I sat down with Dr. Schwartz, creator of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) form of therapy. offers his latest thoughts on IFS, personal burdens, and the 8 C’s of Self-Energy. He even helps me make contact with a part of myself that’s been buried since childhood summer camp during an impromptu therapy session with me that was very emotional.
Richard Schwartz: [00:00:00] We were working with kids from the street a lot of the time and they would, you know, they would say, if I don’t have this protective part of me around all the time on the street, I’d be killed and I would say, I totally get that. And we respect that. And I’m glad that parts been keeping you safe. Let’s see if it’d be willing to relax and hear enough that we could heal what it’s protecting.
And then it could drop its weapons at the door, and sometimes that was literal.
Scott: Today it’s a great pleasure to have Richard Schwartz on the podcast. Dr. Schwartz is a family therapist, academic, author, and creator of the Internal Family Systems branch of therapy. We cover a lot of ground in this episode, focusing on the main tenets of the Internal Family Systems approach and the notion that there are no bad parts.
Along the way, we cover a lot of his unique terminology, such as the idea of personal burdens, his notion of the Self, with a capital S, and our quote [00:01:00] protector and quote exiled parts. We also discuss the eight C’s of self energy and self leadership. Also, things get really wild at the end, when we do an impromptu therapy session.
Richard Swartz helped me make contact with a part of myself that has been buried ever since summer camp when I was about 10 years old. If that intrigues you, you’ll have to listen to the end of this episode. In general, I like Dr. Schwartz’s approach. I think he has amassed a good amount of scientific support for many aspects of his theory, and I know for a fact that his approach to therapy has helped many, many people change their relationship to themselves and relate differently to the various parts of themselves.
So without further ado, I bring you the legendary Dr. Richard Schwartz. Dick, it is so good to have you on the Psychology Podcast. Thank you for being here today. Thanks for inviting me.
Richard Schwartz: Looking
Scott: forward to it. Oh, thank you. Me too. I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time. First of all, I want to thank you for giving me a [00:02:00] shout out in your book, uh, on the The Maslow quote about creative self-actualize.
So thank you, . I appreciate that. Thanks for the quote. It was very helpful. Um, you’re very welcome. Uh, so it, I wanna step back a moment and, um, and understand a little bit about you, what your career was before you created internal family systems. Thinking. What was your career like before that? Were you a clinical psychologist or a therapist?
Richard Schwartz: Yeah, um, so I have a PhD in marital and family therapy. So I was very steeped in the early days, pretty early days of the family therapy movement, which was a big sort of attempt to be a corrective to the excesses of the psychoanalytic world. So there was this big polarization back then. Uh, and I was, I was a part of that.
Scott: And you know, it’s, it’s such an almost not obvious insight, but [00:03:00] no one’s ever made that insight before that you linked that in internally, there seemed to be patterns coming up again and again, the way that people were treating the different parts of themselves that was akin to the way that family members treat each other in the external world.
I mean, what an Incredible insight. You know, when you think of it, it’s like, Oh, that seems kind of obvious, but it’s it really wasn’t. So, um, can you can you talk me through how this insider arose? The
Richard Schwartz: history of it is again. I was one of those obnoxious family therapists that thought you didn’t have to do anything but reorganize external systems.
And then I tried to prove that by doing an outcome study with a group of kids who had bulimia with my colleague, Virgil Barrett. and found that we could reorganize the families just the way the book said to and these kids kept binging and purging, didn’t realize they’d been cured. So, out of frustration I began asking why they kept doing [00:04:00] it and they started talking this, at the time, strange language of parts to me.
But, I think the big advantage, I had several advantages. One is, I had assiduously avoided studying any kind of models. So I had to come to the phenomena without any presumptions. And I had to, you know, be in what the Buddhists call beginner’s mind. I really had to learn from my clients. So for that reason, it’s pretty close to the phenomena.
And then I did have this big systems background from family therapy. So rather than just trying to get to know one part at a time, or, you know, focus on them individually. I was very interested in how they operated as a system, in much the same way we’ve been studying how families have patterns and sequences and getting caught in vicious circles.
And yeah, I just noticed, I was [00:05:00] interested in how does this part relate to this one? And when this, when this part takes over, then what happens? And Again, it’s just using the same questions that we were using with families. When your father does this, what do you, what do you do? And then when you do this, what does your sister do?
So I’m just trying to get a picture in my head of how this works as a system. As you said, I’m the first one to really do that. And, uh, I think it was because of my background and my naivete. I
Scott: mean, was there, like, a stroke of insight moment here? Like, do you have, like, a story? You know, like, the founding of ACID, you know?
Like, you’re like, and I was walking, and then it dawned on me that I’ve
Richard Schwartz: got a lot of those, but, uh, I’d say the biggest early one Because as my clients were talking about these parts, I made the mistake that most of the field still makes, which [00:06:00] is to assume that they were what they seem like. So the critic was some kind of internalized parental voice, and the binge was some kind of out of control impulse.
And when you think of them that way, Your ways of helping your client relate to them are limited. You, you want them to fight with a critic and stand up for themselves, and you want them to try to control the binge. So I was getting clients to do that, and they were getting worse, but I was like that man in a hole with a shovel.
I didn’t know to do anything but dig deeper and stand up stronger and control more. Until the first client I was aware of had an extensive sex abuse history and cut herself on her wrists, and so I, it was driving me crazy, she was doing this on my watch, so one session I decided she wasn’t going to leave my office until the part had agreed not to do it to her, and by then I [00:07:00] learned how to interact with these parts, and there’s something called the gestalt empty chair technique, where you have your client sit in a chair opposite their, their chair and, and be the part, and I could talk to it directly, and I had my client talk to it.
And so I, I was berating this part for a couple hours one session and having my client do that. And it finally said, okay, I won’t cut her this week. And I opened the door of the next session. She has a big gash down the side of her face. And that was a turning point in the history of this model because I collapsed internally.
