“Practical Psychology for Extraordinary Living” is a special seminar series continuing the themes explored in the “Modern Mating Explained” video series, exploring the practical implications of deeper reflection on psychology for the art of living.
For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him in this special seminar series as he explores deep questions of the psychological bases for mating in the modern world. Subscribe now.
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Your Inner Child, True Self, & Inner Critic
David Tian Ph.D. enumerates the characteristics of the True Self through a rubric of eight C words and five P words.
There are parts that the True Self is managing, orchestrating, guiding, or leading, David Tian Ph.D. identifies them.
David Tian Ph.D. points out the case study of the inner critic and the inner child and how this is a way of to get closer to your True Self.
In this talk, David Tian Ph.D. explains why letting your True Self take charge is needed to have healthy relationships.
David Tian: Welcome to the final part of this series, Practical Psychology for Extraordinary Living. This is probably part four, this is the second half of the True Self section. And I was planning to do this entire True Self section at one go at the live seminar, but we only got halfway through and ran out of time.
So since then, we’ve been working on a lot of other projects and I apologize for getting this out so late, but here we go. This is the second half of the True Self section. And in the first half, which you should watch if you haven’t already, PPEL number three — this should be number four — we covered the three categories of our parts.
We covered the basic idea of the True Self and the concept of the self as a collection or a conglomeration of loosely held parts. And we went over — I introduced the main types of parts. The exile parts, the managerial parts and the firefighter parts.
And then I went over one of the foundational assumptions of — And I also introduced internal family systems therapy, which is what this is drawing from, IFS therapy. And one of the guiding assumptions of IFS is that every part has positive intent. I believe that this is true for everyone who’s not a psychopath. Psychopaths, just bracket that for now.
But it’s important to appreciate every part of you that has been– that you know about, because even though that part may have gone about things in a harmful way, especially in the wrong run. The original intention of that part was positive; to protect you in most cases. So it’s important that you realize it is a positive intent; that you are not trying to repress or suppress any particular part, that all parts have their role in your life, and some of these parts are very important, archetypal parts that every human being has.
So, it’s important that to realize that if a part is overused or over relied on, it gets distorted, it gets forced into roles that it wasn’t originally intended for, or it doesn’t find fulfilling. And that might be one reason why it’s become harmful. But anyway, positive intent, positive intent.
And we also went over another guiding assumption of IFS therapy which is the True Self, that there is this thing called a True Self. And I’ve been in writing, been capitalizing the T and the S because it’s a special concept.
It’s not just like, “Hey, you’re a True Self.” But it’s more much deeper than that, and I’m going to be getting into a lot more detail on that in this section. And we ended in the previous section on blending and how harmful blending is, and how to begin the process of unblending.
Okay, so if you want to review that, that’s in the previous section, so let’s move on now. So now, I’m going to get into the concept of the True Self. And again, this is drawn from IFS therapy. If you like what you’re hearing here, I recommend that you learn about IFS therapy, find an IFS therapist, or Gestalt which has quite a few similarities with the IFS approach, Gestalt therapy, and start to get to know these different parts in you and bring out the leadership of your True Self.
So one of the guiding assumptions with the True Self and these parts is that we are — basically we have multiple personalities. These parts each constitute a separate personality with its own thoughts, actions, personality type. So there is this myth out there in the world of a monolithic self, that there’s only one self and anytime you’re not that self, it’s not you, and that’s just false. That’s a very unsophisticated, naive interpretation of who you are.
So this is a much, much more sophisticated, true, accurate depiction or understanding of the identity, of personal identity. Okay, so let’s get into the True Self. A big question or a question I get a lot is, “How do I know when I am my True Self, or being, or acting out of my True Self?”
And this, I’m going to give you a rubric here of eight C words and five P words. These C words begin with C and the P words beginning with P. Okay so, it’s an easy way to remember these characteristics of the True Self. And I’ve also got my graphics guy who made a cool little graphic that will help you. You can download it on your phone. Easy way to remember the rubric.
So I’ll go over these eight C words that describe your True Self. And again, the guiding assumption in IFS therapy is that you have this True Self who is supposed to be the executive leader. He’s supposed to be– or he or she, your True Self, is the leader in the sense of, he’s the quarterback, or he or she is like the quarterback– or the better one is coach. He’s the coach calling the plays.
He or she is the conductor and orchestrating the orchestra or guiding the orchestra, conducting the orchestra. Anyway, that’s the True Self. So how do you know that you’re your True Self? And again, in my earlier videos, I distinguished between the True Self and this “original self” that is a term and concept used in the literature on narcissistic personality disorder and cluster B personality disorders and differentiated those.
And I’ve also differentiated it from your inner child. In some ways, you could use the term True Self to also refer to those concepts, but that’s not the IFS concept here, for True Self, and that’s not the concept that I’m using. That’s not the meaning of the term that I’m using here when I mean True Self.
So, let’s get into it. What is the True Self? How do you know that you are operating as your True Self? So, the eight C words — I’m going to get into three in a little bit more detail and then I’ll just mention the remaining five. So, the first C word is connected. When you are your True Self, you are connected.
