Analytical Parts in IFS

When I do IFS work, one of the first things I have to do before I can really get somewhere with the person I’m working with is to disengage the person’s analytical part. I usually start by doing this implicitly. I choose my questions with the intent of bypassing the analytical mind, and that tends to work pretty well.

Questions about emotions, visually imagery, and feelings in the body are good for this, and there are some other rhetorical tricks that also play into the process. For example, if someone doesn’t respond to the question “what does that part look like?”, I sometimes have better success with, “if that part looked like something, what would it look like?” For some reason counterfactuals often let the analytical part relax.

On the other hand, “why?” questions are very likely to activate the analytical part. Everyone once in a while, if I feel sure that someone is firmly in Self, I’ll ask them, but it’s rare. Oddly enough, rephrasing questions helps quite a bit, so “what makes you think that?” can work better than “why do you think that?”

The most important thing to realize about the analytical part of the mind is that it is just a part. In the past, I’ve worked with people who were quite resistant to separating from it, saying pretty insistently that it was who they were. I am hyper-analytical, and so are most of my friends. After I do any sort of emotional work, I pick it apart afterwards. I try to figure out how it worked, what really happened, and what that means about my model of the world. But it’s really hard to be vulnerable when you’re living in your head. It’s hard to follow emotional threads and engage in high-bandwidth communication with your subconscious mind. In order to do those thing, it’s necessary to go to an emptier, maybe scarier, and ultimately more curious place. You need to be able to present a coherent analysis of why your analytical capabilities need to step off to the side for the moment.

I’ve also heard people refer to the analytical part of their mind as “the rational part”, which I’m not at all in favor of doing. To me, rationality is about seeking truth and acting to achieve my goals. And there isn’t any one part who gets to take full credit for my rationality. Thinking explicitly, weighing alternatives, and doing things like expected value calculations are all important mental movements, but to be rational I also need to gather data from gut feelings, vague impressions, and strange narratives.

Exercise:¬†Determine what in your life you’re most worried about right now, as you’re reading this. Ask your analytical mind to step aside while you query your subconscious. Tell it that you’d like it to check your work afterwards and see whether it lines up with the rest of reality, but that you’re interested in finding out whether there’s anything you’re worried about other than what you think¬†you’re worried about.