And I spontaneously just said, I give up. I can’t beat you at this. And the part said, I don’t really want to beat you. It was that moment where I shifted from. The collapse, or, or the, the coercive place to start with, and the collapse. And I just became curious. And said, why do [00:08:00] you do this to her? And the part told me the secret history of how when she was being abused, it needed to get her out of her body and control the rage that would get her more abuse, and this was an effective way to do that, the cutting.
And so, I shifted again. Now I have a kind of appreciation for the heroic role it played in her life. And I can convey that to her. And the part broke into tears because everyone hated it and was trying to get rid of it, and finally somebody was listening to it. And so that started the process, the big insight that maybe these parts aren’t what they seem.
Which now, 40 years later, turns out to be true. Uh, I wrote a book called No Bad Parts because there are no bad parts. Even the ones that have done heinous things. If you get curious and ask them, they’ll share their secret history of how they had to [00:09:00] protect and so on. So, that’s the kind of, that’s one of the radical aspects of IFAS.
That, uh, all kinds of diagnoses and syndromes and symptoms and, uh, you know, perpetrator behavior. If, if you go to it with curiosity, you’ll learn that these parts aren’t what they seem. They don’t like doing what they’re doing, but they think they need to. And they’re also stuck in the past. So, if we were working with one of your parts, and I said, Okay, I want you to ask it how old it thinks you are.
You often will get a single digit. They think you’re, they’re still five years old, and they’ve got to protect you the way they did back then. So, all that was, um, It’s just a revelatory, you know, I was really hard to believe at first and once I started to believe it because I started trying the same [00:10:00] process with other clients.
It was really hard to convince anybody else that this was true. Yeah,
Scott: really revelatory. Dick, I’ve spent some time really trying to wrap my head around the notion that there are no bad parts. It didn’t, it didn’t come obviously to me that that is true. And um, I have been a little skeptical of that, but what I’ve come to understand and correct me if I’m wrong, is that there’s an extra layer of nuance there that I, that when I dig deeper into your writings, that I think I can, I can rally around.
It’s that you’re, you’re not, you know, you’re not condoning all the actions of the parts. What you’re, I know, let me get through it because I think I figured it out. I think I figured it out. I think I get you finally, but I’ve been trying to wrestle with this. Um, what, what I’m understanding from you is that, is that There are bad roles, but they’re there are no bad parts.
So there are bad roles. That’s
Richard Schwartz: right. There are bad. That’s right Yeah, you wouldn’t
Scott: write that you wouldn’t write the book. No bad [00:11:00] roles. You wouldn’t write that book. I would not write that book Yeah, so that’s my understanding of your work. It is really nuanced and it really Um, doesn’t give a free pass, you know, it’s, it’s like the old, uh, you know, it’s like the thing you have to accept yourself before you can change.
And then people always rebuttal and say, well, why would I accept things that I don’t like about myself? And then you have to explain to people, acceptance is not the same thing as liking, you know, accepting, um, but you have to really make contact with the reality. But to that, I would
Richard Schwartz: add the line that if you Start to accept this part of you that is so hard to accept.
It will let you know that it’s not what you think it is. And in that process, it can actually transform. So it isn’t like we go to all these bad roles and we just say, I can accept you because you’re not, you know, I know you’re not really bad. And let them [00:12:00] stay that way. We go to these parts to help them transform.
And you can only do that. If you really, in your bones, know they’re not what they seem, that they actually, once released from these roles, become valuable inner citizens.
Scott: Well, this is, uh, so, so relevant when I think about the, the proper way or the healthiest way of dealing with bullies. School bullies are dealing with kids that, um, act out, you know?
That’s right. The, the worst thing to do is to continually shame them, shame them. Totally. For their behavior. But you actually can find that When you really do work with it, and I don’t know if you’ve done, uh, this kind of therapy with, um, with aggressive boy, young boys. Yeah, that’s
Richard Schwartz: the population I started out with.
Scott: Amazing. Okay.
Richard Schwartz: Makes sense. Besides the bulimic kids, I was working at a place called the Institute for Juvenile Research on the west side of Chicago. And so we were working with kids from the street a lot of the time. And they would, [00:13:00] you know, they would say, if I Don’t have this protective part of me around all the time.
On the street, I’d be killed. And I would say, I totally get that, and we respect that, and I’m glad that part’s been keeping you safe. But see if it’d be willing to relax in here enough that we could heal what it’s protecting. And then it can, you know, it could drop its weapons at the door and sometimes that was literal and then it could pick them up on the way out.
So yeah, I’ve worked a lot with that population.
I’m going to start making some linkages here to some, um, of errors of mutual interest. One, you know, I’m a big fan of Abraham Maslow, and I’ve tried to have a new hierarchy of needs and wrote a whole book and kind of an ode to Maslow and extending that work, and he was really obsessed in the last couple of years of his life with the Bait Sotva [00:14:00] path to enlightenment, and I love this quote from you in your book.
You say IFS helps people become enlightened. SFAs of their psyches . And that’s really, I think Maslow would’ve appreciated that. . I do. I certainly appreciate it. Can you explain a little bit about that path to an enlightment and, and how that, um, is related to your psyche? Yeah, so then
Richard Schwartz: to do that, I have to introduce this other.
What I would consider to be the biggest discovery of IFS, which is, as I was doing that work, like with the, the cutting part, or with these critics, or even, you know, I, you know, I didn’t conclude that there were no bad parts, until I decided to work in a treatment center for sex offenders, and wound up working with the parts of perpetrators, and would hear their stories.
So anyway, I was doing that work of trying to get people to listen to, rather than [00:15:00] fight with these parts. rather than hate them or fear them. So I might be working with you, with your critic, let’s say. And I would say, Okay, Scott, see what it wants you to know about itself, and wait, don’t think of the answer, wait and see what comes from that place in your body where it seems to be located.
And you would start doing that, and you might start a decent conversation with that. And then suddenly you’re furious with the critic. And it reminded me of family sessions, where I’m working with two family members to try and get them to listen to each other. And suddenly one of them is furious with the other.
And you look around the room and you see that a third party is cueing the one who’s angry now, that he disagrees with the other one, too. And there’s a kind of alliance that gets formed. And in family therapy, we learned to get that third member out of the line of vision of the one and create a better boundary.
