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Podcast Ep. 42: Tammy Sollenberger, LCMHC, Shows us How Compassion & Curiosity are the Keys to Parent Mental Health

In this episode

We are incredibly honored to kick off parent mental health awareness month with Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy. Most importantly, Tammy is a mom who brings her work home—all of the skills, insights, and practices she uses to help other parents live more present and connect lives are the same ones she uses at home with her family. We loved digging into all the wisdom Tammy has around parenthood, stress, healing emotional wounds, and cultivating more compassion, curiosity, and playfulness in our lives. Without further ado, here is the insightful, wise, and wonderful Tammy Sollenberger.

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About our guest

Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy.

Show notes

  • Tammy's personal website: https://tammysollenberger.com
  • Tammy's book, The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self is available here
  • According to the IFS Institute, Internal Family Systems therapy is "a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts. We believe the mind is naturally multiple and that is a good thing. Just like members of a family, inner parts are forced from their valuable states into extreme roles within us. We also all have a core Self."
  • Find out more about Tammy's podcast, The One Inside
  • Tammy mentioned Sarah Wilson's book This One Wild and Precious Life

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW):

Tammy, what led you to devote your life to mental health and wellness in general?

Tammy Sollenberger (TS):

Well, I just feel like it's something that fires me up. You know, I feel strongly about how we treat people with mental illness. I think that we all have mental health, not just mental illness, but we all have mental health as part of our is part of who we are. Right. Like we're mental where physical or psychological and so it's not just mental illness, but, you know, I think that I think I was one of those people in high school that, you know, all their friends came to with their problems.

It just felt just really natural. It's just I love people. I love getting to know people. I'm just naturally really curious about people. And I love helping people. And I feel like I have a passion for helping people live the lives that they want to live.

JW:

So you experienced this all the way back in high school that it just the idea of wanting to be there for other people, wanting to be a sounding board, wanting to hear other people's knowledge.

TS:

It's funny. I don't know that I wanted to. It just felt like it. How embarrassing. I mean, like, I just was just like a natural, like, all, you know, it's just something that happened. And I ended up going into broad. I end up going to broadcasting, actually, cause I wanted to work in TV. So I sort of that just sort of naturally happened.

And then I wanted to work in TV, and I ended up working at a college. I ended up taking psychology classes. And then I was like, I want to do this, whatever this is, this is what I want to do. And then I ended up becoming a therapist, you know, taking that track and becoming a therapist.

JW:

So I've got some questions about how you got to where you are today. But before I do, I want to ask first about mental health and the stigma that a lot of parents carry around mental health. And I'm wondering so I wanted to ask this early on, because I was curious if this was a part of your personal history that you grew up in a family where there wasn't a lot of stigma around mental health, where everyone talked about it really freely and openly.

Was that your experience?

Audra DiPadova (AD):

Was that yours?

JW:

No.

TS:

Is that anyone’s?

JW:

Yeah. So what was that like then? You grew up in, I guess, a pretty normal family at least for for us, where.

TS:

You could say typical.

JW:

Yeah. Where this wasn't talked about, where if you did have to go see a therapist, there was something wrong with you. And so then how do you go from that sort of normal paradigm to then moving into a space where you are in the mental health field?


TS:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think that, you know, there's some statistic and I'm not gonna get this right, that something like ninety percent of people that go into the mental health field do so because they had mental health challenges in their own family. And I think that was true for me in some way that it just wasn't talked about, you know, it sort of wasn't talked about that my mom was struggling or, you know, that people in my family were struggling and it just wasn't talked about it.

And so the first thing that comes up for me, is a question is space, that when there was space between my family of origin and me when I was in college, I was living with my husband at the time, and there was some space. I got married really young. So there was some space between my family of origin and myself so that when I took a psychology class that there was space for me to explore that without the voice of “We don't talk about that.”

JW:

So I can imagine a sort of freedom then as like, oh my gosh, we get to talk about something that we never got to talk about before. Was it challenging bringing that back home when you would go back home and would you want to talk about it? Would you want to open it up?

TS:

I think parts of me you know, our parts are so smart and they know what's what's safe to talk about, what's not safe to talk about. And so I think parts to me were like, these are things that are not safe to talk about at home. So I could go and go and learn about these things.

And then when I go to like my mom's for dinner, let's say I'm not going to talk about those things because those things aren't safe to talk about. That's not true now, and this was a long time ago, but that was true at the time. And our parts are very clever in filtering us and saying, these are things these this is how you act right?

You can go off to college. You could be a certain type of person at college. And then you come home to your family of origin and you're going to be your parts are going to say, here's who you have to be in order to be safe around these people.

And we learned that growing up. We learned that as kids, here's how I have to be and here's how I have to think and feel and act in order to be safe. And then that's one of the things that IFS teaches us. I learned to be a good girl and overpower guys and, you know, just be sweet.

And that's how I learned to be in my family. That keeps me really safe and that's fine and good until it's not finding good In my twenties and thirties, in my forties, sometimes that's not super fighting good to me anymore.

AD:

I identify with that as a recovering people pleaser. You know, and yeah, finding out what was safe for me, which was to anticipate what actors in the home are going to be doing. Whereas when you have some volatile people, right. And kind of like anticipating those needs and it's so interesting to me because it turns out sometimes to be strengths that you bring into maybe workplaces in other parts of your life, but then also presents you know, the other side of the coin.

Sometimes real challenges in those workplaces or at home interpersonally, things like that. So I love hearing about this through the lens of of parts and parts work. And so I am eagerly hanging on just being a part of this podcast.

JW:

Yeah. So I as I was thinking about this interview, I was thinking, all right, I want to learn about your background. And so how did you grow up in a family where these sorts of things weren’t talked about? How did you get into this? And so you became a therapist, but when you first became a therapist, you didn't just immediately discover internal family systems. So can you tell us a little bit about this journey as a therapist for you? How did you start out or what sort of approach did you use starting out? And then how did you find out about internal family systems?

TS:

Yeah, so I used cognitive behavioral therapy. I was trained in dialectical behavioral therapy, which is DVT. I ran DVT groups. And so that CBT, you know, people that's probably pretty common in CBT. We learn to you know, we identify behavior, we identify feeling, identify thought. And we kind of we really analyze it and like, OK, you know, you want to stop being anxious.

OK, so the thought was that the behavior was the feeling. Let's analyze that to death and help you to not be anxious anymore. And I think there's you know, that's good. I mean, I think it's you know, there's some good things about that. And so I was doing that. I did that for years. And then I went to a seminar and and then I treat myself that way.

I treat my patients that way. I treat myself that way. And then I went to a seminar about kids treating kids. And this woman starts talking about so I live in New Hampshire, and Dick, the founder of IFS, had moved from Chicago to Boston. And so there was a lot of IFS stuff happening in Boston. So I went to a seminar and this woman says there's this new, well it had been around 30 years at that point, new therapy in Boston.

And it and it says she says something about curiosity and inviting people to be curious. And then she talked about a million other things. But that stuck in my head because I thought, what would it be like if I started being curious about that? Because that's not what I'm doing.

I'm challenging, I'm debating, I'm arguing with my clients about what they're doing. So what if I looked at that thought-feeling-behavior triangle and what if I began to be curious about it and I help my clients be curious about it? What I remember thinking, how it would feel different for me even as a therapist to bring curiosity to that and just what a different experience it would be in the therapy room to be curious. And so I went back to my office, I Googled IFS. I found out that Dick was coming to Cape Cod for a weeklong training in Cape Cod. And I went and it was amazing. It changed my life and I started IFS. You know, IFS is all about as therapist, we have to do our own work.

So I immediately got into seeing an IFS therapist and I did level one, level two, and then I helped with trainings and started the podcast and I wrote a book.

JW:

The thing I'm just imagining, one of the things that has really just impressed me about IFS is this curiosity piece. I really loved it. That was the first thing for you that really clicked. And then feeling into curiosity, what happens for me and I'm wondering if this was the case for you. There's a feeling of spaciousness, like it's like things kind of opened up.

And I can imagine when you describe CBT, DBT, a focus, it felt constricted, it felt tight, and then this curiosity feels like it's opening up.

TS:

I love podcasting, but a thing that you don't see on a podcast is our body. So your body just literally just softens. It literally was more spacious. You opened your arms, right? Our bodies are constricted when we think about the CBT triangle, and then we sort of open up as we think about being being curious and another way of saying that is our parts aren't necessarily necessarily curious, but our self is.

And so when we think about our parts, people think about like sort of the devil, an angel on our shoulder or even like the seesaw, like one part of me sort of I use my hands a lot. So one parts on my left hand parts in my right hand. When I think about being curious, I almost can move my hands outside of my body a little bit, even like kind of further away from me.

So sort of my hands are further away from me. And now there's space between me and my heart. Like, literally, right? My heart's here, my body's here, and my hands are a little bit more here. And so I can see and hear and be with these parts of me that I'm holding out my hands. I can really see them and be with them in a way that I can't be when they're when there's no space there.

AD:

I just want I just want to share really quick because I don't I don't think that we've gone into that. So so he is he is he brought Justin brought IFS to our home into his life and into our family. And so I have been learning through through his work, through our work together through Yes Collective, through the podcast, kind of along with everybody else in your life.

You know, I have been kind of brought into this and I have fallen in love with it. But I am not as well versed in it. You know, Justin read all the textbooks and the trainings and things like that. So I would say I'm the newer one here. So, Justin, he’s written these questions and he's deep in it, but I represent like the average everyday mom who's a part ofmYes Collective who's absorbing stuff. Yeah. So I thought maybe this would be a good place to just pause. And Tammy, I'm curious, how do you explain IFS to somebody who has never heard of it before? Like what's what's the fastest just quickest way that you can do it?

TS:

Yeah. I want to speak to the reason I started my podcast was because of Mom. So my mom my son's 11, but I was in a mom playgroup that, like, saved my life when he was a baby. And we met weekly and and I remember probably when he was about one or two thinking, you know, how do I these moms are smart, amazing people.

And, you know, we're staying at home with their kids or working part time. And they didn't have time to do the trainings that I was doing. Like they didn't have time to do that stuff or I had done. And so I thought, this is, you know, I just have such a heart for moms and such a passion for like helping moms, you know, getting this information and making this information accessible to moms because they're listening to podcasts.

They listen to podcasts as they and as they're taking their kid for a walk while they take a nap in the stroller. And, you know, it's so hard and so much the fast way to talk about IFS is to say just use food, because I think that we all sort of struggle with foods. I have a part of me and I could use this example yesterday I had these scones like thick, amazing, delicious scones and they were amazing.

