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Narcissist's Internal Family System: Parts in Conflict

Uploaded 2/3/2021, approx. 1 hour 3 minute read

Name, Sam Vaknin, Past Accomplishments, Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and other books, Current Occupation, Professor of Psychology in Several Universities, Many Students as Victims, White, 173, Eyes Brown, and that completes my Tinder profile.

Now, can we move on?

And we are going to move on into a very fractured and fragmented landscape.

Today, we are going to discuss the internal family system.

The internal family system applies to trauma victims, it applies to narcissists, it applies to borderlines, it applies to many other types of mental illness and mental health, which goes to show that there is a lot of common between these subtypes and that trauma, even late stage trauma, as long as it is sufficiently powerful or sufficiently protracted, can actually create mental illness.

So today, we start by discussing subpersonalities, ego states, self-states, pseudo-identities, etc.


But before we go there, I would like to refer you to an article published in The New Scientist of 27th of January 2021 under the rubric Humans. It was authored by Caroline Williams and it's titled Gaslighting warps our view of reality, how to spot it and how to fight back.

And here is just the first line, first paragraph. All of us are vulnerable to psychological manipulation due to quirks in the way our brains create our perception of the world. Understanding how that happens can help strengthen our defenses against gaslighting.

And my grandfather I used to say, blessed he who believe. So let's get to the business of the day.

I've been asked by intelligent commenters on YouTube, yes, there is such a subspecies, rare, extinct, disappearing, but they still exist and they're fighting back in the resistance of intellect. One of them had written to me to ask Mr. Vaknin, what is the difference between pseudo-identities, complexes, subpersonalities, ego states, self-states, and totally discombobulated hero to me. I don't know what to think anymore.

Well, leave the thinking to me is what I always say to my students.

Let's start with pseudo-identities.

There are some countries in the world where you have an identity card and your identity card has your photograph, regrettably, has your name, address, and other identifying details such as your date of birth and a number, special number assigned to you in a database, population database. That's an identity card. And it's very close. It's like a driver's license. It's very close to a pseudo-identity.

A pseudo-identity is the set of data, the information that pertains to any given self-state and which is observable by external objects. In other words, someone who has narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, someone who is a victim of complex trauma, CPTSD, etc. These kinds of people, they have self-states. Each self-state has an identity and the identity is the set of all data, the set of all information concerning this self-state.

Now, what's interesting about pseudo-identities is that pseudo-identities are observable. They are the facades that we communicate to the world. Jung called it persona. Goffman, the sociologist, called it mask. So these are the facades that we represent to the world.

Even Winnicott had something called the compliant false self, which is a false self that was prosocial, communal, a false self that was friendly and tried to get along with people.

Not the narcissist's false self, but the false self in other mental health disorders. Gantt had a similar construct.

So many scholars and thinkers throughout the ages, throughout the last few decades came up with the same idea that we have pseudo-identities.

Some of these pseudo-identities allow us to get along with other people, to collaborate with them, to be team players, to accomplish goals. Other self-identities are protectors. They protect us.

And we will come to that a bit later when we discuss the internal family system.

Other pseudo-identities and self-states have to do with functionality. There are self-states which are functional. They perform specific functions. And so they have a self-identity, a functional self-identity. So self-identity is what we know and what we observe and what we see when a pseudo-identity is what we know, what we observe and what we see when a self-state comes to the fore.

When self-states change, when the person switches from one self-state to another, each self-state has its own pseudo-identity.

Okay? So pseudo-identity are ego functions. They are ego resources.

But at the same time, they are simulations. They are probes. They are attempts to manipulate the environment, both human and natural, in order to secure favorable outcomes.

So pseudo-identities are the way self-states reach out into the world.

They are an integral part of object relations, for example.

So when someone with borderline switches from the classic borderline state to secondary psychopathy, because she feels abandoned or humiliated or rejected, so she becomes a secondary psychopath, instantaneously.

The self-state of secondary psychopath assumes the pseudo-identity of a secondary psychopath. And the pseudo-identity is the specs, the specifications of the self-state.

How the self-state behaves, how does she look, what are her preferences, wishes, recklessness, impulsiveness, defiance, contumaciousness, reactance, all these set of traits and behaviors constitute the pseudo-identity of the self-state.

In the absence of a unitary stable core, these people don't have a stable core. They don't have an identity. They have identity disturbance.

So in the absence of a stable identity, a core identity, these people shapeshift between self-states, replete with their unique traits, effects, cognitions, behaviors, emotions, you name it. Each self-state has its own repository, reservoir, inventory, library of procedures. And these procedures are specific thoughts known as automatic thoughts, some of them negative automatic thoughts, some of them positive automatic thoughts. For example, if the self-state is grandiose, he's going to have positive automatic thoughts. If the self-state is avoidant, she's going to have negative automatic thoughts.

So automatic thoughts, emotions, behaviors, traits, behavior patterns, reactive patterns, all these go hand in hand with the self-state. And each self-state is unique. It is a unique library, a library of Congress specific to itself. And it is this library that is the pseudo identity.

In extremes, these self-states are utterly dissociated. And when this happens, we say that it's a patient with dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.

Now, not all dissociative identity disorders involve total dissociation. They are rare, rare conditions with dissociative identity disorder, where the self-states or the alters actually do communicate. The dissociation is permeable. There is communication, but that's extremely rare.

In most cases of DID, there's no communication.

So we're beginning to see a spectrum at the healthiest end of the spectrum.

Perhaps it's just an ideal. Perhaps no one has this.

There's a unitary self. Perhaps no one has a cohesive, coherent, unitary, unfragmented, unbreakable, immutable, unchangeable self. Perhaps it's just a fantasy, an ideal.

That's the healthiest end, a core, an identity, a self, one, and only one.

And then there's a spectrum. Somewhere in the middle, there are patients with personality disorders, and they have several self-states. The ego or the self is fragmented, fractured. They are competing elements within the ego, as we will see a bit later.

