Do you ever feel you’re of two minds about a guy?
Or three minds?
Or four minds? Or five? 😉
Maybe you love him, but you don’t always like him.
Some days, you see all the good things about him. Other days, all you see is the bad.
You feel conflicted.
Should you pursue this? Should you walk away?
Your friends are tired of hearing you debate the situation. They tell you, “Decide already!”
You try to think it through. You make a pros and cons list. You ask everyone for advice.
But you still don’t know which voice to listen to.
There’s a part of you that loves him…
A part of you that feels hurt by him…
A part of you that believes love conquers all…
And a part of you that’s determined to protect yourself.
How do you sort through all those feelings?
You can turn to a tool designed for these types of situations.
It’s called IFS.
Why You’re So Conflicted
But first, why do you feel so conflicted in the first place?
Why are there different parts of you wanting different things?
Modern neuroscience teaches us that the brain is like an iceberg.
Your conscious mind is the very tip.
Beneath the surface, your brain is doing a million different things that you’re not aware of.
If a thought suddenly occurs to you, or an emotion suddenly hits you, that’s a result of your brain’s undercover activity.
The iceberg metaphor explains why we sometimes feel at odds with ourselves.
On the surface, we might feel certain about what we want.
But underneath the surface, our brain is churning away. Different parts of the brain have different agendas. We feel torn.
Is there a way to sort through the mess and get all those different parts on the same page?
There is, according to IFS creator Dr. Richard Schwartz.
It involves listening to your parts.
What Are Parts?
Dr. Schwartz believes that all of us have different parts inside us.
These parts argue with each other inside our heads.
One part says, “Go for it!” Another part says, “No, that’s crazy!”
All these parts are trying to help us in their own way.
Maybe there’s a voice inside your head that discourages you by reminding you of all the times you failed. This “inner critic” sounds cruel, but it’s trying to keep you safe from failing again.
The IFS framework suggests we all have these three parts.
1. Managers try to run our lives by being organized.
Maybe there’s a part of you that needs to do everything right, know everything that’s going on, and control for all possible outcomes. That’s a manager.
2. Exiles are the wounded parts of ourselves. They feel intense emotions, particularly shame and anger.
Maybe there’s a part of you that got hurt long ago and is still carrying the humiliation and resentment. That’s an exile.
3. Firefighters attempt to put out the fire of the exile’s pain by going to extreme measures, like drinking, overeating, or self-harm.
Maybe there’s a part of you that makes poor choices when you’re overwhelmed by pain or fear. That’s a firefighter.
Remember that all of these parts have good intentions.
Even though there might be a part of you that pushes you to do things you don’t feel good about, that part isn’t “bad.” It’s just trying to help you get your needs met.
Listening to that part of yourself, understanding it, and validating it can reduce its hold over you.
How to Work with Your Parts
Now that you understand the basics, let’s put this into practice.
Let’s see how it can help you sort through your conflicting feelings about a guy.
The first step is to become aware of your different parts.
To spot your managers, ask yourself:
“Where in this relationship do I try to control things or overprepare?”
To spot your exiles, ask yourself:
“What emotions do I struggle with the most in this relationship?”
To spot your firefighters, ask yourself:
“How do I escape from bad or uncomfortable feelings in this relationship?”
Next, spend some time getting to know each of your different parts.
Ask yourself how you feel about each of them.
What does each part want for you? How is it trying to get it?
What is it afraid of?
How would your life be different if that part stopped what it was doing?
The final step is to see your parts with compassion and acceptance.
They’re not deliberately trying to make life difficult for you. They’re trying to help in their own way.
The part of you that tries to micromanage every part of your relationship may just be a manager, unable to trust that things will work out on their own.
The part of you that doesn’t feel you can survive without him may just be an exile, afraid of abandonment.
The part of you that falls into bed with him rather than having a hard conversation may just be a firefighter, using pleasure to assuage the fear of loss.
The more aware you can be of your different parts…
The more you can understand what they’re trying to do…
And the less power they have over you.
Have you ever felt torn in a relationship? How did you decide which part of yourself to listen to?