There are two big myths most people believe—my former self included—about therapy which sabotage their results. Especially over the long-term.
Even if you have initial success on your therapeutic journey, believing in one of these myths can undermine your progress. The result? You’re back to square one, and believe therapy just can’t work for you.
But it’s the myths, not the therapeutic process itself, responsible for you snapping back into your old patterns.
That’s why in this episode, I’m peeling back the curtains and revealing more about my personal therapeutic journey, so you can duplicate my success. Plus, I reveal three examples of how my early IFS therapy process (as a client) fills me with joy to this day.
It won’t be easy, especially at first. But nothing worthwhile ever is.
Show highlights include:
- Why therapy feels impossible for you (and how to make it feel effortless) (5:02)
- The cold, hard truth about why people revert to their old patterns after leaving therapy (and the single best way to prevent this) (7:24)
- Why picking a therapist who has a therapist themselves enhances your success with therapy (8:25)
- The “Here and Now” secret for unlocking the best results from therapy (10:04)
- How having a heated argument with your wife can actually improve your experience with the therapeutic process (11:54)
- Why resisting your extreme emotions unleashes pain throughout your body (and how to feel extreme emotions without pain) (16:46)
- How focusing too much on the model of therapy can sabotage your results (and how to succeed with any model you use) (24:28)
- The sneaky way you can neglect your parts even after unburdening them (35:08)
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. If the scheduling works out as predicted, this will be the final episode of the calendar year, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do something different, and in this episode, I’ll be revealing more about my own personal journey through therapy, especially through IFS therapy.
This is in response to a comment on the previous episode from Has K., who wrote, “Can you do a podcast on your own experience with IFS therapy? Some of your own protectors and exiles that required work.” He hasn’t replied yet with why he wants to know that information, but it’s a request that I’ve gotten quite a few times over the years, so I thought that would be a good one to do for this episode to end out the year. [01:04.8]
In fact, I’m writing a book. I’ve been working on a book for years actually, and each year, I learn so much about writing that I end up going back and scrapping the old draft and starting over, because I see so many ways to improve it and ways that require such major changes that it requires a whole new book. I’m getting closer to the final version and, hopefully, it’ll be out in 2023. I’m going to try to push for it to be out by then, and in this book, I’ll be revealing a lot about my journey.
In fact, I’ve come to the point where the feedback, the reader feedback, has been the most gripping part of the book. It’s the narrative that’s centered around me, so it’s been quite the exercise in breaking down how we got to this point, personally, so I can share a little bit of that here in this episode. I feel more comfortable sharing about my personal journey. I have parts that are reluctant to do so, because my experience in the past has been that it bores people, so let me know if this, at any point, bores you. [02:13.4]
Even if you listen to a certain point and say, “I couldn’t get past minute whatever,” share it with me. That is valuable information, especially on an individual basis. We can dig into the analytics sometimes on some platforms and see where drop-offs are, but I don’t usually get that granular. But if you write in and say when you dropped off and why, and which part was boring, that’s actually super helpful.
It’s also really helpful to let me know any parts that you liked, because then, the next time I do an episode, I’ll keep that in mind and try to do more of that. Just as in this episode, I’m actually responding to a listener comment, so I’m always listening and trying to adjust, and make this better serve you. [02:54.7]
Growing up, as a Chinese immigrants and very Confucian background, as any traditional Chinese families would be, but also traditional or conservative Christian, there’s a lot of humility sort of baked into that and talking about yourself was never really looked well upon, unless it was some kind of testimonial for some Christian Evangelical thing, so there was always some kind of agenda whenever you were talking about yourself.
That was my upbringing for these different parts of me, but I’m getting better at recognizing that sharing my journey can help a lot of people, and especially as elusive or abstract, or not as literally physically visible a process as psychotherapy is. It’s not like automobile mechanics or even computer programming where you just set out the steps and then you just literally follow them, and you should get the same results. [03:52.1]
Psychotherapy is a lot more elusive. It’s a lot more like jazz improvisation, in that way. It’s a lot more mastering in art or getting a feel for an art, so it’s hard to understand what it is that you’re supposed to be doing, especially for people who have a kind of engineering mind or who are more literal-minded, so reading or hearing about how it’s worked for other people I assume will be helpful.