And so these people are disorganized. Their personalities are disorganized and chaotic. And at the very end of the spectrum, we have schizoids, schizoids who had eliminated completely everything except internal objects. And so they don't need self-states. They don't need self-they are not in touch with the world. They have no external object relations. They have only internal object relations. So they don't have self-states.

And DID, dissociative identity disorder, where the self-states had become so autonomous, so disconnected, so independent, so dissociated that they act utterly volitionally. They kind of emerge when needed, and when they emerge, they totally take over, and they do not communicate with similar internal objects and constructs.

So this is the spectrum.

Now, the person who sent me the question asked about complexes, and he said he's confused. What's the difference between self-states and ego-states and pseudo-identities and complexes and so on?

Well, a complex is a core pattern. It's the equivalent of what today we call a schema in therapy. It's emotions, memories, perceptions, wishes, volitions, all of them organized around the common theme. So there's a common theme. It's the core, and everything is attracted to this core like a giant magnet. The core is stable and is overpowering, overwhelming. It's something that matters to the individual very much, something that's very important. And so this something attracts emotions and cognitions and memories and everything, and finally creates a complex.

A complex was first described by both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, but Carl Jung is credited as the father of complex theory.


And so, consider an example of a complex.

If someone as a child had been subjected to abuse, early childhood abuse, this would influence his life in profound ways, even when the abuse had stopped, even when he had extricated himself from the abusive environment, even when he was no longer in touch with these abusers, the abuse in a way continues, and it continues internally, and it affects the life of that abused victim.

So thoughts, thoughts, cognitions, emotions, memories, feelings like, for example, a feeling of inferiority or a feeling of victimization, some minor triumphs, vengeance, reactance, defiance, bitterness, contumaciousness, some determinations and decisions, etc. They all coalesce around the core theme, the core issue, the abuse. The core issue is troubling, it's pervasive, and so it is what Jung called a complex.

Complexes reflect adverse life circumstances, or as we call it today, adverse childhood experiences, ACE, and they continue because they have energy, they have pent up energy, the energy of the pain, the energy of the hurt, the energy of the fear, in the case of schizoid. So this energy, as Freud had observed, is kind of preserved. It's like a stick of dynamite. It doesn't look energetic, but believe me, there's a lot of energy in it. So this energy exerts unconscious, maladaptive influence on thinking, on emoting, on behaving, and it prevents some very important developments in personal growth, such as, for example, integration, gender differentiation, external object relations, proper management of good internal objects, all these are hindered by complexes.

But as you see, complexes have nothing to do with sub-personalities, or with self-states, or with pseudo-identities. Nothing to do with them. They are internal objects, but they are not total self-states. They do incorporate emotions, and thoughts, and beliefs, and fears, I mean, yeah, but they don't amount to a full-fledged pseudo-personality construct.

So you could say, you could compare it to a nuclear reactor.

The complexes are the rods, the rods of uranium and plutonium, the fuel, the complexes of the fuel, the nuclear fuel, and the reactor is the self-state. The self-state is motivated by complexes, driven by complexes.

Sometimes a self-state tries to counter complexes, as we're going to see a bit later.

There is an interaction between complexes and pseudo-states, pseudo-self-states, real self-states, ego-states, etc.

You missed my red wine, no? Okay, let's start, let's go back in time and discuss the first suggestion that personalities, ego, as they used to call it then, that personalities are actually not unitary. They are not smooth surfaces, but they are, you know, fragmented, broken, conflictive.

And the first suggestion was called sub-personality.

In humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, in ego psychology, there's a concept of sub-personality.

Sub-personality is a very bad name, because it gives the impression that there is a fragment of the personality, a section, an element, a part of the personality, that is a standalone unit. That's not what they meant.

The idea in humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, and ego psychology was that there are personality modes.

The same personality has multiple modes, and each mode activates as the need arises. Circumstances, environment, other people, external objects, exert pressure, stress, influence, provide information and data that trigger or activate modes of the unitary personality, and these modes are the sub-personalities.

And of course, by definition, they are temporary, because as the circumstances dissipate, the environment changes, external objects vanish. Of course, the mode is no longer needed, and the personality switches to another mode.

So you could say that sub-personalities, the prototype of what today we call self-states, you could say that sub-personalities are actually coping strategies.

They are coping strategies in specific psychosocial situations. They are very object-oriented and they are just procedures for managing and handling unexpected information or effect, like stress and so on.


Okay, so there's a great similarity between complexes and sub-personalities because complexes and sub-personalities include thoughts, feelings, actions, even body language.

Physiology, we know for example that trauma is intimately connected to the body, and we can even reverse some of the effects of trauma by manipulating the body. We can even administer therapy by manipulating the body.

So there's an intimate connection of body-mind, and complexes and sub-personalities incorporate the body as an element, and this yields specific behaviors.

And if you take all these together, these are complexes, but they are not full-fledged pseudo personalities or quasi-personalities. They don't reach the level of, wow, she's different, wow, he's different. They don't reach this level. They're like, they direct behavior. They subtly alter reactivity. They determine choices of speech and communication. They modulate. They fine-tune behavior, mainly.

At the background, they're like engines, as I said. They provide the fuel for these behavior alterations and modifications, but their main aim is to neutralize, negate, and fight back particular adverse psychosocial situations.

So, for example, Ken Wilbur and John Rowan. Wilbur was a transpersonal psychologist, and John Rowan was a humanistic psychologist in the footsteps of Carl Rogers.

From clinical practice, they determined that an average person, independently determined that an average person has about 12 sub-personalities.

It seems that we have 12 procedures.

Now, each procedure draws on resources. You have resources. Each one of us has resources. We have emotions. We have thoughts. We have beliefs. We have energy. We have our bodies. I mean, these are resources.

We have our ego, which has ego resources, known as ego functions.

Oh, and the disservice of ego functions.

So, there's this world of resources, right?

When the mode changes, when a sub-personality takes over because it's needed, when the mode of behavior, the mode of thinking, the mode of emoting and feeling change because they have to cope with a specific psychosocial situation, the new mode, the new sub-personality that takes over draws upon the existing resources.

Each of these sub-personalities has unfettered access to the total or totality of resources of the individual, but it doesn't have exclusive access to these resources.