And I love that they're so good. And then I had another part afterwards that was like really mean and called me really mean names. And then and then was like, you're never eating again.

Yeah. And so I have these two parts, right? The part that ate the scones and then the part that said really, really mean things to me and then told me that I was never eating again, which then actually triggered a part that then ate a whole bunch of other stuff last night. And then this morning: You're not eating today, right?

So here are these parts of me around food, right? The part of me that ate the scones, the part of me that criticized me about the scones and said you're never eating again. Part of me that wants to eat a brownie, part of me that says, no, you're only eating kale and I'm holding up my hands once my left hand wasn't married yet.

And so we all have these parts. And the part of me that ate the scones, it has positive intentions for me. It says, you like this, it is so good. It tastes so yummy and so yummy. It was really good. And then that was the first one was really going to be good. The second one was because I was pissed off, so that was the different reason.

It was an hour later and I was pissed off and I let this go and that has a good attention to it because it says, You know what we learned when we're little, that when you're pissed off or you're sad or you have any big feeling, this is what helps you feel better. So here's one. You're eating one scone because it's yummy.

We're hitting the other scone because it helps you feel better. And I can see that you're really upset right now. And then this part over here, the one is in my other hand, it says, But I know that you don't feel good when you eat that way. I know you don't feel good out. You feel good in your body.

Your clothes not fit you, but you also don't feel good in your body. Like, forget diet culture crap. You just don't feel good in your body. So I'm going to call your names because I know that's one way to get your attention because I want you to feel good in your body. So all of those parts, because that's actually three parts.

Three parts all have really positive intentions for me and then me, I'm the adult, you know, 40 something year old me who can listen to those parts and I can say all I hear how you're trying to help me. I can see and I can hear your positive intention for me. Let's all meet and talk and be together and see kind of how we can handle our decision about what we're ready today.

So you guys are making the decision. I'm making the decision. Adult Me is going to make the decision about what I'm going to eat today because these suckers, I can't let them make a decision about how many scones I eat today because that might not go well.


AD:

And that's beautiful. I love that. Yeah.

I just have to say, it's like the more novice one here getting into this work. I absolutely love it. And what I love so much about it is the gratitude and like really the recognition that all of these parts just want the best for us. And they've come on board with their own strategies to do that. And, and that we can, we can, we can hear them out, you know, that we can be grateful for that.

And then we can also hear them out. And that in in that space of that true self, we can we can help make sense of what they're all wanting and, and really asking for. It's really beautiful because it's not, you know, like, it's just so different to me. It could it be more different than I think what I have experienced and, you know, kind of like a standard whatever it might be, any of these other names, therapeutic methods are what people associate a lot of therapy with is I'm going to go somewhere where I’m going to be judged and I'm going to be labeled and then they’re going to try to fix me.

And what if my parts aren’t something that needs to be fixed you know? And what if it's not just me as one monolithic entity? What if there are all of these different parts and they all want what's best and it's just to me, it's like profoundly liberating and really freeing.

TS:

Really beautiful. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Right. Because we fix. So we're going to go ahead and fix that. Me and guess what? There's going to be another me that's going to have another strategy, right? So and I've done this list before, too, right? OK, so I'm not going to eat sugar. That's going to fix that.

But guess what? Another part's going to find some other loophole that's going to say, OK, well, actually what you're going to do now is you're going to binge on ranch dressing or something. You know, I mean, like all moldy vegetables, you know, so it's sort of like these parts are going to we can fit. And then it's another part.

Like, I'm not looking to fix them. It's another part, right? It's another part right. The part that says you're not eating anymore. That's the part that's trying to fix that part. Right? The one in my right hand is the one trying to fix the one at my left hand. And then we have we call that polarization sort of that's the seesaw that happens is there.

And they just kind of go back and forth up and down trying to fix each other without realizing that I'm here, too. I'm here. And look at me. Stop just looking at each other like that. Our parts just look at each other and battle. Look at me. I'm going to give you some gratitude. I'm going to listen.

Let's talk together and be buddies and let's see what we can do.

AD:

I love that. And it brings up something for me thinking you mentioned that you have been with your partner for a really long time.

TS:

Yes, we were for a very long time. But we're divorced now. Yeah.

AD:

Perhaps parts work helped get to the point of a divorce even, which I think is powerful to think about, too. I think about us. We've been together since college, too. And I think of the parts that we’re learning about and like, oh my God, all these parts have come up in us or presented in us, related to each other.

TS:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, your parts show up in your relationship, you know, so parts show up in your relationship, and then your parts are going to just, you know, like the part. Like, I have a partner now and my parts trigger his parts and his parts trigger my parts. Right. And then the more we can talk about that, the more I can say, OK, a part of me who is feeling this way. A part of me is when we're angry at you, a part of me is really disappointed because you said you would do this and you didn't do this. And so a part of me that's feeling really frustrated now, I have another part of me that doesn't want to be frustrated with you right now.

I really just enjoy my time with you. But if I don't speak for that frustration, I just try to enjoy my time with you. Then it's going to be kind of wonky and you're going to feel something. And then his parts are going to be like, I don't Tami's not really telling me something. I can feel like there's something in the his parts that I try to make up what it is.

And so then our parts are then just going to be reacting to each other and so when we can speak for our parts, that really helps, right? A part of me feels frustrated. Another part of me doesn't want to be frustrated. And then he can say, well, part of me was scared that you were feeling this. And another part of me said, Well, I don't even wanna talk to her then because she's mad at me.

So I don't talk to her when she's mad at me and when we can like, OK, so we are now looking, we're kind of having space, right? Here's my pass. I'm putting my apartment table, he's putting his parts on the table, and then him and I and our true self and Blake, we totally get why our sweat respond that way to each other.


JW:

I love that. Speaking for your parts, not from your parts has been I mean, it's so simple it has been such a game changer, and it's in relationships. It's huge because I can then express something that might feel dangerous, but it lowers the temperature to say I have a part instead of I, oh, I'm frustrated or I have, you know, I have a part that has a story.

I have a part that has a judgment. And, well, you have it lowers the temperature. And then it's like, OK, we can both, like, step back and we can look at this part and we can understand this part might be hurt or scared or.

AD:

What's so beautiful. It's not saying, you know, I or you, you know, and we on the break, break it down that way. I feel like it's a it promotes developing understanding, you know, allows for a lot more curiosity on everyone's parts.

TS:

Parts, I love that. And think about what curiosity brings to our relationships with our partners. Right it if we can be curious about why he didn't do the thing or why I thought he was going to take it did do the thing. If I can be curious about that that just brings so much instead of just bringing instead of a part of me telling me a story.

Right. Part of me telling me a story that says, well, he doesn't really like me or he would rather not talk to me. And and then I believe those stories or parts tell us stories and we tend to believe them. And instead of that, language, a part of me is telling a story right now, OK, that gives me some distance between feeling the story and realizing parts, telling a story.

AD:

I love that. I think we should put a pin in that. I'm thinking of experiences with our kids, you know what I'm saying? Like with Maisie to be able to say a part of me is telling me a story that you're refusing to do the dishes right now because of me, you know, or whatever it may be.

This is our 12 year old daughter. And yeah, I mean, I think it's just so so beautiful like it is this is, this is not how, you know, most of us grew up. That's definitely not how most of our parents grew up. Right. And it just it seems to be such a game changer because it gives her so much room that.

JW:

That's right. So what I'm feeling into here is my own journey with IFS and learning more about my parts and learning that almost every part that I really get to know is a part that has a lot of childhood baggage. Like when I really get to know a part, it might first present itself as like part of me, an adult, 45 years old, you know, concerned with having my daughter do the chores and, you know, because she said she was going to do the chores and we pay her to do the chores.

And, you know, but then it's like, I will then get a chance to sit with this part that's really triggered by her not wanting to do the dishes when I want her to do them. And then feel inside. And, and the, the deeper I get, the closer I get, the more curious I get and the more compassion I get around this part, the more I'll see that my concern is I'm not being heard. I'm not being seen. And then this part of the me is like, oh, my gosh. The memory that it has is, you know, of me as a kid with my mom. And and so then it's like, oh, my gosh, this has nothing to do with her. Yeah. So can you say a little something about about these, these young parts?

TS:

Yeah, that's beautiful. And that is exactly what happens. You know, she's not doing the dishes and she's not listening to me and then. Right. But if you pause and you, we might not be able to do it in the moment, right? Because she's not doing the dishes and really frustrated and all these parts really frustrated. But if we if we take some time, whether in the morning or sort of alone and takes some time and and we call it go inside and just pause it, OK, what what's coming up for me?

What does it feel like in my body when she doesn't do the dishes? Like we took a U-turn what's happening for me when she doesn't do that? What's the story that I'm telling myself? What does it feel like for me? Is there a memory connected to it? OK, I can now. I can remember that I'm 13 or I'm 12 and I'm getting in a fight with my mom and my mom doesn't hear me.

And so here is this memory. OK, so what's triggered in me is this 13 year old little boy, a 13 year old little boy, or a younger six year old little boy who doesn't feel hurt by his mom. And so I have then six year old feelings when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes. And so what happens in parenting a lot is I have six year old feelings, six year old feelings and thoughts and strategies so when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes.

And it triggers my six year old my six year old is going to stop around the house and is going to pout and maybe he's going to call her a she's just a big meanie doesn't listen anything I say and I might even see I might be embodying the six year old because I'm using the six year old strategies and how my six year old is parenting my 12 year old.

My six year old part is parenting my 12 year old child yes.

JW:

This is so powerful. This is it.


TS:

Happens for me too. So just describe my my 13 year old angsty teenager when she starts parenting. I mean it's it's and I and my son knows that right it triggers I must sometimes think it triggers sort of wise parts of him and I'm like I'm the teenager and he's the parent. Right and I can feel it sometimes when he's like, OK, what do we need to do right now?

JW:

Yeah, yeah. And so in effect, therapy event the trajectory then would be to help the client in in there. Well, we haven't talked about self or I mean you have referred to it but there's this really important quality that you've just talked about is just, just, just being us. But it's, it's this in internal family systems they call it capital S self, self energy.

And, and so it's really just about being connected to our core and then with compassion and curiosity, really seeing and hearing these young parts and allowing them to be heard and seen. And then what's the next step? I mean, what happens after that? How can these young parts, how can they be helped so that as we grow, I can start to parent my 12 year old from my true self, from my core, and not from this six year old part.

