IFS: Issues of Projections & Coming From “Parts”

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In all interpersonal relationships, we are vulnerable to projections. Our doing so seems most likely to happen in intense intimate relationships, when old relationship dynamics are most readily triggered. (Our amygdala takes on a “scanning” function, recognizes when “like” seems similar to “like,” and we respond accordingly, usually out of our conscious awareness.)

Sometimes we interact with our partner as if they were someone from our past, treating our partner as if they were a parent, or as if they were an ex-spouse.

And sometimes different parts of us treat our partner in different ways – a loving part of us, an angry part of us, a competitive part of us, a needy dependent part of us, an insecure part of us, a bossy part of us, a defensive part of us – and often we trigger different parts in our partner, re-activating childhood wounds, or triggering their own parts (defensive, self-protective, fearful of abandonment).

IFS (Internal Family Systems) and IFIO (Intimacy from the Inside Out) therapy both aim to help people identify these “parts” of themselves, reactions based upon original family dynamics, protective dynamics or other self-regulating attempts.

Once we can become more clear on the parts of us being triggered, the needs and fears of those parts, understand their back story and why they (these parts and ways of relating) came into being and why they still think they are needed for safety, the parts may be able to become “updated,” let go of their old strategies, thus enabling partners to relate to one another with less old baggage.

The “dance” between these old “parts” of ourselves, which trigger reactions in the “parts” of our partner can be better tracked, better understood, more readily “caught” and interrupted. EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy, originated by Sue Johnson) is one of the modalities that help us catch these “dances.”

Interpersonal relationships can become healthier, and in “righter balance” when we clear this baggage from our past and can relate to one another more in the here-and-now.

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