The Core Self is part of Internal Family Systems
More Catholic therapists, coaches, and spiritual directors are taking a new way to look at ancient truths about the human person called Internal Family Systems. The name is not about your family of origin, but the community of parts that are within you. You may have heard someone talk about the “committee inside your head,” or the “inner child within.” IFS fleshes this reality out by identifying and categorizing our parts.
- Each of your inner parts contains valuable qualities of who you are,
- All your parts are good, but some of your parts are wounded by trauma,
- Wounded parts are usually reactive, and not always thinking or acting in healthy ways,
- It is the Core Self—most immediately connected to God–who can bring God’s love, wisdom, and healing to those parts.
What’s the goal of Catholic-oriented IFS?
Mental, emotional, and spiritual health, all leading to union with God. And not just in heaven, but entering more deeply into that union right here on earth. For more on IFS go HERE.
What are the primary characteristics of the Core Self?
The Core Self is like the classroom teacher, platoon leader, company boss, or parent in a family. He or she is in charge of all the younger. smaller, or weaker parts of the human person that still carry burdens of past trauma, fears, doubts, bad habits, sinful patterns, excessive worries, and more. These parts of us are good but in need of healing and integration.
The Core should be driving the family bus
The Core Self learns not to get overwhelmed by all the parts, nor does he or she give in to the one who is pushing, crying, or screaming the loudest!
I grew up watching a beautiful example of this management system every day when my mother packed me and my eight siblings into the car each day. On our way to and from school, some of us were tired, hungry, in arguments with one another, or sulking or pouting. Some were quietly reading, looking out the windows, and the older ones were often trying to manage the littles.
Mom was aware of each of us and our different needs.
- With her eyes on the road ahead, she still had an ear out for her kiddos. Always ready to listen.
- She occasionally stopped the car to take care of dire needs if necessary and if possible.
- Sometimes she simply acknowledged us, assured us, and asked us to wait until we got home.
- She did not yell, scream, shame, or threaten us . . . but we knew who was in charge and who was driving.
- We knew if we had a legitimate need, she was not too busy driving to also listen to us.
- We felt seen, safe, and sure of her support.
- Despite our little squirmings and noises, we were pretty calm and ordered.
The Eight Cs of the Core Self
I require my clients who are open to learning and using IFS to begin with a focus on the Core Self. They must memorize the “Eight Cs” as a quick way to bring that part of them into the lead when other parts are triggered and trying to overwhelm it. If one ever feels stuck, confused, or emotionally triggered, taking a long, slow, deep breath and quickly recounting the Eight C’s will (almost magically!) bring the Core to the lead.
The Core Self is:
This is when you see things clearly. It is also your ability to think clearly, logically, rationally, and without doubt. You are not distracted, there is no confusion, and, drawing on all your intellect, instinct, intuition, understanding, and experience, you are certain.
This is when you know you are experienced or equipped, have things under control, and nothing can upset or cause you doubt. You know that if you come upon a roadblock, you have what it takes to figure it out. If you don’t know the answer right away, you are sure you know where and how to find it.
This is when you may feel some initial doubt or fear in a situation or with someone, but it does not significantly confuse or trouble you. Worry or even fear may be present, but you are the one in control—not it. You know that whatever comes your way, you have the power given you by God to face it.
This is a state of mind and a state of being. You are deeply assured of God’s love for you. You know he is with you, in you, and will never leave you—even in times you may not feel him. You always recall the “big scheme of eternity” and have put all things in their proper place. You don’t have to rush, get upset, anxious, or resort to anger to fix or control things.
This is when you have a genuine desire to see, hear, and understand the other. It may not be a strong connection, but it is genuine, nonetheless. You also may not agree, and you may even have to create some space between you for safety or healing, but you remain connected to them in your mind and heart.
This is when you have genuine sympathy for someone; you understand their suffering even though you may not necessarily feel or relate to it. You may feel empathy as well, where you do feel what they are feeling. You are detached enough from your own pain, suffering, or triggers that you can see them with love and kindness. It is not pity or a desire to rush in a relieve them of a necessary cross. It does not feel “bad” that you can’t make them feel better.
This is when you are available and engaged enough to take the time to know a person, or a situation, a little better. You take the time to ask questions because you genuinely want to know more. Not to fix, rescue, or change them; not to look good, perform, or gain a stronghold, but to humbly and better see, hear and understand them or the situation.
This is when you are willing to engage your mind and heart to see things differently; to find a new or better way—still within reason and morality—to build, change, grow, create, invent, assist, or solve a problem. It engages your imagination and draws from your experience. I often say it is “thinking outside the box, but still within the mind of the Church.”
Need help getting this part of you back in the driver’s seat? Schedule a session with me.
For existing coaching clients only:
Worksheet – CORE
For more on IFS through a distinctly Catholic lens:
A New and Better Way of Understanding Your Self and Others
Dr. Peter Introduces IFS on Interior Integration for Catholics Podcast
Understanding Your Parts – Part 1
(Being Human Podcast)
VIDEO; Dr. Peter Malinoski and Dr. Greg Bottaro introduce IFS
Understanding Your Parts – Part 2
VIDEO; Dr. Peter Malinoski (soulsandhearts.com )and Dr. Greg Bottaro (CatholicPsych.com)