And that's the first important difference between sub-personalities and self-states.

Sub-personalities compete with each other for resources. They all have equal access to resources, and the determination which of them will gain access, will gain the right to use these resources depends crucially, actually, on the environment.

Self-states come replete with their own proprietary resources. Each self-state has its own emotions, cognitions, energy, access to the body, etc. This is unique to the self-state and it is not accessible to other self-states.

For example, take the borderline again.

When the borderline switches to a secondary psychopath because she feels humiliated or rejected or abandoned or she's under enormous stress or there's some internal process, for example, a level of anxiety increases so she decompensates and she acts out and she becomes a secondary psychopath.

At that moment, the secondary psychopath takes over. The secondary psychopath has access to resources, which the borderline never has. There is a library of resources dedicated exclusively to the secondary psychopath and there's a repository of resources dedicated exclusively and accessible exclusively to the borderline and that's why we call them self-states.

They are almost like separate personalities. Anyone who had witnessed a borderline switching to a psychopathic state will testify to this.

She does things which are not in character. She acts, she speaks her body language. Everything changes dramatically.

Why?

Because the psychopathic self-state has access to resources and procedures that the borderline, classic borderline, does not have.

Similar with the narcissist. When the narcissist switches from narcissist to schizoid, schizoid is one of the self-states of the narcissist. When the narcissist switches from a narcissistic grandiose self-state to a schizoid self-state, he becomes unrecognizable because the schizoid self-state is diametrically opposed to the narcissist and the schizoid self-state has access to resources, behavioral procedures, traits, cognitions, and emotions that the narcissist has no access to whatsoever. That's why we call them self-states.

They are very, very distinct because they access different domains within the mind and the personality, the psyche, the soul, call it whatever you want. They clearly access a different territory, a different turf. The turf of the narcissist is not the turf of the schizoid.

This is not the case with subpersonalities because they all share everything. They all share the same and everything is at the disposal of the subpersonality when it's needed.

Subpersonalities are able to perceive consciousness as something separate from themselves as well as other elements in the environment.

So subpersonalities have self-awareness. They're aware that they are a form of acting. So subpersonalities are very thespian. It's play acting, you know. It's a mask. It's a persona.

The word personality comes from persona, which in Greek means mask, ancient Greek means mask.

So the subpersonalities are aware that there's something beside themselves. There's something out there. There is a consciousness. There is an ego. There is a self.

And subpersonalities realize that they are just the ways in which the self expresses itself in a way, you could say, that subpersonalities are resources of the ego.

There are ways that the unitary ego or unitary self expresses itself. That's not the case with self-states.

Self-states are unaware, unconscious. When the self-state takes over, the person is not aware that he or she has changed or is changing. The person is not aware of any split. He's not aware that there is consciousness, ego, self, and self-state.

No. The self-state becomes the only ego, the only ego, the only form of consciousness. It takes over totally. It's a hostile takeover. It's merger and acquisition. It's a merger and fusion.

That's why codependency is so powerful.

Because what the codependence does, she converts her intimate partner into one of her self-states. She internalizes an object of the intimate partner and converts this object into a total self-state.

Same with the borderline. She does the same. She converts her intimate partner to a self-state.


Now, the narcissist converts the intimate partner into an internal object, but it's a functional internal object. It has functions.

So, he converts the intimate partner into an ego resource.

Because the external partner, the real intimate partner, had been converted into an internal resource, this resource is available to the narcissist's self-states.

That's a crucial distinction because it's crucial, because I love my voice. I'm going to repeat it again.

Then the borderline and the codependent convert the intimate partner into an internal object initially. Afterwards, the borderline projects the internal partner, but leave it aside for a minute. The borderline and the codependent convert the intimate partner into an internal object to avoid abandonment anxiety.

Then, once the intimate partner becomes an internal object, they convert this internal object into a self-state. The intimate partner becomes a self-state with the borderline and the codependent.

Later, they project the self-state onto the partner.

What they do, in effect, because it's a self-state, they merge with a partner and fuse with the partner. So, they had converted the partner into a self-state.

Now, they can merge with it, of course, easily, and fuse with it. But they convert the intimate partner into a self-state.

The narcissist converts the intimate partner into an ego resource. He converts the intimate partner into a set of functions, a set of procedures, very similar to a complex, very similar to a subpersonality.

Then the narcissist takes this newfound resource, which used to be his external intimate partner, external intimate partner becomes an internal resource. The narcissist takes this internal resource and gives it to a specific self-state.

From that moment, their internal resource, which used to be the external partner, becomes a slave at the disposal of one or few self-states of the narcissist.

It's a crucial distinction.

Ken Wilber defines subpersonalities as functional self-presentations that navigate particular psychological situations.

So, if you, for example, react, someone said something to you and you suddenly react judgmentally, you think bad things about that person, you're angry, you develop feelings of superiority, you use critical words, critical speech acts, you wound and hurt that person, you become punitive, your physiology changes, you become anxious, you begin to sweat, your heartbeat increases, your blood pressure increases, your eye pupils die late, you've entered the harsh critic subpersonality.

You see, the subpersonality dictates what you think, how you feel, how you behave, what you say and even how the physiology of your body. So, it's subpersonality of the harsh critic and the harsh critic is needed in specific confrontational situations only.

At that point, the mode of harsh critic takes over the unitary self, borrows resources like thoughts, like emotions, like the body, borrows resources and mobilizes them and the person becomes a harsh critic temporarily. It's circumstantial, it's situational, it's environment dependent, exactly like self-states but self-states take over totally.

In the case of the harsh critic subpersonality, the person remains the person, the self remains the self, totally recognizable by others, there's no massive change, there's a behavior, the person behaves like a harsh critic but there's no massive change and it's marginal, it's subtle in a way, it's expected also. People can be harsh critics. I mean, it does not infringe upon the unitariness, the uniformity, the cohesion and the coherence of the underlying core identity and self in healthy people. Healthy people have sub-personalities.