That means that you naturally feel close to other people and naturally feel close to your parts. And you want to relate in harmonious, supportive ways to other people and especially to your parts. So, if you feel hatred, or bitterness, or resentment towards some part of you, like, “I wish I wasn’t that way!” That’s not your True Self. That’s some other part of you interacting with another part of you.
The True Self wants to relate to that other part of you and be connected to that part of you. The True Self is also ‘curious’. That’s the second C word, curious. That means that the True Self is interested in other people and your parts in an open, accepting way. You’re interested in the inner workings of your own mind and you’re interested in the positive intention or intents of your various parts.
And you’re interested in what they’re trying to protect you from and why each part acts as it does. So, you’re interested in these motivations and you’re curious. They’re also curious about other people in positive ways. Okay, so curious. The third C word is ‘compassionate’.
I know in some quarters, compassion has gotten a bad rap, especially among people who are obsessed with dominance and status but that’s very unfortunate. Compassionate: a form of kindness and love that arises from empathy with people in their pain. And admittedly, this is a trait that is more commonly found in feminine energy.
And whether you’re a man or a woman, you are — the ideal, mature person who is most equipped to lead a fulfilling life is a balance of masculine and feminine energies. You’ll naturally have a home and you’ll feel like you have a home in one of those energies. But no matter what your home energy is, you should balance it out with the other energy, otherwise, your life is going to be very one-sided.
And especially in the modern world, a very one-sided masculine energy dominated person will find it hard to navigate life in the modern world. So anyway, this more feminine energy of compassion is very important to achieve effortlessly a fulfilling life. So again, compassion is a form of kindness and love that arises from empathy, especially empathy with people who are in pain.
A good purpose in life or one of the purposes of your life that is going to lead you on the right path to happiness and fulfilment is to reduce unnecessary suffering. One motivation for that is when you see unnecessary suffering, you also feel pain and you want to reduce that.
So, compassion of the True Self is where you genuinely care about how others feel, and you want to support them through their pain. You feel compassion for others but also for your own parts, including the more extreme parts that are reacting to perceived trauma, or wounds, and are feeling pain. So you feel compassion for others and for your own parts.
The other five C words are that you’re calm, so when you’re your True Self, you’re not angry. Or you might see something wrong and need that extra motivation to go and right that wrong, but you’re in a calm state when that happens. You’re not out of control. So, that’s calm. That’s C word number four.
C word number five is clarity or clarity of mind. You’re clear, you’re not clouded. So, you’re able to think clearly. Sixth C word is confident. You’re not diffident, you’re not drawing back, you’re not doubting yourself; you feel confident.
The seventh word is courageous. In the face of fear, you step up. That’s the True Self. The True Self would do that. Other parts would also do all of these various things in various ways, but what is true of the True Self is all eight of these C words, and courageous is the seventh and the last, eighth, is creative. The True Self is creative. That is, it’s tapped into the creative elements in the self.
Okay, so creative. Another way to think about it is the five P’s. So, in addition to the eight C’s, there are five P’s. It’s a rubric of thinking about your True Self. And the five P’s are — The first is playful. The True Self is playful. It’s not taking itself too seriously. This is something I’ve discovered in a lot of guys who have trouble with women and dating. They are often way too serious and take themselves far too seriously. They’re too serious about life and they take themselves too seriously. They’re very uptight.
They take offenses very easily, or they take offense very easily. They’re very easily triggered about their insecurities, that they’re not man enough or people don’t respect them and things like this. That’s not the True Self. That’s one of your immature parts. The True Self is playful. It’s easy going. Okay? So, playful.
Second P word is patient. True self, when you’re operating out of your True Self, you are patient. You are, number three, present. This is a very important life skill, to learn how to be present. It’s not something that most men are born with. Well actually, born with is — You’re born with a potential to be present. I think the more childlike you are, the easier it is for you to be present, actually.
But as your grow up, the natural thing to have happened is that you lose your natural ability to be present whenever you want to, and you stop valuing, in most cases, being present, and you value instead society, and schools and — well, especially schools teach you to think about the future, so your mind is constantly in the future. That means you’re actually not present. That’s the third one, the True Self is present.
But the True Self is also number four: perspectival. That is, the True Self is able to have perspective. That’s part of how it is playful and present. It doesn’t take anything too seriously because it realizes that a lot of these things that you worry about are actually based on these fears that come from an insecurity, a worry about not being able to get love or not being able to survive. And sometimes, those are real fears. So, that’s important to deal with.
But in most cases, especially in the modern world and modern life, modern living, none of these things that most people worry about are worth the worry. The True Self has perspective about that. But also, on the flip side, a problem that I’ve discovered among men and people in their 20s right now is the lack of motivation and drive also because of a lack of perspective.
Also, because they don’t realize that if they continue on this path of being lazy, of playing video games all day and not making a living out of it, they’re just playing it as escapism, that this is actually breeding in them bad habits that every minute or day more that you indulge this habit, will be harder and harder to break down the road, and will also create other habits and other personality traits and activate other parts of you that are immature.