I’m going to be sharing at a kind of overview level. I’m not going to get into the details, but more to give you more examples of parts and how they’ve worked over time in IFS therapy and so forth. If there’s any one journey that you want to get more detail on, let me know and I can devote a whole episode to sharing, blow by blow, how things went and so forth. But I’m going to go for a big more treetops rather than down-in-the valley approach for this episode. [04:52.3]
I also want to address a major myth that I’ve been hearing over the years from guys who follow me who want to take up therapy, guys and girls, and that major myth is that– they are actually two different myths kind of boiled into one, which is that it’s supposed to be smooth and easy or smooth and effortless, if it’s going well, and whether it’s something is hard or not is relative. It’s subjective. It’s both relative and subjective.
Whether something is effortless depends on the person doing it, and this is the case with all arts and skills at the beginning. For beginners, this effort feels painful, but the key, one of the keys, to mastering any skill or art is reframing, or coming to see or feel this thing that requires effort as no longer painful, but enjoyable.
An easy example is working out. People who are able to cause sustain a lifestyle of working out, which is the only way you can get the results sustainably, have to come to a point where they enjoy the workout itself, including whatever it is that they’re doing that makes them sweat or that feeling in the lungs when your heart is racing now and all that that beginners or people who have never learned how to enjoy it hate. They just want the result and they don’t want to go through the effort. [06:15.8]
But a big part of becoming good at something is the effort itself is intrinsically enjoyable, and that’s the same with therapy, so addressing that myth that it should be simple and easy, let’s just dispense with that, and anything worthwhile devoting or investing time and effort into, obviously, effort, will require effort and if you want the results and you want them over the long term, you’re going to have to make that shift in your mind, that shift in perspective of seeing the effort that’s required and as something that is enjoyable on its own that that alone was worth it. [06:56.8]
You might know people who work out, who go to the gym or they workout or they exercise at the martial art dojo or the training area for fun, and the results that they get in their body are just a byproduct or a nice side effect. But they’re really going because they love the game, the sport or the martial art, or the feel of their muscles or their body, as they’re doing this exercise, and those are the people that are going to have sustainable results, and therapy is the same way.
If you don’t learn to love the therapeutic process in and of itself, you’re not going to have sustainable results from it, because once you leave the therapist or the therapy room, or your treatment period, it’s just a matter of time, six months or so, or 12 months, when you revert back to those old patterns, if you’re not able to do it, take what you’ve learned and apply it for yourself. If you can afford it, just like when it comes to fitness or martial arts, if you can afford to get the one-on-one, right, if you can afford to get the personal trainer, why wouldn’t you? If the personal trainer is delivering, why wouldn’t you just keep doing that? I understand if you can’t afford it, but in terms of value, this is something that, if you can sustain for life, it’s even better having a professional help you along the way. [08:11.2]
And all good therapists should be seeing a supervisor and not just for consultation, case consultations, like you’re sitting in a classroom and you’re just looking at each other’s notes. That’s helpful, but every therapist should also have their own therapist for themselves, for their personal lives, as well as for anything that comes up work-related.
That comes to the second half of this myth or the second myth, which is, along with the myth of it’s supposed to be simple and easy, the myth that you’ll never get triggered anymore or that not ever being triggered is a good thing. When you come to therapy, it would be good to have some things in mind that you want to address in that hour each week or whenever you’re seeing your therapist. [08:58.3]
I still get guys who show up, it’s like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, “Let the healing begin,” and they just sit back and they’re coming with a premise, “I am messed up and you will put me through some kind of workout-of-the-mind program and you’ll just tell me what to do, and then, magically, I’ll go through this program and then I will be fixed.” For most of these guys, it’s a minority of guys who have that attitude. It’s usually at the beginning, because they don’t understand why they’re in therapy in the first place or they don’t understand how therapy works.
