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The Most Important Thing I Can Teach You: You Aren’t Meant to Be in Self All the Time

Jun 9, 2023 | Doing IFS on Yourself | Solo IFS, IFS Therapy | Parts Work, Miscellaneous, Self-Healing | Self-Therapy, Self-Like Parts

8 minute read

IFS You Aren’t Meant to Be in Self All the Time

I hope this blog post helps your healing.

Leave me a comment if you like – I reply in-depth to the first few!

There is a myth within the IFS community that has bothered me for years — the myth that we are meant to be in Self all the time. 

So buckle your seatbelt, because you’re about to learn why this myth is false -, and why being in Self all the time isn’t even desirable. (We’re human! Read on to see what that means.).

In this article, we’re going to explore:

  • The myth that we’re supposed to always be in Self
  • The real-world solution (that’s actually better)
  • And how to unlock the Regular You.

Self is great, but there’s something even better. Keep reading to find out what!

Myth: All Self, all the time

Almost everyone new to IFS gets this impression. In fact, when I started IFS, I definitely thought being in Self in daily life was the goal.

Healing from true Self-energy is powerful, real, profound, and lasting. 

Self is that place inside us that we access where there is space, and peace, and groundedness. Self has clear sight. It’s present, uncolored by fears and agendas. Why wouldn’t we want to be there all the time, right!?

Note: If you’re brand-new to IFS or these concepts, get a super clear description of Self (and all of these IFS terms) in my article: What is IFS Therapy? An Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model

Self is a remarkable state to be in. When we’re in Self-energy, we can:

  • Feel more us than we’ve ever felt before (what a gift!);
  • Give our Parts the deep listening and understanding they’ve been craving;
  • Disentangle and welcome our Parts, so we can appreciate them and be with them instead of in them;
  • Eventually (ideally) relieve our suffering Parts of their burdens.

Yes, Self is pretty amazing. It can be natural, and can happen throughout the day, but we’re not there most of our waking time. That’s because Self is a heightened way of being. Self an altered state.

Self is space, and peace, and groundedness

In traditional therapist-led IFS, we often get a glow of Self energy for a few hours after a session, if the session went really well. But at some point, we come back down to the real world. We start to feel like our regular selves again. 

You know what? That’s okay. In fact, it’s necessary. We need to live in the world, not levitate above it! 

There’s a reason I’m saying all this. I’m on something of a mission to spread the word. Because if we believe the myth – if we think we’re supposed to be in Self all of the time – then the moment our feet touch the ground (so to speak) guess what happens? We’ll feel some kind of way about it.

Maybe you can relate: When you do a great Self-filled therapy session … but can’t access Self energy outside, you might feel:

  • Inadequate, because aren’t you supposed to be able to be in Self 100% of the time?
  • Confused, because you thought we’d reached healing, but now you’re not so sure.
  • Disappointed, because at some point you thought (or were told) that all-Self, all the time was the end goal.
  • Determined, because now you really want to get back into that Self-energy… in fact, we need to, right?
  • Broken, because you tell yourself“It was so easy to get into Self in my session. Why can’t I do it on my own?? Maybe something’s wrong with my Self energy! Maybe IFS works for everyone else but something’s terribly wrong with me.”

(Psst: I wondered this exact thing the first few years after I found IFS! You can hear all about my struggles getting into Self on my IFS podcast episode)

I don’t want you to think something’s wrong with you. Because it’s not.

Ready? Here’s the soothing balm for your anxious spin-out:

Nothing is wrong with your Self-energy.

Nothing is wrong with you. This myth, however? Let’s bust it right here and now. 

Myth, Busted: What’s Better Than Self? You Are. (Seriously.)

The idea that we’re meant to be in Self all the time is FALSE, and here are the three big reasons why:

Reason #1: Real goal of IFS

Spoiler: It’s not to be in Self all the time

The goals of IFS are to: 

  • Gain a level of inner harmony that we’re satisfied with;
  • Build trust in our system;
  • Center ourselves as the healer; and
  • Live a life that honors ourselves. 

There is a danger to making “always be in Self” our primary goal of IFS. We run the risk of pushing Parts away in favor of our striving for Self. 

That’s not healthy. And it’s not even possible. (In fact, IFS founder Dick Schwartz and I had a spirited discussion about this exact topic. I had a bee in my bonnet about this and confronted Dick with my theory.. Initially he hadn’t considered whether being in Self all the time was the goal of IFS. By the end of our exchange he agreed with me that it’s not! Remember, listen to your own inner compass with IFS and don’t hold IFS leaders as holding all the answers. Who knows, one day you might be teaching the founder something!) 

Many of our Parts have absorbed painful fears and beliefs that distort our lives. But we’re not meant to push our Parts away from our consciousness! 

Self is space, and peace, and groundedness

Instead, it’s our responsibility to connect to our inner world and advocate for our Parts. 

We all have Parts, and we’re meant to. And heck, it’s fun having Parts! They bring flavor and spirit and joy to our existence. (Allowing yourself to blend with a Part? What pleasure!) 

Reason #2: Striving undermines

Aspiring to be in Self invites in Self-like Parts

If we make it a goal to be in Self all of the time, we strive to be in Self. It’s this trying, this striving, this expectation that you be a certain way (compassionate, caring, etc) that invites a Self-Like Part to take the wheel. 

Maybe you’ll blend with a Good Student Part with clipboard and color-coded pens in hand, evaluating your every nano-feeling to ensure you’re fitting the definition of Self. Or, you might get directed by a Wise Part, who offers a meaningful assurance that conveniently allows you to skip directly a (non-healing) conclusion without true compassionate connection. 