David Lester, the psychologist, has written extensively about sub-personality and sub-self theory in healthy people and those of you who are interested can go and fetch David Lester's works.

Now, everything I said is the orthodoxy, it's a mainstream of thinking about sub-personalities although I must tell you that we no longer use this idea. I mean, this idea is not in vogue, it's notnot in fashion but what I just described is a mainstream.

There are however some dissidents and dissenters, of course, like everywhere, psychologists like Russia, huge in many dissidents.

So, there are some schools and some psychotherapists who regard sub-personalities not as temporary, not as situational but as relatively enduring psychological structures or entities that influence how a person feels, perceives, behaves and sees himself or herself.

So, they equate actually sub-personalities with complexes but I think there's a big confusion here, a conceptual confusion.

No one said that sub-personalities are temporary, transient, not even me.

What I did say, the appearance of the sub-personality is transient. The sub-personality makes an appearance only when it's needed to cope with psychosexual stressors.

So, it makes an appearance for 10 minutes, for one hour, for one day and then it goes away and is replaced by another sub-personality.

So, the sub-personality is there, dormant, latent, awaiting, awaiting, awakening, awaiting to be triggered and in this sense it is permanent, it is enduring but it's triggering, its manifestation is transient and temporary.

And so, if you want to learn more about sub-personalities, there's a lot in literature about Jungian analysis, psychosynthesis, transactional analysis and Gestap therapy, they all deal with sub-personalities and even schools of hypnotherapy and inner child work by John Bradshaw and others, they all actually are constituted on a concept of sub-personality.

There are techniques like voice dialogue, empty chair, chair work, ego state therapy and John Rowan's work that I mentioned before and this leads me to an internal family system and the therapy that is attendant on internal family system, it's known as shockingly and inventively internal family system therapy. It was developed by Richard C. Schwartz.

Schwartz said that there's a continuum, the one end of the continuum, the pathological end, there are DID alters. Alters are personalities, almost full-fledged personalities within a multiple personality structure now known as DID, dissociative identity disorder.

So, these people have alters, each alter is very, very distinct. So, some alters could be children, other alters could be women, even if the person is a man. Some alters can be artistic, some alters could be sluttish, some alters could be super hyper conservative like Donald Trump.

So, he believed there is a continuum. He said that everyone has what he called parts. Parts, many people think that parts is like sub-personalities and even for example Wikipedia is saying this, it's wrong. The internal family system parts are not sub-personalities. They are much more polarized, they're split off from other parts.

So, the parts are pretty autonomous and the sharing of resources is much similar to self-states. Each part has its own repository and inventory of dedicated, proprietary, exclusive resources within the internal structure of the mind.

Schwartz's big insight was to say well the mind is like a family and exactly like in a family there are many members of the family and exactly like in a family each member has functions and roles including emergent roles, roles allocated to him or to her by the other members of the family.

He said if we take the mind and we think about it, we regard it as a family, we can gain amazing insights.

So, the internal family system model is an integrative approach and as I said it was developed by Richard C. Schwartz in the 1980s. It involves systems thinking because it's a therapy that describes internal processes as systems processes, not discrete but involved in a system.

The mind is made up of relatively discrete parts each with a unique viewpoint and unique qualities, unique, exclusive.

The internal family system IFS, okay, from now on to make it shorter, internal family system model, let's call it from now on, IFS.

The IFS uses family systems theory, especially Bowlen's family system theory and describes, may I add magnificently, it's an amazing intellectual feat.

Regrettably, one of those things in psychology that fell by the wayside and didn't gain the recognition that it should have had because I think it's as revolutionary as Jungian psychology for example.

Okay, enough plug and promo, back to the topic.


So, there are all these parts and they're in a framework and there's some principle of organization and it's very much like a family and these parts are like members of the family. They interact with each other, they communicate with each other, they have roles and functions, they allocate to each other roles and functions and so on.

And the IFS has five basic assumptions.

One, the human mind is subdivided into an unknown number of parts.

Number two, each person has a self and the self should be the chief agent in coordinating the inner family.

Here we see the first problem.

Many personality disorders, in many cases, the self has not constellated. We don't have a self in effect.

Ironically, the narcissist is a selfless person. He doesn't have a self and is the exact opposite of an egoist because he doesn't have an ego.

That presents a crucial exception, crucial problem to the IFS.

The IFS relies almost exclusively on the self.

The IFS assumes that everyone has a self and that the self acts as a chief agent and the self is coordinating the inner family.

What do you do when someone doesn't have a self? What happens to the family?


The next principle in IFS is that the parts, the parts engaging in non-extreme behavior are beneficial to the individual.

But actually IFS says that there's no such thing as a bad part. All parts are well-meaning. All of them want to help the self. All of them want to help the host, which is the person.

They're all, none of them is malevolent or ill-intentioned. In other words, the IFS rejects, this model rejects the notion that there is a bad internal object.

The notion that was first floated by Melanie Klein and then enthusiastically adopted by the vast majority of object relations theories, the concept of bad objects, per-secretary objects, malicious objects, malevolent objects, which are internal, this is rejected by the IFS.

IFS says they're only good objects or at the very least well-intentioned objects.

Personal growth and development leads to the development of the internal family. Interactions between parts become more complex, allowing for systems theory to be applied to the internal system.

Reorganization of the internal system may lead to rapid changes in the roles of the parts.

Adjustments made to the internal system result in changes to the external system and vice versa.

So if you change yourself, you change how other people behave as well.

So both the internal and the external systems need to be adequately assessed.

IFS is a contextual model, contextual theory. It's not enough to study the individual. You need to study the individual's human environment.

People around the individual, external objects, significant others, parents, intimate partners, children, colleagues, you need to learn everything because the individual is embedded in a human environment and derives many functions from it and regulates other functions and internal processes exclusively via environmental feedback and input.

This is taken to extreme in the case of the narcissist, in the case of the borderline, in the case of the codependent, in the case of the paranoid. They have external locus of control.

So the belief is that studying the individual as an atom, atom, a unit, is wrong. It gives you the wrong picture.