But they come to me and the result being that they’re married or that they have a girlfriend or something like that where they no longer feel lonely, and they just show up, they sit back and “Just tell me what to do and I’ll just do it.” Okay, so that’s not a good way to approach therapy. That’s a good way to approach coaching or training, or a course that you bought. You’re about to sit down and consume content or something and then do a workbook or something, but that’s not therapy. At least, it’s not how I see therapy should be and it’s not the best use of the therapeutic process. [10:04.0]
Instead, the therapeutic process is about your life in the here and now, and if you can begin with that, that’s always best. Whatever is going on that’s most recent, it’s gotten triggered. It’s fresh. It’s at the surface. It’s most accessible because it just happened a few days ago or today or last week, and it’s fresh and you can remember it and bring up the emotions again. That’s a great entry, a gateway point for getting into the deeper stuff that’s underneath it.
You can assume, if you’re an adult—and for a lot of guys who are listening to this, you’re probably in your thirties or sometimes in your forties or twenties. Some listeners are in their sixties and seventies—if you’re listening to this, then you can assume that whatever issues you’re dealing with now, if they’re bringing up strong emotions and maybe, rationally speaking, they’re disproportionate and there’s a rational part of you that knows this is kind of out of proportion to the actual events, then you can assume and it’s a pretty good bet that it’s based on or comes from some wounds, some core wounds that were from much longer ago. [11:13.8]
The myth is that when you go through the therapeutic process and you’re, quote-unquote, “healed” that you’ll no longer have any kind of emotional turmoil that you won’t feel any more extreme emotions, and for anyone who’s been in therapy for any length of time and who approaches it properly for what it is, rather than coming at it with an agenda to “fix me,” but actually going through the process of whatever is happening right here and now and accepting, coming to a place of radical acceptance of whatever comes up—it’s something I’ve talked a lot about, radical acceptance, in this podcast, as one of the first steps in the therapeutic process—then you want to get to your therapy session with something that’s happened. [11:55.1]
In a way, if you have a blow-up fight with your wife, awesome. If there’s something there that you haven’t addressed, yes, high five. Maybe you’ve been in therapy or working at this for 10 years and, man, you’re so advanced now, right, and you’ve finally found something new. This is great. It’s sort of like the kind of joy that someone more advanced in some kind of art, I imagine, I don’t know, someone who’s a black belt who has been doing BJJ for 10 years and finally learns a new move or some kind of new variation he’s never seen or thought of before, it’s exciting, assuming he’s humble and doesn’t have big ego.
He gets excited, because this is something new. He hasn’t learned anything new for a long time. At the white belt, every class is new. At every class, you’re learning something new and it’s exciting, and the rate of it might be overwhelming, so that’s kind of maybe a downside. But if you have a good teacher, a good coach, and you’re good at approaching learning, it’s exciting because you’re learning so fast. It’s like drinking from a fire hose. [12:57.0]
Then as you get better and better at something, and I know for a lot of guys, they never reached this point, and that sucks for you—you should pick some area and try to just become really as good as you can get at it—but somewhere along that intermediate level, it starts to scale off and you’re no longer like drinking from a fire hose, a hydrant, and now it’s coming in, I don’t know, like a good water fountain and it’s manageable. It’s coming at a manageable pace and it feels nice, and it’s not overwhelming, but you’re learning well.
Eventually, as you get more and more advanced, it gets harder and harder to learn new things, to discover new things, and it starts to trickle. It’s like you’re trying to just squeeze out the last drop of water from your canteen and you’re just happy to get a drop, because even that, that’s awesome and you’re just really maintaining now and trying to pass down your knowledge to others, and maybe your epiphanies now are better ways of teaching it or new ways of explaining it to beginners as the joy of teaching. But you’re not really learning anything for yourself as a practitioner because you’re so advanced. [13:58.7]
I discovered this when it came to jazz back when I was in high school at a performing arts high school, majoring in music and so forth, and it was the same when it came to therapy at the beginning, when I leaned into it. At the beginning, there was a lot of resistance. It was hard to even access sadness and stay with it. I kept having these unconscious mechanisms that would just come in and shut it down, and I’d come out of the emotion and start thinking. My thinking parts were so strong and automatic that it took a year, a year and a half.