It comes from perspective, realizing that down the road of what would make you happy is X, but right now you’re doing not X. That also will come from perspective. So, the True Self has perspective. And finally, the fifth P: The True Self is persistent, doesn’t give up easily. I’m putting a quote card out there like, “Never give up”, and that sort of thing, and the people are like, “Sometimes, it’s important to give up and switch.” and a lot of these people, because I’ve been putting out how to recover from break-ups kind of courses, they’re realizing that if you persist trying to get after this girl, that’s bad, and that’s true.
So persistence, but wise persistence, right? So, persistence on a goal that you don’t give up on just because it’s hard, but obviously with the perspective that this is the right goal and the right path; it’s just difficult and painful and you have to get through that pain period.
I’ll recap them right now. The eight C’s are: Connected, the True Self is connected; curious; compassionate; calm; clear of mind; confident; courageous and creative. The True Self is also the five P’s: The True Self is playful, patient, present, perspectival and persistent.
And again, I’ve got a graphic to help you remember these more easily, so they should be somewhere on the page of which you see this video on. Alright, so now I’m going to get into the main categories of your parts, so that’s the True Self. And now, let’s look at the parts that the True Self is managing, or orchestrating, or guiding, or leading.
So the manager parts, firefighter parts, and exiles, and how they interact, and then I’ll get into the process of unburdening in more detail because that’s the required step for the True Self to take charge, and then I’ll do a quick synopsis of everything. And then I’ll look at a case study example to illustrate how all of this more abstract theory would work in daily life.
Okay so for the first major category is the manager category, the manager parts. Alright, manager parts require enormous amounts of energy to keep the system, the self-system under control. So what they do is, these manager parts create obsessions, or distractions, or they deny reality all together, including creating obsessions or distractions around sex, or self-loathing, or self-cutting.
They could also get into eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia. These are ways of distracting the self-system from painful realities, and that’s trying to manage the pain by distraction. Each manager part should be approached as an internal protector who maintains an important, defensive position.
And again, all of the parts that are not the True Self are trying to protect the exiles by the manager parts and the firefighters. So, another way to look at them is as a protector, so under the broader category of protector. Managers carry the huge burden of responsibility for day to day operations, for day to day interactions.
They’re usually way in over their heads. These parts generally come online at a young age and they generally don’t mature, they generally get stuck in when they came online, which means — One of the things you can see in yourself is patterns that repeat. And these patterns repeat because that part that’s repeating this pattern, that’s coming up, sort of like — Imagine a team, a basketball team or whatever sports team whose is not listening to the coach. The coach is like tied up, gagged and thrown in the corner.
And the players just come on whenever they — They fight amongst themselves and they take charge. And a manager part is a part that hogs the ball a lot. He or she is calling the plays, taking over and they’re usually way in over their heads. Because when they came onto the court they were 11-years-old for you, so now I’m switching metaphors.
They were younger, and they’ve been forced to pretend like they can deal with a responsibility but that’s often when they break down, but they do their best. But they’re often way in over their heads because when they came in to protect you they took on one particular limited strategy. But as life goes on and as you age, those strategies aren’t as effective anymore since managers end up carrying these huge burdens of responsibility.
However, some managers, especially if that part is used a lot, will become extremely competent at managing. And they can hold down outstanding professional jobs, they can be superbly attentive parents, they learn quickly, especially if you’re naturally intelligent. So, the manager part can keep it together.
And if they’ve been keeping it together for a long time, they’ve learned whatever skills along the way, and they’ve matured in terms of competence. But generally, emotionally, they’re still suck at the level in which they come on the court, so to speak, where they came online. Okay, so that’s the manager.
So one type of manager is the inner critic, or the perfectionist, or — There are all types of managers that people have. You might have multiple managerial parts that take turns depending on the context, like a parent situation where you’re managing, a work situation, and then when you become the boss, that manager part might take — there might be another manager part that comes online, and so on. These are manager parts.
The second category is the firefighter parts, firefighter parts. Firefighters will do anything to make emotional pain go away. So, you might think of the firefighter’s parts as like the goalie or the center if you’re thinking about basketball. Like when the opposing team breaks through the frontlines, the center is the last point of resistance for somebody who’s charging in and they’re going to do — They might even just tackle the guy or whatever.
The goalie, obviously, is the last point of resistance or step of resistance and firefighters are like goalies. And remember, there are three main categories of parts: firefighters, managers, and exiles. And the exiles include the inner child or inner children that you have. And the firefighters and the managers are trying to protect the inner child or inner children. They’re trying to protect the exiles.
And when the exiles threaten to break out, so for example, if somebody’s starting to trigger you, and the manager starts — takes charge, that’s the first line of defense, and the manager says, “Stop doing that.” Or maybe the manager just tries to ignore because that’s how that manager part has been used to dealing with that kind of stimuli or challenge. They just try to ignore that person, but that person won’t go away, or that person keeps coming and triggering you deeper.
It’s sort of like the Hulk. The Hulk’s trying not to be angry and the first layer of defense is like, “Okay, just ignore it or whatever. Breathe.”
