I’ve been told a lot of things will help me deal with the trauma in my life. Religion, self-help books, meditation, exercise, gardening, and so many other things that I cannot remember them all. The only thing I remember is that none of them worked. I’ve tried a lot of things, but they all had one thing they left out, there is nothing that will heal you if that healing doesn’t come from yourself. Otherwise, those “helps” are just bandages that, over time, fall away from the wound and you find that things really haven’t changed.

Each of these ideas that I tried did, for a brief period of time, seem to help. But after a while, it became obvious something was wrong. Religion requires faith in an invisible being outside yourself. In most cases, especially in the case of Christianity, the holy book reveals that entity to be fickle and cruel. Self-help or, as most people go for these days, productivity (it’s really the same thing, just rebranded, I’m too old not to notice it) promises methods that promise you, if you follow them, your life will be better. Exercise promises, via medical studies, to make you feel emotionally better. It is supposed to decrease depression symptoms, etc. Power walking two miles a day in the months leading up to quarantine did nothing for me emotionally.

The worst thing about all of these “methods” of problem solving is that when they don’t work for you then people tell you the same exact thing. YOU are doing them wrong. (Yes, I was told I was walking wrong.) No one who is involved in the belief system, and they are all belief systems, can admit that their method might be flawed, that they might have missed something. Fault in the system cannot be admitted because we tie our identities to our beliefs. If the system or method is wrong, then what am I? That’s the question our minds ask us when faced with reality.

I think that might be one of my hesitations when I want to recommend IFS to people I know. If it doesn’t work, have I tied my identity to it? I have watched what happens in my own life, and what happens to others, when identity is tied to a belief. Long story short, it is ugly. If you want to see it in action, check out Twitter.

Whenever I think about recommending IFS to someone personally, I hesitate and question my reasons. I think I might have come up with a decent checklist to keep one from becoming a zealot and a proselytizer.

  1. Ask myself how I will feel if the person asks questions about what I am saying.
  2. Ask myself how I will feel if the person scoffs at what I am saying.
  3. Ask myself how I will feel if the person tries it but later says it didn’t work for them, ie. will I think they did it wrong or will I make accusations against them?
  4. Ask myself how I will react if the person disagrees with me and has evidence (real or made up) for their disagreement.

These questions are all based on my experience in Christianity and my experience with people since I left Christianity. I’ve learned that it’s not wrong to share with people your belief. The problem lies in the fact that we in turn cannot handle the beliefs of others because they contradict our own. That is a threat to us. It might not be a threat to us because we think we are wrong, I am an Atheist and am very solid in that lack of belief. But religious people used to make me angry because they were espousing a system that I had seen over 50 years do nothing but hurt people. As with any belief system, however, if you are getting that level of angry (there are different levels) then you have tied your identity to your belief.

I was taught, from my earliest days, that trust in external things would fix everything. But all those things failed. They failed because they were outside myself and therefore unconnected to the problem. The truth was that I had to be healed within myself, by myself. (Not alone, just myself doing the work. :)) Until that happened, nothing could change no matter what cure I tried. In the internal healing process, you discover that all those things you were told to tie your identity to, your religion, your talent, your kids, your spouse, your whatever else you heard, are not who you are at all. Your identity is solid because it is simply you. It isn’t your actions or your thoughts or your words, though, it just is you, at your very core.

And, while everything that you’ve experienced matters in the grand scheme of things (lest you think I went completely Eastern) you can heal those parts without all the trappings that come with extraneous beliefs. The external is real, it can be utterly horrifying, but the strength you need to get through it and heal is within yourself. And you will not need to tie your identity to anything to be whole.

All photos are mine, except the last one. 🙂