I also had to draw in a method acting coach to help me stay with the emotions that I would flee from, especially with sadness, and my therapist helped a lot. Obviously, he was the one who actually drew my attention to this and tried to help me notice when it happened and bring me back, or try to hold back on that slamming door and hold the door open for those emotions more, and “hold the space,” as therapists call it, for the emotional experience to happen.
That was at the beginning, but once I leaned into it, it was overwhelmingly awesome. But then after a while, after several years of weekly or biweekly therapy and tons of training as a therapist myself, the epiphanies were coming a lot farther apart. Maybe every three months, there was some kind of new breakthrough in that sense. [15:15.3]
It’s important to recognize that the breakthroughs are often triggered by stuff that happens in your life that feels icky, yucky or whatever. They bring up extreme emotions, and if you can bring that to the therapy sessions, that’s gold. So, this myth that once you’ve gone through the therapeutic process, nothing bad happens in your life, like you don’t feel extreme emotions of sadness or anger or anything like that, this can be true if you have plateaued and you’re sort of in maintenance, and that can be true especially if you’ve gone through a lot already. That can be true for several months, maybe a year or two. But if it goes on too long, it’s kind of sad. It’s like you’re in a drought.
So, I welcome when there are extreme emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness especially, because that means there’s something there that we can look at and turn to, and the more you look, the more you’ll find, so there’s another thing there. You find out that most achievers just don’t look. It’s called repression. [16:12.3]
They don’t notice what’s happening under the surface, but there’s a lot happening under the surface, and the more you look, the more you’ll find, and the harder you look, the more you find. Eventually, you’ll think you’ll have found everything, excavated all of it, and that’s kind of a sad point when you realize, Oh, gee, there’s nothing really else there. I’m just sort of coasting.
But that’s where a lot of you guys, a lot of people out there, that’s their ideal point. I’ll tell you, that’s not a great place to be in, so directly addressing that myth that the ideal is to not have any extreme emotions. I understand for many of you, extreme emotions are painful. I’ve addressed that in a different episode called “Pain Is Not an Emotion.” The reason it’s painful to you is because that emotion is something you’re resisting. [16:58.2]
The tragedy that you are experiencing in life might bring up certain emotions, and that’s fine and it makes sense if there’s a tragedy that you’re experiencing sadness or extreme anger or something like that. It’s the pushing back on it, wishing it wasn’t there that’s actually painful. Can you sit with your sadness and sit with it longer?
That’s a part of the therapeutic training that you should be doing, and I have a program. I’m part of a different company and part of this program, part of what we’re developing is this test program called the “Emotional Mastery”, and we’ve already built in over a year’s worth of content in it and we’re still adding to it. We’re still not even a third of the way through actually, but it’s already been life-changing for so many people who have signed on for it, “Emotional Mastery.” A big part of emotional mastery is building emotion endurance, and then also building the skills for emotion regulation and the skills. [17:56.7]
Before you can even endure the emotion, you’ve got to be able to hold the space for the emotion. That means you have to notice the emotion is there and stay with it instead of distracting yourself, numbing yourself, blanking, or moving into thought, thinking or analysis, which is my default response to extreme emotions and many of my clients’. The first emotion skill to master is presence, being able to stay present with whatever you’re experiencing emotionally.
I just wanted to address those myths that it should be easy and smooth, and the myth that the ideal state would be to never experience any kind of extreme emotions again. In many ways, once you’ve gone through the therapeutic process, extreme emotions, it’s like in music when you have fortissimo and pianissimo, really quiet and really loud, and to then cut those out of your dynamic range would make everything sort of just blah, right?