It's a contextual theory. The mind is made up of multiple parts and these parts are navigated, coordinated, controlled by an underlying core. And this core is what Winnicott called the true self.

What do you do when the true self is either atrophied and fossilized, ossified and dead, or when the true self had been supplanted by a false self?

What do you do then?

The IFS, in these cases, is largely inapplicable, actually. The IFS says that like members of a family, a person's inner parts can take on extreme roles, extreme modes, remember? Subpersonalities.

So some parts can take on extreme subpersonalities.

And in the IFS version, the subpersonalities is what I call pseudo identities. What is observable? What is immediately obvious?

Each part has its own perspective, its own interests, memories, its own viewpoints. Every part has a positive intent, so there are no bad internal objects. Even when the actions are counterproductive, self-destructive, dysfunctional, self-trashing, self-defeating, it's because the part is insufficiently evolved or received the wrong information or is trying to act in ways which are not very helpful, constructive and productive.

But the intention is always good, always to sustain and nourish the self, always to enhance personal growth, always to increase self-efficacy of the individual.

There is no need, says the IFS, to fight with any part, to coerce any part, to force, to cajole, to eliminate any part.

On the contrary, the IFS says we need to establish internal connections, a harmony between the parts, because when the parts are in harmony, the mind is in balance.

And yes, there are wounded parts, there are stupid parts, dysfunctional parts, we need to heal them to restore the mental balance. And we need to, the first thing therefore, we need to access the core self.

And from there, we can understand the different parts and how to cure them, how to restore them to functioning.

Again, there's a problem with narcissists, for example, borderlines, others.

IFS says that there are three types of parts, three categories of parts.

There's the exile. The exile is internal objects, constructs generated by psychological trauma, especially early childhood trauma. These internal objects, they carry the pain. They are reservoirs of fear, they're containers of negative affectivity and emotionality. They gradually become isolated from other parts. And as a result, they polarize the system, they break it apart in effect.

And so other types of parts, the managers and the firefighters, I love IFS, it's very childlike, managers, firefighters, okay, the managers and the firefighters to other categories of parts, they try to protect consciousness, to protect the person's consciousness by isolating, exiling the trauma related internal objects. They want to shield the person from the pain. They don't want the pain to come to awareness.

So the exiles are what probably Freud would have called the unconscious.

The managers and the firefighters push the exiles away, isolate them, sequester them, firewall them, exile them so that the consciousness of the person has no access to the extreme threatening negative emotions contained within the exile parts.

The managers have a protective and preemptive role. Whenever an exile, whenever a psychological trauma related internal object comes too close to awareness and to consciousness threatens to unbalance, disbalance the person threatens to create the compensation and acting out, switching between self states, whenever this happens, the managers preempt the exile part. They protect the individual from the trauma related exile part. They influence the way a person interacts with the external world. They protect the person from harm. And they prevent painful and traumatic experiences from flooding the person's conscious awareness.

The firefighters, firefighters, the third category of inner parts, they emerge when the exiles do break out, when the managers had failed, the managers tried to contain the exiles, the managers tried to firewall the exiles, the managers tried to isolate the exiles, but sometimes it doesn't work.

For example, in case of triggering, it fails to work and the exiles break through and they are on their way to consciousness. Or sometimes they have rich consciousness.

The firefighters take over when exiles break through and demand attention. The firefighters work to divert attention away from the pain and the hurt and the shame and the guilt of the exile, from the depressive schizoid elements of the exile, from the paranoid hues of the exile. They try to divert attention away and this leads to impulsive and inappropriate behaviors.

So, if we see, for example, promiscuity, overeating, substance abuse, violence, defiant violence, reactance, these are all attempts, desperate attempts by the firefighters to create a diversion so that the individual's energies, the individual's attention, the individual's focus, everything goes to the manufactured situation and the individual doesn't have time to experience the absolutely life-threatening emotions buried within the exiles.

So the exiles break through, firefighters take over and make you do something stupid so that you're in a pickle and you're in trouble and you don't have time to think about the exiles and their message of hurt, devastation, ruination, and self-destruction ultimately.

The firefighters distract a person from pain by excessively focusing attention on more subtle activities such as overworking or over medicating.

Freud would have called it sublimation.


Let me read to you from the IFS on website.

There are three distinct types of parts in the IFS model.

One, managers are responsible for maintaining a functioning level of consciousness in daily life by warding off any unwanted or counterproductive interactions, motions, or experiences resulting from external stimuli.

Number two, exiles are most often in a state of pain or trauma which may result from childhood experiences.

Managers and firefighters alike exile these parts and prevent them from reaching the conscious level so that proper functioning and preservation are maintained.

Number three, firefighters serve as a distraction to the mind when exiles break free from suppression.

In order to protect the consciousness from feeling the pain of the exiles, firefighters prompt a person to act on impulse and engage in behaviors that are indulgent, addictive, and oftentimes abusive.

Firefighters may redirect attention to other areas such as sex, work, food, alcohol, or drugs. Managers and firefighters play the role of protectors while exiles are parts that are protected.

I would rephrase it, exiles are the parts the individual is protected from. They are sequestered, it's a much better term, but all this depends crucially on the existence of a self.

The self is this entity that coordinates the exiles, the managers, and the fireworks. And the managers and fireworks are working to protect the self.

If there's no self, why would they bother? Why would they bother if there's no self?

On the very contrary, perhaps, they would encourage other self-states to take over because it's very threatening to not have a self.

It's better to have a pseudo self, pseudo self, a self-state than not to have a self.

That's not my insight. That is Harry Gantrip's observation.

Harry Gantrip said that in cases of schizoid personalities, they're fighting desperately to have a self, to create a self, to trigger a self, to do something with a self, to kind of reach a state of selfhood, ego, he calls it.

So it would seem that in a person who lacks a self, has no functional self, true self, I mean, the core, or instead has a false self, it seems that the managers and the firefighters will be mobilized actually to trigger self-states.

By triggering self-states, the managers and the firefighters obtain, secure, fulfill two functions.

It's a twofer.

When the person has no ego, when the person has no self, narcissist, borderline, codependent, paranoid, schizoid, when these people who have no self and have no ego, they need an ego substitute. They need a self-substitute.