TS:

Yeah, yeah. So when we think about other types of therapies, what would happen is you would then tell me today if I'm your therapist and you're telling me about a six year old part of you that was triggered by your 12 year old part. Well, we wouldn't talk about it that way, but let's say you did our 12 year old daughter.

So what we would do in other therapies is you would tell me about the experience. I was six, my mom didn't hear me. This is how I felt about blah blah blah blah, right? That's kind of what we do. You sort of tell me the story of what happened but in effect what we do is we actually have you as your true self go into the story and be there with your six year old the way that that six year old needed.

So you're not telling me necessarily, you're actually in the story as your true self and you’re hearing him, you’re seeing him, you're understanding him, you're saying, and then he gets to tell you this is what it felt like when mom did this. And he gets to tell you everything that happened, everything that he wants you to know that that happened and how hard that was for him.

And then you you get to hold him, to hug him, to be there in a way that he needed someone to be. And that sounds a little bit hokey, but it is incredibly powerful. And then the self then says to that little boy, you want to come out of there? Yeah. You know, do you want to come out of that scene and come to the present to come out of that scene and come to the present where you feel me, right?

You feel my love and acceptance and my hearing you. And, you know, what do you want to do now? Do you want to come you know, you want to go to a fantasy place? Do you want to come into my house and do you want to just come sit next to me? You want to come into my heart?

And then that we call it unburdening and that the healing that happens is when we in ourselves go to those younger parts and unburden them, we witness them, hear them, unburden them, and bring them to the present. And then your six year old now is not Steinmeier. Six year old is hanging out with you at your feet. I keep pointing at my feet.

You're saying she was hanging out and playing with cars at your feet and just relaxing and feeling totally connected to you. So when your 12 year old daughter doesn't do the dishes, he is all set he's not. Yes. It's going to it's still going to be upsetting to you. Like sell still has emotions, but you're not going to respond from the six year old.

You're going to respond. Hopefully there might be another part will that might come up. Well, you get a response from your dad, from your true self. But this say like, honey, you know, we talked about it and so and we have a behavioral plan and so you don't have to do the dishes or you make any money. All right.

And so and then I'm not activated. Right. You don't do the dishes. You don't get any money. That's our behavior plan. There's no activation in my system. My six year old is fine. He's chillin at my feet, playing with cars.

JW:

Yes. Beautiful. Yeah. So it's.

AD:

Really powerful.

JW:

Now, I have a curiosity because the whole theme of this month is around parent mental health, parents wellness. And so is is this what you just described? Is that how you would characterize parent mental health when like when we are able to show up through our core self, like this is parent mental health?

TS:

Well, I mean, that would be lovely. But sometimes parent mental health might just be recognizing that I have parts and my son has parts and it might just be that he's in a part right now. And if I join him and his part is going to be messy. And so if I can recognize that he's in a part and maybe I can just take a deep breath and see, I can be a little less and one of us can be a little less in parts and hopefully it's me because I'm the adult, then we might be OK.

I think sometimes that's all it is. That's right. He's multiple. I'm multiple. And can I take a deep breath, call my system down a little bit and I can parent from that place from a even if it's a little bit more self, a little less heart driven, then I can parent from that place in recognizing that he's in parts, too.

AD:

I love that. That really, really resonates with me as a mom. I don't have to be healed I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be, you know, kind of like I don't have to have, you know, all of my parts don't have to be the perfect, happy family, you know, at every given moment that it's really around awareness and having some tools, it sounds like.

So to work with, just even recognize that in those moments.

TS:

Yeah, definitely. And really softening that critic that says, this is how I have to be as a parent. This is what I this is what a real mom, true mom, good mom, whatever dumb language we're using, let's get rid of that language is like he's doing a pretty good job probably. And so if you're listening to his podcast, you're probably doing a really good job actually.

And so and so then I would say the first place to start probably would be what are those inner critic saying to you about how you're parenting and how you are and who you're supposed to be? Let's start there when you're trying to get to know your system. Let's start with those parts that say this is the type of mom I should be.

And here is all the ways I suck as a mom. Or Dad.

AD:

Would you write that down? Would you recommend even like journaling that out?

TS:

Definitely. I love journaling and how I journal is I write P for a part. You suck. That's what a part just told me. You suck. And another part, it's like stop being so mean yourself. Like really dialog that out. And I might even write part one, part two, part three, part four. Let them just say whatever they want to say unfiltered because they're saying it anyways.

So another part is trying to ignore them to say, I'd write it all out P1, et cetera. Take a couple of deep breaths and then I'd write. As for self, what a self. Even a self just says, I hear you. Thank you for telling me how you're feeling. I just want you to know that I'm hearing you. I'm here.

I'm here for it. Tell me what's going on. Tell me how you're feeling.

JW:

Do you have any tips or strategies for parents who are hearing this? Maybe for the first time was like, OK, I think I kind of understand the parts like that makes sense. And then then there's this the self. There's this, of course, self. I think that makes sense. But how can a parent know that, oh, this is my self here and not just another part.

TS:

Yes. I usually say, think of a time where you actually felt calm, creative, curious, compassionate, connected. Now, when is a time you felt that way? You know, when you went for a walk or when you saw a sun rise or a sunset or after a meditation or like when is the last time you felt that way?

What was that like in your body? Describe what that experience was like. And then as you're describing it, what are you feeling as you describe it? Because you start to feel it as you describe it, right? Because I could tell you about a situation that was really frustrating to me. And as I'm describing it, I'm feeling it.

I'm in it again. So the same thing happens with self I can just describe a time that I felt calmer and more compassionate, more connected to myself and to the universe. I could tell you about that, and then I can begin to feel it and then I want to really OK, what does that feel like? So that people have a sense of I know what it feels like to be in self even a little bit.

It's not like zero or a hundred, even a little that is self energy. I know what that feels like, OK, they know what it feels like and we know what it feels like to be in a part because we're we're more energized or more aggravate or there's an urgent feeling or there's sort of nasty thoughts going in our head and let's just start paying attention to what that what it feels like to be in those different parts with those voices sound like whether it's behaviors or thoughts.

Let's bring curiosity to what that's like because that's what's when I'm part driven versus when I'm self-driven. And it's not all or nothing, but just start paying attention to when I'm more kind of over here in my parts, when I'm more a little bit over here in myself, like, what does it feel like? What does it sound like?

AD:

Sounds like a really powerful take on mindfulness. Like it makes mindfulness makes sense to me if, you know, like being able to pay attention to these parts. And I love the idea of being able to do your own kind of like visualization. If you practice that, you know, when you know you be in the school, pick up line and, you know, practice that visualization of being in self, whatever, you know, modicum of that you can get.

I actually have a curiosity. I have a question that's come up so I absolutely so appreciate what you said earlier about just loving moms and wanting to work with moms and support moms. And that goal of your podcast and, and a lot of your work. I think it's so powerful and Yes Collective, we are aligned with your mission completely and one of the things that's really challenging for so many of us is I mean, Justin tried three times here in Savannah to get in to see a therapist and no one responsed. You know, these lines to get in the door are super long, so it can be really hard to find that help. And then and then for parents, you know, and for busy moms, it's like yeah, I want to go work with a therapist, but, you know, I'm a busy mom.

I don't have anything that's like so really pressing for me to get into that office. Right. But I want to do some of this work. And so can you maybe help me understand, like, are there parts of IFS that we can break down into small bites that we can start to do on our own? You know, things that we can do to bring awareness ourselves that can improve our our daily lives as moms help us connect with our kids, you know, our work as parents.

TS:

Yeah. I love this question so much. You answered it when you said I'm in the pick up line right? So you're in the school pick up line. And remember this time that I felt this calmness.

And so I'm going to be in the school pick up line and I'm going to think about the word calm. I'm going to breathe in calm. I'm going to notice what that feels like in my body. And I'm just going to sort of take in this calm and then I'm going to notice what else is there like what are what are the other parts that are there?

What else am I noticing in my in my mind. I think the two things that I would say are big takeaways are what is self feel like and then starting to map out the parts that I have. Right? So if I bring in the calm, I'm feeling that calm and I hear you have a zillion things to do when you got home.

OK, great. We call it like our parts that drive the bus. If I have a million things, you know, what are you doing right now? You should not be doing this. Call me like you should be reading a book right now or whatever. So just start mapping out your common parts because they're going to sound and look and feel the same.

So checking in with that self, what does that feel like? Breathing into that a little bit and start mapping out those parts and do it as you go if you can. I love journaling. I think journaling is a good way to help you just check inside. And the other thing, too, is your important you know, we have this thing as moms and dads that we're not important.

And so I need to make sure that everyone knows how everyone else has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that's fine. Like make sure everyone has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I think we're just wired that way. We have to make sure everyone else has our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I'm going to make sure I have my too.

And I'm going to sit down at the table too, and I'm going to have peanut butter jelly sandwich, too. And so I think that I think that's a big part of it is just knowing that my mental health is important because that's how I'm going to show up as a mom. And it's going to help me be a better mom, right?

Like if I want to be a better mom for my kid, then and I don't mean that in a guilty shaming way, but taking time for me, what would that looks like, even if it's in the car pickup line and breathing in the word calm, that's going to make a big difference in how I shop from my kid and then how I feel about myself as a parent.

AD:

That's so powerful to me. That resonates with the idea of self care and not to minimize manicures and bubble baths like, you know, I’m for all of that. But it it seems like that self care can take some work. You know what we're talking about doing this work? It is. It isn't just about barreling towards the one vacation a year or whatever it might be, right?

TS:

Definitely.

AD:

Every day support to yourself which involves doing it sounds like some of this inner exploration. And you're right then we we show up better for ourselves with ourselves within ourself, you know, and then within in our relationships and of course with our kids. And I find that the times when I might most sort of like, you know, kind of spiral more with parts is like when I when I realize that I reacted out of whatever it might have been, it might have been a six year old part or whatever it might be, you know, and just realizing that I have the ability to explore that and to be open about that with my kids and to reveal that experience that I'm having and be able to talk about it. And that's not having a perfect answer or anything like that. It's just taking that space in between stimulus and response and being open about it. And exploring it. Then being willing to, you know, apologize and being open like none of that is perfection driven. Right.

And I guess the curiosity that I have here is like, I'm all for therapy. I want us all to have universal access. But in the meantime, it sounds like these are some of the things that we can do to be doing this work ourselves. Like it doesn't have to be behind a paywall or or any of any of those things.

