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Inner Family Systems

Hi Everyone

I'm not really sure yet where to put this thread, so I thought I would start here ....

Inner Family Systems caught my attention last year, and quickly became a powerful relating tool for me in understanding many aspects of mental health and perhaps / probably disorders.  I want to explore the concept and its value here, just quietly, amongst interested forum members to try to work out how much it might help carers in understanding and supporting those they are caring for, and themselves in the support role .... and perhaps how it can help us keep our balance, or help to right an imbalance, through a stronger awareness of our individual psychological make up.

I suspect it may also have a powerful influence on the Lived Experience forum too, but I don't have the confidence at the moment to take it there, and I would also be conscious of not interfering with those under treatment with their own psychologists, although of course this information is readily available to anyone who is interested and seeks to know more.

As a simplistic explanation, Inner Family Systems theory is based on the principle that we all have a set of sub-personalities or "mini-me's" that in combination make up our overarching personality.  These include our inner child, or more likely, children, and sub-personalities identified by such titles as Inner Critic, Princess, Jester, Sage, Peacemaker, Loner, Perfectionist, Organiser, Hurt Little Boy .... and many more.  

Apparently we have an average of 12 sub-personalities, and the relationships between these "inner family" members are how we function and manage day to day.   A recent movie - Inside Out - by Pixar created a visualisation of this concept in a simplistic, but I think relatable, form.

@Former-Member .... you and I have chatted a bit along these lines, but only respond if you feel comfortable to.

@Smc .... I know you are caring for a daughter with DID, and IFS may cross into an understanding of this condition too .... at least I see strong correlation.

I will find some lists of sub-personalities to post here next.


Re: Inner Family Systems

It is interesting @Faith-and-Hope and I wonder if there is a crossover with schema therapy.

I first came across

archetypal and Jungian ideas, then

adult parent child (Berne  - Transactional Analysis)

divisions in the psyche, then

child (id) ego conscious (adult) superego (critic),  (Freudian) then

Family & Systems theory and Bowen etc.

It is interesting to observe the growth of psycho-analytic approaches. I think they all offer a lot of insight into the constitution of the individual and of the groups that humans belong to ...

my point exactly .. Great post @Faith-and-Hope

Yes I believe they also relate to DID


Re: Inner Family Systems

Hi @Appleblossom .... 😊💕

My mum gave me a copy of "I'm Okay, You're Okay" in my early teens ..... I guess trying to help safe-guard me through boarding school years .... that was my intro to id, ego etc .... the concept of an inner child, your parents' voice in your ears, and your own developing adult status.

I am not familiar with schema therapy, but will look it up to gain a general understanding, thanks .....

What I am relating to about IFS is also the fact that our sub-personalities can have a positive effect under some circumstances, and a negative effect - that needs considering in terms of how and why - under other circumstances.

This fits with them not actually being "good" or "bad" .... just well-guided, or mis-guided and needing to be adjusted accordingly.  I know that is a very simplistic take on it, but gives the general perspective,

In looking at DID .... and I am wondering whether some of the sub-personalities become isolated as "exiled" alters, perhaps not by themselves, but as a sub-group .... and sh in particular.  

Because alters sometimes speak up very directly in therapy sessions they can explain quite succinctly that they are the particular alter with sh motives, and exactly why that is ..... often because they have become a self-appointed guardian of the body corporate, and in their limited individual and isolated capacity, they have decided that they have the best solution to "safe-guarding" the internal community from further harm, by harming themselves ... That alter has decided to be "the fall guy", the one that everybody can blame and hate, so the rest of the alters don't have to suffer those feelings, despite that fact that they are all suffering from the sh ....

With therapy that alter can be addressed as an "individual" .... led to understand that their thinking is based in self-compassion, although it is mis-directed, and "schooled" to understand that their are better ways to deal with the pain debt without such extreme measures.  Again, addressing the feelings of the alter (and the particular sub-personalities isolated with them?) can provide the validation they are looking for, and disarm the behaviour pattern.

If this can be done in work with alters in someone challenged with DID .... I expect the same principles can be applied in dealing with sub-personalities who have taken control of the inner family out of a mis-guided belief that they have to protect the inner family, with only partial authority to do so, and partial perspective ..... especially if that sub-personality is one developed in early childhood or adolescence, they need the guidance of more mature sub-personalities to temper their thought and behaviour choices, without leaving them feeling invalidated.

The whole person needs to feel self-compassion.  Injured sub-personalities need attention and care.  While the sorting out of it all requires the steady hand and experience of professional therapists, as carers and as those being cared for, I think an understanding of these inner workings and an apprecitation for the strengths of our sub-personalities can help take away the feeling that it is all random and uncontrollable ....

I think it provides and enables hope.





Re: Inner Family Systems

Hi again @Appleblossom .... 

I have taken a quick look at schema therapy.  With the background interest I have in this topic, it made complete sense immediately ......