But after a certain point, that stimuli gets through or the challenge gets through and you get triggered. And the firefighter comes in because, like, “Oh man, if you get triggered and there’s no protection, well, the child will come out and will be defenseless and vulnerable and would just break down and cry. We can’t have that happen. Because last time that happened when you were three, four, or five years old, it was still shameful.”
And the firefighter comes online to protect that last line of defense. And the firefighter emerges or firefighter parts emerge when the exiles threaten to break out or the challenge threatens to get to the exiles. They’ll do anything to make that emotional pain go away. Their style is the opposite of the manager, their style of protection.
Managers are about staying in control, but firefighters destroy the house to extinguish the fire. They just go berserk. And this is when you, in a fight with your spouse, or your girlfriend or boyfriend, just go crazy and you go in beast mode. And then you look back after you’ve calmed down, which might be like days, but you calmed down, you look back, like, “Holy fuck, I destroyed this chair or this TV. I broke the window.”
That’s when the firefighters came on like, “Fuck it all!” and they just go at it. So, that’s your firefighter part. There’s a continual struggle, by the way, between the manager parts and the firefighter parts. Because the manager come in and clean it up right afterwards when you’re calm. The manager’s like, “Oh fuck, man.” and they go and try to make things back in control.
And the whole while — This is often in the case when the True Self which is for most people is nowhere to be found. Because these parts have given up on the True Self early on in your life. The True Self wasn’t holding it together. The inner child was freaking out, it’s feeling lots of fear and pain and sadness.
And the True Self wasn’t leading and so these parts came online to protect the exiles, and they may not even know. They might think, “Oh, there’s this legend of the True Self but we’ve never seen it, or it’s been a long time since the True Self has been around.” So, it’s basically they’re just doing everything.
Sort of like the Legend of Aslan in C.S Lewis’ Narnia series or something like that. So anyway, they have these different opposing styles of protection, of the managers versus the firefighters and exiles, trying to protect the exiles, and they go through the struggle of the uptight managers versus the berserk out-of-control firefighters.
This continues. This struggle continues until the exiles, who carry the burden of the trauma, are able to emerge and be cared for. That’s what therapy is for. That’s what therapy does. Good therapy is where the therapist will often take the role of your True Self if your True Self is not trusted or hasn’t been in leadership for a very long time.
And as the firefighter parts and the managerial parts calm down and get — the therapists has to earn their trust so that they can step back enough that the exiles can come out, and then the healing can begin. As long as the exiles stay exiles, no healing happens and you’re just talking to a firefighter or a manager part.
This is why when you’re having an argument that’s very heated, especially if both sides are triggered. But even if you’re not triggered and the other person is, you’ll notice that you can’t actually make any progress with them. Like, maybe you’ll have a debate and maybe they’re like trained philosophers. So maybe one of their manager parts is a philosopher.
That’s one of my manager parts, and you think you’re getting somewhere with them, but all you’re really doing is getting them to agree to some cognitive logical point that doesn’t actually change them emotionally — Until you’re speaking to the exile who’s carrying that burden of the trauma.
No real emotional growth is happening. You’ve got plenty of competence growth, and skills growth, and intellectual growth but no emotional growth will be happening. So, that’s the process. You get these firefighter and managerial parts to take a rest and step aside for a while and rest. So, what’ll happen is in therapy, often, you’re first encountering a managerial part, somebody who pretends to have it all together and that everything’s okay, that sort of thing.
And then when the therapist, if he’s skilled, he or she is skilled, he can get the managerial part to step aside and about to speak to the exile now. That’s when the firefighter part comes up or maybe multiple firefighter parts. And then, the therapist has to deal with them and have them step aside.
Now, if the trust is very well-gained or there’s been a lot of trust with the therapist, the firefighter may not come up, but that’s the basic process. So, the firefighters believe that exiled feelings would end up crashing the entire self-system. So, and that’s why they resort to extreme measures to guarantee physical and emotional safety for the self-system and especially for the exiles.
So, they’re trying to protect the exiles. All that berserk energy is actually an attempt to protect the inner child or inner children, the exiles, from dealing with the pain that they’ve been repressing for so long. So, the toxicity that is the result of perceived trauma, the burden of that is carried by the exiles. The exiles hold memories, sensations, beliefs and emotions like shame, fear, pain that are associated with this perceived trauma or perceived traumas.
Often for every major trauma, there is an exile. I mean, there might be many inner children that you’re carrying in your self-system that will take a long time in therapy to unwind and have them trust you as either your True Self or the therapist. And that’s not the ideal, by the way. So, the therapist is just a stand in for your True Self until your True Self can take leadership, by the way.
So, the exiles hold all of these painful emotions and they often — When they are exposed, these exiles reveal themselves in the form of crushing physical sensations or extreme numbing. This is why when you make progress, it looks weird to the average manager part, to the average person, which is the average person’s — they’re their manager part often with you.
And that’s if you haven’t done the work to get through or they haven’t done the work to be vulnerable. So, these exiles, when they come out, you get this berserk firefighter like, [VOICE ACTING], and then the firefighter loses too, that Hulk just can’t do it. The trigger’s too strong and now you’re dealing with the exile. And the exile’s like — You go from extreme Hulk to just crying, sobbing, shaking, all of that. That’s an exile, and that’s what the firefighters are trying to prevent. They’re trying to prevent the exile from breaking out and breaking down.
