The Others Within Us: Internal Family Systems, Porous Mind, and Spirit Possession by Robert Falconer
Robert Falconer’s book is an important addition to the IFS cannon. It’s an exploration of something that exists outside of traditional psychotherapy, and yet many practitioners will recognise what Falconer is saying from their own client work.
I notice that I’m hesitant to describe the phenomenon that Falconer is writing about. I’ve seen it show up in clients and in my own personal life and I’m confident working with it, and yet part of me worries about sticking my neck out and naming it’s existence that in the way that Falconer has done.
In Internal Family Systems we understand that a person is made of lots of different parts: young vulnerable parts, self-protective parts, forward thinking parts and self-soothing parts. The work of the therapy is getting to know these parts – and ultimately helping them unburden any pain and unhelpful beliefs that they are carrying.
For some people the idea of having parts seems like a leap, but once we start exploring our inner world, identify and connect with parts the model makes perfect sense and the work can become very intuitive.
Sometimes, when exploring our inner worlds we encounter parts that are not our own. These can either be harmful parts, or helpful parts.
Harmful parts might show up like energy vampires, or like violent inner-critics. Helpful parts (which the model calls guides) can offer wisdom and compassion from a source that’s beyond us. They can show up as angels, bodhisattvas or figures of light.
Falconer is clear that he’s not trying to work out what is real or not in any objective sense. He is interested in what works, which is to say what promotes healing in his clients.
In the book Falconer explores these ‘others within’ based on his many years of clinical experience, and drawing on accounts from across the world. He talks to exorcists and shamans, and draws out the similarities and differences between their work and his work as an IFS therapist.
The driving question of the book is how we can get these harmful parts out of a client’s system. The answer, demonstrated over and over again in the client work that Falconer shares with us, is to meet them with confidence, clarity and compassion.
Falconer suggests a script for working with these parts. I have used this process with clients, and I have experienced being led through it as a client and it works. The script is helpful, but in my experience if there is enough confidence, clarity and compassion we don’t need anything else.
There’s a lot of pages in this book, wihch may put readers off, but I’d encourage all IFS therapists to take a look at it. It covers such important ground.
On a related note, I also recommend Tom Holmes Parts Work: A Path of the Heart which is a great book about working with guides.