These are things that we can do daily.

TS:

Definitely. And I think that for the listeners, if they I want them to notice the parts that are coming up right now. “I don't have time. I'm too busy. What else what else would I have to sacrifice if I did that?” Just notice the list that you have going on in your head, because I know you do a list you have going on in your head for the reason why you cannot make yourself a little bit more of a priority.

And let's just write those things down because those are parts of you. And I would say ask you from your true self, ask those parts what are they afraid would happen if you took a little more time for yourself? And what would happen if you didn't get the dishes done? Or what if? Well, first of all, you will you'll get the dishes done.

But what would happen if you did in the end just start asking what would happen if that if I didn't do that? And let's just explore with some curiosity the parts of you that are that are scared or hesitant to make a little bit of changes even if it's a little bit of journaling, or maybe you're reading a book on IFRS, or maybe you're taking a taken some time to meditate a little bit, or just noticing the parts of you and so all the parts of you that are saying, no, no, no, no, no, let's explore those parts.

Let's start there and find out what's what are their fears and some of the fears are going to be you're going to start crying and never stop crying. Well, that's, that's never happened. Anybody I get that is a fear. But also I want you to un blend in you and your authentic self, see if you can if you can comfort, support and affirm the parts of you that have those concerns and fears.

JW:

I love that just real, real quick. That part to me is coming up is so important that if I have a part and I'm feeling judgmental about that part, I want that part to go away. I want that part to change whatever it is, then I'm in another part. And I love that idea. And so so if I can then as you noted, the curiosity, the compassion, the calmness, if I'm feeling those or this part, then I can have that relationship, that that healing relationship.

AD:

Can you can you adjust for the listener who's more like me let me make that very, very clear. So you're saying that when you are in like capital S so that you are not in judgment? Yeah, it's it's it's just automatically a compassionate, sort of like open state. So if you notice that you're in judgment around a part, then that's a signal to knowing that you're actually in your you're right now thinking through a part or instead of being in that and you too, or you're not realizing it.

So it's like a flag for you.

TS:

Definitely, definitely. And that's why I said when you journal, you can actually journal like parts having conversation with each other because then there probably is a lot of parts kind of bouncing back and forth like, oh, you don't have time for that. Well, I really need to have time for that. But it did that right to those that kind of that like dialog is going to be back and forth.

And so there might be a bunch of back and forth between parts before self can kind of come in and say, I hear you, I get it. Let's talk about this. Like and so I think that's such a good point because because when self is there, there's going to be more space, there's going to be some softening, there's going to be a little bit of light, a lightness in your system, versus with the parts just kind of going back and forth.

AD:

I have a question then. Are there different types of like archetypes or types of parts that are like really common for us all? Or are parts super diverse and as diverse as we are or both?

TS:

It's probably both, but I think that we all have like critics. I think there's often really like I've never been surprised that a person has a path and I'm like, Wow, I've never heard of that before. Totally mean my ex. I think I think that, you know, we all have critics. I think there's always judgmental parts which can kind of go with the critics.

And and I think that probably someone way smarter than me could probably kind of lay out the different kind of topics of different parts. But I think that there are critics are probably.

JW:

And the managers. Right, the ones that want to keep us on track and want to make sure that we're good and others.

AD:

Are these like always there for protection? And then we have you know, other parts that play other roles, you know, around. I mean, yeah, it's got to be parts that are like joyful and and other things, too, right?

TS:

Right. So we have two different types of parts. We have manage managing parts, but we have two, which is probably a sort of a different thing, but we have two different types of parts. One is called managers and one is called firefighters. And so the managing parts are the ones that manage our lives to make sure, OK, so my food example, so the the part of me that was saying, OK, you're not going to eat again tomorrow, I guess tomorrow you're not going to eat.

Here's how we're going to handle that. Here's how we're going to handle from now on, make sure that you lose weight because you had years gone by, blah, blah, blah. That's a manager. I'm going to manage your life so that you don't ever feel what we call the exiles. Exiles are those parts we kind of like push in the basement, the ones with really big feelings, the ones that often have shame, not feeling heard, that six year old not feeling heard, not feeling seen, lots of shame, feeling unloved. Those are our exiles. Those are our younger parts. And so our managers and firefighters protect us from the big feelings of the exiles.

So the managers manage our lives so we never feel the exiles. And if firefighters come up when we do feel the exiles. So my firefighter was that second scone and a second scone when I was pissed. There was a lot of big feelings, which if I was if I would have stayed with that, I probably would have went to some exile there for sure.

But that firefighter part, that's here because I was having big feelings and an exile was triggered and I ate that scone and there's my firefighter trying to take care of that fire. I'll put that fire out and I'm going to be fine. There's my manager. I'm fine. Everything's fine. And so my firefighter came in to make sure that I'm fine.

All is well. And so does that make sense? So we got the firefighters to come in after the exile's triggered. We're the managers that make sure the exiles are never triggered. Then those exiles who need us, our authentic self, to go to them and be what they need it, hear their stories and take them out of those places.

AD:

That was that was fantastic.

I feel like I got a good lay of the land. I really like that. Like, that's amazing for me to work with. When I do my work, I can start to see kind of like, who's who and these companions I have.

TS:

I love the companions.

JW:

Tammy, so I want to be sure that we get your quick fire answers to the three questions that we ask every guest when they come on the show. So first, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

TS:

I love this question. My my thought was you're doing a few things really, really well. Maybe one. Maybe just one.

JW:

Awesome. And then, is there a recent quote that you've come across that's changed the way you think or feel?

TS:

Well, I read this quote in this book the other day. It is called This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson, which is a fantastic book. And I read this this quote, and I've been sitting with it for a while. I think it's interesting. And she says, Loneliness is best shared with aloneness, which is to say a meaningful connection to ourselves.

And I thought that speaks to IFS perfectly, right? Like if I'm having some feeling, even if it's loneliness, the cure to that is to be alone and go inside and have self be and connect to all the parts, right? Self, connecting to our hurting parts is how we're how we are healed. It’s self connecting to those hurting parts.

JW:

Self connecting to hurting parts. Beautiful hopeful. Empowering and hopeful because the message is that your healing is going to come from within.

TS:

From you. Right from your authentic self, which is your like the divine inside of you. It’s your spiritual life, whoever that is inside of you, your soul. That's where the healing comes from is that which is already there. It's already there. You don't have to make it. It's already there. Even as you're busy and you're making a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s still there.

JW:

It's still there. I love it. I love it. Tell me the final question we have. We ask this one because for a lot of parents, parenting can be very hectic, very crazy, a lot of taxing moments and so it's nice to just step back and reflect like what is so wonderful about kids. And so what is your favorite thing about kids?

TS:

The first word that came to my mind is play. Here's I think we have lost how to play. And when I used to sit down with my son and play, I would organize his his cars by color because I don't know how to play, how to so I watch him play. How is he playing with his cars? And I still would kind of clean up a little bit as I'm playing.

I think that's one of the things that I love about kids is they invite our younger parts to come out and play.

JW:

I love that. Tammy, real quick, playfulness, would you categorize that as one of the qualities of capital S self?

TS:

Totally. So playfulness so that we all have the Ps. So we have the five Ps the playfulness, patience, persistence. Those are some of the Ps. So playfulness is definitely a quality of self.

AD:

Oh, I love hearing that. Thank you for adding that in. I’m now interested in the qualities of self. Save that for another time.

JW:

Oh, yes. Oh, well, we would love to have you back on tap.

TS:

That would be great.

JW:

I feel like we just scratched the surface oh, thank you so much for joining us. This is really a wonderful gift.

AD:

And thank you for your amazing work. I feel like we're so and I feel so grateful to have connected with you and I look forward to connecting further.

Podcast Ep. 42: Tammy Sollenberger, LCMHC, Shows us How Compassion & Curiosity are the Keys to Parent Mental Health

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Podcast Ep. 42: Tammy Sollenberger, LCMHC, Shows us How Compassion & Curiosity are the Keys to Parent Mental Health

Tammy Sollenberger, licensed therapist, author, and podcast host, shares her deep wisdom around parenthood, stress, healing emotional wounds, and cultivating more compassion, curiosity in the daily grind.

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Key takeaways

1

Tammy Sollenberger is a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of the podcast, The One Inside

2

Tammy helped us kick off our theme of the month for May: Parent Mental Health Awareness

3

Audra and Justin loved digging into all the wisdom Tammy has around parenthood, stress, healing emotional wounds, and cultivating more compassion, curiosity, and playfulness in our lives.

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In this episode

We are incredibly honored to kick off parent mental health awareness month with Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy. Most importantly, Tammy is a mom who brings her work home—all of the skills, insights, and practices she uses to help other parents live more present and connect lives are the same ones she uses at home with her family. We loved digging into all the wisdom Tammy has around parenthood, stress, healing emotional wounds, and cultivating more compassion, curiosity, and playfulness in our lives. Without further ado, here is the insightful, wise, and wonderful Tammy Sollenberger.

Listen here

About our guest

Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy.

Show notes

  • Tammy's personal website: https://tammysollenberger.com
  • Tammy's book, The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self is available here
  • According to the IFS Institute, Internal Family Systems therapy is "a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts. We believe the mind is naturally multiple and that is a good thing. Just like members of a family, inner parts are forced from their valuable states into extreme roles within us. We also all have a core Self."
  • Find out more about Tammy's podcast, The One Inside
  • Tammy mentioned Sarah Wilson's book This One Wild and Precious Life

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW):

Tammy, what led you to devote your life to mental health and wellness in general?

Tammy Sollenberger (TS):

Well, I just feel like it's something that fires me up. You know, I feel strongly about how we treat people with mental illness. I think that we all have mental health, not just mental illness, but we all have mental health as part of our is part of who we are. Right. Like we're mental where physical or psychological and so it's not just mental illness, but, you know, I think that I think I was one of those people in high school that, you know, all their friends came to with their problems.

It just felt just really natural. It's just I love people. I love getting to know people. I'm just naturally really curious about people. And I love helping people. And I feel like I have a passion for helping people live the lives that they want to live.

JW:

So you experienced this all the way back in high school that it just the idea of wanting to be there for other people, wanting to be a sounding board, wanting to hear other people's knowledge.

TS:

It's funny. I don't know that I wanted to. It just felt like it. How embarrassing. I mean, like, I just was just like a natural, like, all, you know, it's just something that happened. And I ended up going into broad. I end up going to broadcasting, actually, cause I wanted to work in TV. So I sort of that just sort of naturally happened.

