After accomplishing a piece of deep emotional work, the next step is integrating it.
Some people journal. Some sketch; some mind map; some jot down a few notes, or enter information into specialized systems they use to keep track of their parts. Others share key insights verbally with friends, or email about them.
But many people do nothing. The work is done; the emotions raw; the inner shifts nascent and tender. The inner world will integrate in its own ways, invisibly, regardless of conscious attempts to capture or categorize the process. In other words, integration will happen with or without extra effort.
Yes, and…extra effort may result in extra results.
As a result of doing extra integrating, extra results can both move you further forward, and keep you from falling further back.
Extra results = One Step Forward, Half a Step Back
Due to the holistic nature of consciousness/personality, almost any piece of inner work you do will result in far-ranging consequences which disrupt the established order in your inner world. No matter what issue you address, from a minor wisp of guilt to a cataclysmic trauma, inner work always shifts your inner political and cultural landscape, which means some parts will have a vested interest in opposing whatever insights occur. Therefore, these parts may attempt to erase, forget, or go fuzzy about exactly what happened in the session. Did you really decide to start standing up for yourself in that oppressive situation? No…surely that wasn't quite what happened…
Extra integrating prevents 'forgetting' by vested interests opposed to the insights you achieved. We all take a step forward and then slide backwards a bit as we progress along our paths. Extra integrating helps change the equation from "one step forward, two steps back," to something more like "one step forward, half a step back."
How Can Extra Integrating Help You Move Forwards?
In addition to staving off steeper slides backwards, extra integrating can propel you forwards. In IFS, continuity is a powerful agent of change. Instead of coming to an IFS session and randomly shooting the breeze about what came up during the week, we dig in to root structures in our personality. Thus, we keep working with our most common parts week after week; we get to know them; we develop deeper and deeper relationships. Sure, sessions often start with 'clearing the air' and discussing things that came up during the week, but this leads to parts that we then touch into on a deeper, felt level. Whether we work with our parts in brief encounters, or more sustained journeys, every time we truly meet and experience a distinct part of ourselves, we are genuinely engaging with ourselves at a deeper level.
*Note: I am talking about removing BURDENS, which are painful feelings and beliefs, NOT parts of ourselves. In IFS we don't 'get rid of' parts; we help parts 'get rid of' their burdens. So the dandelions in this metaphor are NOT parts of ourselves!
In IFS, transformation at the core is the goal, not a simple surface treatment. In the same way that to truly make progress on getting rid of dandelions in your yard, you have to go back numerous times and dig them up by the roots, so it is with our emotional burdens.*
Mowing the lawn will keep the seeds from spreading for a while, but eventually the dandelions return. Sure, it's possible to deal with dandelions by just mowing over them every week. But taking the time to pull them out altogether, while tougher work, yields more lasting results.
Extra integrating helps you keep track of where in the yard of your inner world you're working, so you can easily pick right up where you left off from session to session, instead of wandering around in the uncharted wilderness of your mind, scratching your head, saying, "Hmm, was this what I was working on?" while factions opposed to exactly that eagerly pipe up and say, "No, no, not at all," throwing you further off track.
Extra integrating is simply making a record or a map of the inner work you do. It's probably as tough to make it a habit, as it is rewarding. But what would it be like to just keep pushing into that tough dirt, and eventually get that habit to grow? I think you'd eventually grow a tree bearing ripe fruits to nourish your inner journey for years to come.