And when you did that, [00:16:00] things would settle down and they’d have a decent conversation. So I began thinking, maybe the same thing’s happening in this inner system. Maybe as I’m having you talk to your critic, a part who hates the critic has jumped in and is interfering. So I would say to you, Scott, can you find the one who hates the critic?
Could you get it to just give us a little space in there? The critic of the critic? The critic of the critic. Yeah. A part that’s polarized with the critic that’s trying to stand up for you. Uh, just ask it to chill for a little while so we can get to know this critic and in doing that, we might be able to help it trust that it doesn’t have to yell at you all day.
And most people will say, okay, that one did relax back. And I’d say, now how do you feel toward the critic? And it would be some version of, I’m just curious about why it calls me names. And said from a place of calm and confidence. And even [00:17:00] compassion, and in that state, when I had you in that state, the critic would drop its guard and would tell its secret history of how it got into that role.
And then we could actually help it transform. And when I would try that same process of getting these parts to open space, these other parts, and other people, it was like the same person would pop out with those same C word qualities of calm, confidence, curiosity, compassion, plus four more, which include creativity, clarity, courage, and connectedness.
And when I would ask people, what’s, what part of you is that? Because that’s great, let’s keep that there. And say, that’s not a part like these others, that’s me. Or that’s my self. So I came to call that the self with a capital S, and now, 40 years later, thousands of people using this all over the world, we can safely say that that [00:18:00] self is in everybody, can’t be damaged.
Knows how to heal, and is just beneath the surface of these parts, such that when they open space, it pops out spontaneously. And that’s the big discovery of RFS. And that, going back to your original question, that, turns out, is not a discovery many other psychotherapies have made, but is a discovery that most every spiritual tradition has made.
That that’s who, that’s in our essence, and have different names for it, including Buddha Nature, and it’s somebody who has, is in Buddha Nature, becomes a bodhisattva. Right. So, so you, when you’re self led, you just naturally show compassion to all these former enemies, both internally and externally. Let me ask
Scott: you a question.
Are you familiar with the book, Your Symphony of Selves, by James Fadiman and [00:19:00] Jordan Gruber? No. Okay. They’re, um, uh, they’re friends of mine and, uh, it’s a terrific book that’s very much in alignment with, with your, your thinking, but from a, maybe a different perspective. I don’t, I don’t think they mentioned your therapy in there, but, um, the idea is that we are a symphony of selves.
Richard Schwartz: write, let me write that down.
Scott: You can listen to my podcast chat with Jim Fadiman later if you want. Oh, okay. But it’s called Your Symphony of Selves. Are they aware of my work? Well, I want to make an intro. You know, I’m not sure. I’m not sure. My question is this, you know, because your work also links to the work in evolutionary psychology on subselves.
You know, there’s a, like a Douglas Kendrick and colleagues wrote, you know, the rational animal arguing that all of these different selves are very rational from an evolutionary point of view. Um, so my question is why call it a capital S self? [00:20:00] Why not, you know, an alternative path you could have taken is to just say, these are all different selves.
This is the authentic self. You could, you could have called it something like put something, a modifier between before self. And then we have all these other selves. Why is this the self in your model? Um, there are other ways you could have gone with this. So I’m just curious. Oh,
Richard Schwartz: well, the reason I call them parts is because that’s what clients called them.
You know, it didn’t give me that far in academia. It’s not a great. Uh, technical term, it actually sounds like an automobile, you know, like one part or another. But it’s intuitive. But it’s intuitive. It’s, it’s intuitive. It’s the most useful term. Every, like if I’m talking to you and I say, Oh, so this part of you does this, you don’t say, what are you talking about?
But if I were to say, oh, if one of your subpersonalities did this, or one of your ego states did this, you’d say, what are you talking about? So, so I just tried my [00:21:00] best to keep the language close to the client, and Self, without saying real self, or true self, or core self, is the most user friendly word. So
Scott: yeah, there’s so much to think through here, you know, I wrote, I’ve been sort of synthesizing the scientific literature on what it feels like to be authentic, you know, you ask in questionnaires, what does it feel like to, and I call it the authenticity bias, it seems that what people call their real self.
tend to be the aspects of themselves that exactly conform to the adjectives you used. So you’re, in all that research literature, people will, if you ask them, you know, to, to, to, you give them a list of 45 different adjectives and you say, place a one to five scale, the extent to which each one represents your real self.
They will tend to put a five to all the [00:22:00] kind of things you see, the eight things, curiosity, calm, confidence, compassion, so basically all the positive things now. So the way I’ve seen it and I’ve interpreted that, um, maybe you’re nicer than me, but the way I’ve interpreted it is that people have an authenticity bias is what I’ve called it.
They are biased to only include the most moral and good aspects about themselves as their real self. And I’ve argued, there’s no such thing as the real self, there are just different selves. And that the route to growth is to actually take responsibility for your whole self. Um, and not Only and not disavow parts of yourself, um, as not the real me.
Um, so maybe there actually is greater confluence there than I’m making it out to be, you know, to your model, but the way that’s the way I’ve been thinking about it. Um, so the thing that seems to be very in line in our approaches is certainly not having shame for the other selves, but I would still include them as part of the.
They are really you, right? I mean, they still are parts of you and owning that seems to be They’re [00:23:00] parts of you.
Richard Schwartz: Yeah. Yeah. There you go. Yeah. And that’s, that’s the important distinction though, because it’s one thing to say, uh, I’m a manipulative asshole. And it’s another thing to say, I have a part that does this manipulative thing.
Scott: isn’t Curiosity, a part of you as well, I guess is what I’m asking, or, you know, confidence is a part of you. Compassion is a part of you. You could, you could make the scientific claim that all eight of those things are independent parts. Like the confident part isn’t always the courage part. It doesn’t always come together.
Does it? You see what I’m saying? I
Richard Schwartz: do. So what I’m saying is this self I’m talking about, that you can access the way I described. Which is actually what people meditate to get to in many spiritual traditions. It’s described the same way. It has those qualities, but there are parts who also have those qualities.