And then I wanted to work in TV, and I ended up working at a college. I ended up taking psychology classes. And then I was like, I want to do this, whatever this is, this is what I want to do. And then I ended up becoming a therapist, you know, taking that track and becoming a therapist.

JW:

So I've got some questions about how you got to where you are today. But before I do, I want to ask first about mental health and the stigma that a lot of parents carry around mental health. And I'm wondering so I wanted to ask this early on, because I was curious if this was a part of your personal history that you grew up in a family where there wasn't a lot of stigma around mental health, where everyone talked about it really freely and openly.

Was that your experience?

Audra DiPadova (AD):

Was that yours?

JW:

No.

TS:

Is that anyone’s?

JW:

Yeah. So what was that like then? You grew up in, I guess, a pretty normal family at least for for us, where.

TS:

You could say typical.

JW:

Yeah. Where this wasn't talked about, where if you did have to go see a therapist, there was something wrong with you. And so then how do you go from that sort of normal paradigm to then moving into a space where you are in the mental health field?


TS:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think that, you know, there's some statistic and I'm not gonna get this right, that something like ninety percent of people that go into the mental health field do so because they had mental health challenges in their own family. And I think that was true for me in some way that it just wasn't talked about, you know, it sort of wasn't talked about that my mom was struggling or, you know, that people in my family were struggling and it just wasn't talked about it.

And so the first thing that comes up for me, is a question is space, that when there was space between my family of origin and me when I was in college, I was living with my husband at the time, and there was some space. I got married really young. So there was some space between my family of origin and myself so that when I took a psychology class that there was space for me to explore that without the voice of “We don't talk about that.”

JW:

So I can imagine a sort of freedom then as like, oh my gosh, we get to talk about something that we never got to talk about before. Was it challenging bringing that back home when you would go back home and would you want to talk about it? Would you want to open it up?

TS:

I think parts of me you know, our parts are so smart and they know what's what's safe to talk about, what's not safe to talk about. And so I think parts to me were like, these are things that are not safe to talk about at home. So I could go and go and learn about these things.

And then when I go to like my mom's for dinner, let's say I'm not going to talk about those things because those things aren't safe to talk about. That's not true now, and this was a long time ago, but that was true at the time. And our parts are very clever in filtering us and saying, these are things these this is how you act right?

You can go off to college. You could be a certain type of person at college. And then you come home to your family of origin and you're going to be your parts are going to say, here's who you have to be in order to be safe around these people.

And we learned that growing up. We learned that as kids, here's how I have to be and here's how I have to think and feel and act in order to be safe. And then that's one of the things that IFS teaches us. I learned to be a good girl and overpower guys and, you know, just be sweet.

And that's how I learned to be in my family. That keeps me really safe and that's fine and good until it's not finding good In my twenties and thirties, in my forties, sometimes that's not super fighting good to me anymore.

AD:

I identify with that as a recovering people pleaser. You know, and yeah, finding out what was safe for me, which was to anticipate what actors in the home are going to be doing. Whereas when you have some volatile people, right. And kind of like anticipating those needs and it's so interesting to me because it turns out sometimes to be strengths that you bring into maybe workplaces in other parts of your life, but then also presents you know, the other side of the coin.

Sometimes real challenges in those workplaces or at home interpersonally, things like that. So I love hearing about this through the lens of of parts and parts work. And so I am eagerly hanging on just being a part of this podcast.

JW:

Yeah. So I as I was thinking about this interview, I was thinking, all right, I want to learn about your background. And so how did you grow up in a family where these sorts of things weren’t talked about? How did you get into this? And so you became a therapist, but when you first became a therapist, you didn't just immediately discover internal family systems. So can you tell us a little bit about this journey as a therapist for you? How did you start out or what sort of approach did you use starting out? And then how did you find out about internal family systems?

TS:

Yeah, so I used cognitive behavioral therapy. I was trained in dialectical behavioral therapy, which is DVT. I ran DVT groups. And so that CBT, you know, people that's probably pretty common in CBT. We learn to you know, we identify behavior, we identify feeling, identify thought. And we kind of we really analyze it and like, OK, you know, you want to stop being anxious.

OK, so the thought was that the behavior was the feeling. Let's analyze that to death and help you to not be anxious anymore. And I think there's you know, that's good. I mean, I think it's you know, there's some good things about that. And so I was doing that. I did that for years. And then I went to a seminar and and then I treat myself that way.

I treat my patients that way. I treat myself that way. And then I went to a seminar about kids treating kids. And this woman starts talking about so I live in New Hampshire, and Dick, the founder of IFS, had moved from Chicago to Boston. And so there was a lot of IFS stuff happening in Boston. So I went to a seminar and this woman says there's this new, well it had been around 30 years at that point, new therapy in Boston.

And it and it says she says something about curiosity and inviting people to be curious. And then she talked about a million other things. But that stuck in my head because I thought, what would it be like if I started being curious about that? Because that's not what I'm doing.

I'm challenging, I'm debating, I'm arguing with my clients about what they're doing. So what if I looked at that thought-feeling-behavior triangle and what if I began to be curious about it and I help my clients be curious about it? What I remember thinking, how it would feel different for me even as a therapist to bring curiosity to that and just what a different experience it would be in the therapy room to be curious. And so I went back to my office, I Googled IFS. I found out that Dick was coming to Cape Cod for a weeklong training in Cape Cod. And I went and it was amazing. It changed my life and I started IFS. You know, IFS is all about as therapist, we have to do our own work.

So I immediately got into seeing an IFS therapist and I did level one, level two, and then I helped with trainings and started the podcast and I wrote a book.

JW:

The thing I'm just imagining, one of the things that has really just impressed me about IFS is this curiosity piece. I really loved it. That was the first thing for you that really clicked. And then feeling into curiosity, what happens for me and I'm wondering if this was the case for you. There's a feeling of spaciousness, like it's like things kind of opened up.

And I can imagine when you describe CBT, DBT, a focus, it felt constricted, it felt tight, and then this curiosity feels like it's opening up.

TS:

I love podcasting, but a thing that you don't see on a podcast is our body. So your body just literally just softens. It literally was more spacious. You opened your arms, right? Our bodies are constricted when we think about the CBT triangle, and then we sort of open up as we think about being being curious and another way of saying that is our parts aren't necessarily necessarily curious, but our self is.

And so when we think about our parts, people think about like sort of the devil, an angel on our shoulder or even like the seesaw, like one part of me sort of I use my hands a lot. So one parts on my left hand parts in my right hand. When I think about being curious, I almost can move my hands outside of my body a little bit, even like kind of further away from me.

So sort of my hands are further away from me. And now there's space between me and my heart. Like, literally, right? My heart's here, my body's here, and my hands are a little bit more here. And so I can see and hear and be with these parts of me that I'm holding out my hands. I can really see them and be with them in a way that I can't be when they're when there's no space there.

AD:

I just want I just want to share really quick because I don't I don't think that we've gone into that. So so he is he is he brought Justin brought IFS to our home into his life and into our family. And so I have been learning through through his work, through our work together through Yes Collective, through the podcast, kind of along with everybody else in your life.

You know, I have been kind of brought into this and I have fallen in love with it. But I am not as well versed in it. You know, Justin read all the textbooks and the trainings and things like that. So I would say I'm the newer one here. So, Justin, he’s written these questions and he's deep in it, but I represent like the average everyday mom who's a part ofmYes Collective who's absorbing stuff. Yeah. So I thought maybe this would be a good place to just pause. And Tammy, I'm curious, how do you explain IFS to somebody who has never heard of it before? Like what's what's the fastest just quickest way that you can do it?

TS:

Yeah. I want to speak to the reason I started my podcast was because of Mom. So my mom my son's 11, but I was in a mom playgroup that, like, saved my life when he was a baby. And we met weekly and and I remember probably when he was about one or two thinking, you know, how do I these moms are smart, amazing people.

And, you know, we're staying at home with their kids or working part time. And they didn't have time to do the trainings that I was doing. Like they didn't have time to do that stuff or I had done. And so I thought, this is, you know, I just have such a heart for moms and such a passion for like helping moms, you know, getting this information and making this information accessible to moms because they're listening to podcasts.

They listen to podcasts as they and as they're taking their kid for a walk while they take a nap in the stroller. And, you know, it's so hard and so much the fast way to talk about IFS is to say just use food, because I think that we all sort of struggle with foods. I have a part of me and I could use this example yesterday I had these scones like thick, amazing, delicious scones and they were amazing.

And I love that they're so good. And then I had another part afterwards that was like really mean and called me really mean names. And then and then was like, you're never eating again.

Yeah. And so I have these two parts, right? The part that ate the scones and then the part that said really, really mean things to me and then told me that I was never eating again, which then actually triggered a part that then ate a whole bunch of other stuff last night. And then this morning: You're not eating today, right?

So here are these parts of me around food, right? The part of me that ate the scones, the part of me that criticized me about the scones and said you're never eating again. Part of me that wants to eat a brownie, part of me that says, no, you're only eating kale and I'm holding up my hands once my left hand wasn't married yet.

And so we all have these parts. And the part of me that ate the scones, it has positive intentions for me. It says, you like this, it is so good. It tastes so yummy and so yummy. It was really good. And then that was the first one was really going to be good. The second one was because I was pissed off, so that was the different reason.

It was an hour later and I was pissed off and I let this go and that has a good attention to it because it says, You know what we learned when we're little, that when you're pissed off or you're sad or you have any big feeling, this is what helps you feel better. So here's one. You're eating one scone because it's yummy.

We're hitting the other scone because it helps you feel better. And I can see that you're really upset right now. And then this part over here, the one is in my other hand, it says, But I know that you don't feel good when you eat that way. I know you don't feel good out. You feel good in your body.

Your clothes not fit you, but you also don't feel good in your body. Like, forget diet culture crap. You just don't feel good in your body. So I'm going to call your names because I know that's one way to get your attention because I want you to feel good in your body. So all of those parts, because that's actually three parts.

Three parts all have really positive intentions for me and then me, I'm the adult, you know, 40 something year old me who can listen to those parts and I can say all I hear how you're trying to help me. I can see and I can hear your positive intention for me. Let's all meet and talk and be together and see kind of how we can handle our decision about what we're ready today.

So you guys are making the decision. I'm making the decision. Adult Me is going to make the decision about what I'm going to eat today because these suckers, I can't let them make a decision about how many scones I eat today because that might not go well.


