that is healed and whole. When we are acting “in Self”, we encompass the following qualities, also known as the 8 Cs:
When we have access to some or all of these qualities, we are experiencing and have access to our Self Energy. Physiologically, our nervous system is stable and we are emotionally regulated, although in practice, this isn’t an all-or-nothing deal. When experiencing emotional turmoil, even having access to a little bit of Self Energy can be helpful.
At the same time, we all have parts of us that have developed to protect us from hurt and to keep us safe. These protective parts always have positive intentions, but they may be working so hard and going so far with their wish to protect us that they end up holding us back or even harming us. There are two types of protective parts:
Managers = protective parts that try to prevent difficulties by attempting to control our circumstances and relationships. Examples of common manager parts in highly sensitive people are people pleasing, perfectionist, and self-critical parts.
Firefighters = protective parts that try to stave off immediate discomfort or upset by soothing, distracting, or numbing. Examples of firefighters are parts that cause you to stress eat or scroll social media excessively.
We also have parts known as Exiles. These parts carry the difficult emotions that the managers and firefighters are doing their best to protect us from. The pain of the exiles can be so overwhelming that the managers feel its imperative to keep us from “going there”.
If you’d like to know more about how getting to know these parts and helping them heal can be transformative, please check out this article about the 7 Benefits of Parts Work for Highly Sensitive People.
HOW TO DO PARTS WORK
There are a few different ways to learn how to do Parts Work.
- If you want a diagnosis and treatment for a mental health condition, you can seek out an IFS therapist.
- If you simply want to increase self awareness and learn how to process your emotions and would like someone to guide you, you can work with a coach who is familiar with this approach (like me! 🙂).
- If you want to learn how to do Parts Work on your own, I recommend Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy by Jay Early.