Now, to know which it [00:24:00] is, takes some inquiry. So If you want to know, there’s a part that’s super curious about things. Is that me or is that a part? I would just have you focus on that curiosity and ask, and, and then you would get an answer about it. Yeah, but going back to your original question, which is, why aren’t all of them you?
They are parts of you, but they aren’t your essence. And so, I agree with the people filling out those forms, because You’re asking, who’s your, who’s your essence? And they’re giving you that. And that’s been my research. That’s what I found. And the fact that they’re saying, that’s who I really am, doesn’t mean that they don’t have negative, hurtful parts.
And the goal of IFS actually, one goal, is to help transform these [00:25:00] parts and then bring them back home. So they’re actually even more you. And they don’t stand out and you feel much more integrated that way. And let me, let me, let me go back to your concern about people not taking responsibility. Cause I do remember that was part of your question, right?
Yeah. There was
Scott: like 50 parts to my question.
Richard Schwartz: Cause I’ve struggled with that and it turns out that. It’s a much easier to take responsibility for a part of you that did something heinous because it’s much easier to admit it. Yes, and it’s also much easier to change that than if it’s all of you or if it’s you.
Because all you got to do is find the part that did it and there are, you know, about five or maybe seven steps to healing a part and help it. Unload the burdens of [00:26:00] cares that made it do that.
Scott: I guess I have a really existential question, because I might just be overthinking it. Isn’t it a logical implication of what you’re saying is that within everyone, we all have the same essence, and it’s the positive aspects of our being?
It seems to me that’s the logical implication of what you’re saying, and I’m not fully there yet. Because there’s Let me pause you. Okay, pause me, pause
Richard Schwartz: me. Because self isn’t the only positive aspects of us. All these parts have positive aspects. Okay. So the big paradigm shift is The idea that we’re born with these parts, either manifest or dormant, and that as you go through your life, they come when their time is right.
They kind of pop up, and they all have valuable qualities and talents for us. They’re [00:27:00] necessary for our thriving in our life. And then they’re forced out of their naturally valuable states by the traumas we suffer into roles that can be quite damaging, and they pick up. from these experiences, these traumatic experiences, what we call burdens, these extreme beliefs and emotions, that enter them and attach to them like a virus, and drive the way they operate.
So they’re all good to begin with, and then they get infected, and they get frozen in time in these traumas, and then they become damaging, and what you might call bad. Releasing them from all of that, they’ll transform back into their naturally valued state. So, I’m not saying that self is the only positive aspect at all.
I’m saying that Yes, that’s the only part of you that maybe hasn’t been tainted or forced out of its extremes and knows how to heal you.
Scott: Yeah, there’s there really is a, [00:28:00] uh, It’s nuanced. You’re right. It’s nuanced and there is an underlying spirituality component to this because, um, There’s kind of like a, you know, a wholeness, unity versus fragmented sort of theme going on here, um, which you see in a lot of spiritual, um, things.
You actually say here at one point, the big conclusion here is that parts are not what they have been commonly thought to be. They’re not cognitive adaptations or sinful impulses. Um, I’m not going to argue they, they could, they can be cognitive adaptations from an evolutionary point of view, but, um, that’s, that’s an aside.
Um, instead parts are sacred spiritual beings and they deserve to be treated as such. I really would like to double click on that. It’s, it’s, it’s a fascinating claim. You know, what, what does that mean scientifically for a part to be sacred spiritual being, um, that automatically deserves to be treated as such?
Like, what does that, Can you unpack more what that means? I mean, I wrote the book Transcend, so I think I know what you mean, and I think I love it. But I would [00:29:00] like for our audience, if you could kind of just explain in, like, more, like, what technically does that mean? Because it’s po poetically sounds good, but what does that mean technically?
Richard Schwartz: It sort of means, you know, it’s, it’s a reflection of my journey. Because when I started out, I thought of them as little bundles of various cognitions and emotions, but they weren’t beings, they weren’t, you know, full people or anything, inner people. And then over time, as I worked with more and more, I got a sense that, oh, these are not just little collections of thoughts and emotion, but these are, these actually have personalities and they, they have a kind of, um, essence to themselves, each of them, and they actually, you know, uh, have There was a point where I, I didn’t know the limits of what [00:30:00] we could do with IFS, and so I recruited the toughest clients I could find, and some of whom back then were called multiple personality disorder clients, now would be called DID clients.
And so I wound up, with those clients you can’t access much self in the beginning. So you wind up as a therapist working with their parts directly, talking to them directly. Sometimes for like 10 sessions in a row I’d just be working with one of their parts. And this, I’m bringing to you, I don’t talk about it all the time, but I, I know you love this kind of intellectual challenge.
So, as I’m talking to one of their parts, it starts talking about its own parts. And it has a self that can work with its parts. And so, it, I kind of got that it’s all little fractals. You know, it’s all [00:31:00] little microcosms. Each part has self, and each part has parts. Wow. Who knows how far down, what is it, turtles all the way down?
Something like that. Who knows how far it goes.
Scott: So each one of us is not our own snowflake. Each one of us has an infinite number of snowflakes within our snowflake. Wow.
Richard Schwartz: I don’t know if it’s, I don’t know if it’s infinite. Maybe it’s not infinite. There’s a lot of them, yeah. Wow. So, the point I’m making with all of that.
Or where do we start with that?
Scott: Yeah, well, this quote, parts are sacred spiritual beings. Yeah, yeah,
Richard Schwartz: yeah, yeah. So the more I got that they’re like, seriously, like little inner people, or inner beings. Some of them don’t look like people, you know, when people see them, they describe them as an animal, or something like that, but, but they’re sacred in the sense that, um, for me, What I’m calling self.
And again, this is a big leap for me. I came into this work [00:32:00] from a very scientific background. My father was a big endocrinology researcher. I have three brothers who became medical researchers. So I came in very atheistic and materialistic and you know, just thought that way and then Through working with these systems became more and more You know, maybe this is like what the Buddhists talk about.
