Focusing Tip No. 109.
Focusing and Internal Family Systems Therapy
A Focusers asks:
‘I’ve been reading about Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) (second edition) by R.C.Schwartz and wonder if you can answer my question….what is the difference between the Focusing you do and IFS? I am curious about this and wonder if you do IFS (unless it is the same as Focusing)?’
IFS can be hugely beneficial as a way of mapping out our internal configurations of self.
Other systems, such as gestalt therapy, also have ways of talking about our inner states as sub-personalities, or TA (Transactional Analysis) also has a very helpful model.
There may be several reasons why this is happening, and you can respond accordingly.
From my reading so far, I understand that IFS encourages ‘parts’ of us to talk to each other and to negotiate a settlement between them, when they are in conflict. Conflicting parts are mediated through the Self, which is similar to the concept of Self-in-Presence.
Focusing emphasises the felt sense, which is something unclear, fuzzy and not yet defined.
I suggest that you put your attention into the inner area of your body, while holding an awareness of the parts you are being with. Look for what’s unclear about ‘the whole thing’, more than you already know about this. Look for what you don’t yet know, or you know somehow, but can’t yet say.
IFS makes sense of inner conflict and tangles, and shows how different parts of us have different agendas.
Each part may be firmly wedded to its point of view, and its own solution to the problem the person is facing. When you are Focusing, you can listen to each part, and discover what key aspect of the whole dynamic it is holding. You may find out, for instance, that a critical part is actually afraid, or secretly ashamed, and it is trying to do the best for you, even though you may find its attacking behaviour is undermining you and is not helpful. Through friendly and compassionate listening, it can begin to relax. It needs to know that you are not going to try and fix it or change it; otherwise it may hold on tighter. Over a period of time, through your kind and gentle attention, the ‘stuck process’ in Focusing terms begins to ease and release the living forward energy that is contained in the stuckness. Gendlin’s term for this is ‘carrying forward’.
In my view the value of using IFS increases with Focusing.
I see Focusing as being a doorway into the whole body-mind organismic system, which includes the natural environment that the person lives in, like a fish in the water. It also includes the cultural environment that the person is living in, their family history, and the context of their life situation. We can’t separate ourselves from our environment. It is contained within us, as we are contained in it. Also our education, conditioning, past experience and future hopes and fears.
There is a very big picture contained in our present experiencing.
It’s impossible to say all of what is implied there, and yet it is possible to find a felt sense, if you are quiet enough and wait patiently with what is not yet clear. Then what comes is often surprising, and brings something new and fresh, that you were not expecting.