When a Self-Like part takes over, not only are we not in Self, but we’re typically convinced we are in Self. Crazy-making, no? 

Here’s the code: Healing from true Self-energy is powerful, real, profound, and lasting. 

Healing from a Self-Like Part? Doesn’t happen. Or if it appears to happen, it doesn’t last. A Self-Like Part isn’t Self, no matter how good it might be at pretending. 

When we see we’re failing at the (unachievable) goal of constantly being in Self energy, there’s a negative self-judgment that happens, and a lack of trust. It’s easy to get into a cycle of: “Okay, got to be in Self all the time; I think I’m in Self now… Hmm, I can’t tell if my motive with that person just now was truly compassionate. What if I’m not in Self-energy? What if I can’t get into Self? Why isn’t this working? Maybe something’s secretly wrong with me and IFS works for everyone but me!”

I’m so passionate about helping you avoid this distress and waste of energy because I spent years in that Self-purgatory. I agonized over whether I was in Self, and this undermined my sense of inner health at a time I desperately needed to trust myself. And – it wasn’t necessary! Not for me, and not for you. Self-striving stops now. Sound good?

Reason #3: Solo IFS is different

When a therapist shares their Self-energy with us, we feel more connected. It’s easier for us to be in Self, because we have someone to hold that space for and with us. 

When we want to do IFS on our own, however, there is no therapist there to hold that space, to direct and midwife the healing process with their Self-energy. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us if we can’t get into Self on our own. 

We just need to take a different approach. 

We need a bridge.

A bridge to cover the chasm between session-you and daily-life-you. A bridge between the inner and outer worlds. A bridge that lets you access these healing powers in real life. 

The Regular You is your bridge. 

The Regular You

Affirming the dynamic beauty of your inner world

So, if we’re not meant to be in Self all of the time, how do we still access Self-energy in the “real world?”

The answer is the Regular You

Here’s a thought experiment. Take a moment and imagine Self as a lens, open and clear and giving us a true and unfiltered image of the world. If Self is a lens, then the Regular You is like a kaleidoscope. It’s your unique, in-the-moment mixture of:

  • Self-energy
  • The thoughts running through your head
  • The feelings you’re experiencing 
  • Concerns, worries or questions
  • Your curiosity about a sound happening nearby
  • Anything else that’s you, right this moment.

The Regular You is all of you, just as you are right now — and the Regular You is powerful. Because it’s so honest.

I even have trouble explaining what it is, because this state is so simple. It’s the synthesis of countless Parts of you, plus Self, dancing through your consciousness. It’s you.

Kaleidoscope of your Inner World

When you practice IFS on your own and you show up as just you, you are building a bridge between this healing space, this non-ordinary inner world and your outer world.

The Regular You is the answer to the riddle of how to heal without Self-striving. And you know what? Great news! Being in the Regular You is so much easier than forcing Self-energy. 

Allowing yourself to show up authentically to a solo IFS session just as you are means you’re no longer twirling around and around in your head assessing: “Am I in Self? … What about now? And now?”

This approach creates space for trust and acceptance. Parts see that they are still allowed to be part of the conversation, and they don’t have to jostle for space, time, or attention. That anxious feeling, for example, is acknowledged for what it is: A feeling. It’s not pushed away, or diminished, or ignored.

By acknowledging and accepting all of the aspects of the Regular You, there’s no pressure to adjust, correct, conceal, or diminish any one aspect. There’s no judgment. No striving. Each time you put your eye to the lens of that kaleidoscope, you’re witnessing a different image that is all You. 

And when you understand the Regular You, and begin to work from that space of acceptance, you’ll have access to it in your daily life… which is something that happens only rarely with true Self energy. 

Truth: Authenticity

So, I invite you to stop striving to be pure. Release the pressure to constantly monitor yourself. (And I’m talking here to my younger self, too!) As we heal more and more, it becomes safer and safer to enjoy our Parts, relax into the way they dance through our consciousness, and know that if we get into an extreme Part and do something we regret, we will be able to make it right in the future.

The Beauty of Real-Time Authenticity

The most important thing to remember is to be authentic. If you come to an IFS session and you start out feeling annoyed, then be authentic with that. Be annoyed! See that annoyed part in your kaleidoscope, and acknowledge it. It’s this honesty, this conscious honesty with your parts, that is going to build real trust and build a bridge so you can become your own inner healer… not just in a session for which you’ve specially prepared, but in your regular life.

With this bridge, you can:

  • Connect with your Parts more easily in your everyday life.
  • Offer compassion and trust to your Parts.
  • Stop striving and start thriving as you access Self-energy any time you choose.
  • Tell those Self-like Parts, “Hey, we’re good. I got this.”

Want direct guidance in working with your Parts from the Regular You? You’ll get exactly that in my Soul-Led IFS Mastermind. But I’ll tell you the guiding secret right now. It’s simpler than you might think. Just be who you are right now – and see for yourself how that unfolds in your next solo voyage.

  1. Kate

    Thank you for this post! This is the question I have been battling with for a while!
    It does take so much energy from me trying to stay compassionate with my kids. And I definitely thought I was doing it wrong because I could not be or understand how I can be in Self all the time!
    Self feels calm and relaxing.. but it does not DO anything – like parenting or working. It feels more like a relaxed state where I can come to relax in.

    • Kate

      Also I would love to understand more what it means to be authentic. This always confuses me so much!

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