But if you’ve been in depression and anxiety, and just bad and negative type of stuff and it feels painful to you for very long, many years of your life, I can understand why you’d think that if you would just take those emotions out, then your life would be hunky-dory, it would be amazing. But as you go through the therapeutic process, that would be a beginner’s error, right? [19:12.8]
As you go through the therapeutic process, you’ll need to get to the point, if you stick with the process. Hopefully, you will reach a point, if you stick with it, of seeing extreme emotions themselves as intrinsically valuable. Even the ones that are extreme anger or sadness, that’s part of the color of life. It’s part of the rainbow that makes life so interesting, so rich and so diverse, and full of variety. [19:41.0]
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As far as my own journey in IFS therapy, mine is pretty atypical because I had already done several years of therapy and therapy training, and for most people, they all need to do the work that I did during those several years before I discovered IFS therapy as I experienced it for myself. They’d need to do that other work, like their inner child work or being present with your current emotions no matter how extreme, being able to go to your vulnerability and sadness without the protective mechanisms coming up, or for most people, being able to hold the space to handle, to endure the sadness or whatever despair, or whatever overwhelming emotion that they’re afraid of. [21:08.0]
For most people, the problem or the biggest impediment in the early stages of therapy is being able to be courageous enough to go to and hold the space for what emotions they considered to be painful. For me, because I had so many achiever parts, it wasn’t that there wasn’t courage to go to painful emotions per se. It was that there were these others, the intellect, for instance, that jumps in and prevents feeling, prevents the emotion from even coming up to the consciousness.
Before I experienced IFS therapy, I had already read all the books on IFS therapy. I had even taught some of the theory of IFS therapy and I had this idea of what IFS therapy was before I’d actually undergone it as a client or experienced it for myself, just reading it from books and video courses and audio courses, and that sort of thing. [22:03.5]
It turned out I actually didn’t know what IFS therapy really was until I experienced it. I had tons of book knowledge on it. I could have passed any kind of paper exam on IFS therapy, but until you experience it with a very good practitioner, it’s really hard to know whether you actually understand what the IFS therapy process is. So, this is an important word of warning for anyone who is doing it themselves, who is doing therapy on their own, regardless of whether it’s IFS therapy or some other modality, or style or model.
Good psychotherapy is a lot more like an art. It’s an art form, really, and it’s like not being able to hear the music, but reading about music, and, actually, hearing the music is a completely different experience from reading about the music, and the same goes for food and all these other art forms. It’s really like an art form, and until you experience it for yourself with an experienced practitioner, I would hold off on assuming that you know what IFS therapy is. [23:10.8]
I know there are a lot of guys who are going the cheap route, and I get it, you’re trying to save money, but what’s happening is you’re short-changing yourself because you’re just reading books or you’re listening to audios, or going through video courses or something like that on IFS therapy or any kind of therapy, and you actually haven’t gone to a really good therapist and experienced therapy. They’re very different things.
For years, I had studied up on IFS therapy and I’d already done several years of therapy, and other models and modalities myself. Plus, I had, by this point, had many years of training in various models of psychotherapy, so I thought, I’ve read all these books on IFS therapy, I know what it is. But it turns out I didn’t. I had the wrong idea of what it was until I experienced it. [24:00.4]
Now, by the time I actually experienced IFS therapy for myself as a client, I’d already gone through several therapists. The first several that I had contacted were pretty bad, lots of sexual shame, especially the ones that were based in Asia, regardless of whether they were of ethnic or racial background. I just couldn’t find any good therapists who were based in Asia at that time, and that’s when I realized how important the relationship is between the client and the therapist.
The most important factor in successful therapy isn’t actually the model that’s used. A lot of people online are looking for a model and they’re not thinking about the therapist, the practitioner, him or herself. That is far more important. The person, the actual therapist is far more important than the model they’re using, and on top of who the therapist is, his or her experience and skills, and all of that—and in IFS therapy, we would call it how much self-energy this person has—in addition to that is the relationship, the connection between the therapist and the client. [25:13.0]
Given my background as an ex-professor of philosophy and a secret life as a pickup artist, I had a pretty unique background and I needed to have a therapist who wasn’t judging and was able to keep up intellectually. It was tough and it still is tough to find a good match for me, given my parts and how they are, and their priorities and the way they are, to find a suitable match for a therapy supervisor or mentors for myself.
If you’re looking for a therapist or if you want to experience IFS therapy, again, far more important than just going online and looking for someone who does IFS therapy, far more important is to make sure that that person’s background is suitable for you for what you’re looking for. And how are you going to learn that? You’re going to learn that by going into their bios and consuming any content they put out there, whether it’s blog posts or podcasts or videos. [26:10.5]
Psychotherapy is not like medical science, and even then, I would say that there’s quite a lot of variation on how good your doctor is. But a lot of people approach medicine as interchangeable, like, I just need a doctor to write me a prescription on X, and they just go to any clinic or like dentistry, and of course, it’s obvious that there is variation between practitioners in those fields, but even more so is their variation in psychotherapy.