And when the manager parts and the firefighter parts see the exile out, it offends the reasonableness of the managers and it offends the bravado of the firefighters. And they get scared, they’re like, “No! This can’t be happening.” And they’re very afraid of that happening. From the very beginning, when that part was first experiencing those physical and emotional sensations, these protector parts exiled these exile parts.
They exiled the pained parts to prevent the pain from continuing, and to prevent the pain from actually not from continuing but from surfacing. It’ll still continue deep down below the surface. That’s called repression. But if they suppress it, well, at least they don’t have to deal with it in the moment. It’ll just be simmering for a long time. Maybe simmering’s the wrong word, because in some cases, it’s like bubbling underneath like a volcano or like an earthquake about to happen.
Exiles emerge when they overwhelm the managers, when there’s like a rejected child, or a weak child, or an unloved child, or an abandoned child that is just — It’s feeling that emotion so strongly that the manager can’t hold it back and the firefighters can’t hold it back and it bursts forth. And this is why in therapy, real progress is made only when you go through these.
I mean, I should not make such sweeping comments about the progress of therapy. Sometimes, especially in the early stages where you’re just building the trust, that’s progress. But obviously, if you’ve done a lot of therapy, and now you’re just coming in for reinforcements or review. Those are all important as well.
But the bulk of the work will happen when the exile is coming out, and it’s feeling all of these crazy emotions, and the manager and firefighter can’t hold it back. So, keeping the exiles locked up only stamps out the memories and emotions, but it doesn’t actually lock up the hurt parts entirely.
Your exiles are your most sensitive, creative, intimacy-loving, lively, playful, innocent parts. And if you don’t allow them to come out, then you’re going to be missing all of those great emotions. This is why people who live primarily as managers might have it all together on the surface, might be successful in a worldly context, but at the end of that day, they are missing that playfulness, and the innocence, their creativity, the sensitivity, the liveliness, the playfulness.
So, the True Self can bring that out from the exile and the True Self itself will also feel those. Because if the True Self is in charge, the exile is fine, the inner child is free to be, and to be out in the open and emerge, and to be vulnerable. This is why vulnerability takes such courage. The True Self leads the self-system through that process. But most people who are stuck in managerial parts don’t get to experience those emotions for very long or very often.
And that’s because the exiles are mostly the ones that are feeling these. And in fact, all of the parts can feel these to a certain degree, but because of the role that the self-system has put them in, they don’t get to let go and be that sensitive, creative, intimacy-loving part or play those roles.
Okay, so how the parts relate to one another is mainly in two ways: polarization and alliance. So you want to not have polarization and you want to have alliance. So, the parts are polarized when they’re battling to determine how a person feels or behaves in a certain situation.
So when they’re polarized obviously that means they are opposite poles. Each part believes it must act in such a way as to counter the extreme behavior of the other parts. That’s polarization. Alliance is where the parts are allied, if they are working together to accomplish the same aim. So, what you want to have is a harmonious interaction between the parts where they’re allied and not polarized.
And that comes through the leadership of the True Self. The True Self is a natural leader of the internal system, but because of harmful incidents or relationships in the past, protectors have stepped in to protect the system and take over for the self.
One protector after another over time is activated and takes over the system which causes, in the end, maladaptive behavior. These protectors also frequently are in conflict with each other, which result in internal chaos, internal conflict or stagnation. So, the goal of IFS is for the protector parts to come to trust the self, the True Self, so that they will allow the True Self to heal the system and create harmony under its guidance. And this is what I’d call integration.
And integration of the parts through the leadership of the True Self leads to that natural ease in life and to that deeper sense of fulfilment in life. Okay, so some of these parts are quite primordial or archetypal. That is, that they’re in common just as part of being human. They might even be part of your DNA, in fact. Our DNA evolved some of these parts and this is the Jungian thesis of Carl Jung. But whatever it is, there are very common parts.
And they come online at various parts of your life, various points of your life, most often in relation or in response to some perceived trauma. So, the key to harmony is the True Self taking charge. The first step of that is liberating the exiles. So, the key factor here is compassion for the self.
These internal managers are obsessed with power, and these are usually created as defenses against feeling helpless and hopeless. For example, they might think if you criticize others, they don’t dare hurt you. So, you have this part that follows this dictum and is constantly criticizing other people, blaming others.
Or they might have grown up with this principle of, “If you are perfect, then nobody can criticize you.” And again, that’s like your perfectionist part. In that case, it’s protecting the self-system and especially the exiles from getting criticized. In order to liberate the exiles, you need to unburden the parts that are protecting the exile.
So, after the initial emergence of these parts, you have to revisit the exile parts from time to time to make sure they’re supported and cared for. And so, you unburden the parts so that they will rest, and relax, and trust the therapist standing in as a True Self, or even better, your True Self now getting experienced leading. And then you unburden the exiles from the toxic trauma that they’ve been carrying since whenever that perceived trauma occurred.
