IFS Glossary of Terms

Balance: A state in which members of a human system have equitable access to the responsibilities, resources, and influence they need.

Blending: When the feelings and beliefs of one part merge with another part or with the Self

Burdens: Extreme ideas or feelings that are carried by parts and govern their lives. Parts accrue burdens from exposure to an external person or event.

Constraining Environment: A human system's environment that is characterized by imbalance, polarization, enmeshment, and problematic leadership. Constraining environments impose burdens on the systems within them.

Direct Access: A way of working with a client's parts that involves talking directly to them rather than having their words reported by the client.

Enmeshment: A state in which two members (or two groups) in a system become highly interdependent, to the point where both parties' access to their Selves is constrained because their parts are so reactive to one another.

Exiles: Parts that have been sequestered within a system for their own protection or for the protection of the system from them.

Feedback: Information received by a system from its environment.

Feed within: Information communicated among members of a system.

Firefighters: Parts that go into action after the exiles have been activated in order to calm the exiles or distract the system from them (dissociation).

Harmony: A state in which the members of a human system relate collaboratively, with effective communication, mutual caring, and a sense of connection.

Imbalance: A state in which one member (or a group) has more or less access to responsibilities, influence, and resources.

Managers: Parts that try to run a system in ways that minimize the activation of exiles.

Multiplicity Paradigm: The recognition that the human mind is not unitary, but instead is subdivided into a multitude of subpersonalities.

Parts: The term used in Internal Family Systems for a person's subpersonalities. Parts are best considered internal people of different ages, talents, and temperaments.

Polarization: A state in which two members (or two groups) in a system relate in opposition to or in competition with each other, to the point where each party's access to the Self is constrained by fear that the other party will win or take over.

Problematic Leadership: A state in which leaders of a system have abdicated, are biased, are polarized with each other, or have been discredited.

Self: The core of a person, which contains leadership qualities such as compassion, perspective, curiosity, and confidence. The Self is best equipped to lead the internal family

Self-Leadership: Leadership characterized by compassion, calmness, clarity, curiosity, confidence, courage, creativity, and connectedness.

Sustaining Environment: A human system's environment that is characterized by balance, harmony, and effective leadership.