AD:

And that's beautiful. I love that. Yeah.

I just have to say, it's like the more novice one here getting into this work. I absolutely love it. And what I love so much about it is the gratitude and like really the recognition that all of these parts just want the best for us. And they've come on board with their own strategies to do that. And, and that we can, we can, we can hear them out, you know, that we can be grateful for that.

And then we can also hear them out. And that in in that space of that true self, we can we can help make sense of what they're all wanting and, and really asking for. It's really beautiful because it's not, you know, like, it's just so different to me. It could it be more different than I think what I have experienced and, you know, kind of like a standard whatever it might be, any of these other names, therapeutic methods are what people associate a lot of therapy with is I'm going to go somewhere where I’m going to be judged and I'm going to be labeled and then they’re going to try to fix me.

And what if my parts aren’t something that needs to be fixed you know? And what if it's not just me as one monolithic entity? What if there are all of these different parts and they all want what's best and it's just to me, it's like profoundly liberating and really freeing.

TS:

Really beautiful. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Right. Because we fix. So we're going to go ahead and fix that. Me and guess what? There's going to be another me that's going to have another strategy, right? So and I've done this list before, too, right? OK, so I'm not going to eat sugar. That's going to fix that.

But guess what? Another part's going to find some other loophole that's going to say, OK, well, actually what you're going to do now is you're going to binge on ranch dressing or something. You know, I mean, like all moldy vegetables, you know, so it's sort of like these parts are going to we can fit. And then it's another part.

Like, I'm not looking to fix them. It's another part, right? It's another part right. The part that says you're not eating anymore. That's the part that's trying to fix that part. Right? The one in my right hand is the one trying to fix the one at my left hand. And then we have we call that polarization sort of that's the seesaw that happens is there.

And they just kind of go back and forth up and down trying to fix each other without realizing that I'm here, too. I'm here. And look at me. Stop just looking at each other like that. Our parts just look at each other and battle. Look at me. I'm going to give you some gratitude. I'm going to listen.

Let's talk together and be buddies and let's see what we can do.

AD:

I love that. And it brings up something for me thinking you mentioned that you have been with your partner for a really long time.

TS:

Yes, we were for a very long time. But we're divorced now. Yeah.

AD:

Perhaps parts work helped get to the point of a divorce even, which I think is powerful to think about, too. I think about us. We've been together since college, too. And I think of the parts that we’re learning about and like, oh my God, all these parts have come up in us or presented in us, related to each other.

TS:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, your parts show up in your relationship, you know, so parts show up in your relationship, and then your parts are going to just, you know, like the part. Like, I have a partner now and my parts trigger his parts and his parts trigger my parts. Right. And then the more we can talk about that, the more I can say, OK, a part of me who is feeling this way. A part of me is when we're angry at you, a part of me is really disappointed because you said you would do this and you didn't do this. And so a part of me that's feeling really frustrated now, I have another part of me that doesn't want to be frustrated with you right now.

I really just enjoy my time with you. But if I don't speak for that frustration, I just try to enjoy my time with you. Then it's going to be kind of wonky and you're going to feel something. And then his parts are going to be like, I don't Tami's not really telling me something. I can feel like there's something in the his parts that I try to make up what it is.

And so then our parts are then just going to be reacting to each other and so when we can speak for our parts, that really helps, right? A part of me feels frustrated. Another part of me doesn't want to be frustrated. And then he can say, well, part of me was scared that you were feeling this. And another part of me said, Well, I don't even wanna talk to her then because she's mad at me.

So I don't talk to her when she's mad at me and when we can like, OK, so we are now looking, we're kind of having space, right? Here's my pass. I'm putting my apartment table, he's putting his parts on the table, and then him and I and our true self and Blake, we totally get why our sweat respond that way to each other.


JW:

I love that. Speaking for your parts, not from your parts has been I mean, it's so simple it has been such a game changer, and it's in relationships. It's huge because I can then express something that might feel dangerous, but it lowers the temperature to say I have a part instead of I, oh, I'm frustrated or I have, you know, I have a part that has a story.

I have a part that has a judgment. And, well, you have it lowers the temperature. And then it's like, OK, we can both, like, step back and we can look at this part and we can understand this part might be hurt or scared or.

AD:

What's so beautiful. It's not saying, you know, I or you, you know, and we on the break, break it down that way. I feel like it's a it promotes developing understanding, you know, allows for a lot more curiosity on everyone's parts.

TS:

Parts, I love that. And think about what curiosity brings to our relationships with our partners. Right it if we can be curious about why he didn't do the thing or why I thought he was going to take it did do the thing. If I can be curious about that that just brings so much instead of just bringing instead of a part of me telling me a story.

Right. Part of me telling me a story that says, well, he doesn't really like me or he would rather not talk to me. And and then I believe those stories or parts tell us stories and we tend to believe them. And instead of that, language, a part of me is telling a story right now, OK, that gives me some distance between feeling the story and realizing parts, telling a story.

AD:

I love that. I think we should put a pin in that. I'm thinking of experiences with our kids, you know what I'm saying? Like with Maisie to be able to say a part of me is telling me a story that you're refusing to do the dishes right now because of me, you know, or whatever it may be.

This is our 12 year old daughter. And yeah, I mean, I think it's just so so beautiful like it is this is, this is not how, you know, most of us grew up. That's definitely not how most of our parents grew up. Right. And it just it seems to be such a game changer because it gives her so much room that.

JW:

That's right. So what I'm feeling into here is my own journey with IFS and learning more about my parts and learning that almost every part that I really get to know is a part that has a lot of childhood baggage. Like when I really get to know a part, it might first present itself as like part of me, an adult, 45 years old, you know, concerned with having my daughter do the chores and, you know, because she said she was going to do the chores and we pay her to do the chores.

And, you know, but then it's like, I will then get a chance to sit with this part that's really triggered by her not wanting to do the dishes when I want her to do them. And then feel inside. And, and the, the deeper I get, the closer I get, the more curious I get and the more compassion I get around this part, the more I'll see that my concern is I'm not being heard. I'm not being seen. And then this part of the me is like, oh, my gosh. The memory that it has is, you know, of me as a kid with my mom. And and so then it's like, oh, my gosh, this has nothing to do with her. Yeah. So can you say a little something about about these, these young parts?

TS:

Yeah, that's beautiful. And that is exactly what happens. You know, she's not doing the dishes and she's not listening to me and then. Right. But if you pause and you, we might not be able to do it in the moment, right? Because she's not doing the dishes and really frustrated and all these parts really frustrated. But if we if we take some time, whether in the morning or sort of alone and takes some time and and we call it go inside and just pause it, OK, what what's coming up for me?

What does it feel like in my body when she doesn't do the dishes? Like we took a U-turn what's happening for me when she doesn't do that? What's the story that I'm telling myself? What does it feel like for me? Is there a memory connected to it? OK, I can now. I can remember that I'm 13 or I'm 12 and I'm getting in a fight with my mom and my mom doesn't hear me.

And so here is this memory. OK, so what's triggered in me is this 13 year old little boy, a 13 year old little boy, or a younger six year old little boy who doesn't feel hurt by his mom. And so I have then six year old feelings when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes. And so what happens in parenting a lot is I have six year old feelings, six year old feelings and thoughts and strategies so when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes.

And it triggers my six year old my six year old is going to stop around the house and is going to pout and maybe he's going to call her a she's just a big meanie doesn't listen anything I say and I might even see I might be embodying the six year old because I'm using the six year old strategies and how my six year old is parenting my 12 year old.

My six year old part is parenting my 12 year old child yes.

JW:

This is so powerful. This is it.


TS:

Happens for me too. So just describe my my 13 year old angsty teenager when she starts parenting. I mean it's it's and I and my son knows that right it triggers I must sometimes think it triggers sort of wise parts of him and I'm like I'm the teenager and he's the parent. Right and I can feel it sometimes when he's like, OK, what do we need to do right now?

JW:

Yeah, yeah. And so in effect, therapy event the trajectory then would be to help the client in in there. Well, we haven't talked about self or I mean you have referred to it but there's this really important quality that you've just talked about is just, just, just being us. But it's, it's this in internal family systems they call it capital S self, self energy.

And, and so it's really just about being connected to our core and then with compassion and curiosity, really seeing and hearing these young parts and allowing them to be heard and seen. And then what's the next step? I mean, what happens after that? How can these young parts, how can they be helped so that as we grow, I can start to parent my 12 year old from my true self, from my core, and not from this six year old part.

TS:

Yeah, yeah. So when we think about other types of therapies, what would happen is you would then tell me today if I'm your therapist and you're telling me about a six year old part of you that was triggered by your 12 year old part. Well, we wouldn't talk about it that way, but let's say you did our 12 year old daughter.

So what we would do in other therapies is you would tell me about the experience. I was six, my mom didn't hear me. This is how I felt about blah blah blah blah, right? That's kind of what we do. You sort of tell me the story of what happened but in effect what we do is we actually have you as your true self go into the story and be there with your six year old the way that that six year old needed.

So you're not telling me necessarily, you're actually in the story as your true self and you’re hearing him, you’re seeing him, you're understanding him, you're saying, and then he gets to tell you this is what it felt like when mom did this. And he gets to tell you everything that happened, everything that he wants you to know that that happened and how hard that was for him.

And then you you get to hold him, to hug him, to be there in a way that he needed someone to be. And that sounds a little bit hokey, but it is incredibly powerful. And then the self then says to that little boy, you want to come out of there? Yeah. You know, do you want to come out of that scene and come to the present to come out of that scene and come to the present where you feel me, right?

You feel my love and acceptance and my hearing you. And, you know, what do you want to do now? Do you want to come you know, you want to go to a fantasy place? Do you want to come into my house and do you want to just come sit next to me? You want to come into my heart?

And then that we call it unburdening and that the healing that happens is when we in ourselves go to those younger parts and unburden them, we witness them, hear them, unburden them, and bring them to the present. And then your six year old now is not Steinmeier. Six year old is hanging out with you at your feet. I keep pointing at my feet.

You're saying she was hanging out and playing with cars at your feet and just relaxing and feeling totally connected to you. So when your 12 year old daughter doesn't do the dishes, he is all set he's not. Yes. It's going to it's still going to be upsetting to you. Like sell still has emotions, but you're not going to respond from the six year old.

