Internal family system: part two; Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles

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Are there common roles for parts across people?

After working with a large number of clients, some patterns began to appear.

Most clients had parts that tried to keep them functional and safe.

These parts tried to maintain control of their inner and outer environments by, for example, keeping them from getting too close or dependent on others, criticizing their appearance or performance to make them look or act better, and focusing on taking care of others’ rather than their own needs.

These parts seemed to be in protective, managerial roles and therefore are called managers.

When a person has been hurt, humiliated, frightened, or shamed in the past, he or she will have parts that carry the emotions, memories, and sensations from those experiences.

Managers often want to keep these feelings out of consciousness and, consequently, try to keep vulnerable, needy parts locked in inner closets.

These incarcerated parts are known as exiles.

The third and final group of parts jumps into action whenever one of the exiles is upset to the point that it may flood the person with its extreme feelings or make the person vulnerable to being hurt again.

When that is the case, this third group tries to douse the inner flames of feeling as quickly as possible, which earns them the name firefighters.

They tend to be highly impulsive and strive to find stimulation that will override or dissociate from the exile’s feelings.

Bingeing on drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or work are common firefighter activities.”

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