So the firefighters and managers trigger, bring forth, bring forward, bring to awareness and to consciousness, a self-state.

And by doing this, they create a diversion.

So all the focus, all the energy, all the resources are dedicated to the self-state, not to the traumatic, exiled parts.

And the second thing, they provide an ego or self-substitute, which is crucially needed as the coordinator of all these internal activities.

What's the alternative?

The alternative is to get in direct touch and contact with a primordial early childhood trauma, and that would kill you.

Indeed, close to 11% of people with borderline personality disorder commit suicide. And I think they commit suicide because of the failure of this mechanism.

They are no longer able to redirect, deflect the pain and the hurt and the energy to impulsive or reckless activities. They can't bring forth efficacious self-states.

The managers and firefighters are asleep or in a strike or in quarantine. I don't know what. When this breaks down, the ultimate defense breaks down.

The trauma segments, what IFS calls exiles, the trauma segments get in direct touch with consciousness. It is so unbearable that one in 10 borderlines commit suicide.

Now, the IFS views people as a whole. There's a whole there. I mean, whole W-H-O-L-L-A, a totality, an integrity, a unity, a unitary structure.

Under the collection of parts, there's something unifying, a unifying principle. Everyone has a true self. Everyone has a center.

It's called the self, and everyone has access to the self, as well as to the healing qualities of the self, because the self is a bit childlike.

For example, it's curious, a bit feminine. For example, it's compassionate and pathy, a bit outgoing. It has external object relations elements, connectedness, and it has anxiolytic qualities. It reduces anxiety. It restores calm.

And so classic IFS therapists, they try to teach people how to ignore the parts and reconnect with the self and then heal the parts.


Okay. I mentioned that none of this is applicable to people who have no self and no ego.

But I think IFS provides interesting insights into the internal dynamics of everyone's mind. And even, I would say, provide some important insights as to what happens when the self fails.

Because the IFS does describe what happens when the self fails.

When the self fails, there is no cooperation and trusting relationships between the parts. They begin to compete. They begin to conflict. They create mayhem and chaos.

And there are three primary relationships between the parts, protection, polarization, and alliance.

Protection is provided by managers and firefighters, and they isolate the exiles from consciousness in a way they protect the exiles, but more so they protect the individual from the exiles.

Polarization occurs when parts begin to battle to fight each other, to determine how a person should feel or behave in a certain situation, which subpersonality would prevail.

There's an inner conflict which starts as a dissonance and can escalate, escalate even to suicidal ideation and actual suicide. Each part believes that it must act as it does in order to counter the extreme behavior of the other parts.

So there's an escalation, absolute escalation. One part does something, the other part tries to prevent it and escalates, and then the other part counters with even more escalated action.

And it's a mess.

And this is a borderline narcissist, codependents, paranoid, schizoids, all these people. They have this.

Because there's no self, the parts are battling and fighting each other constantly.

And what they're doing, the parts, they can't reach a consensus. So they keep using self-states. They keep imbuing self-states with energy and resources and trotting them about, putting them forward and forth. And the self-states are polarized. This is why it's like switching.

You can see conflict between the self-states. The self-states are dissonant. In general, these people are egodystonic, not egosyntonic, with the exception of the overt narcissist.

But the overt narcissist is egosyntonic because it has a self. It's a false self, but it's a self in some ways, in some critical ways.

So in the narcissism, fiction had replaced reality totally. It doesn't recognize externality. It doesn't recognize reality. Everything is internalized.

But this is the sole exception. All others are egodystonic because they're in a state of civil war, constant civil war, known in IFS's polarization.

And the third option is alliance, when two different parts work together to accomplish the same goal. So protection, polarization, and alliance.

And so what is this function of protection? The protector, which is usually a manager or a firefighter, firefighter is like last resort, defense line.

So first of all, parts in extreme roles, they carry burdens. Burdens are painful emotions, negative beliefs, negative automatic thoughts. And these parts take these, assume these negativities.

And what happened is the individual had harmful experiences, adverse experiences, and learned to connect these experiences with negative emotions or negative beliefs or negative values or negative judgments and so on. And so these parts are trying to protect the individual by dispensing with the internal correspondent emotions and beliefs, which had led him in the past to bad experiences, for example, in childhood.

These burdens are not an integral part of the part. Departs, the firefighters and the managers, they don't come replete or complete with these negative emotions or negative thoughts or negative beliefs. And so it's easy for them to serve as carriers like FedEx or UPS. They take on the negative emotion, they take on the negative belief, they take on the negative cognition and they release it. They unburden it. They kind of move it away from the critical regions of the individual, move it away from consciousness, for example. And this way they prevent a recurrence of bad experiences.

The only exception is when the exiles had broken through, breaking with them, painful, life-threatening memories, emotions and cognitions related to childhood trauma. It is the only case where the firefighters and the managers actually leverage burdens in order to induce a bad adverse situation that will deflect attention away from the recollection of the trauma.

The self is the agent of psychological healing in IFS.

And so accessing the self, remaining grounded in the self, kind of internal mindfulness, using the self to provide guidance is crucial.

And when you don't have this, when you don't have a self or an ego, a constellated self, functional ego, or not at all, it's a problem.

Because then the protectors, the managers, the firefighters can't let go of their protective roles. They can't. They keep battling the exiles inside and they keep fighting external objects to avoid mortification, to avoid injuries.

And so it's a dual battle. On the one hand, there's the unruly, threatening, ominous, self-destructive internal parts like the exiles. And on the other hand, people outside, circumstances, situations, bankruptcy, divorce, I don't know, threaten to collude with the trauma parts.

So the protectors have their hands full. They're protecting all the time. They're like on an infinite loop. They can't be stopped because there's no self. There's no self to tell them, okay, call it. It's okay now. There's no feedback. The protectors are gatekeepers.

They protect the individual. It is the self which needs to communicate with the protectors and obtain permission to gradually, safely, somehow get in touch with the exiles and diffuse them. The self is the natural leader of the internal system.