So the unburdening process for the exiles is nursing the exiles parts back to health. And this is where they need to get closer and closer to it in order to let it go. So, they actually do have to revisit those perceived traumatic events. The extreme parts are carrying this burden, which are the painful emotions or the negative beliefs that are taken because on these harmful experiences in the past. Most of them are from your youth or in childhood.
And these burdens are not actually intrinsic to the part. Just like the burdens for the managerial parts and the firefighter parts are not a necessary part of the part. The same goes with the exiles. If you unburden them, they don’t just disappear. Now actually, if you unburden them, then they become joyful. So, you release and unburden the exiles and the other parts from their burdens, which allows them to assume their natural healthy roles in the self-system. So the True Self is the agent of this psychological healing.
The therapist can help the client to access and remain in the True Self and provide guidance through the therapy process. The protectors end up letting go of their protective roles and transform when the exiles that they have been protecting have been unburdened. So you tell the protectors to, “Hey, chill out. Relax. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to harm the exile.”
And then you unburden the exile, and then the protector parts don’t need to protect anymore because the exiles don’t need the protection. And now, all of the parts transform in positive ways. But one caveat right, like you can’t work with any exiles until your True Self has obtained the permission from many of the protective parts that are protecting that exile. And that could be the various managerial parts and the firefighter parts.
And the IFS method makes it so that it’s relatively safe to do that even in working with highly traumatized or recently traumatized parts, or just heavily traumatized parts. So, the basic method goes like this. First, the therapist helps the client to access the True Self, their True Self, then their True Self gets to know the protector parts, discovers their positive intents, and develop trusting relationships with their protector parts, whether they’re managerial or firefighter parts.
And then with the protector parts’ permission, the client accesses the exiles that the protectors are protecting, and discovers the childhood incidents or the childhood relationships that are the source of the burdens that the exiles are creating.
And again, it may not come from childhood it might be in your youth, teenage years, it might be recent, especially if you are in a PTSD situation. But whatever it is, in order to heal and grow from that, heal and grow as a human being, as a person, as a self, you’ve got to access that part of you that is carrying the burden of that trauma.
Then after you access that exile and discover the incidents or the perceived trauma, and then you re-experience it — You don’t have to re-experience the emotions per se, but you re-experience that event, that you re-discover it. Then what happens is, the exile becomes liberated from being stuck in that past situation and being stuck in repeating that loop.
And it is then helped to release its burden. The True Self now brings its mature perspective, and love, and support to the inner child. And at that time, it didn’t have that. That would be why the protectors had to come online, because the True Self dropped the ball back then, because the True Self wasn’t trained, and developed and experienced yet.
But now that you have the guidance of the therapist and the True Self is getting its bearings again, it can do this. It can protect the exile on its own and free the exile from carrying this burden and free all of the parts from carrying the burden. And now, the exiles and the other various parts are free to be joyful and liberated, and the protectors can then let go of their protective roles and assume healthy roles.
Okay, so that’s the basic synopsis of the method. That’s how IFS therapy works to free up your True Self and this also explains everything about the problems and relationships, problems in men trying to be more attractive to women. 95% of the problems stem from the fact that they’re actually not acting as their true selves. They’re instead trying to create new managerial parts to protect them from feeling the pain of being vulnerable because they haven’t grown through that, and so on.
So, one of the ways of dating through therapy, or therapeutic dating, is trying to interact with others as your True Self as much as possible. Now obviously, in some contexts, like if you’re the boss and roles that are very strict in their protocol, like in the military or perhaps in a work situation, or wherever there are formal protocols and rules, you might need to play that managerial part and let that part come out and take charge for the time being.
Because the True Self says, “Okay, now you’re going to run this play.” But for the most part you want to have the True Self in leadership and interact with others from that position. And the only way that can happen is if the True Self can get the trust of all of the various parts, the protector parts and the exile parts. Okay, so I’m going to get a case study example so you have a better idea of how this works. The case study example is of an inner critic protector protecting an inner child.
So I’m going to simplify this a lot just to make it easier to learn from this one example. But of course, it’s never just two parts interacting. There’s also, the inner critic is also often paired with a perfectionist part and various other protective parts, and there are often more than one inner child that they’re protecting.
Okay, but I’m going to simplify an inner critic protector protecting an inner child. The inner child is carrying the pain that originated when it was young, and the inner critic part is triggering this childhood pain and exacerbating it. This is often when you start to feel this tension. This is when somebody will present themselves into therapy because there are these internal conflicts.
So, if the inner critic was managing everything perfectly fine, and often when it first comes online it’s able to do that. But over time, it starts to break down because it is going to end up not being able to carry things forward and the inner child threatens to break out. Okay, so I’ll get into more detail in how that would happen.
So what happens is in therapy, the healing, or in coaching — you can do self-therapy on yourself. Healing involves uncovering the situations first that cause the original perceived trauma and pain. So, the True Self, assuming that you’ve got your True Self online, asks the inner child to reveal the memory or image of what happened when it was young in order to cause the inner child to feel so bad about itself.
