Focusing Tip #739 – Focusing and Internal Family Systems…?

Focusing Tip #739 – Focusing and Internal Family Systems…?
February 3, 2021 Ann Weiser Cornell
Curious about what Focusing and Internal Family Systems alike and different?

Focusing Tip #739 – Focusing and Internal Family Systems…?

Curious about what Focusing and Internal Family Systems alike and different? Read on…

A Reader writes:

I wanted to ask how you perceive and understand the difference(s) between Inner Relationship Focusing and Internal Family Systems?

I’ve recently come across IFS again via a group I’m in. It feels similar to Focusing in many ways. Yet it seems to move faster into asking a lot of questions rather than quite so much checking back in with the felt sense in the body. I’m really interested to hear your thoughts.

Dear Reader:

Internal Family Systems is an excellent method that has helped many people. Yes, there are similarities with Inner Relationship Focusing. And of course there are differences.

At a superficial view, we see a lot of similarities. Both work with parts. Both work by enhancing a strong containing self that is not a part. Both see the inner critic as trying to protect, something to be befriended rather than gotten rid of.

And there are differences, both in approach and in philosophy.

Observing demonstrations of the two methods side by side, you will see the IFS practitioner asking questions. In Focusing, we do not ask questions, because we see questions as inviting quick responses rather than a slower mode of sensing.

You will see the IFS practitioner having the client ask parts to “step aside.” That’s a nice way to invite cooperation in the inner constellation. But in Focusing, we don’t move parts around like that. We place a great emphasis on the quality of relationship between Self-in-Presence and the part. Parts don’t have to step aside if the quality of relationship meets their needs.

In IFS there is a releasing process called “unburdening.” In Focusing, we don’t do things “to” the process. Shifts happen because of… that’s right, the quality of relationship.

At the theoretical level, IFS treats parts as entities that have ongoing existence. When their extreme roles release, they get new jobs. In Focusing, parts are temporary, even though they may last for years. When there is a shift, parts flow into the whole, like rivers into the ocean. There aren’t “really” parts.

In Focusing, there is the implicit dimension, the sense of “more” always ready to form. There is the felt sense, where what is unclear is exciting and points to further life. There is the “inner sense of rightness.”

I’m very glad that both methods exist! There are many kinds of people, and people may prefer one or the other. And they can be combined! Best of both worlds! 🙂


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