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  • Writer's pictureClair Neill

Understanding the Role of Managers in Internal Family Systems Therapy



Have you ever felt like there are different parts of you competing for attention? Do you sometimes struggle with perfectionism or self-criticism, even when you know it's not helpful? If so, you might benefit from Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS Therapy). In IFS Therapy, one of the "parts" of the self that therapists work with is called "managers". In this blog post, we'll explore what managers are, how to recognise them, and share an example of how someone learned to work with a controlling manager part for greater emotional balance and well-being.


What are Managers in Internal Family Systems Therapy? Managers are one of the three types of parts in IFS Therapy, along with "exiles" and "firefighters". Managers are the protective parts of the self that try to keep us safe by being responsible, organised, and in control. These parts often develop in response to difficult experiences, such as trauma or neglect, and may be necessary for survival. However, when managers become overprotective or rigid, they can cause emotional distress and prevent us from living our lives to the fullest.


Recognising Managers in Yourself

One of the first steps in working with managers in IFS Therapy is learning to recognize them. Managers can show up in different ways, but some common signs include perfectionism, self-criticism, control, and avoidance of vulnerability. When you notice these parts are active, take a moment to acknowledge them and connect with them. Try to understand what they are trying to protect you from, and offer them compassion and understanding. This can help you build a stronger relationship with your manager parts and begin to heal from past experiences.


Working with a Controlling Manager

The example of Sarah below is based on the kinds of difficulties people coming to therapy experience rather than being based upon a real person. Work with a therapist is strictly confidential.

Sarah had a manager part that was highly critical of herself and others, and often tried to control situations to avoid feeling vulnerable. This part had developed in response to her childhood experiences of neglect and feeling unsupported. Sarah recognised that her controlling manager part was causing her a lot of emotional distress, and decided to work with it in therapy. Through IFS Therapy, Sarah learned to connect with this part and understand its protective role. She also learned to communicate with this part in a compassionate way, acknowledging its importance but also setting boundaries to prevent it from causing harm. As a result, Sarah experienced greater emotional balance and was able to let go of the need to control situations, leading to a more fulfilling life.


Understanding the role of managers in Internal Family Systems Therapy can help you develop a deeper connection with your inner world and find greater emotional balance and well-being. By learning to recognize and work with your manager parts, you can begin to heal from past experiences and live a more fulfilling life. If you're struggling with manager parts or other aspects of your inner world, seeking the support of a trained therapist can be a helpful step towards healing and growth.





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