Last time you stepped out of your IFS therapist’s office, maybe you had this self-healing idea: “I’m going to do IFS on my own, before my next therapy appointment!”
It’s brilliant to do IFS between therapy sessions.
Among the powerful reasons to do so, maybe you want to:
- Get to know a part you met in therapy better – so you can go even further in your next appointment
- Build your system’s trust by showing up for your parts during the week
- Feel increasing ownership over your healing – and shift your healing from depending on your therapist to feeling collaborating with him or her
Tricky thing, though? Doing IFS on yourself rarely unfolds like IFS in a therapy session.
Keep reading to find out why, and to learn two concrete ways you can use to set yourself up for success doing IFS on your own. Even if you’ve gotten stuck before!
Check out my related video: Unlock Do IFS therapy on YourselfClick for Video Transcript.
How can you do IFS on yourself between therapy sessions and why is it so darn tricky?
IFS is supposed to flow naturally, right?
Hi, soul seeker.
I’m Lucille Aaron Wayne, expert IFS therapist, Jungian and art therapist guiding visionaries and luminaries to self-heal and become who you really are.
Visit SeekDeeply.com for your free guide to solo IFS.
Welcome to Seek Deeply and my very first YouTube video, and I’ve packed this one full.
By the end of this video, you will have two concrete ways to set yourself up for success doing IFS on your own – even if you’ve tried before and gotten stuck.
I work with a lot of people who love IFS and want to go deeper with it.
Maybe you want to do IFS between your therapy sessions because you want to get to know a part that you’ve just met.
Or maybe you even want to feel less dependent on your therapist and more like your own inner healer.
That’s my specialty.
So let’s get started.
I’m going to do IFS on myself, going to be in Self.
Do you trust me?
Am I, am I in Self right now?
Let me assure you, there is nothing wrong with your Self, your system, or your capacity to heal if you’re having trouble getting into Self when you’re doing IFS on your own.
In fact, it can be difficult for even someone who’s highly educated on IFS to get into Self for themselves.
In some cases it can be extra tricky for them and we’ll go over that in another video.
But the point, is I want to dispel any beliefs or feelings of shame around something being wrong with you if you sit down to do IFS and you’re not instantly in Self.
I’m going to tell you this big … key- it’s almost a secret because no one talks about it, this principle.
Drum roll: doing IFS on yourself is a distinct skill from doing IFS with other people.
The first thing that we get stuck with is: Expecting that it’s going to sound and look like our usual IFS session in our therapy.
Or sound and look like what we’ve read in a book or heard in a lecture or on a podcast.
So the thing that we can do is to change your mindset.
So repeat after me if you want:
My own solo IFS session is going to sound and feel different than IFS with my therapist.
And it should – because it’s a different process.
Now the second thing we need to do is we need to help you create your own container.
What I mean by containment is when you have a therapy session, your therapist is helping you step out of your ordinary routine, your ordinary- maybe even space if you see your therapist in person, you have that therapy session scheduled and you go there.
You just bring yourself and your therapist keeps track of: How much time you have.
What you’ve done before, where would be helpful for you to go to get healing.
And when we do, IFS on ourselves, obviously we don’t have that therapist there holding the space for us, holding the tracking and the memories for us.
It’s just us.
And if we try to track and hold and contain at the same time that we are being with our parts, then we’re going to set ourselves up for splitting.
So to avoid splitting, what we can do is use an ancient wisdom path to ask something greater than us to help contain us – so that we can really, fully, genuinely be with our parts.
And that makes it much more likely we can get into Self and that we can have an authentic exploration of our inner world.
And just to mention that IFS is really a shamanistic tool.
So that means that we can draw on these ancient techniques that our ancestors from millennia have known about: to go into the inner world, to go into non-ordinary reality.
So, my biggest practical tip for you is to create some sort of ritual that will contain yourself and your IFS session.
There are different ways a ritual can look, but typically a ritual happens with: there’s some standard procedure that you do.
It might be words you say, it might be the way you set up your space.