Maybe this is like what the Hindus talk about. Maybe this is like so I became more and more interested in all that and lo and behold The metaphor I like best when I’m talking about self comes from quantum physics that Photons are both a particle in a wave So for me what I call self is a particle eyes version of what might be called the big self, or the, the [00:33:00] non dual, or the, the wave state.
And when it enters us and particleizes, it has boundaries and it knows how to operate in this plane, but If, through psychedelics or some other, meditation, you were to leave and enter that big non dual, you would feel the lack of boundaries and the connectedness to everything. You sound
Scott: like Locke Kelly.
Richard Schwartz: Locke, Locke’s an IFS therapist. You guys have worked together, right? Oh yeah, sure.
Scott: Yeah, yeah. Not, I mean, or I should say he sounds like you, is what I should say, but yeah. Maybe, yeah. But yeah, I love, I love the non duality approach. Yeah, no, it’s wonderful.
Richard Schwartz: So the point I’m making is, when I learned that parts have that in them as well, then they became sacred inner beings also.
Scott: Yeah. Look, there’s a real, there’s a real compassion at the base. I mean, it’s like you’re [00:34:00]bringing yourself to this approach. You’re not, you’re not bringing some, um, three year old part to, to help people. Um, so, so I want to really acknowledge that there is this kind of thread that runs through us. Such a, such an immense compassion.
Um, And, uh, a loving kindness approach, a self compassion approach. I see a lot of Kristen Neff’s kind of work relevant to how you treat these different parts of yourself.
Richard Schwartz: Yeah, I’m going to spend some time with her next week at a conference. Oh, well, tell her I said
Scott: hi. I will. Um, so you made some discoveries about parts, and I just want to just list some of these discoveries.
Even the most destructive parts have protective intentions. Can you unpack a little bit what you mean by that?
Richard Schwartz: Well, if you want to go back to the sex offenders, for example, so I would work with one of those [00:35:00] perpetrators, have them focus on the part that did the offending. Okay. Which they were very loathe to do.
They hated that part and were terrified of it. But I would finally convince them to do it. And ask where it got these impulses in the past. And they would see scenes of themselves. As children, mainly men, as boys, uh, being abused by their father, it wasn’t always sex abuse, but being abused in some form.
And the part in showing that was trying to show that when they were being abused by this, their perpetrator, the part looked around the room and said, who has power in this room? It’s this guy doing this to me. I’m going to take in his energy to protect my system from him. And so, that part gets stuck with the [00:36:00] desire to hurt vulnerability that it got from its perpetrator.
And then it teams up with the sexual part to throw a coup and take over and do the offending. So, when I got that, that’s when I started to really believe there are no bad parts. They’re all just stuck with these burdens that aren’t natural to them, that came into their system from trauma. Or there’s also Well, we call legacy burdens that come down through the generations that aren’t related to personal traumas of your lifetime.
They’re related to things that maybe happened a century ago in your family lineage or. In your ethnic group, or, or just floating around in our culture,
Scott: like intergenerational trauma.[00:37:00]
Yeah, very compassionate approach. I mean, some people, I mean, you must get over and over again. What about serial killers? You must, you must, that must be your, the default go to response when you say that, right? So what about serial killers?
Richard Schwartz: I haven’t worked with a lot of serial killers, so I couldn’t say.
For sure, but I would strongly suspect that they, they’re perpetrating parts out of stories like the other perpetrators. And so this has big implications for how do we treat offenders, you know, how, how do we, I mean, I, I’m like you, I, I don’t want them to not take responsibility and, and accountability and, uh, I don’t want them to have the ability to continue to offend.
So I’m not against. Uh, you know, locking people up, but while they’re locked up and their their parts, and this is why so many of them kill themselves once you [00:38:00] lock them up, because that particular protector was protecting them from the suicidal part. Um, while they’re, you know, they’re safely contained, let’s help them with these parts.
Let’s not shame them and punish them, because that’ll just perpetrate it all. I mean, perpetuate it all.
Scott: Yeah, I, I You know, I made a statement once that everyone deserves loving kindness and that if we increased loving kindness for everyone in the world, there would be, um, increase of the total, you know, uh, goodness in the world overall.
And then, and people, some people really are resistant to that. Some people, um, can’t wrap their head around that notion that why would I show loving kindness to a, to a cruel, uh, mean person? And then I say, well, well, look, that person’s not well. So if I give them loving kindness to be more well, the world will be more well, right?
But some people really have trouble with that, you [00:39:00] know? Yeah,
Richard Schwartz: which I understand. I mean, before I did all this, I would have agreed with those people. But once you do this inner work, and then you see how it’s all parallel in the outside world, you see the futility of the punishment approach, and how You know, just to be current, how the more violence Israel perpetrates on, uh, on, uh, the Palestinians, the more that’s just going to perpetrate it, perpetuate it all.
Scott: And so vice versa.
Richard Schwartz: And vice versa. Yeah. No question about it. And, you know, I, I agree that Israel has a right to, to defend itself. Um, but. As you’re finding the world is watching how horribly they’re treating Palestinian civilians and that will all come back to bite them. [00:40:00] And so those solutions just don’t work.
In the inner world or the outer world.
Scott: You just opened up that can and I’m going to exert self control. Another, um, discovery that you made is that parts are often frozen in past traumas when their extreme roles were needed. I think you kind of just touched on that a little bit. You know, already when you were talking about your clients, um, I do want to ask you a question of, because I noticed you do bring in politics, uh, sometimes in the, in your book you did, but let me do double click on that for a second.
Cause I want to just, uh, just, I noticed that like in your book, you had no problem stating you’re not a Trump fan. You had no problem stating, you know, you bring up anti racism, which is a, it’s like a very left phrase. Uh, do you, um. Do you just see it as, like, you don’t care if you alienate the audience that, that, that isn’t in agreement with that political view?
Like, I think it’s kind of brave, in a way, and, and some could say foolish too, but I’m not gonna say [00:41:00] foolish. I think brave, um, to, to do that. But, cause I, I try not to do that in my work. I try to keep it You know, up here, but you seem to have no problem doing that in your book. So let me just ask you about that.