So, it’s far more important that you find a therapist that matches your needs, your background, what it is that you are looking for, your goals. It’s far more important who the therapist is and the relationship between you than the model that they’re practicing or using, and the all-important factor of the therapeutic relationship has been proven out in empirical research as well. [27:03.0]
Now, having said that, just to preface that in case you think IFS therapy is the answer, it’s the answer in the hands of the right therapist, but far more important is the right therapist. I’ve been through and have met plenty of bad therapists and I’ve also met plenty of therapists who wouldn’t be a good match for the type of clients that I see and the type of people who listen to the Masculine Psychology podcast. Before I’d even experienced IFS therapy for myself, I’d already done several years with a Gestalt therapist who was excellent and it took quite a while to find that therapist and to find this good match for me personally.
I’d also undergone training with the Tony Robbins-Madanes Coaching Institute, and that was awesome, so I’d done many years of Tony Robbins training and coaching, and then I was using that modality in my own coaching practice. I’d also undergone formal official training in schema therapy, which is a third-wave CBT. I’d also undergone many years of CBT training, cognitive behavioral therapy training. [28:10.1]
I think every good therapist should have several modalities, if not dozens, under his or her belt to be able to pull out and use and mix, depending on the clients’ needs, and I think CBT is the easiest one to learn. Especially if you have any kind of philosophy background, it’s going to be pretty easy, so that’s just a given, right? I’d already had training in CBT, schema therapy, which I think is a great improvement over standard CBT.
It also had official formal training in ACT, acceptance commitment therapy, DBT, advanced training in dialectical behavior therapy, DBT. I’d had advanced training in mindfulness and, of course, I had been a practitioner and huge advocate of meditation and many different forms of meditation for several years by this point. [28:59.2]
By the time I actually experienced IFS therapy, I was actually in the IFS Therapy Level 1 training, so before I had even experienced therapy as a client, IFS therapy as a client, I was already in the official training. Talk about an atypical IFS therapy journey, right? I thought I knew what it was because I had experienced plenty of empty chair, Gestalt empty chair work, and I thought that was what parts work was like, and it turns out that is one aspect of, I don’t know, one eighth of what IFS therapy parts work can be.
But I hadn’t experienced the other seven eighths of what it can be like, and actually maybe it’s like one 10th really because the closest correlate in IFS work is direct access to Gestalt empty chair work and there’s no reason why you can’t just combine those, and then you can combine psychodrama in there as well, which I have training in as well. I forgot to mention that. [29:57.2]
By the time I got to IFS therapy, I was already inexperienced and practitioner of various therapeutic models, so my journey is atypical. Most people who will go through this process will have to do all of that work of being present with their current emotions, being able to stay with them, being able to ride them, surf them like waves, never being overwhelmed by the emotion that they’re feeling, being able to hold the space and being able to endure whatever comes up, being able to regulate through their own emotions, being able to stay and move closer with the sadness or whatever that vulnerable emotion is. The inner child work as well, and then any kind of imagery rescripting and that sort of thing. I was already quite experienced with all of that, as well as accessing different parts of myself.
IFS therapy is not the only model of therapy that uses parts. There are quite a lot of other models. By the time I got to experience IFS therapy for myself in the client role, I was already ready to go. I was pretty much advanced at this point. My first experience was getting in touch with, just as a kind of exercise– [31:04.7]
By the way, all the other types of therapy training, it’s all simulation. You’re just playing pretend. You’re not really working with any real issues. I’ve even had therapy teachers who say, they’re checking, “Okay, is this a real issue?” with the person who’s volunteered to do the demo. Then they say, “Okay, we don’t want to do any real issues. Pretend like you’re one of your clients and let’s run through the simulation.” So, it’s really like at arm’s length emotionally, but for IFS therapy training, it’s real. It’s like 10x more advanced, more intense, more immersive than any other therapy training I’d ever seen. Now, I hope they keep doing it this way, because it completely changed my life, just even my own undergoing the training.
