Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Cor. 1:3-4
I've been learning about Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy lately & thoroughly enjoying doing 'parts art' - which simply means expressing 'parts' of oneself with art. We all have parts; we are multidimensional multiplicities of mind, body & spirit. For example, Richard Schwartz explains how our inner "managers" & "firefighters" protect our more vulnerable "exiled" parts. He calls our exiles 'basement children' because they are the difficult feelings, sensations & beliefs we've banished into the 'basement' of our psyches to avoiding dealing with them & to prevent them from overwhelming us in our day to day lives.
But, the things is, as we 'gain life experience' (age) & internal & external pressures intensify, it is as if our exiled parts get squished out from under us! They come squawking, oozing & creeping their way into our everyday lives as they expel (or excuse) themselves from our basements, often in protest of being down there alone, for much too long.
I became interested in Psychology & looking deeply into my "inner world" when I was quite young. Starting with a cognitive-behavioral approach (the root of pop psychology & new age thought), I've enjoyed learning about the complexities of the human mind from various perspectives. Since about 2010, I developed more of a somatic understanding of our body-mind (e.g. polyvagal theory & psycho-neuro-immunology). As of late, have been exploring how all of this fits with Christian spirituality & specifically with physical healing & deliverance.
During my recent Prayer, Healing & Deliverance appointment with Bernadette & Audrey (who by the way is 98 & has been doing PhD for over 25 years), I experienced a beautiful & reassuring vision of God gently & effortlessly scooping me out of a "brambly thorn bush" (illness), placing me onto safe ground & then the thorn bush turned into my favorite flowers, roses. This is what God does - He heals & makes things new! He makes beautiful out of difficult. Jesus teaches us to show up for the exiles (inner & outer) because that is who He is. The image here of Jesus glowing, depicts what happened a few years ago when Jesus came to find me, His lost sheep, during a long time of intensified illness I was going though. What a blessing :)
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
The main thing I appreciate about 'parts work' (IFS) is the understanding that the focus of healing is not on changing or disposing of exiles but rather it is about acknowledging & getting to know them & their needs & updating them as to what is going on, especially anything out of the ordinary or stressful. Yep, this means chatting with our inner, vulnerable selves (usually children) on a regular basis! Furthermore, knowing that exiles, even after their 'burdens' are released, are permanent structures within each of us, takes pressure off of us trying to rid ourselves of them (which contrarily causes them to become even more lost yet heavy within us; the opposite of what is needed for healing).
A main point of divergence between Christian spirituality & the IFS model, is that in IFS there are "No bad parts" (see No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model -a book by Richard Schwartz & Alanis Morissette). Whereas, in Christianity, clearly, there is sin, we are all sinners & sin is bad! Also some Christians hold the view that many of us are in need of help with deliverance prayers designed to extract stubborn, evil demons within.
It is important to recognize that spiritually speaking we are all sinners in need of salvation named Jesus. Jesus is the 'bridge' & our model of a real-life, human to God relationship with God. I hold this as true AND I understand that to heal psychologically, we need to see ourselves ('bad parts' & all), with compassion & inclusion because the very act of exiling, banishing; calling something "bad" - makes it behave even more badly! If instead, we can do as Jesus taught us & think twice about 'casting the first stone' & then look at our 'bad parts' with empathy, curiosity & kindness, seeking to know what's happened to them & what their role & needs are - we have a much higher chance of healing (unburdening) them. By healing them, I mean reuniting them back with God's original plan for them by witnessing & releasing their hurts & soothing their pleas for relief.
Before 'the fall' there was no suffering but living now in this cursed world with good & evil, what if all Christians got physically healed immediately upon asking the Lord? Would we be helpful to others who've had to endure ongoing hardships & suffering? God needs representatives who gratefully accept His ways of developing our patience in affliction & growing our faith to be able to comfort & share with others.
Knowing spiritually "...And by His stripes we are healed." (Isa 53:5) how glorious the freedom is to let go & trust completely in God's sovereign answer to our request for physical healing: "Yes" "No" or "Not yet." Amen!