Like, have you thought that through and, and why did you decide that you’re okay with, um, with bringing some of your own politics into it? Yeah, well, that
Richard Schwartz: was, uh, my policy was like yours for a long time, uh, because I didn’t want to alienate audiences. And I, I think a couple things happened. One is, I’m old now.
I turned 74 this year. And so I care, I don’t care as much about all that. And, uh, I feel like there’s more urgency to change some things in the world now. And, uh, and the more self led I become, what, what happens to people as they access more self is, You know, there’s that C word, [00:42:00] clarity. So they see injustice a lot more than they did.
They’re not so blind to it that they, they see the imbalances that are causing a lot of problems. And then they also have the C word, courage. So they can act or speak about it to try and get it to change. And then they have confidence and so on. And so self is kind of a social activist, both in the inner world and the outer world.
And I, you know, these days I’m working with a lot of the social activistic leaders trying to help them do their activism from South. And they’re finding they have much more success when they don’t do it from their, their righteous parts or their, you know, those kinds of parts. And, so, this work is designed to bring more self to the world, which [00:43:00] will, if we can succeed, actually start to change a lot of these things that, uh, are out of line.
So I, I’d say in the last 10 years, I’ve been less afraid to be outspoken about a lot of that.
Scott: Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t expect to go down this, this alleyway of, uh, of topic, but it, it led me here. And, and I, uh, I’m so curious. I’m so, I’m bringing myself of curiosity into this discussion, um, because you do, uh, I would, I would push back on one tiny thing, you know, or maybe it’s a big thing.
thing. But a lot of social activism can become self righteous. So I wouldn’t make a clear cut case between social activism and self righteousness. Um, do you ever work with, cause I think there’s toxic activism. I think there’s narcissistic. Totally agree. Totally agree. And so it seems like this parts work you do, it can be very, very important for social activists as well to make sure that they’re really bringing [00:44:00] their, I would say their best, you would just say self, but I would say their best self into their activism.
Richard Schwartz: That’s, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. And like I said, I’m working with a number of them and there are other groups that are basing their activism around IFS. And there, there’s just this increasing, uh, awareness that the place from which you do your activism. We’ll either make things a lot worse or we’ll make it better.
And that these burden parts that drive people to become activists often are become even more of a problem. Like you’re saying, you know, so you got me helping them all do a lot of healing and learning to trust that they’re more effective if they leave from this place of sound.
Scott: You call it self leadership, right?
That’s the phrase. Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, and self energy. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. And then the third thing you discovered, um, [00:45:00] when they trust, well, I mean, you discovered many, many things more than three, but out of this list of three here, when they trust it’s safe to step out of their roles, they are highly valuable to the system.
So you’re saying, Yeah. that there might be some, uh, some parts of ourself that on the surface look even evil, but they’re not evil. And that when we can assign them a different role, we may actually find what we once called evil. We might actually find it valuable to the whole system. Is that what you’re saying?
Richard Schwartz: Um, sort of, I’m not saying that the same behavior would be valuable. I’m saying that they totally change. So let’s go back to your critic. One question you could ask it. Would be, ask this critic if we could heal what it’s protecting inside of you, so it was liberated from this role. What might it like to do instead inside of you?
And you’d be amazed at the answers. [00:46:00] Much, many of the critics now want to do the opposite, they want to be your cheerleader. Or they want to help you discern what’s good and bad, uh, for you. But they don’t want to criticize you by any means, they hate that role. So, that’s the point, they, they all They don’t want to transform, they just don’t think it’s safe, into their naturally valuable roles.
Scott: Well you have um, this classification between exiles, managers, and firefighters. Um, I’m trying to understand, when we talk about protectors, is that, is that the, is that part of the exiles part? You know, the exiles? Any of them can be our protectors, is that what you’re saying? No. Oh, no. Okay.
Richard Schwartz: Explain it to me.
So We all come out of our families or our, uh, social systems, or while we’re in those, those, [00:47:00]those families, there are parts that are acceptable and parts of us that our families don’t like. And also, when we get traumatized, there are parts of us that get hurt more than others by the traumas. Those tend to be the parts that before they were hurt were playful, loving, open, inner children, who were also very creative and, and playful, like I said.
But once something bad happens to you, they’re the parts that are the most sensitive, so they get hurt the most by the bad thing. And so they then become burdened with beliefs like, I’m worthless, or Or they carry all this terror from what happened, or they carry emotional pain. And once that happens, then you don’t want anything to do with them.
And everybody around you tells you, [00:48:00] just move on, don’t look back, you can’t change what happened. And in doing that, you wind up exiling these precious inner children, simply because they got hurt. Not realizing, you’re not just moving away from the memories of it. or the emotions of it, not realizing you’re locking away your juice.
And so once you have a lot of these exiled parts, you feel more delicate, and the world seems a lot more dangerous, because so many things could trigger them. And because of that, other parts are forced out of their naturally valuable states to become protectors. There are some of them who are trying to protect the exiles from being triggered again by managing your life in such a way that everything is smooth and you don’t get too close to anybody so they can’t hurt you again or.[00:49:00]
Or you perform at a high level, so you get accolades to counter the worthlessness, or you look really well, good, so that you’re not rejected, or So, this is what’s called the ego, or the defenses in a lot of psychotherapies. But there are these little, what in family therapy we call parentified children.
They’re young too, but they’re taking on all this responsibility. to protect you, and they’re trying to pre empt anything that would trigger the exiles, and keep them all contained, and keep you away from them on an ongoing basis. The world has a way of breaking through those defenses and triggering your exiles.
When that happens, it’s a big emergency, because it’s like these flames of emotion are bursting out, threatening to overwhelm you again, and make it so you can’t function. So there’s another set of parts who immediately go into action to deal with this emergency. And in contrast to the managers who are [00:50:00] kind of careful and, and want to please people and control you, these firefighters, we call them, take you out of control, are very impulsive, and they don’t care about the collateral damage to your body or your relationships.
