Sandy Schoeneich

Mental health practitioners are trained in various theories and intervention models that allow them to help their clients in an effective, comprehensive way. One model that I have lately been intrigued by is the Internal Family Systems (IFS) theory. This model integrates the systems theory model and multiplicity of the mind; it explores multiple parts of the individual mind and how all of these parts interact as a system, in self and in the environment. One aspect of this model that I truly appreciate is this concept of working from “ centered Self”. Things like trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression are barriers for people to function from centered Self, and the model helps individuals explore these areas of functioning and ways to heal from these integrated parts. In order to work from your highest, most centered Self, IFS states that you should be operating from “The Eight C’s”. This two-part blog post will explore the Eight C’s and how you can practice your own healing through these ways of functioning.

It is first important to note that if you’re struggling with trauma or any other mental health condition, it first takes some time and healing to get to a place of centered Self, where you can operate effectively on the Eight C’s. And this is okay. This level of awareness and highest self takes time to achieve. The Eight C’s are also tools for managing new stressors in a healthy way.

Calmness

IFS defines calmness as “1) a physiological and mental serenity regardless of the circumstances, 2) the ability to react to triggers in your environment in less automatic and extreme ways, 3) to be less vulnerable to adopting the common fight-flight-freeze response when threatened”.

Achieving calmness in any situation, but especially in a heightened situation, can be difficult. Can you think of a time where you were particularly stressed or vulnerable in your environment, but you were able to remain calm and regulated? Maintaining calmness during stress is hard and it takes practice – but tools for achieving calm can look like taking a step back and pausing, reflecting on the situation before reacting, and taking several long and deep breaths.

Clarity

The IFS model describes clarity as “1) the ability to perceive situations accurately without distortion from extreme beliefs and emotions, 2) the ability to maintain one’s objectivity about a situation in which one has a vested interest, 3) the absence of preconception and objection, 4) the ability to maintain a ‘beginner’s mind’ in which many possibilities exist”.

Clarity is a combination of remaining open-minded with a sense of neutrality and objectivity. It is difficult to operate from clarity when we are so emotionally involved or overwhelmed by something. Sometimes, it may take several attempts or perspective-shifts before you can gain clarity on a given situation. Next time you find yourself in a complicated situation, ask yourself “Am I looking at this from all angles and with an open mind and open heart?”
Curiosity

Curiosity is defined as “1) a strong desire to know or learn something new about a topic, situation, or person, 2) to have a sense of wonder about the world and how things work, 3) genuinely interested in non-judgmentally understanding something or someone”.

I appreciate this “C” whole-heartedly. I think it is so important for all of us to approach life, others, and our environment with a genuine sense of curiosity. Stereotypes, judgments, and assumptions cloud our ability to operate from our centered Self. The next time you’re triggered by something, try to explore the trigger with curiosity and ask yourself “what is truly being stirred inside of me?”

Compassion

IFS describes compassion as “1) to be open heartedly present and appreciative of others without feeling the urge to fix, change or distance from them, 2) an intuitive understanding that the suffering of others affects you because of your connectedness to them, 3) to simultaneously have empathy for others and a belief that the other has a Self that once released can relieve his or her own suffering”.

Compassion is so important – it is important to have it for others but equally important to give it to yourself as well. You can practice compassion daily – tune into your own thoughts and feelings and give yourself what you need. If you see someone struggling, give them an empathic, listening ear and try to understand their position – even if it doesn’t align with yours.

The first four of the Eight C’s have been explored in this post. Please tune into Part Two of this blog post, which will continue to explore the remaining four C’s of centered Self.

Don Elium’s website was referenced for this post.