It’s probably going to involve some kind of symbolic movement or action, and that’s something that you do at the very beginning, before you start the IFS work.
And importantly, it’s something that you do also at the end of your solo exploration to close this portal into non-ordinary reality.
The place where you meet your parts, where you go inside.
And to fully ground yourself back in regular life, I guarantee you there are some containment rituals you are already doing in your day.
If you have a child and they have a bedtime.
Then there is a series of steps that you take that child through: so brushing teeth, pajamas, story, light off.
And the child, then their body has learned to go to sleep.
And these rituals, they’re things that we do every time so that we don’t need to think about how we’re going to start.
And they not only communicate to the body, “Alright, it’s time, we’re going to do this process, we’re going to sleep now,” or “We’re going to go inside into the inner world.”
But they also communicate to our psyche that it’s time to engage in this process.
And I’ll tell you another example.
In these YouTube videos, there’s clip of me dancing at the beginning and there’s a clip of me dancing at the end.
And that tells you as the viewer that it is time for the video to start.
It’s time for the video to end.
It’s a way of communicating throughout the levels, beyond just the verbal.
Now, what can be different about your containment ritual for your own IFS is you can make a conscious intention about how you want this time to be.
So part of the ritual can be saying out loud: “May I meet my parts and increase self-trust.”
Or saying a prayer or a line of a poem.
There’s something that you can do to imbue this time with this spiritual with the other plane of reality.
If you would like specific instructions for how to do a ritual, you are welcome to download a free audio guide from my website that shows you exactly how, but you know, whatever the ritual is that you do, the point is you are inviting and asking that which is greater than you to help contain your session.
In that space, that time window between the beginning ritual and the ending ritual, you can really be with your parts.
Okay, I hope this has been helpful for you, learning why it can be tricky to do IFS on your own and how to set yourself up for success.
Remember, it’s the two ingredients:
Mindset: it’s going to sound and look and feel different doing IFS on your own.
And Containment: you can make your ritual and ask that which is greater to hold the space for you so you can really be with your parts.
Remember, you can download my audio guide if you want specific guidance on a ritual, and I would love to hear from you in the comments how this works for you and what you’d like my next video to be.
Don’t forget to hit subscribe and I’ll see you soon.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Don’t know how to open the solo session
- Seems like you’re not getting into Self
- Starting to worry something’s wrong with your Self and your ability to self-heal
Ah, I get it. Many, many soul-seekers who find their way to me have tried to do IFS on their own and gotten discouraged.
I’ve been there, too. In fact, even when I trained in IFS back in 2012, I became frustrated trying to work with my own parts. I remember one particular time as if it were last week. I sat on a park bench with another therapy-inclined friend. After enthusiastically explaining the model to her, we both took out our journals. I managed to get a few sentences into a dialogue with a nebulous part, hooray! But then any authentic-feeling responses from inside me evaporated. Pretty soon, I was wondering if I lacked Self-energy. Doing IFS on my own eventually became an endeavor that made me feel worse about my inner health. But it didn’t have to be that way. I just needed more information.
#1 Tool: Realistic Mindset
Here’s how to cultivate this
Oh, doesn’t IFS sound so straightforward? In the many podcasts episodes featuring founder Dick Schwartz doing demos, and in IFS books, you can observe the process of getting into Self and meeting parts. Perhaps even unburdening those parts. It all seems so easy and natural. Because the client actively participates in the healing, we can forget that the elegant process does involve two people. Therapist and client. We mistakenly expect that IFS on our own will unfold like IFS sessions with our therapist.
This misleading idea stops right here, with a key principle most people miss: Doing IFS on yourself is a distinct skill from doing IFS with other people. And the process sounds and feels different.
For example, it’s normal to feel like you’re not in Self when you try IFS on your own. It doesn’t foretell any problems with your system’s Self-energy, or your capacity for healing. The fact is, we can’t snap our fingers and instantly be in Self. If we could, all our emotional struggles in life would rapidly be fixed!