They just need to get you higher than those flames of emotion right away, or distract you until they burn themselves out. And so, so there are, the big distinction is between exiles, And protectors, and then within the protector rubric. There are managers and firefighters. Oh, that’s what I
Scott: needed. I needed that systematizing.
Thank you. You’re speaking my autistic language. You’re welcome. Thank you. Thank you. That’s exactly what I needed. Because I was trying to map that all out and getting confused what was a subset of what. Okay, thank you. Thank you. Um, wonderful. Um, I want to kind of Um, and our interview today was some, uh, laws of inner physics.
What a cool phrase, by the way. Inner [00:51:00] physics. I love that. Is that your phrase? Like you came up with that? Yeah. Yeah. I love it. Um, you said it turns out that whenever a part agrees to not overwhelm, it won’t overwhelm. So that’s really interesting. Can you kind of unpack that a little bit? Um, and, and how, maybe a concrete example of how you’ve seen that with a patient.
Richard Schwartz: So, uh, you know, a lot of therapies like, uh, DBT and, uh, dialectical behavior therapy and others, a lot of trauma therapies are very worried about the window of tolerance of, of this from my language are exiled emotions. And how you have to have all these practices to try and contain all that. And so there are all these, what are called grounding practices, which include a lot of breath exercises.
And you know, you know what I’m talking about, right?
Scott: Absolutely. I have a whole book on that.
Richard Schwartz: Okay. Yeah. [00:52:00] So, what I discovered was, if there’s a big rush of that kind of exiled emotion coming forward, If you just ask the part to not overwhelm and reassure it that by not overwhelming, it’s much more likely that you can help it, they won’t overwhelm.
You don’t have to do any of the grounding stuff. And your client will suddenly be with the part rather than become the part and can start to help it that way. So they have a lot of agency is what I’m trying to say. The only reason they tend to overwhelm is because they know that if they don’t totally take over, you’re going to lock them up again.
So, if they know by not overwhelming, they’re more likely to not be locked up. They don’t need to overwhelm. And again, all this refers back to their sacred inner beings. They have agency. They, they, they, you can negotiate with them. [00:53:00] Well, you’re, you
Scott: are literally saying we all have multiple personalities. Uh, the ones that we label dissociative identity disorder, that’s the latest term for those people.
The, the more we,
Richard Schwartz: the, the, it’s more a matter of,
Scott: of, of of extremeness among the parts that it is just that they are separate species in us. Like they have part, they have multiple personalities and we don’t. No, we all have multiple personalities is what you’re saying. It
Richard Schwartz: is what I’m saying. Totally. And I think I agree with that.
And I agree with that. And people with that diagnosis. Aren’t so different from us, except that because of the horrific trauma they suffered on a daily basis, their system got blown apart more.
Scott: Splitting. Yeah, I know a lot. You know, I hear you. Yeah. But you know, even that diagnosis is controversial in the field of psychiatry, as you know.
Some people claim that it’s not even a thing. You know, and yeah. Here’s another wall of interphysics. There’s nothing inside of you that has any power if you are in self and not afraid of it. [00:54:00] Wow. Wow, wow, wow. How do you, how do you, uh, make that change in your life where and go from being scared of your parts to not being scared of your parts?
Like what’s the first step that someone can take to make that transformation? It turns out it’s pretty
Richard Schwartz: simple. Like if I was working with you. I need help. I need help. Well, let’s pick a part you’re scared of. Do you have one? Talking to women. Okay.
Scott: No, talking to someone I’m interested in. Admitting being vulnerable that I’m romantically interested in a woman.
Richard Schwartz: Got it. Okay. So, that’s a part that’s afraid to do it. You’re not necessarily afraid of that part. Am I right? Afraid
Scott: of rejection. I’m afraid of
Richard Schwartz: rejection. Yeah. Okay. So Yeah, we could do that. So, we could pick a different one. Well, no, we can do that. How much time do we have? I can’t remember. I’m, I’m, I’m
Scott: good, brother.
Uh, it’s, uh, I’m just being [00:55:00] wary of your, your time.
Richard Schwartz: But, I’m okay. Um, You want to do a piece of work? A short one? You want to do a piece, uh,
Scott: yeah, sure, why not? Why not? Why not?
Richard Schwartz: Alright, so, focus on that fear of rejection. Yeah. And find it in your body or around your body. Where do you find it?
Scott: It’s interesting.
I would say that it actually, it shows up as a disconnect from self. It’s almost like, uh, as opposed to me finding it, it’s like I can’t find it, if that makes sense. But you have a sense of it. Yeah. Is that true? Yeah, yeah, I
Richard Schwartz: do. So just focus on that sense of it. Okay. And tell me how you feel toward this part.
Well, I am very judgmental about it. I,
Scott: I’m angry that it keeps getting in my way of, uh, being able to have a happier life and to have more courage in going after what I want.
Richard Schwartz: So that makes sense that [00:56:00] you would be angry at it, but we’re going to ask the part who doesn’t like it to give us the space to maybe help it instead.
And so see if that one who’s so angry at it could give us a little space in there and relax back. Thank you so much. So we can actually get to know it and help it. Okay. Then focus on it again and tell me how you feel toward it now.
Scott: There is, there is a compassion there. There is a, uh, I want to give, I want to give it a hug and tell it to not be so scared.
Richard Schwartz: So, so do that. So go ahead and let it know you have compassion for it now. Mm hmm. And if you can, just go ahead and hug it. And let it know it’s not alone, that you are there, and you, you can care for it, and see how it reacts. Well, it’s not running away. Good. [00:57:00] Yeah, and see if there’s anything it wants you to know about its fear.
And don’t think, just, just wait and see what comes. Yeah, I know,
Scott: something, something came, something came. Okay. It’s, it’s, uh. It’s telling me that it’s, uh, it, it can’t let go of what happened to me at age 10 in summer camp.
Richard Schwartz: Okay. So let it know. That makes sense. Okay. But are you open to getting out, out of there where it stuck it, uh,
Scott: desperate one to not just open.
