in relationship with judgment

from evy's notebook

I've been reading about Internal Family Systems therapy recently. It's a form of parts therapy, which means it models different emotions and internal thought patterns as different parts of oneself, each personified and in relationship with each other. And at the core of oneself, beneath all the parts that are afraid or hurt or trying to protect, is what IFS calls "Self". This "part" is less of a part and more of something foundational. The Self is compassionate and caring, it's calm and grounded, it naturally feels close to others, and it's curious in ways that are accepting and not critical or judgmental. It feels these ways both towards other people and towards the various parts that make up the internal mind.

I've thought a lot about judgment in the past few years. In this post I talked about trying to be less judgmental and spending less time around people who express strong judgments, and how this has helped me be happier. While it's still important to me to avoid feeling flooded with judgment, I've had trouble figuring out how to interface with the judgment that does come up in myself and in relationships around me. I've had conflicts with housemates about how they express judgment and criticism, and while I can choose to be less close with them, I still want to live with them for now. This topic also been one of the biggest points of tension between an ex and I as we've been working on a creative project together and figuring out what our current friendship could look like. I want to distance myself from judgment, but I want to build some tolerance for it. How do I take care of myself without shutting myself off from the world?

Studying and practicing IFS has reinforced my belief that judgment gets in the way of safety, trust, feeling cared for, working through difficult feelings, and healing. But it has also given me a way of practicing compassion for parts that are judgmental. The process of IFS doesn't kick down parts to get to Self, it temporarily accesses being in Self in order to have compassionate dialogue with parts to help meet their needs and care for their fears.

In some ways, Self feels like a higher power. It's the place where I become closer to myself, and the place where I become closer to you, where we're in connection and harmony. IFS is, at its core, about relationships that make up a whole. It's about the relationships between the parts of me inside me, and so why not also the relationships between you and me and your parts and my parts?

IFS gives me the both/and of judgment and nonjudgment. I'm learning tools to access a Self that is compassionate and curious, and through that Self I can really value and appreciate and care for the judgmental parts of myself. And as I do this work internally, I wonder how I can use these same skills externally. Maybe I can access Self in relationship to others' judgments, to be able to validate and address the concerns they bring up. Maybe I can help others feel comfortable being in their Self, in similar ways I'm learning to do that with myself. Maybe IFS contains the tools to be in compassionate relationship with my judgment and with yours, meeting each other in calm connection.