Pathology and IFS

One of the most unique things about IFS, aside from the fact you are not to shut out any parts, is that it is non-pathologizing. This was difficult for me to wrap my mind around at first. Everything in the US is pathologizing, even if it is just to diagnose someone as a jerk. 😉 When we go to a psychiatrist, they want to find a box to put us in and so they go through their check lists. Depending on which boxes they marked, they put you in a category and in many cases they prescribe you a medication to “normalize” you.

Please, understand that I have no problem with medication. The problem I have with it in the psychiatric world is that it is often given to the patient in the belief that meds are all that are needed to fix the person. They are the silver bullet. Sometimes, and I think without much self-reflection on their part, people in psychological practices just can’t face the patient’s trauma and meds are a useful way of keeping that trauma from becoming something the doctor has to deal with. However, I do think that if they are used correctly, they can help the patient for a time.

I do not know I do not know if a certified IFS therapist would recommend meds or not. I haven’t heard any talk of it in my study. I do know that they do not diagnose anyone with a psychological disorder, though. For example I’ve been previously diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Just writing that now, though, sounds horrible. Which is odd, since it used to give me some sort of comfort. I thought that since I knew what was wrong with me, it gave me a direction to look for help. In a sense, it did. I would never have read The Body Keeps the Score if I hadn’t been diagnosed with PTSD.

However, I no longer think of myself that way. I don’t think of myself as having any of those disorders. Mostly because I no longer have any of those disorders. I have been using IFS on my own for only a few months and I no longer feel anxious, any more than a normal person might. I no longer feel depressed at all. I no longer feel the rage that people with PTSD are typified by.

So, what am I? I guess I would say that I am a person who experienced a lot of trauma from the day I was born. I’ve had some terrible things happen to me. For most of my 50 years I was told that those things were my fault.

When I was a girl I listened to all the stories my family told. And, maybe, under better circumstances, I’d have become a psychologist myself, because I knew that those stories were what made my family into the people they were–nasty, racist, cruel, abusive, etc.

But, they were also abused. They were all terribly abused. My siblings and I were abused and neglected by our parents, who had been abused and neglected by theirs, who had been abused and neglected by theirs. It goes back farther. I only know the stories back to my great-grandparents. I’m sure, though, given the sick things they did to their children, the same things had happened to them.

We live what we learn until, somehow, we can unlearn it. I tried several methods of unlearning my life’s experiences over the last 50 years. Nothing has worked until now. Nothing worked until IFS made it OK not to hate myself or blame myself, but to understand where my behavior, and the behavior of others, came from. It allows the hurt past to have a voice. It does not silence it, like most supposed methods of recovery from self-help to religion. It acknowledges the pain, validates the experiences. It doesn’t pathologize any of it. As a result of this one seemingly small act, it transforms how you react to everything.

This morning, I got angry. I went into the garage and I tripped over a box that that kids should have thrown into the trashcan that is only a few steps away. I was not happy. Before—when I had my diagnosis but I had no way out, no help whatsoever, and no hope of every getting any—that would have led to an entire day of anger. Today, I just grumbled about “how hard can it be to put the stupid box in the trash,” I put it in the trash, went about my business, and in one minute it no longer mattered.

One minute, compared to an entire day of anger. The anger would have resulted more problems between me and the kids, more guilt later over the many things I would have said and done as a result of just that one stupid box not being thrown in the trash.

But I am not that person. Maybe no one is.