My first time in the client role, I discovered that my lover parts, my seducer parts had been sidelined for a few years by this point because I was married and I had all these other priorities with business, and with settling my wife and I into a new country and we had all this immigration stuff, and just like red tape checklist type of things. [32:13.3]
We still did plenty of date nights and that sort of thing, but I had realized that, oh wow, especially these two parts, and I’ll just refer to them here as the Rake and the Charismatic, were not in much demand or in use, whereas they ran a big part of my life for several years, almost a decade back in my pickup days and my dating coach days. I discovered that they were lonely and they were feeling abandoned, and just discovering that and spending time with them, and listening to them and listening to them share that they wanted to be more embodied. They wanted to be out front more. [32:52.0]
My wife had mentioned this, too, that I used to have that twinkle in the eye and I didn’t have that just one-on-one with her much anymore. It was when in a group setting in a particular environment, a club or a bar or something. So, I realized, Oh, I have to give them that time, and that brought tears to my eyes just feeling how they felt abandoned by me, by my higher self, and I thank them for bringing that to my attention.
All of this was happening through the attention and care, and loving interest and curiosity of the therapist who was in the therapist role. We were in a group of four, so there were three therapists. There was the therapy supervisor who was in charge of the thing, and then we were all given each of these stages. There was some kind of objective, but you don’t have to hew to the objective because we’re dealing with real issues. You’re asked to come up with something real. Then there was an observer, someone in the observer role. But it was wonderful having three therapists working with me and it was an amazing feeling. [33:58.6]
Any therapists in training, if you get the chance to do the IFS therapy training, the official training, it is awesome. I hope that they continue to keep the quality of the training high. I know that they have that as a priority because now it’s very difficult to get into these trainings, and you have to have some qualifications before they accept you and so, as I did mention, I had already had several years of therapy training in other modalities.
To answer that YouTube comment question, parts that needed attention or working with, the Rake and the Charismatic didn’t need to have any kind of unburdening, but they did need attention and they did have lots to share. A big part of that session was just listening to what they had to share and feeling with them and apologizing to them for neglecting and in a sense, allowing them to feel abandoned, and then to prioritize them, and that was my first IFS therapy session. [34:54.8]
I’ll tell you about another session that I had in that IFS Therapy Level 1 training years ago and this was where, after having undergone so much therapy training, I had these parts that were the warrior cluster. There was a warrior. There was the Commander, General, so to speak, and I had different parts that handled sort of Marshal type of energy, and they contributed that kind of strength and courage, and a warrior spirit and all that.
It felt more and more, as I was getting older, that they weren’t needed very much, and just in a way similar to the Rake and Charismatic, coming to them and realizing that they were now wondering what their role was, because my day-to-day work no longer relied on this powering through type of energy that I used to rely a lot on. Other than the workout time, like an hour-a-day kind of thing, they weren’t really called upon. I spent another session just being with them, asking them what they would like to do and so on. [36:02.3]
I heard them, that they were happy with how things were going. It’s just that they, too, needed more time in the sun, so to speak. This was a big impetus for me to rediscover martial arts and prioritize that again, so that was another example of being able to balance the needs of different parts that didn’t need to let go of any burdens per se, but just needed to share and get my attention.
Again, this was atypical because I had already done so much unburdening outside of the IFS or before the IFS therapy process, but through different modalities like Gestalt and done a lot of inner child unburdening in those contexts, as well as even in the Tony Robbins NLP style coaching. There are major therapeutic elements in the deeper Tony Robbins work and that was my first life coaching training, and since then I’ve now naturally blended all of whatever I think is effective. I’ve blended them together into the most effective mix, and it really depends on what the client’s needs are and what the presenting issues are. [37:09.5]
But I’ll give you an example of one set of parts that did need some unburdening and this was the intellectual cluster, and what I discovered was, and I’d done a ton of work with my intellectual parts with my Gestalt therapist before I’d experienced IFS therapy, so I knew them very well, through the IFF therapy process, gotten them to know them about a much better, and I discovered that it wasn’t just one intellect part, but a group of them.
