The Tethered One: Internal Family Systems + One-ness

I took a quick and spontaneous trip to the beach last week. My cherished travel companion shared a book on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) with me and I drifted off to sleep that night reading about the model (this is truly my version of a nerdy good time). Richard C. Schwartz posits at the beginning of No Bad Parts, that we all have an intuitive sense that we are, in fact, made up of multiple parts and these parts have varying desires, drives, and purposes mostly concerning protection. His work is derived from listening to clients talk about this experience, not by placing a rubric in place and seeing how things fit. Our relationship with and reactions to what these multiple parts contribute to our daily life is where the work happens.

This approach resonates for me and there is already a shift in perspective that I began exploring when I pulled The Tethered One for us this week.

This card is about transformation through loss and regeneration. Death is the card that comes next in the major arcana and Lindsay Mack offers that the The Tethered One is where the actual dying happens. The figure of Death shows up later to let us know that’s what just happened, in case there was any confusion. So let’s just say this is not a comfortable transition and decidedly does not have a “good riddance” vibe. This is more of an “oh hell no, here we go” situation. What is being left behind is necessary though and always the right move however, we are allowed to kick and scream a bit.

To be honest, I didn’t have an immediate intuitive hit answering “Why this card now?” when I pulled it. But the more I pondered, I started to see how it was an opportunity to understand its medicine in a new way. The reading and work on IFS led me to question the One-ness of the Tethered One. If I can accept the multiplicity of my self, then I can see how this card can also honour those many internal stakeholders. This helps make sense of how it can turn up so often, which was always a source of confusion for me. There are just practical limits on how frequently a person can “transform.” But a whole family, well, that would be a busier affair.

Not all of our parts are always on the same page, particularly when it comes to expansion. They all want to protect us from risky decisions and have different ways of getting the message across and different speeds at which they acclimatize to change. What we call on to help through these multiple and staggered transitions is ourselves. More specifically, the caring and compassionate parent part who can say: “this is scary, but we’re still going to do it. What do you need?”

In Sarah Faith Gottesdiener’s Many Moons Planner, she writes about how committed decisions are one of the most powerful spells we can cast and April is the time to cast them. My committed decision is to stay curious about this work and my own inside fam, which makes this spell a promise as well.

Where might you feel drawn to make a committed decision or a promise that supports internal movement?

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