You're going to respond. Hopefully there might be another part will that might come up. Well, you get a response from your dad, from your true self. But this say like, honey, you know, we talked about it and so and we have a behavioral plan and so you don't have to do the dishes or you make any money. All right.

And so and then I'm not activated. Right. You don't do the dishes. You don't get any money. That's our behavior plan. There's no activation in my system. My six year old is fine. He's chillin at my feet, playing with cars.

JW:

Yes. Beautiful. Yeah. So it's.

AD:

Really powerful.

JW:

Now, I have a curiosity because the whole theme of this month is around parent mental health, parents wellness. And so is is this what you just described? Is that how you would characterize parent mental health when like when we are able to show up through our core self, like this is parent mental health?

TS:

Well, I mean, that would be lovely. But sometimes parent mental health might just be recognizing that I have parts and my son has parts and it might just be that he's in a part right now. And if I join him and his part is going to be messy. And so if I can recognize that he's in a part and maybe I can just take a deep breath and see, I can be a little less and one of us can be a little less in parts and hopefully it's me because I'm the adult, then we might be OK.

I think sometimes that's all it is. That's right. He's multiple. I'm multiple. And can I take a deep breath, call my system down a little bit and I can parent from that place from a even if it's a little bit more self, a little less heart driven, then I can parent from that place in recognizing that he's in parts, too.

AD:

I love that. That really, really resonates with me as a mom. I don't have to be healed I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be, you know, kind of like I don't have to have, you know, all of my parts don't have to be the perfect, happy family, you know, at every given moment that it's really around awareness and having some tools, it sounds like.

So to work with, just even recognize that in those moments.

TS:

Yeah, definitely. And really softening that critic that says, this is how I have to be as a parent. This is what I this is what a real mom, true mom, good mom, whatever dumb language we're using, let's get rid of that language is like he's doing a pretty good job probably. And so if you're listening to his podcast, you're probably doing a really good job actually.

And so and so then I would say the first place to start probably would be what are those inner critic saying to you about how you're parenting and how you are and who you're supposed to be? Let's start there when you're trying to get to know your system. Let's start with those parts that say this is the type of mom I should be.

And here is all the ways I suck as a mom. Or Dad.

AD:

Would you write that down? Would you recommend even like journaling that out?

TS:

Definitely. I love journaling and how I journal is I write P for a part. You suck. That's what a part just told me. You suck. And another part, it's like stop being so mean yourself. Like really dialog that out. And I might even write part one, part two, part three, part four. Let them just say whatever they want to say unfiltered because they're saying it anyways.

So another part is trying to ignore them to say, I'd write it all out P1, et cetera. Take a couple of deep breaths and then I'd write. As for self, what a self. Even a self just says, I hear you. Thank you for telling me how you're feeling. I just want you to know that I'm hearing you. I'm here.

I'm here for it. Tell me what's going on. Tell me how you're feeling.

JW:

Do you have any tips or strategies for parents who are hearing this? Maybe for the first time was like, OK, I think I kind of understand the parts like that makes sense. And then then there's this the self. There's this, of course, self. I think that makes sense. But how can a parent know that, oh, this is my self here and not just another part.

TS:

Yes. I usually say, think of a time where you actually felt calm, creative, curious, compassionate, connected. Now, when is a time you felt that way? You know, when you went for a walk or when you saw a sun rise or a sunset or after a meditation or like when is the last time you felt that way?

What was that like in your body? Describe what that experience was like. And then as you're describing it, what are you feeling as you describe it? Because you start to feel it as you describe it, right? Because I could tell you about a situation that was really frustrating to me. And as I'm describing it, I'm feeling it.

I'm in it again. So the same thing happens with self I can just describe a time that I felt calmer and more compassionate, more connected to myself and to the universe. I could tell you about that, and then I can begin to feel it and then I want to really OK, what does that feel like? So that people have a sense of I know what it feels like to be in self even a little bit.

It's not like zero or a hundred, even a little that is self energy. I know what that feels like, OK, they know what it feels like and we know what it feels like to be in a part because we're we're more energized or more aggravate or there's an urgent feeling or there's sort of nasty thoughts going in our head and let's just start paying attention to what that what it feels like to be in those different parts with those voices sound like whether it's behaviors or thoughts.

Let's bring curiosity to what that's like because that's what's when I'm part driven versus when I'm self-driven. And it's not all or nothing, but just start paying attention to when I'm more kind of over here in my parts, when I'm more a little bit over here in myself, like, what does it feel like? What does it sound like?

AD:

Sounds like a really powerful take on mindfulness. Like it makes mindfulness makes sense to me if, you know, like being able to pay attention to these parts. And I love the idea of being able to do your own kind of like visualization. If you practice that, you know, when you know you be in the school, pick up line and, you know, practice that visualization of being in self, whatever, you know, modicum of that you can get.

I actually have a curiosity. I have a question that's come up so I absolutely so appreciate what you said earlier about just loving moms and wanting to work with moms and support moms. And that goal of your podcast and, and a lot of your work. I think it's so powerful and Yes Collective, we are aligned with your mission completely and one of the things that's really challenging for so many of us is I mean, Justin tried three times here in Savannah to get in to see a therapist and no one responsed. You know, these lines to get in the door are super long, so it can be really hard to find that help. And then and then for parents, you know, and for busy moms, it's like yeah, I want to go work with a therapist, but, you know, I'm a busy mom.

I don't have anything that's like so really pressing for me to get into that office. Right. But I want to do some of this work. And so can you maybe help me understand, like, are there parts of IFS that we can break down into small bites that we can start to do on our own? You know, things that we can do to bring awareness ourselves that can improve our our daily lives as moms help us connect with our kids, you know, our work as parents.

TS:

Yeah. I love this question so much. You answered it when you said I'm in the pick up line right? So you're in the school pick up line. And remember this time that I felt this calmness.

And so I'm going to be in the school pick up line and I'm going to think about the word calm. I'm going to breathe in calm. I'm going to notice what that feels like in my body. And I'm just going to sort of take in this calm and then I'm going to notice what else is there like what are what are the other parts that are there?

What else am I noticing in my in my mind. I think the two things that I would say are big takeaways are what is self feel like and then starting to map out the parts that I have. Right? So if I bring in the calm, I'm feeling that calm and I hear you have a zillion things to do when you got home.

OK, great. We call it like our parts that drive the bus. If I have a million things, you know, what are you doing right now? You should not be doing this. Call me like you should be reading a book right now or whatever. So just start mapping out your common parts because they're going to sound and look and feel the same.

So checking in with that self, what does that feel like? Breathing into that a little bit and start mapping out those parts and do it as you go if you can. I love journaling. I think journaling is a good way to help you just check inside. And the other thing, too, is your important you know, we have this thing as moms and dads that we're not important.

And so I need to make sure that everyone knows how everyone else has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that's fine. Like make sure everyone has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I think we're just wired that way. We have to make sure everyone else has our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I'm going to make sure I have my too.

And I'm going to sit down at the table too, and I'm going to have peanut butter jelly sandwich, too. And so I think that I think that's a big part of it is just knowing that my mental health is important because that's how I'm going to show up as a mom. And it's going to help me be a better mom, right?

Like if I want to be a better mom for my kid, then and I don't mean that in a guilty shaming way, but taking time for me, what would that looks like, even if it's in the car pickup line and breathing in the word calm, that's going to make a big difference in how I shop from my kid and then how I feel about myself as a parent.

AD:

That's so powerful to me. That resonates with the idea of self care and not to minimize manicures and bubble baths like, you know, I’m for all of that. But it it seems like that self care can take some work. You know what we're talking about doing this work? It is. It isn't just about barreling towards the one vacation a year or whatever it might be, right?

TS:

Definitely.

AD:

Every day support to yourself which involves doing it sounds like some of this inner exploration. And you're right then we we show up better for ourselves with ourselves within ourself, you know, and then within in our relationships and of course with our kids. And I find that the times when I might most sort of like, you know, kind of spiral more with parts is like when I when I realize that I reacted out of whatever it might have been, it might have been a six year old part or whatever it might be, you know, and just realizing that I have the ability to explore that and to be open about that with my kids and to reveal that experience that I'm having and be able to talk about it. And that's not having a perfect answer or anything like that. It's just taking that space in between stimulus and response and being open about it. And exploring it. Then being willing to, you know, apologize and being open like none of that is perfection driven. Right.

And I guess the curiosity that I have here is like, I'm all for therapy. I want us all to have universal access. But in the meantime, it sounds like these are some of the things that we can do to be doing this work ourselves. Like it doesn't have to be behind a paywall or or any of any of those things.

These are things that we can do daily.

TS:

Definitely. And I think that for the listeners, if they I want them to notice the parts that are coming up right now. “I don't have time. I'm too busy. What else what else would I have to sacrifice if I did that?” Just notice the list that you have going on in your head, because I know you do a list you have going on in your head for the reason why you cannot make yourself a little bit more of a priority.

And let's just write those things down because those are parts of you. And I would say ask you from your true self, ask those parts what are they afraid would happen if you took a little more time for yourself? And what would happen if you didn't get the dishes done? Or what if? Well, first of all, you will you'll get the dishes done.

But what would happen if you did in the end just start asking what would happen if that if I didn't do that? And let's just explore with some curiosity the parts of you that are that are scared or hesitant to make a little bit of changes even if it's a little bit of journaling, or maybe you're reading a book on IFRS, or maybe you're taking a taken some time to meditate a little bit, or just noticing the parts of you and so all the parts of you that are saying, no, no, no, no, no, let's explore those parts.

Let's start there and find out what's what are their fears and some of the fears are going to be you're going to start crying and never stop crying. Well, that's, that's never happened. Anybody I get that is a fear. But also I want you to un blend in you and your authentic self, see if you can if you can comfort, support and affirm the parts of you that have those concerns and fears.

JW:

I love that just real, real quick. That part to me is coming up is so important that if I have a part and I'm feeling judgmental about that part, I want that part to go away. I want that part to change whatever it is, then I'm in another part. And I love that idea. And so so if I can then as you noted, the curiosity, the compassion, the calmness, if I'm feeling those or this part, then I can have that relationship, that that healing relationship.

AD:

Can you can you adjust for the listener who's more like me let me make that very, very clear. So you're saying that when you are in like capital S so that you are not in judgment? Yeah, it's it's it's just automatically a compassionate, sort of like open state. So if you notice that you're in judgment around a part, then that's a signal to knowing that you're actually in your you're right now thinking through a part or instead of being in that and you too, or you're not realizing it.