But when you've had past harmful incidents, horrible, abusive relationships, the protectors step in. And if you don't have a self or an ego, they are it. That's all you have. All you have are these protectors.

And when they go haywire, you lapse, you deteriorate into a schizoid phase. They overprotect you. They overprotect you from external objects.

So you're not in touch with anyone. You have zero object relations. You have no relationships. They overprotect you from the internal environment so you don't feel anything. There's no emotions.

It begins to affect cognitions either.

Protectors can go haywire like the immunological system in the human body. The immunological system can go haywire. It can become autoimmune. Cytokines storm kills many COVID victims. It's when the immune system goes crazy, doesn't know when to stop.

One protector after another is activated, takes the lead. One protector after another uses different self-states, causing totally dysfunctional, destructive and chaotic behavior.

When protectors then, at this stage, begin to compete, they begin to conflict with each other. And this internal stagnation and chaos.

The protectors must be ordered about. They must be managed. They must be guided by a self. They must trust the self, allow the self to lead the system and create internal harmony.

So in trauma, we use IFS in trauma, even considerable trauma. And IFS in this case tries to probe, to study the traumatized exile.

But the client must have a self and he must move to reside in the self so that he feels safe and secure. And he must use the self to witness the traumatic memory without being flooded by it, overwhelmed, without drowning in it.

If the client doesn't have a self and he gets in touch with the trauma, he develops suicidal ideation because he doesn't have the self's firewall boundaries and protections.

And this is precisely the artificially induced condition state in cold therapy. It's precisely what I do. I re-traumatize and expose the patient to the exiles without the benefit of a self except the full self which had been dismantled early on.

Trauma is revisited, processed and healed via re-traumatization because there's no other way with the narcissist. He doesn't have a self.

Okay. J. Early and Bonnie Weiss have applied IFS to the inner critic, what Freud called the sadistic superego. And they demonstrated that the inner critic is actually an IFS protector. It's a protector.

The aim of the inner critic is to prevent the individual from ending in bad situations and adverse circumstances. But it's a perfect example of a protector gone awry or eye in the case of personality disorders.

In personality disorder, the inner critic is out of control. It escalates. There's no feedback. There's no feedback loop. There's no moderation and modulation. There's no fine tuning. There's nothing. It just becomes worse and worse and worse.

There's no one tells it to stop. There's no self. In other words, regulation.

Regulation is a critical function of the ego or the self.

The therapist, Alexander SIER, H-S-I-E-H, he pointed that the whole process is very prolonged and protected and could be a problem in cases of self-deficiency.

The therapist Sharon Deacon and the therapist Jonathan Davis also pointed that it could create severe anxiety and that IFS doesn't work well with delusional paranoid schizophrenic lines because they're not grounded in reality.

And what happens is they misuse the idea of parts. They become the parts because they confuse external objects with internal objects. I mean internal with external. They externalize the parts and so they begin to feel external persecution.

So IFS is in my view an interesting modality, an interesting theory which deals exclusively with wealthy people and it's an irony because psychoanalysis was born out of exclusive observations of neurotics of people with mental health issues.

Freud had observed, Jung had observed mentally ill people and generalized the observations to the healthy typical average population which is a very dubious method.

IFS is equally dubious because it has profound insights regarding the healthy mind but then it tries to generalize and apply these insights to unhealthy mentally ill people and it's not, it's wrong to do that because the self and the ego in mentally ill people is not built to cope with the challenges of IFS therapy.

There's a similar psychodynamic therapy called ego state therapy. It's parts based. It also assumes that the mind has parts and it treats behavioral cognitive problems and so on and they use techniques borrowed from family therapy and they also have a concept of family of self within the individual and it's very reminiscent of ego nuclei.

You know Melanie Klein and others were talking about when a baby is born it has nuclei of the ego and these nuclei later evolve and become the ego. It has like seeds, seeds of ego.

Winnicott similarly discussed the variety of egos, false self, true self.

Fairburn and Gantry multiplied the number of egos, multiplied the entities until at the very end they had something like seven egos or something.

So ego states in ego state therapy is very similar to the ego concept in object relations.

The concept of the segmentation of personality has been around for many years as you see.

Ego states were described by Paul Fedell, F-E-D-E-M. He was a psychoanalyst and then later on John Watkins. It's a very interesting story because he was a patient. John Watkins was a patient of Eduardo Weiss and Eduardo Weiss was a patient of Fedell.

So there was a chain from psychoanalyst to patient to patient and these patients developed the ego state therapy and they said that distinct ego states do not normally develop except in cases of dissociative identity disorder.

I disagree. I think the distinct self-states develop in many personality disorders as well and it's not only my view.

I would say that today it's becoming gradually the prevailing view as we shift emphasis to trauma and dissociation as we begin to reconceive of personality disorder as dissociated post-traumatic states.

But ego state therapy identifies and it names facets of the patient's personality what the IFS calls parts.

For example, they have the frightened child, they have the control freak.

So these various ego states they have characteristics and they have functions and so if you identify the behavioral, cognitive, analytic functions and characteristics you can then access this part or this ego state and integrate it with others, kind of internal diplomacy if you wish.

Ego state therapy uses hypnosis sometimes but not always.

So what is the philosophy of ego therapy?

Ego therapies believe that there are two processes that are essential to human development, integration and differentiation. It's the same as cat.

Cat suggested that there are two processes in the evolution of the human mind in infancy and early childhood and that is a process of identification and so on.

So here it is integration and differentiation. Through integration the person learns to put concepts together to build complex units. When you put concepts together you create meta concepts, hyper concepts, and this is integration.

Differentiation is the opposite when you take general concepts and you reduce them to specific meaning.

So differentiation allows humans to experience one set of behaviors in a different situation and another set of behaviors in a different situation.

So people learn gradually through differentiation that each circumstance, each set of circumstances, each object, each environment require different behaviors.

Psychological processes are a spectrum, as I said, so moods, emotions, even negative effects like depression and anxiety and fear, they all exist on a continuum with different degrees of intensity and it's the same when we discuss integration. It's the same when we discuss differentiation, dissociation, differentiation and dissociation.