So, here are some examples of things that could trigger your inner child and cause deep pain that you’ll hold onto and repress, and that therefore sabotage everything down the line. So, some examples I’ll give you of how your inner child can be exiled: judgment. So, if you were judged harshly or frequently by parents, family members or other key figures in your childhood, a child part of you that started out innocent and whole could end up feeling wrong, bad, inadequate or worthless, especially if this judgment was accompanied by anger, yelling or abuse.
Another example could be shame. Being shamed or ridiculed by parents, teachers, peers repeatedly or harshly would prompt an inner critic self to come out, an inner critic part to shame your child self. And this is actually an attempt to protect you from doing again whatever led to being shamed in the first place.
Children also tend to take on the shame of their parents as their own. So, you might see this in a kid that has been scolded, and you might find that kid repeating that same scolding phrase to itself on its own, which is freaky, like, “Oh, jeez.” That’s shame. That’s the toxicity of shame.
Or it could be punishment as control. So, when children do dangerous things, parents may overreact and punish the child. Maybe when you darted toward the streets, your parents not only grabbed your arm and scolded you, but also spanks you and said that you were bad.
Or maybe you hit another kid or took another kid’s toys, as common among young boys as they’re growing up, learning boundaries. And your parents, they should teach you not to do such things, of course. But if they yell, “Stop that. You are bad.” and internalize the shame as a form of punishment, this harshness would make your child self feel bad about having natural impulses and would activate an inner critic part in that child that undermines or guilt trips the child and uses the same harsh approach that the child’s parents did.
So, this all gets internalized. So, especially when you’re a very young child and your brain is still forming, it’s a natural thing to learn through mirroring or modelling what you see in the adults, caretakers, and that’s what’ll happen especially when it comes to shame and punishment, things like this.
Another source could be rejection or abuse. If your caregivers didn’t want you, or if they abused you, your child self would end up feeling as if it didn’t have the right to exist or that it was dangerous to exist. This would create an inner critic part that blames you for the abuse in a bid to protect you from fighting back and being harmed even more.
So again, all of these inner critic parts, all of their positive intents are around protection, and the inner critic could protect you from fighting back and being harmed even more or by being abandoned entirely by the caregiver. So, it blames you to give you the illusion of being able to control and change the situation.
Because if you think, “If I did it, then maybe I could fix myself and stop it.” versus “I’m completely helpless now.” and — or fighting back, in which case, you’re actually inviting further abuse. So, the inner critic is trying to protect you by saying it’s your fault, you can do something about it.
And guilt is another source of trauma and toxic pain. If your parents used guilt to control you, this would have activated an inner critic part who guilt trips you to stop you from doing the bad things that force you to care take your parents. Maybe your parents scolded you as a bad person for wanting attention or for wanting gifts, which are normal for a child, or they acted like martyrs and made it your responsibility to take care of their pain and make them feel good.
These are ways that guilt are used to create an inner critic. Or these are ways that guilt creates an inner critic part. Another source of an inner critic part that creates the pain in the inner child is diminishment. If you were judged or ridiculed whenever you were strong, visible or capable, this would wound your child self.
It would also then activate an inner critic self or an inner critic part to undermine you in a bid to protect you from further criticism. Your parents might have said, “Who do you think you are?” when you were strong, visible, capable, and then you shrink. The intensity of an inner critic’s attacks will often be proportional to the degree of wounding of the criticized child.
So, the more pain the inner child felt, the stronger and more aggressive the inner critic is that is created as a result to protect the criticized child. And the protection happens by — If you do the shaming, then the adult won’t need to do that anymore.
I know it sounds warped, but it’s a natural and rational thought process for a defenseless child, an innocent, naive child. Once your inner child reveals the traumatic memories or images as the True Self witnesses these memories or images — So, before we get into that, actually — So, that’s just an example. Those are a bunch of examples of how the inner child could end up feeling traumatized, and would cause an inner critic part to arise. Those are a bunch of examples.
The True Self is trying to get the inner child to reveal these traumatic memories and images, witness these memories and images, and now witness them with caring and compassion for the child parts. That’s what creates that healing, and it is usually unnecessary to re-experience fully all the feelings of trauma.
It is enough just to witness them as your True Self from a place of empathy. They have to be from a place of empathy, by the way, not from just a detached or intellectual place. So not just, you’re just seeing that and like, “Ugh, that freaking kid.” But from a place of empathy. Because if you’re not actually experiencing empathy when you witness these events or re-experience them, then it’s probably not your True Self in charge, which is actually very dangerous. It could further traumatize the inner child.
So then the True Self witnesses these events that the inner child reveals to it, and it continues to witness everything that your inner child wants to show you. All the way through, everything, until your inner child feels that you understand it and understand how bad it was.
So then the inner critic parts, they need to be shown that they’re actually causing more pain than what they’re trying to protect against. So, these inner critic parts are now stuck in the past when there was real danger or real harm. But their strategy to criticize you doesn’t actually — It actually leads to more pain, especially the longer this happens, the more the inner critic just keeps you down to protect you when there’s really nothing to be protected from anymore. It actually sabotages your life and your success.