I discovered that they were triggered from memories of anything that reminded me of or resonated with memories of how my mother would come back from work when I was young and be in a very bad mood and just sort of lash out at us. There was this general sense of fear when she comes back from work, and so the three of us kids, we’d just scatter. So, when we hear her car pull in, whatever the heck we’re doing, you’ve got to turn off the TV and all that other stuff and make it look like you were very assiduously studious, and we would do that. We’d just sort of snap to attention, but there would be this sort of tension in the background. You can’t relax because she’s just going to let loose on you. [38:18.0]
I discovered, and this is in common I think with many achiever men, that they have a strict parent especially. I mean, I work with a lot of guys who have strict fathers, but I also work with people like myself who had strict mothers, and that kind of dynamic can get retriggered when the girlfriend or wife becomes quite strident in her criticism or is just in a bad mood. Then there’s this background tension.
As I worked with these parts, I helped them to see that when my wife is in a bad mood, she’s not my mother and I can help them to relax, and in that way, not become rebellious or lash back, or any number of ineffective, non-helpful, unhelpful coping strategies that I’d use as a teenager or an adolescent with my mother. [39:09.6]
Then I didn’t have to project my mother fears onto my wife and I could take care of my own parts’ fears and reactions of tension and distress or anger on my own as my higher self. Also, then they revealed to me the exiles that were there and we did a whole rescripting and reparenting and all that, and again, there were several, more than one part related there in that intellectual cluster, and to address them one at a time.
There’s another example there. I gave you three examples of the type of work early on in my IFS therapy process. A lot of what I do now is there’s very little unburdening because it’s been several years in, a lot of it is just listening to parts and what they have to share, and maybe in a period of work where I’m very busy or now that I’ve got a one-year old and that just completely changed my life in many ways, some unexpected, and when you’re super busy, it’s very easy to lose track of your [list]. [40:15.2]
I’ve got over two dozen parts on my list now and it can be challenging to keep track of them all, and so having that luxury of the therapy sessions or my sessions with my supervisor to be able to just check in, close my eyes, check in, see which parts are up and need attention, and listen to whatever they have to share and make sure I can meet their needs. It’s a lot like kind of being a CEO or the head of the family that you have the time to sit with everyone and hear around the dinner table kind of thing and check in with them.
This is especially important when you’re busy, which is ironic, right, because it’s the busiest people who need it the most, but because they’re the busiest, they’re the ones who prioritize it the least. Just like meditation, right? The busier you are, the more you need it. [41:05.2]
Hopefully, I spent a big chunk of this episode not just sharing in kind of a narcissistic way myself—I’m using narcissism in that sense very loosely, all right—but I tried to give as much advice for you on your therapeutic journey as possible. Again, my process so far has been pretty atypical, as is most of my life, so trying to give advice that is going to be more applicable to more people.
But also sharing three examples of the IFS therapy process especially early on for me, and working with my Rake and the Charismatic, and the warrior parts and then the intellectual parts, and the more business philosophy parts, and helping to meet their needs and to build that relationship with them, and this is, of course, an ongoing thing.
The more that’s going on in your life, especially more new things that happen, the more that you need to pay attention to what going on with your parts and every major stage of your life and even the minor times, anything that’s going on—if you’re growing, there are a lot of new things that are going on for you—the more you need IFS therapy. The more you need the therapeutic process. [42:14.7]
So, it’s a lifelong process, and I’ve got big plans, so I expect to have there to be big shifts, and I expect then to do more IFS a therapy work for myself along the way and I’m looking forward to it, because every time I do it, it’s incredibly rewarding and emotional, and that’s the best part. I mean, it’s just discovering these parts and listening to what they have to share, and just being with them is part of the joy of life. It’s part of what makes life worth living. As we round out, close off, end off this year, I hope that you, too, prioritize yourself and your parts, and meeting their needs and loving them, and building a trusting relationship with them. [43:02.4]
All right, thank you so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode in the new year, and until then, thanks again. If you liked this, hit a like on whatever platform you’re listening. If this benefited you, please share it with anyone you think could also benefit. Thanks so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. David Tian, signing out.