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The so called "Self" is a crucial part of the IFS-Model and the key to it's success. But what exactly is the Self? That question is not so easily answered.

The Practical Answer

One way to close in on what the Self is, is to understand it in the context of IFS Therapy.

Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS, discovered the Self when he noticed that it is possible to ask parts to step aside. What then happens if you ask all parts to step aside one by one, until none is left?

Curiously he found that in all clients a similar kind of part seemed to appear. A calm and compassionate part with an innate knowledge of how to relate to the other parts in a healing way.

art is actually no part at all but the Self. The core of our being. Everyone has a Self. It cannot be lost, destroyed or damaged. It can only be covered up by our parts.

The less we are blended with our parts, the more Self-energy flows into our system. This energy has a naturally calming and healing effect on our parts.

Accessing Self and relating from Self to our parts is the key to transformation.

The Eight Cs of Self

Richard Schwartz describes 8 qualities that emerge when Self-energy is present:


As opposed to pity, compassion describes a deep sense of connection to a person in pain and a genuine desire to help.


A genuine interest and desire to get to know someone better that is not intrusive or driven by some other agenda.


When we access Self our horizon opens up and we come up with new ideas and possibilities that we weren't aware of before.


The Self is not afraid of anything. Only parts are afraid. In the presence of Self we find the resources to overcome our fears.


When we access Self we are able to perceive our strengths and qualities in a more unbiased way, free from the viewpoints of self-deprecating parts.


Because the Self has no agenda, it is able to perceive things in a very clear way free from the distortions of judgement of preference.


The Self has a naturally calming effect on our parts.


The Self has a sense of limitlessness to it that seems to expand beyond ourselves, connecting us to the rest of the world.

The goal of IFS is to become Self-led, both in therapy and everyday life.
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