Bearing in mind that I am no expert .... my next thought was that individual sub-personalities are likely caught in their own schemas.   This make thorough sense of what is happening with my WH at the moment, and the connectivity with other family members bearing the same schemas was immediately apparent also.  They are what I have now spent most of my life working to explain to my children, in the hope / expectation that we are breaking down a family pattern of these entrapments.

Considering the war-damage in the grandparent's lifetime experience, the patterns of formation and consolidation of these schemas is also abundantly clear ....

I have to say that I have found healthy support for what I am teaching the kids through what they have learned in school - health, values, community service teachings.  These things are working their way into the open by degrees.

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Re: Inner Family Systems

I am finding the schema therapy helpful @Faith-and-Hope. I've been really lucky that my therapist is highly qualified in it. It's the first therapy I've been able to make sense of and try to incorporate.
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Re: Inner Family Systems

There is a schema therapy checklist some where on the net too. It's interesting to see which ones come through. I could already guess some of your schemas 😜 Everyone has them. My old psychologist shared hers as has my current one. Thinking you could work out mine too 🤔

@Faith-and-Hope I also started a new thread today which I'm just giving you heads up on for general stuff. I called it 'on my mind today'  for random things really on the LE side. Please please please don't feel you need to be there as well. You give me so much support as it is.

i haven't had the concentration to go through your posts much with any productive thought other than to say I do schema therapy 🙄 cos it's all about me 😳😳😳 Hopefully tomorrow it won't be. 

Re: Inner Family Systems


I do think they provide hope.

Your mum gave you that book ..  for me it was a youth worker/boyfriend .. or was he taking advantage of me .. its all so complicated I dont even know .. and dont really find blaming that useful, tho occasionally need to "shoot stright" rather than be overly "diplomatic".

In Psychodrama, Morino did a lot of work on ROLE theory and TRAITS.  I was lucky to do Director training & practical work every week for a few years.  In psychodrama it is important to see roles in context and it becomes obvious that most traits have contexts where they are well suited and functional, but at other times may be the limiting factor.

I had noticed on the net a few/lot ??? of schools have branched out from these earlier models & theories.  I just looked up a bit more re IFS.  IFS has certainly teased out a lot of the dynamics behind traits and roles and functions.  There is also the Self Therapy Journal website ...

I have only had quick look at schema too ... but they all do seem revealing about "the human condition" and helpful.

I am glad there is space in the forums to discuss all  this. @Faith-and-Hope

I hear you .. re trying to give your children tools to avoid possible future pitfalls in life .. me too


Re: Inner Family Systems

🤗❤️💕 @Former-Member .....

I know you have a strongly enquiring mind .... as do I .... and you want to make sense of what you are engaging with in terms of treatment and support ..... it stands to reason and I believe I am the same, and will be on WH's behalf.

The thing is, he has that strength of inquiring mind also which will likely help him too.

I plan to add some lists of sub-personalities onto this thread (next opportunity - need my iPad ). Please let me know if you think this will be a bit overwhelming or confusing for you .... if you are trying to keep to a narrow path with sub-personalities at the moment ..... I need a gauge .....

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Re: Inner Family Systems

@Faith-and-Hope. Please feel free to put up whatever you think. I'll engage when I can, you know I will. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I'm so tired I'm just a zombie. I'm feeling ok although I've been all over the place today. Started off on what I call a false high and just lots of pretty scrambled thoughts and emotions since. I'm sure a good sleep will help. Think I'll make sure of it and take meds tonight. Tomorrow I hope to read through some posts again I need to respond to. Seriously if it didn't involve a picture today I struggled to post.

In breaking news I have a new psychiatrist and it's a female (cartwheel celebration) I really hope she's ok. Meet her in the first week in march. I also contacted tafe because I was so stressed I was missing it. And it turns out that they haven't had orientation day yet. My old student counsellor put me in touch with a new one on this Campus who seems nice so now I'm linked in with her too so another box ticked and feeling less stressed.
I'm hoping you'll post on far and away so I can catch up with your news there although I just saw some on the chat thread. Loved the photos of Santorini you posted 💜💜💜

@Appleblossom you have explored so much in psychology. I'm afraid I think I'll struggle to go too far into it. I really struggle reading those academic texts. No concentration span. In fact I've only just recently started to read and it has to be on a digital device or I can't read it. When I was studying at uni and tafe I would have to convert all the readings to PDFs. There was not a stack of reading though as I was studying web design so it was more hands on than study. I've struggled with books my whole life but have found I can read on my iPad or phone. It's an ADD thing I think. I would not survive this world without my phone or iPad. It's pretty much my life.

Re: Inner Family Systems

@Former-Member ....
Along with visual/spatial learning and audio-sequential learning ..... another main branch is kinaesthetic learning .... hands-on learning through physically active participation (think science lab, phys ed, art studio) and kinaesthetic learners are known to fidget, wriggle, tap things, and generally have difficulty sitting still - with good reason it turns out.

In conversation on another thread re ADD I had a quick look, and there is an affinity with kinaesthetic learning style .... so an iPad or device that is more interactive makes perfect sense ..... and is perfectly legit ..... matches your learning style.


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