I believe our society is desperately yearning for Self-healing. Let me explain: Historically, healing in our Western medicine system has involved undermining, reducing, labelling and feeding us limitations about our bodies. As a society, we’ve succumbed to the belief system that, when it comes to our health, we are at the mercy of our diseased, malfunctioning, genetically imperfect bodies; and therefore, must rely on a medical system to make sense of it all. In IFS terms: We, as a society, have been viewed from the eyes of a (medical) Part who both pities and wants to analyze us; and, not only is it undermining our amazingness, but it is driving us further away from actual healing. This is because our impressionable exiles continue to be scared, bullied and labelled by this system’s narrative; and our protectors fall in line with it. In short, as a society, we are not Self-led when making health decisions.
I believe this “health” narrative has gone on for too long.
I believe our scared, obedient and undermined Parts crave Self. All of our Parts do! They crave a health system that trusts that there IS a Self within each and every one of us; and that we DO have the capacity to access that Self.
Unfortunately, this is not our current “health” system: it views and treats people as diseased, profiting from said diseases.
What happens when we, as clinicians, view our clients from the eyes of a Part that pities or analyzes them? It is never helpful. But, what happens when these same protectors can step back and allow Self to lead? The client begins to access Self, believe they are capable of healing and [literally] miracles happen.
we need a health system that believes in our body’s magnificence
and that views our bodies as living, breathing, and constantly healing organisms; that views symptoms as beautiful healing expressions, rather than evidence of disease. We need more clinicians to trust in their clients’ capacity to heal.
Enter: Self Healing Academy. The concept of Self Healing Academy’s IFS coursework came to me in seeing the growing need for affordable IFS and eating disorder services, as well as the desire for more autonomy and Self energy in eating disorder recovery communities. In other words, I’m seeing more and more eating disorder clients who desire to be seen as capable, autonomous humans, rather than inept and at the mercy of an “unfortunate disease” they must battle for the rest of their lives.
These clients have typically tried more traditional paths to healing in our Western medical system; a system largely concerned with profit and which fails to deliver substantial increases in health or vitality. In short, they were given a label, put on medications, recommended to attend expensive treatment centers where they were taught traditional shame-based and cognitive approaches that exile Parts of ourselves and perpetuate the same shame that fuels eating disorder symptoms to begin with.
My criticism of traditional treatment, as opposed to a Self-led and Self-healing approach with IFS, is that it affirms the idea that the body is diseased,
eating disorders have no meaning, and we must perpetually exile Parts of ourselves for the rest of our lives in order not to relapse. Additionally, the client is never guided to listen their own wisdom and power around what works for them; but, instead, is following outsourced and externally-imposed rules on how to get better. This is very disempowering and definitely not Self-led. This, to me, and to many of the clients who come to me, is not recovery. In fact, it can lead to long-term partial recovery: a cessation of severe behaviors, but a long-term unhealthy relationship to our bodies. Once again: clients crave Self energy. They crave to be believed in. They want us to believe that they have a Self.
I do, however, want to acknowledge that these traditional treatment centers have been very successful at reducing life-threatening behaviors, and we need to give credit for that. What I am saying, is that they tend to fall short on anything past reducing life-threatening behaviors. Clients are discharged still very “Parts-led,” and having not accessed enough Self energy to foster a compassionate relationship with their bodies. Oftentimes, their protectors have found more socially acceptable ways to operate e.g., becoming perfectionists at school or work, angry-advocators, body-obsessed weight-lifters, etc.
A Self Healing approach, is not a non-reliance on others. It is, however, a commitment to stop relying on broken systems to “fix” us.
It is a taking of responsibility for our health by making individual and autonomous choices that feel good and promote recovery, despite more traditional paths. It is a reclaiming of the narrative around our bodies and what it means to express symptoms. And this is only possible by us, as clinicians, accessing more Self, which ripples into believing clients have a Self and the fostering of a more Self-led health system.
Our key assumption, in our work with clients, is that everyone has a Self and is capable of accessing it, if they are within a system that is Self-led. We believe that the clients who are ready to reclaim the narrative around their bodies will find and benefit from Self-healing techniques like these. We promote autonomy and dignity by believing the client to be capable of determining whether or not the courses are appropriate for their healing path. We offer self-paced coursework, allowing the client to determine which pace to go works best for their lives. We simply put the IFS roadmap in the client’s lap, believe that they are capable, and the rest is up to them. Just like we are always asking for consent from Parts, we require a client’s full signed consent before starting the coursework.
In this context, the designed coursework is recommended for clients who are mostly nutritionally and medically restored. And this is because without nutritional restoration, our Parts will struggle to step back and accessing Self is difficult. However, we trust that the client can determine their appropriateness through consulting with their treatment team. The eating disorder coursework is also appropriate for clients struggling with sub-clinical eating issues, such as chronic dieting and negative body image and who desire a more compassionate relationship to food and their bodies.
PARTS & SELF creates a platform for featuring and exploring, where appropriate, innovative and interesting IFS-oriented or related methodologies and philosophies of practice. By sharing them, the magazine is not endorsing them, making a statement about their validity, or advocating for their use.
Brooke Dybka is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified IFS Therapist based in Idaho Falls, ID. www.dybkabehavioralhealth.com