So in multiple personality disorder, for example, it's the extreme end of this continuum, extreme end of this spectrum.

At the healthy end there is differentiation, taking a complex concept and breaking into parts.

At the sick end, at the pathological end with multiple personality disorder, there is taking a complex concept breaking into parts and then treating each of the parts as a standalone complex concept, a personality.

So the general principle of personality formation, when the process of separation had resulted in discrete segments, this is ego states, and the boundaries between the ego states, they're permeable.

So it's not like dissociative identity disorder, the typical situation is that concepts, objects, environments are broken down via separation, individuation, differentiation and even dissociation.

And the results are ego states and they have boundaries, but they communicate, they permeate, they exchange energy, they exchange resources.

Some personalities in a way, but what happens when there's a trauma? There's a disruption.

When the ego state is a response to psychological trauma, it may remain completely walled off, firewall, separated, isolated, exiled from the rest of the personality and ego states exist as a collection of perceptions, cognitions and effects in organized clusters.

If such a cluster becomes an island, does not communicate with any other clusters, it becomes disruptive.

It's like a background noise, white noise. It operates in the background, and it's like something bothers you, you don't know what.


This cluster has been cast into oblivion, in the outer darkness, when it continues to do its work and discharge energy, which is very very destabilizing for the rest of the system.

An ego system, an ego state can be defined as an organized system of behavior and experience, whose elements are bound together by a common principle.

When one of these states is invested with ego energy, it becomes what we call the ego.

But it's a self state ego state.

Theory does not effectively recognize a core immutable unitary identity, self.

They say that each ego state has equal opportunity to be imbued with ego energy and become the relevant self in a given set of circumstances, environment, and period.

This state then takes over.

This ego state takes over.

It becomes the self.

It becomes executive.

And it experiences others ego states as objects.

So it's a parade, a kaleidoscope, the moving images.

You know whenever a person comes across an external object, circumstances change in the environment, an ego state takes over.

That ego state becomes the self, becomes the executive, and treats all the other ego states as objects.

Imbues them with object energy.

Ego states vary of course in intensity, in volume.

That there could be a large ego state which includes numerous behaviors, for example, in the workplace, there could be a small ego state with one or two behaviors.

I don't know when you dress or when you use a mobile phone.

Ego states represent current modes of behavior and experience, and they include memories, postures, feelings, including ones learned at a very early age.

As we discover in hypnoregression, and they organize into different dimension.

So you could have an ego state that harkens back or is built around the age of 10.

Another one ego state can represent patterns of behavior towards the father and by extension authority figures.

And the two can collaborate to overlap whenever you come across an authority figure, a father like figure.

You, you regress to age 10 because that's the ego state that you have at your disposal, on how to react to authority figures.

So you can be, you're beginning to see the shifting kaleidoscopic landscape of ego state theory behaviors to accomplish a similar goal, may be uniquely different from one ego state to another, especially when the personality is increasingly more fragmented and fractured up to the point of multiple personality.

So this is the ego state theory.

I took you on a tour of several approaches to the concept of self, well into the well into the 30s or the 40s we had this image, similar to the atomic theory. We have this image of there was an indivisible self, every individual has had an indivisible self.

And so that's why we call it individual, you know indivisible.

And then gradually with melon line and others we began to understand that the self can fracture and break and can contain a variety of objects. It's like the development in physics, transition from the atomic model to elementary particles. And then we realize that even these particles can be broken further, subatomic particles can be broken even further to quarks like in physics. And so we had a multiplicity of egos.

For example, in object relations theories, ego states, in ego state theory, some personalities in psychodynamic theories, self-states in dissociation, and trauma related theories.


Never mind the name you give them. The self is not unitary. It's a dynamic process. It's a dynamic process that is critically influenced by input from the environment, from other people, external objects, and increasingly input provided by internal objects.

The relationship between these internal objects is very critical. If these internal objects are perceived as painful, hurtful, life threatening, if they're perceived as persecretary, they're perceived as good, well intentioned, and positive. It makes all the difference in the world.

Is there a coordinating organizing principle at work? Is there a guidance, is there a use in internalized user manual which we call the self? We don't know. I personally don't think so.

Actually I think we don't have a self. I reject through its model. I don't think we have this core and center, central identity that is unchangeable, that is permanent. That is, with us forever.

I do think that healthy people have much more of a core than a narcissist. I do think that they have let's say 40 percent, course 80 percent, core in other words, I do think they have their act together. They have an organizing, an explanatory principle in action. And it is applied equally to all ego states, all self-states.

Whatever you want to call it, but I think everyone uses self-states. Everyone transitions.

The question is the degree and access to resources in healthy individuals.

The self-states share, they access the same resources. They compare nodes. They have a unique pool. The same pool of memory.

consequently they contribute to the formation of identity over time.

In diseased people in sick people, people with mental health pathologies, self-states compete, they fight, they're polarized, they refuse to share resources, they hoard resources, they have exclusive resources, they take over. They become executive.

So they regard all the other self-states as objects. They suppress them. There's a constant civil war because there's no one to tell them what to do, there's no organizing principle, there's no consensus, there's no agreement in most people with dissociative identity disorders. Something called the host personality. It's the closest approximation to an ego or a self, but even the host personality is not in full control.

In the narcissist and the borderline we have the false self, it's the closest thing to an ego or a self, but it's not enough, in a codependent and a borderline, we have an internalized intimate partner who then become a self-sarrogate or an ego-sarrogate.

It's not enough, in the absence of a self, in the absence of an ego, you are an absence, and as an absence, to act upon a world, an inner world of presences and real life external objects.

Is very close to impossible, ultimately.

All these personality disordered people withdraw into a schizoid phase. I mean if they're not treated, if there's no treatment involved, if we let the diseases the disorders progress unimpeded and uninterrupted and unintervened in these people end up as schizoids.

They end up homeless, they end up alone, they die alone, they end up ruminating and brooding, they end up living much more in the past than is present or the future. They end up disappearing externally as they had always been absent and void internally.

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