The external world we experience with our 5 senses is a reflection of our inner world. With this understanding, we can begin to see our relationships as a metaphorical mirror to guide us in our journey of healing. In this blog, we’ll be exploring how the psychotherapy practice of Internal Family Systems (IFS) can be applied to our external world just as much to our inner world.
What is IFS Anyway?
In previous blogs, I’ve written about how impactful the psychotherapy practice of IFS has been for my mental health. As a quick refresher IFS, otherwise known as “Parts Work”, is about getting to know the different personas within your mind.
The 3 main roles within the IFS framework are Managers, Exiles & Firefighters. The Manager part within us does its best to intercept feelings of intense emotions. In a sense the Managers send these thoughts and feelings off to be Exiled. When exiled, it’s similar to compartmentalization – the thought, feeling, story etc is put in a box not to be opened.
In daily life, when we experience a trigger, the exiled part of ourselves is activated and as that compartmentalized box is opened, the nervous system gets flushed with intense emotions … When this happens, the Firefighter part comes to “save the day” through seeking impulsive stimulation in an attempt to dissociate (avoid) these intense feelings. This process as you can see is chaotic in nature and the practice of IFS is to sit with these parts to help bring yourself back into harmony. The aim is towards accessing the Self.
The Self is your true nature, when the parts within are allowed to have a seat at the table for tea, that is when we can find homeostasis within and the Self shines through in its peaceful nature. There’s so much to be said about IFS / Parts Work, check out this previous blog to go deeper down the rabbit hole that is Parts Work. AND for those of you wanting even more, here’s a link to the Internal Family Systems website that explains IFS.
Now, for a short story …
The Power of Immersing Yourself in Nature Without Technology
The other day I was mesmerized at the beach, lost in the crashing of the waves, the cool breeze on my skin and this fall summer heat that those of us on the California coast crave for so much. Totally immersed within the elements; in the zone, if you will.
In this hypnotic experience, completely supported by nature, I began to naturally begin to let my thoughts come in and out; in sync with the flow of the crashing ocean waves meeting the shoreline. I affectionately refer to this practice as “thought tracing”. It’s the opposite of meditation. Whereas the aim of meditation is to clear the mind of thoughts, this is a practice of contemplation and reflection. It’s allowing yourself to be with a thought and ask questions to ultimately get to the root. Here’s a previous blog about the practice of “thought tracing”).
As I went deeper in this reflection, I began to piece together all the similarities of the people I had been interacting with in the past few days and as I did so I started to see myself in these people. I didn’t notice at the time how much of what was going on in their lives was a reflection of parts of myself that have been exiled.
Relationships Are Mirrors
I believe that our relationships and the people we interact with are “mirrors” to reflect what’s going on within our subconscious being. Said more simply … Think back to a recent time you were in conversation with a friend. Remember what it is they were expressing. Oftentimes, even though we don’t notice it, what they are communicating to us is actually a message that we need to hear for our own growth. This belief is seeing others as a metaphorical mirror to the parts of ourselves that we don’t have conscious awareness and access to.
Keep in mind, our conscious awareness is just 5% of our total awareness. The other 95% is our subconscious mind, which basically means we don’t have awareness of 95% of what’s going on within our being.
Now in this example of my recent beach reflection, to bring this full circle, the mirrors in our relationships are here for us to help activate parts of our subconscious so that we can now see what areas of ourselves are requiring watering to the garden of our psyche.
Your Inner World & Outer World
IFS is about bringing the subconscious parts of ourselves to light and these parts of ourselves are within our inner world. And by “inner world” I’m including our mental state (our racing mind), our spiritual essence, and our psyche as well.
So, when I speak of SOUL/Life Balance and associate SOUL with Yin energy and Life with Yang, what I’m really communicating is that the Yin energy makes up our inner world… our emotional, mental, and spiritual connection. Whereas Yang represents physical form. It represents the world we experience through our 5 senses and our obligations, responsibilities and how we show up in physical form.
So, here’s where this gets interesting …
IFS represents the Yin energy, the inner world.
And our mirrors represent the Yang energy, our outter world.
I’ve yet to discover for myself that IFS / Parts Work can be so closely tied to our outer world. I’m thinking of this as “External Family Systems” … The practice of consciously seeing every interaction as a lesson … as a mirror to what your inner world is asking for extra love and attention to.
It’s Really just You.
And to go one layer deeper, change starts within. Quantum Physics teaches us that the physical world we experience with our 5 senses is a reflection of the state of our inner world. This is science.
The spiritual “Law of Harmony” teaches us the same principle.
Quantum physics represents the Life (Yang) science backed evidence while the spirit of harmony represents the Soul (Yin) of SOUL/Life Balance. I firmly believe with a mindset of Yin & Yang or SOUL/Life Balance; we can begin to find inner peace to experience the outer world which we wish to to live.
Please remember, that your spiritual practices including reflections of your inner parts is just as important as seeing yourself in everyone you come into contact with. Maybe instead of seeing these mirrors in your relationships and trying to fix what’s coming to the surface in “the other” (them), rather instead we see ourselves in this other person and find the time to sit in stillness to discover what part of ourselves is asking for attention activated by the mirrors in your relationships.
This is the work, my friend. Getting curious and tracing back to the root with extreme honesty and integrity of being (inner world) and living (outer world) in alignment.
As Within So Without,