May you can give yourself full permission for your solo IFS session to look and feel different from the IFS you’ve experienced elsewhere. Your own IFS sessions can be as unique as you are.
#2 Tool: Ritual Containment
What is containment?
Containment is a major service your therapist provides during sessions. She keeps track of the big picture – what parts have been popping up, the unspoken pain or belief under the surface, patterns that keep getting in your way … and your strengths, achievements and capacity for change. She tracks how much time remains and where is likely to be helpful in moving you towards healing.
So what happens when we do IFS on ourselves and don’t have a therapist holding the space, memories, and tracking for us? Well, if we try to track and hold and contain at the same time that we are being with our parts, then we’re gonna set ourselves up for splitting. That is, we’re going to be in a part doing tracking instead of being in Self. And healing that occurs – if any does – will be superficial.
To avoid splitting, you can create your own container. There are countless ways to do this. IFS is, at heart, a shamanistic tool, and that can help us find a container. We can draw on ancient techniques for safely entering and exiting the inner world (my grandmother calls it non-ordinary reality). The advanced technology? Ritual.
You can contain yourself via ritual
Ritual enables us to ask that which is greater than us to help contain us – so that we don’t have to try to track our session and can instead genuinely be with our parts. It sets us up to have an authentic exploration of our inner world – whether we’re doing so from Self or just being the regular person we usually are. (Another difference between solo IFS and official IFS sessions: Being just the regular you – instead of being in Self 0 is completely ok for solo IFS work!) That said, a side bonus of ritual is that the symbolic gesture of acknowledging something greater than us makes it easier to organically get into Self.
So, your second tool: Create a ritual to contain yourself and your IFS session.
How to create a ritual for doing solo IFS
Ideally, a ritual involves a standard procedure which you do at the beginning and end of your session so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel each time. And you can choose ritual acts that imbue this time with the spiritual and invite your whole psyche into the inner plane of reality. Your ritual can include words, such as speaking your hope for the session or a prayer or line from a poem. It can involve setting up your space in some way that honors or speaks to your soul. It can include a symbolic movement with your body, such as touching your forehead to the floor (my favorite), tracing a circle around you, or whatever fits you.
I recommend doing your ritual not just at the very beginning, before you start your parts work, but also at the end of your solo exploration. That way you will fully signal to your psyche it’s time to ground back into regular life.
There are as many different variations of ritual as there are people. But if you want a place to start, I’ve created specific instructions for how to do an IFS containment ritual in my Solo IFS Voyage audio guide (free!). I walk you through exactly what steps to take. You’ll even learn a handy mnemonic device so you can keep the ritual structure in your back pocket.
Whatever your ritual looks like, the point is you’re inviting and asking that which is greater than you to help contain your IFS session. So that in that sacred time between the beginning and ending rituals, you can join your parts.
More examples of containment rituals
You’re probably already doing some containment rituals in your day without even realizing it. If you have a child and they have a bedtime, you take that child through a series of steps: brushing teeth, pajamas, story, light off. These rituals they not only communicate to the body, “All right, it’s time. We’re gonna do this process. We’re gonna sleep now, .” Or, “We’re gonna go inside into the inner world.” They also communicate to our psyche that it’s time to engage in this process.
Here’s a fun example of a containment ritual. In my YouTube videos, there’s a clip of me dancing wildly at the beginning and I dance wildly at the end. It’s a way of communicating throughout the levels, beyond just the verbal, that the video’s starting or stopping. And hopefully a way to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, too!
Our Ending Ritual
Okay, here’s the ending ritual for this blog post: a summary! Now you know why it can be deceptively tricky to do IFS on your own – and, most importantly, two major tools to set yourself up for success. Refresher: Your first tool is Mindset – it’s going to sound and look and feel different doing IFS on your own. Your second tool is: Containment- you can make your ritual and ask that which is greater to hold the space for you so you can really be with your parts.
Remember, you can download my self therapy audio guide if you want specific guidance on a ritual, and I would love to hear from you in the comments how this works for you and what you’d like my next blog post to be on.