Richard Schwartz: open. Okay. So tell it first to really let you get how bad that was for it. Let it, whatever it needs to trust that you get it. Hmm. To let you feel it and see it and sense it until it feels like now you really get how horrible that was. [00:58:00] Mm-Hmm. Yeah. It’s feeling like you get it now. Yeah. Just ask it.
Just ask it.
Scott: Yeah. What exactly do I ask
Richard Schwartz: it? Ask if it feels like now you really get how bad it was. Yeah, or is there more? It wants to know, but it’s
Scott: like really clinging to not wanting to ever experience that feeling again.
Richard Schwartz: Totally get that. Yeah. But we’re going to keep working with that. So we’re going to help it with that clinging.
But just ask again, if it does feel like you get how bad it was.
Scott: Yeah, it
Richard Schwartz: does. Okay. So, Scott, I want you to go to that guy in that time and be with him in the way he needed somebody. And just [00:59:00] tell me when you’re in there with him. I’m
Richard Schwartz: How are you being with him? Well,
Scott: I’m being, uh, supportive in a way no one was with me at the
Richard Schwartz: time.
Perfect. So just do that for a while until he really trusts he’s not alone with it. How’s he reacting?
Richard Schwartz: with love. Good. Okay. And ask him if there’s anything he wants you to do for him back there before we take him to a good place. Just don’t think, just ask him and wait for the answer. Yeah. What’s he want you to do?
Scott: Be a One of those friends that laughs at the situation with me and [01:00:00] says that there’s many fish in the sea.
Richard Schwartz: So go ahead and do that for him. I did already. Sorry. And how was that? I couldn’t wait.
Scott: How does he react? He laughed and he’s like, yeah, just completely different reaction. Good. Yeah.
Richard Schwartz: So ask him now if he’s ready to leave that time and place with you and Come to either to your place there or to a fantasy place of his choice. Yeah, he’s definitely ready. Where does he want to go?
Scott: Can I admit this on my podcast?
Richard Schwartz: It’s up to you. So you got him there? Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Scott: How’s he like it? He’s got a very different attitude all of a sudden. That’s great. He’s got a very different attitude. Wow. He’s almost kind of like an asshole now.
Richard Schwartz: Well, we gotta, we gotta help him with that. [01:01:00] Yeah, we’ve gotta help him with that. Yeah, I think he’s overcompensated there.
I think so too. Okay, I need to tell him to slow down. Yeah, tell him to slow down. Yeah,
Scott: yeah, okay, okay.
Richard Schwartz: I did. You can kind of be his mentor in this area. Yeah, I see that. But tell him he never has to go back to that camp scene, and that you’re gonna be his friend, mentor, parent. You’re gonna be taking care of him now.
Scott: Amazing. Yeah, I did. I did. Well, now, are you saying I can bring that protector guy, I can bring that guy out any time I want?
Richard Schwartz: Yeah. Wow. Yeah, but let’s finish. We’re not quite done. Okay. Okay. Okay. So, ask him if now he’s ready to unload the feelings and beliefs he got back there.
Scott: [01:02:00] He says, what does that mean to unload?
Richard Schwartz: We’ll show him. All we need is his desire to not carry this stuff anymore. The fear. Yes. The beliefs about himself.
Scott: Yes. Definitely. Ready.
Richard Schwartz: And ask him where he carries that, in his body or on his body?
Scott: Uh, where he has in the past carried it
Richard Schwartz: just where he is carrying it. Still if he’s, if he still is
Scott: Yep. Yep.
Richard Schwartz: Okay. And ask him what he’d like to give it all up to. Light water, fire, wind, earth. Anything else? Light. So bring in the light and have it shine on him. Mm-Hmm. . And tell him to let all that out of his chest. Just let the light take it away. Yeah. There’s no need to carry this anymore. Wow. Wow, and the background
Scott: noise stopped.
Richard Schwartz: What do I do now? How’s [01:03:00] he doing now? He’s like a
Scott: Enthusiastic puppy. Good.
Richard Schwartz: And tell him now, if he wants to, he can invite qualities into his body he’d like to have. And just see what comes into him now.
Scott: Confidence. Authenticity.
Richard Schwartz: And
Scott: heart led.
Richard Schwartz: That’s great. So how’s he seem now? I like him. Yeah, good. So, again, let him know he can hang with you and, you know, go to nightclubs if he wants or whatever he wants to do.
But he doesn’t have to carry this stuff anymore.
Scott: He said that’s revolutionary. Uh
Richard Schwartz: huh. And if you want, you can invite your other parts to [01:04:00] come in and see him. Mm. Especially the one that didn’t like him. Mm. Have that guy come in and see how he is different now. Wow. Wow.
Richard Schwartz: It’s like a different guy.
Yeah, that’s right. Okay.
So does that feel complete for now? Yeah.
Scott: Yeah. Amazing. Are you going to send me the bill?
Richard Schwartz: Happy to do it. My gift. Oh, thank you,
Scott: Dick. You’re welcome. I think we should end this episode on that note. People just got a chance to see inaction.
Richard Schwartz: I appreciate you being so vulnerable in front of your audience.
I don’t know how I feel about this, but I actually feel good. Over the course of the whole thing, I felt better and better. But I also think that [01:05:00] it’s just something that a lot of people can relate to and resonate with, whether or not you’re a male or female or whatever your gender is. I think you can really relate to that feeling of being, would rather avoid than to be
Richard Schwartz: rejected.
Yeah. You know, I, I didn’t talk to a girl all through high school cause I was so afraid of that rejection. And it wasn’t until I went out for football in college, and I became a football star that I have the courage to actually talk to a woman. So I totally get it. Yeah. Yeah.
Scott: Oh, man. Well, thank you so much, Dick, for the parts work, but also just being on my podcast and for, um, Sparring a little bit with me as well.
And, uh, and, uh, well, you’re a legend in the field of, in my field. So, uh, I really have immense gratitude for you.
Richard Schwartz: So thank you. Thank you, Scott. And, and, uh, again, thanks for being such a good sport. And [01:06:00] I really enjoyed our sparring.