How does “The Midlife Voyage to Transformation” look in IFS terms?
What happens inside your internal system as you move through the 5 stages of the Midlife Transition Voyage?
Stage 1: “ Lost at Sea” is often characterized by a somatic uneasiness or sense of overwhelm caused by many Exiles being triggered and unbalancing the system. When we hit a major crisis in our lives, we feel intense emotional reactions. This triggers the key managers to move in their typical way to shut down the emotional release and this causes a tamping down that creates more problems. The shut-down can be intense and looks like denial—there’s nothing there anymore. Or, the Managers are screaming at each other and there’s alot of confusion and many parts jumping up to try to help which often overwhelms the system. The biggest thing is that you lose a sense of Self-Leadership. You feel lost. Read more about Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) here.
A Manager that gets involved at this stage to calm down the intense emotions of the Exiles is the Self-Critic or Judge. This part likes to beat up on us as a way to soothe our distress. If we can blame ourselves, somehow we can feel like we have some control over things. This manager is trying to help us gain control, but she is too hard on us and sometimes makes us feel worse.
Firefighters are often then triggered to release this strong manager’s imprisonment of the Exiles. Many additive firefighters can jump in here as well as numbing ones and blocking out ones. The firefighters keep us moving in a negative loop and not able to settle down —They keep us fearful and reactive which increases our distress even more.
Stage 2: “Finding a Mooring” is possible when we use our Self-Leadership to intervene in our Internal System with mindfulness & self-compassion practices that help us to stop and listen to what is happening inside. Using mindfulness allows some Self-leadership to emerge, and we begin to notice that we need help as we separate from the intensity of what’s going on. Often this is not possible without support from a skilled professional or mindfulness teacher who can guide you into just riding the wave without judgment or just helping you just slow yourself way down.
At this stage our Manager parts begin to settle and soften and see that someone is here to help them calm the Exiles. When they begin to relax, the Self-Energy opens up more and we can begin to witness the Exiles or at least name some of the feelings and begin to be curious towards the fear and what’s causing it.
It’s also helpful to be curious and begin to build a relationship with the Self-Critic and help her see that we are on her side and that her efforts are appreciated. Slowing her down is key to working with the other managers too as they can begin to form an alliance about how to work with this “transition” and create a plan of action with Self-Leadership on board to guide them.
Stage 3: “Diving into the Deep” is the next step when the Managers and Firefighters or the protective system is calmed down by seeing that you have developed a preliminary “plan of action” for the transition. The plan might be, “If we all work together to allow these feelings and beliefs triggered by this event to be released, heard and witnessed by us and the Self, then we all can be acknowledged more for our strengths and put to use in a more productive way for all of us to be actualized and utilized successfully. After all, transitions are opportunities for transformation for all of the parts!” – said our Compassionate Self.
So, “Deep Diving” begins with the Self going down into the depths of the system and meeting the Exiles who are hurting and beginning to witness and unburden them. The focus is on allowing grief and longing to be met and witnessed and releasing whatever is blocking these parts as far as beliefs and patterns that have kept them reacting a certain way over time. This grieving process may go back all the way to childhood or earlier traumas and hurts –whatever needs to happen to allow the Exiles to release what they need to let go of with acceptance and love.
Stage 4: “Rebirthing” is about the opening up of the Exiles and the system after this unburdening process. It is the Invitation to explore what is there in the fullest way to what didn’t get awakened earlier in our lives and is ready now because it’s safer now and we’ve cleared the way. This involves using the Self-Leadership to awaken imaginal or intuitive parts and allow them to vision where we need to go now and listening to any parts that want to be heard. At this time it is typical for Exiles or other adult parts to come forward to express their needs and wants that have not had a chance to speak up before. Often these new voices can help us find a direction to go at this stage in our lives that never would have been possible before. Self-leadership is all about loving what is there and welcoming everyone to a celebration of awakening the parts into their fullest capacity of expression. I suggest a Pow Wow!
Stage 5: ” Setting Sail” is when you are feeling more integrated and settled with a hopeful sense of how to take your next steps in your life. You are feeling lots of Self Energy and the 8 C;s; Curiosity, Clarity, Connectedness, Calm, Courageous, Creative, etc. and you are feeling able to lead yourself into the next phase of your life with this newly found clarity about how to lead your parts now. You have accepted the parts moving and changing and welcome these changes because you are ready to be in the present moment and allow this new sense of yourself to emerge and guide you. You are ready to allow creativity and intuition to move into the forefront of your life and not have the Managers and Firefighters take over out of fear. If they do, you gently nudge them, thank them for their concern, and reassure them that you are not afraid and ready to go forward in this new courageous path forward. You are emerging as the NEW YOU.
If you have more questions about the concepts above, please contact me for a FREE CONSULTATION.