The aggressor is the “protector” in all of us

IFS describes two broad types of “protectors”, taking up residence inside of us.

The firefighter rushes in to extinguish our painful cries of vulnerability, humiliation, etc. His tools are effective but messy, destructive. From distraction to addiction to self harm.

Th manager acts proactively to prevent the pain. Pushing us to work harder, earn more, to play politics. He is the disciplinarian, then inner critic. His tools are less dramatic but can be just as destabilizing.

When the exile breaks through its chains (exposes vulnerabilities) which part is ready to spring in and shout it down? Is this the Firefighter or Manager? Fortunately there is no test, and not all parts have a corresponding textbook example. I’ll say it’s more firefighterish because it is acting retroactively.

The shouting parent is protecting the child

Often both the external and internal. He sees and feels the oncoming humiliation, pain, and wants it gone. Like all parts his intentions are good. And just as with our inner microcosm, we help by approaching the protector first, and doing it with curiosity.

We can’t just make them stop. But after we have kindly, patiently, invited them to the table, an excellent first question is “what are you afraid will happen if you don’t ____?”

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