For the past few months, I have been gifting my Self with Internal Family Systems Therapy sessions. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a type of therapy pioneered by Dr. Richard Schwartz, PhD. It supposes that all individual persons are made up of multiple parts, and these parts make up our internal family system. This is not the same kind of situation as schizophrenia: Individual parts do not ‘take over’ and force the primary Self into silent submission. Rather, this is simply a description of different aspects of our personality. It is common to tell someone that a part of us wanted one thing, but another part of us wanted something else. For instance, a little kid in a candy shop might have trouble deciding what to purchase: a part of her wants sour patch kids, but another part of her knows how they make her tummy hurt when she eats them. Still another part of her will make the decision to either throw caution to the wind and get the sour patch kids or to play it safe and go with the licorice whips, instead. Get the idea?
Obviously this is a very simplified example. And if you want to learn more about IFS, then you should go to this website where you can read more about it.
So, back to the reason I brought this up in the first place …
Tonight I had another session. And during this session, I had my first experience with a part unburdening. (Unburdening is when a part is able to fully release a past injury it’s been carrying around for a long time.) It was really cool and unexpected. And this one was a spontaneous unburdening, which meant that the part didn’t tell me what the burden was, it just let it go.
During these sessions we work in guided visualizations. Here is an abridged version of what happened in tonight’s session:
I called to me a couple of parts I met in the previous session that seemed to be guarding an exile (an injured part). The first was a very energetic and playful little boy. The second was The Nothing from The Neverending Story. The little boy and I immediately took to each other – we had made friends in the previous session – and spent a few minutes playing in a field and bouncing on a trampoline. Then I noticed it getting darker, clouds were rolling in, the air felt heavy and electric. The Nothing was approaching. In the previous session The Nothing had felt very resistant, stagnant and menacing. This time, however, it didn’t elicit any fear or hesitation from my Self at all. I was merely curious about it. So I started talking with it and asking it what it wanted to share with me. It sent out a spokesman in the form of a Dementor. (Yes, the creatures from the Harry Potter series.) Strangely, I felt no fear, cold, dread nor any reaction to it other than wondering what it was going to tell me. It told me that I was evil. (Erm, excuse me?) When I asked it why it thought I was evil, it told me I had forgotten how to listen. My therapist suggested I ask it if it recognized that I was my Self and not another part and that I was here to listen. I did, and then I asked it what it needed to share. Suddenly I was no longer on the trampoline, but was on a rocky island in the middle of a turbulent ocean (again, very in keeping with the Harry Potter theme). The Dementor said that they wanted me to jump in to find out. I noticed it used the plural, and then saw that the sky was full of Dementors. Still, however, they incited no feelings other than curiosity. I was really interested in finding out what they were trying to simultaneously protect me from and convey to me.
I got a little frightened when I took in my surroundings. I was on a very precarious surface and the ocean was dark and roiling. Then I saw it: A Great White Shark was circling the rock island I was on. (Yes. I made the mistake of watching a trailer for The Shallows last night.) Anyway. If you know me at all, you know that I have a major shark phobia. And I mean PHOBIA. So, the thought of jumping into a stormy black sea with Jaws gave me pause. I actually began to wonder if maybe I wasn’t ready for this revelation. And while I was busy pondering that, I felt my Self jump in. (What?!?)
Once in the water, I was kind of descending in slow motion. It was dark, but that dreamy underwater dark. I felt safe somehow. I saw the shark approach me and before I could let my fear take hold, I just swam up to it and hugged it. To my absolute astonishment, it grinned and rolled over like a puppy getting a belly rub. I began to pet it behind the gills. This made it so happy. And it made me happy. During that time the shark shrunk to a more average shark size. It began to sort of frolic around with me. We danced and played and snuggled. After a while, I asked it what it wanted to do and it told me to grab hold of its dorsal fin.
I did and it began to take me into a deeper part of the ocean. We approached a sort of cave-like space on the ocean’s floor. Just inside the cave mouth was a treasure chest. The shark indicated that I was to open it. I expected to see some kind of treasure or something in there, but it was empty. I was curious what to do when the shark vomited into the empty chest. I told the shark to take as much time as it needed to purge. I nurtured the shark and rubbed his back while he vomited and vomited into the chest. When it was finished it told me to close the chest and bury it. I used a shell to dig into the ocean floor and buried the closed chest. As I was digging a single diamond floated up to me. I offered it to the shark and it ate the diamond. The shark began to sparkle and shimmer and radiated a beautiful light. Urged by my therapist, I asked it what qualities it would like to take in, if any, to replenish itself post-purge, and it chose the following: Courage; Light; Strength; Joy. (There was one more, but I can’t remember it now.)
Then I grabbed its fin and it brought be back up to the surface. As we emerged, the weather was clear and beautiful. There was a rainbow. We were just off a lovely sand beach and the sun was making a brilliant show of setting. I thanked the shark for what it shared with me. I told it I loved it. I could tell the time was coming for us to part, so I asked it if it wanted to stay where it was or go somewhere else? It was happy in this new beautiful, calm sea. I asked if it wanted anyone else there with it? It chose a sweet pink dolphin as a playmate. They started swimming away happily and I shouted out to the shark to see if there were any last things it wanted to share with me? “Go be Love!” it said.
Go be Love.
So that’s my new mission.
I like it.
If you haven’t experienced IFS, I highly recommend it. It’s a wonderful way to free your Self from past injuries in your own time and in your own way. The therapist is there to guide you, but the work is yours alone. It’s good stuff.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this post. If you’re still reading: I love you! If you stopped reading a long time ago: I love you! And I invite you, too, to go be Love!