MODULE 4

Acknowledge Past Experiences

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

Part of nurturing a supportive relationship with yourself is honoring your past experiences – even those you might not want to connect to emotionally. Trauma is one aspect of emotional health that can greatly impact the relationship you have with yourself, and many of the “parts” you don’t want to connect with can, in fact, stem from a need for self-protection based on past trauma.

The American Psychological Association(this link opens in a new window/tab)  defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event.” It’s a protective mechanism by the body in reaction to a significantly distressing experience or perceived danger.

Trauma is something that everyone experiences to some extent, whether it’s stress from childhood(this link opens in a new window/tab) , substance abuse within your family(this link opens in a new window/tab) , or a series of repeated stressors at work(this link opens in a new window/tab) . Simply put, if you’ve experienced trauma, you are not alone. Trauma can be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual – or a combination of them. It’s multidimensional. Common among all traumatic events, however, is that they often bring up difficult emotions that are challenging to process.

Internal Family Systems

As you’ll hear from Lissa Rankin, MD, Internal Family Systems (IFS)(this link opens in a new window/tab)  is a form of psychotherapy that recognizes multiple “parts” within each person. These parts fall into three categories:

  • Managers (e.g., the perfectionist, the pessimist, and the critic)
  • Firefighters (e.g., the workaholic, the emotional eater, and the gambler)
  • Exiles (e.g., any part that you push away)

IFS works toward helping these parts exist in greater harmony. These parts can be the result of trauma or life experiences, and they all have their own perspectives, memories, and interests. They also serve protective functions. You pick up and push away different parts based on life experiences, and these parts interact with one another. Honoring and understanding all parts of yourself is the path to true healing.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can further your studies and/or reach out to someone who specializes in this. Trauma goes beyond the scope of a Health Coach, and it’s important to get support from a therapist or other qualified healthcare professional.

Repair Your Relationship with Yourself

Visiting teacher Lissa Rankin, MD, encourages you to look within to repair your relationship with yourself.

Explore Internal Family Systems

In her Repair Your Relationship with Yourself lecture, Lissa Rankin, MD, teaches about the many parts that each person may have inside them.

Click each tab (+) to learn more. 

This part tries to control everything in order to avoid chaos or criticism.

This part is judgmental and likes to point out potential flaws.

This part tends to use gambling or compulsive behaviors (like shopping) to cope with challenging emotions.

This part likes to use humor to deflect criticism and avoid intimacy.

This part anticipates future outcomes in order to avoid disappointment or surprise.

Bio-Individuality

As with all areas of health, emotional health is bio-individual. When it comes to IFS, there are unlimited parts that can exist within each of us. It’s an ongoing process to explore all the parts, understand them, honor their roles, and help them communicate. Stay curious! The more you get to know your inner family and the unique parts that make up you, the more you’ll be equipped to navigate your own healing journey.

Pause and Reflect

What parts of yourself can you identify? What do you think their purposes are? How do you think these parts play protective roles for you? How might you show them compassion?

Acknowledge Without Judgment

Regardless of how you responded to your past experiences, part of respecting your healing journey is acknowledging situations you felt you did not effectively process emotionally. It’s also important to honor how you dealt with those situations without judgment. No matter how significant the situation may seem to others, if you feel unresolved emotional stress from an experience, it deserves your recognition. When approached with loving kindness, trauma can become an opportunity to get to know yourself better, strengthen your emotional health, and grow in meaningful ways.

NEXT | Grow Through Trauma
MODULE 4