And these inner critic parts often just go about this in a kind of robotic fashion, in a way where they’re not in control. They don’t realize the pain that their criticism is actually causing, not just the exile but to the whole self-system. Making them aware of the truth of the pain that they’re causing by holding on to that strategy is the first necessary step to changing that protector part, that inner critic part.
So, I got this great quotation from Jay Earley on this dynamic, of the True Self taking leadership from the critic part. Okay, so quoting Jay Earley here. “In childhood you are attacked, rejected or shamed for some reason. Now, from the place of your True Self, you can explain to the critic the current situation is different.”
“You are no longer vulnerable or dependent like a child. You are autonomous and no longer under the power of your parents or your abusers. You have many strengths and capacities as an adult that you didn’t have as a child. Maybe you are more grounded and centered. You may be more assertive, more perceptive about interpersonal situations, better able to support yourself financially and so on.”
“You have already accomplished things in your life and have overcome various obstacles. You are an adult with much greater ability to handle yourself. You have friends, maybe a spouse or a lover, perhaps a community that you belong to, a support group you can rely on. You have people you can turn to if necessary.”
“This means you are no longer in danger the way you were as a child, and your True Self is available now. Thus, your critic can relax and allow you to handle things.”
I thought that was a beautifully well put encapsulation of the whole process of letting the inner child come out through earning the trust of critic, and showing the critic that its protective strategies are no longer necessary and in fact harmful so it can step back. And actually, when it does that, it transforms.
When the inner critic relaxes and transforms, it becomes often the inner coach. Because the coach is the healthy version of the critic. And there may also be an inner champion part of you that was in the background and can now come to the fore to support you in feeling good about yourself, and help you to move ahead in life.
And it can work together with the inner coach. So, it’s interesting because there are other parts of you that only come out every once in a while because some other manager part is dominant. And once you show the manager part, which is — That’s why we say there are actually multiple personalities in you.
It’s not just confined to one one-sided role, but you show that part of you that has been taking that particular role for far too long, and you show that it’s actually harmful now to the whole system and is no longer necessary. So relax, it will transform into something healthy and the inner critic, as I said, often transforms into a coach because it’s already tuned in to looking for weaknesses that it needs to show up and so on.
But now it does it from a positive perspective, and then the inner champion has now room to come in and team up with the coach. It’s like your inner cheerleader. These are all parts in their natural healthy state. Again, it’s one of the foundational assumptions of IFS, that all of these parts have positive intent. And when they’re healthy, they have these naturally helpful roles.
Okay, so as a recap for both of the videos that we did on True Self, I went over the analysis of the various parts. I introduced the whole idea of having multiple parts in yourself. And then we went over the three main categories of parts: the manager parts, the firefighter parts and the exile parts.
And then we looked at the True Self, and the eight C’s and five P’s of the True Self. And then we looked at how the various parts communicate with each other and briefly went into the therapist role in all of that. We went over the method, the synopsis of the basic method of the liberating of the exile through the unburdening of the protective parts and the unburdening of the exile parts, which then unburden the protective parts even more and then all parts transform into healthy, natural, helpful roles, and selves and parts.
I also illustrated this with the case study of the inner critic and the inner child then the inner critic becoming the inner coach after the unburdening. So all of this is a way of getting closer to your True Self, having the True Self lead. And the more you do that, obviously, the more the True Self will be in a leadership position.
And the best kind of relationships — The only successful relationships in the long term are people who are operating as their true selves. You might think that, “Oh, people who just stay together a long time are successful.” But often that’s not the case, often they’re just leading lives with quiet desperation and staying together for expedience.
This is a required part of healthy relationships: having your True Self in charge. Otherwise, you’ll just keep getting triggered, and your protective and firefighter parts and managerial parts are fighting with each other, not just within the self but with other selves, parts. Your firefighter part fighting with another person’s firefighter part is just going to lead to disaster and a lot of pain.
So, they’re all just holding back the exiles from breaking down and all of that is extremely destructive and of course, is the opposite, the antithesis of fulfilment, and happiness, and joy in life — and power, really. So, all of this is coming out of the idea of the True Self, rescuing the inner child, and letting the managerial protective parts find their healthy roles.
Okay, so we’ve covered a lot of ground. I’m going to create another video series on how — So, this part of it has mostly been looking at you, getting you fixed, so to speak. We’re getting you matured and growing. The next video series will look at you in relation to another, especially in an intimate relationship where it’s most closely triggering or closely resembling the very first relationships of love that you’ve ever had with your caregivers and therefore the most emotionally impactful.
So, if you haven’t done the work on letting the True Self lead and then you enter a relationship like that, it’s like a ticking time bomb. That’s why we start with you. And by the way, you’re the only thing that you can really control. And even then it’s so difficult, let alone trying to control another human being. But get you under control first and then see the power that comes from that. Also, how much all of that, all of the other crap in life just rolls off your back because the True Self is in charge.
So, that will wrap it up here. Thanks so much for watching all the videos up to this point. Again, if you haven’t seen the Modern Mating Explained series that preceded this one, it’s all part of one long series, so check that out. Alright, I’ll see you in the next video. Thanks so much for watching. David Tian, signing out.