Tracking your IFS sessions and parts

I receive weekly newsletters from an Internal Family Systems therapist called Jay Early (he and his partner Bonnie run IFS growth programs), and this week his newsletter included a piece about tracking IFS sessions and parts. I absolutely support this recommendation. Because our internal inquiry may lead us in a variety of directions, tracking parts will help to build a relationship with all of them, while also helping us notice common patterns, like overworking/procrastination, or anger/self-blame.

Lets use the anger/self-blame as a for instance - If you're struggling to regulate your anger, you might internally stew about what someone said or did - or - you might blow up at your boss, kids, partner, friends, etc. When you're "in it" and "seeing red" so to speak, you might do and say things that you regret later. Lets say this has become a pattern for you, and so you're seeking therapy with an IFS therapist. In your work, you find that you are able to develop a relationship with the angry part(s) of you that feel so enraged and triggered and upset. As an aside, you'll also find that you are able to get to know the other part(s) of you that criticize your angry outbursts. As you work with these (and other) parts, you'll notice that in your day to day life, the urge to rage will seem separate from You. It won't feel so "bad" so to speak, and your inner critic might blame a lot less. You'll find that you don't want to get rid of the anger, because you've learned that the angry part actually has a pretty positive intention - it wants your boundaries to be respected, it wants you to be heard, it's dissatisfied with ___ or ___ and wants more for you. You've learned how to relate to it in such a way that it isn't even wanting to rage anymore, it's wanting help. You've learned that the urge to rage is actually a signal, coming from this part of you that feels so much anger, and it turns out that it wants You to turn towards it and to listen to what it needs. As you get to know it better in therapy, you can resist the urge to mindlessly blend with the anger because the urge to angrily react has transformed into a signal to dialogue, to relate, to understand, and to offer this part of you care, acknowledgment and support.

If you're the person in the above situation (substitute anger with Perfectionism, Self-criticism, Addictive urges, Depression, Anxiety...Anything), and you've found IFS - - I'm really happy for you. This is such wonderful, empowering work, and it helps you transform at your pace. My hope is for you to feel more open-ness, compassion, and curiosity towards the parts of you that typically over-work or get judged. We all deserve this kind of attention.

Tracking and checking in with your parts is like a cherry on top, it helps you relate to your parts more often, and builds Greater Relief...Sooner!! If the person in the "for instance" tracked his parts, s/he'd simply transform towards mindfully relating to his/her anger sooner, and who doesn't want that?

Read below if you're curious to learn more about what Jay has to say about tracking:

Tracking Your IFS Sessions and Parts

Jay Earley, PhD

I recommend that you spend some time right after each IFS session taking notes about what happened in the session and also keeping track of the different parts that emerged. This is useful for a number of reasons.

1. You are probably in an altered state while you are in the midst of an IFS session, and later it may be hard to remember clearly what happened. This is because learning that happens in one state of consciousness often doesn’t transfer so easily to a different state. The technical term for this is state-dependent learning. So take notes right at the end of a session when the work is still fresh in your mind.

2. It is important to follow up with the parts that you worked with in a session—to deepen the healing of your exiles and to check to see how your protectors are affecting your behavior in daily life. Taking notes will help you remember the parts you need to follow up with.

3. If you finish a session without completing the full sequence of IFS steps, which happens frequently, it is a good idea when you begin the next session to take up where you left off in the previous one. Your notes will help you remember which part to start with, how far you got with it, and how it looked or felt in the previous session, to aid you in re-accessing it.