So it's like a flag for you.

TS:

Definitely, definitely. And that's why I said when you journal, you can actually journal like parts having conversation with each other because then there probably is a lot of parts kind of bouncing back and forth like, oh, you don't have time for that. Well, I really need to have time for that. But it did that right to those that kind of that like dialog is going to be back and forth.

And so there might be a bunch of back and forth between parts before self can kind of come in and say, I hear you, I get it. Let's talk about this. Like and so I think that's such a good point because because when self is there, there's going to be more space, there's going to be some softening, there's going to be a little bit of light, a lightness in your system, versus with the parts just kind of going back and forth.

AD:

I have a question then. Are there different types of like archetypes or types of parts that are like really common for us all? Or are parts super diverse and as diverse as we are or both?

TS:

It's probably both, but I think that we all have like critics. I think there's often really like I've never been surprised that a person has a path and I'm like, Wow, I've never heard of that before. Totally mean my ex. I think I think that, you know, we all have critics. I think there's always judgmental parts which can kind of go with the critics.

And and I think that probably someone way smarter than me could probably kind of lay out the different kind of topics of different parts. But I think that there are critics are probably.

JW:

And the managers. Right, the ones that want to keep us on track and want to make sure that we're good and others.

AD:

Are these like always there for protection? And then we have you know, other parts that play other roles, you know, around. I mean, yeah, it's got to be parts that are like joyful and and other things, too, right?

TS:

Right. So we have two different types of parts. We have manage managing parts, but we have two, which is probably a sort of a different thing, but we have two different types of parts. One is called managers and one is called firefighters. And so the managing parts are the ones that manage our lives to make sure, OK, so my food example, so the the part of me that was saying, OK, you're not going to eat again tomorrow, I guess tomorrow you're not going to eat.

Here's how we're going to handle that. Here's how we're going to handle from now on, make sure that you lose weight because you had years gone by, blah, blah, blah. That's a manager. I'm going to manage your life so that you don't ever feel what we call the exiles. Exiles are those parts we kind of like push in the basement, the ones with really big feelings, the ones that often have shame, not feeling heard, that six year old not feeling heard, not feeling seen, lots of shame, feeling unloved. Those are our exiles. Those are our younger parts. And so our managers and firefighters protect us from the big feelings of the exiles.

So the managers manage our lives so we never feel the exiles. And if firefighters come up when we do feel the exiles. So my firefighter was that second scone and a second scone when I was pissed. There was a lot of big feelings, which if I was if I would have stayed with that, I probably would have went to some exile there for sure.

But that firefighter part, that's here because I was having big feelings and an exile was triggered and I ate that scone and there's my firefighter trying to take care of that fire. I'll put that fire out and I'm going to be fine. There's my manager. I'm fine. Everything's fine. And so my firefighter came in to make sure that I'm fine.

All is well. And so does that make sense? So we got the firefighters to come in after the exile's triggered. We're the managers that make sure the exiles are never triggered. Then those exiles who need us, our authentic self, to go to them and be what they need it, hear their stories and take them out of those places.

AD:

That was that was fantastic.

I feel like I got a good lay of the land. I really like that. Like, that's amazing for me to work with. When I do my work, I can start to see kind of like, who's who and these companions I have.

TS:

I love the companions.

JW:

Tammy, so I want to be sure that we get your quick fire answers to the three questions that we ask every guest when they come on the show. So first, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

TS:

I love this question. My my thought was you're doing a few things really, really well. Maybe one. Maybe just one.

JW:

Awesome. And then, is there a recent quote that you've come across that's changed the way you think or feel?

TS:

Well, I read this quote in this book the other day. It is called This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson, which is a fantastic book. And I read this this quote, and I've been sitting with it for a while. I think it's interesting. And she says, Loneliness is best shared with aloneness, which is to say a meaningful connection to ourselves.

And I thought that speaks to IFS perfectly, right? Like if I'm having some feeling, even if it's loneliness, the cure to that is to be alone and go inside and have self be and connect to all the parts, right? Self, connecting to our hurting parts is how we're how we are healed. It’s self connecting to those hurting parts.

JW:

Self connecting to hurting parts. Beautiful hopeful. Empowering and hopeful because the message is that your healing is going to come from within.

TS:

From you. Right from your authentic self, which is your like the divine inside of you. It’s your spiritual life, whoever that is inside of you, your soul. That's where the healing comes from is that which is already there. It's already there. You don't have to make it. It's already there. Even as you're busy and you're making a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s still there.

JW:

It's still there. I love it. I love it. Tell me the final question we have. We ask this one because for a lot of parents, parenting can be very hectic, very crazy, a lot of taxing moments and so it's nice to just step back and reflect like what is so wonderful about kids. And so what is your favorite thing about kids?

TS:

The first word that came to my mind is play. Here's I think we have lost how to play. And when I used to sit down with my son and play, I would organize his his cars by color because I don't know how to play, how to so I watch him play. How is he playing with his cars? And I still would kind of clean up a little bit as I'm playing.

I think that's one of the things that I love about kids is they invite our younger parts to come out and play.

JW:

I love that. Tammy, real quick, playfulness, would you categorize that as one of the qualities of capital S self?

TS:

Totally. So playfulness so that we all have the Ps. So we have the five Ps the playfulness, patience, persistence. Those are some of the Ps. So playfulness is definitely a quality of self.

AD:

Oh, I love hearing that. Thank you for adding that in. I’m now interested in the qualities of self. Save that for another time.

JW:

Oh, yes. Oh, well, we would love to have you back on tap.

TS:

That would be great.

JW:

I feel like we just scratched the surface oh, thank you so much for joining us. This is really a wonderful gift.

AD:

And thank you for your amazing work. I feel like we're so and I feel so grateful to have connected with you and I look forward to connecting further.

In this episode

We are incredibly honored to kick off parent mental health awareness month with Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy. Most importantly, Tammy is a mom who brings her work home—all of the skills, insights, and practices she uses to help other parents live more present and connect lives are the same ones she uses at home with her family. We loved digging into all the wisdom Tammy has around parenthood, stress, healing emotional wounds, and cultivating more compassion, curiosity, and playfulness in our lives. Without further ado, here is the insightful, wise, and wonderful Tammy Sollenberger.

Listen here

About our guest

Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy.

Show notes

  • Tammy's personal website: https://tammysollenberger.com
  • Tammy's book, The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self is available here
  • According to the IFS Institute, Internal Family Systems therapy is "a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts. We believe the mind is naturally multiple and that is a good thing. Just like members of a family, inner parts are forced from their valuable states into extreme roles within us. We also all have a core Self."
  • Find out more about Tammy's podcast, The One Inside
  • Tammy mentioned Sarah Wilson's book This One Wild and Precious Life

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW):

Tammy, what led you to devote your life to mental health and wellness in general?

Tammy Sollenberger (TS):

Well, I just feel like it's something that fires me up. You know, I feel strongly about how we treat people with mental illness. I think that we all have mental health, not just mental illness, but we all have mental health as part of our is part of who we are. Right. Like we're mental where physical or psychological and so it's not just mental illness, but, you know, I think that I think I was one of those people in high school that, you know, all their friends came to with their problems.

It just felt just really natural. It's just I love people. I love getting to know people. I'm just naturally really curious about people. And I love helping people. And I feel like I have a passion for helping people live the lives that they want to live.

JW:

So you experienced this all the way back in high school that it just the idea of wanting to be there for other people, wanting to be a sounding board, wanting to hear other people's knowledge.

TS:

It's funny. I don't know that I wanted to. It just felt like it. How embarrassing. I mean, like, I just was just like a natural, like, all, you know, it's just something that happened. And I ended up going into broad. I end up going to broadcasting, actually, cause I wanted to work in TV. So I sort of that just sort of naturally happened.

And then I wanted to work in TV, and I ended up working at a college. I ended up taking psychology classes. And then I was like, I want to do this, whatever this is, this is what I want to do. And then I ended up becoming a therapist, you know, taking that track and becoming a therapist.

JW:

So I've got some questions about how you got to where you are today. But before I do, I want to ask first about mental health and the stigma that a lot of parents carry around mental health. And I'm wondering so I wanted to ask this early on, because I was curious if this was a part of your personal history that you grew up in a family where there wasn't a lot of stigma around mental health, where everyone talked about it really freely and openly.

Was that your experience?

Audra DiPadova (AD):

Was that yours?

JW:

No.

TS:

Is that anyone’s?

JW:

Yeah. So what was that like then? You grew up in, I guess, a pretty normal family at least for for us, where.

TS:

You could say typical.

JW:

Yeah. Where this wasn't talked about, where if you did have to go see a therapist, there was something wrong with you. And so then how do you go from that sort of normal paradigm to then moving into a space where you are in the mental health field?


TS:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think that, you know, there's some statistic and I'm not gonna get this right, that something like ninety percent of people that go into the mental health field do so because they had mental health challenges in their own family. And I think that was true for me in some way that it just wasn't talked about, you know, it sort of wasn't talked about that my mom was struggling or, you know, that people in my family were struggling and it just wasn't talked about it.

And so the first thing that comes up for me, is a question is space, that when there was space between my family of origin and me when I was in college, I was living with my husband at the time, and there was some space. I got married really young. So there was some space between my family of origin and myself so that when I took a psychology class that there was space for me to explore that without the voice of “We don't talk about that.”

JW:

So I can imagine a sort of freedom then as like, oh my gosh, we get to talk about something that we never got to talk about before. Was it challenging bringing that back home when you would go back home and would you want to talk about it? Would you want to open it up?

TS:

I think parts of me you know, our parts are so smart and they know what's what's safe to talk about, what's not safe to talk about. And so I think parts to me were like, these are things that are not safe to talk about at home. So I could go and go and learn about these things.

And then when I go to like my mom's for dinner, let's say I'm not going to talk about those things because those things aren't safe to talk about. That's not true now, and this was a long time ago, but that was true at the time. And our parts are very clever in filtering us and saying, these are things these this is how you act right?

You can go off to college. You could be a certain type of person at college. And then you come home to your family of origin and you're going to be your parts are going to say, here's who you have to be in order to be safe around these people.

And we learned that growing up. We learned that as kids, here's how I have to be and here's how I have to think and feel and act in order to be safe. And then that's one of the things that IFS teaches us. I learned to be a good girl and overpower guys and, you know, just be sweet.

And that's how I learned to be in my family. That keeps me really safe and that's fine and good until it's not finding good In my twenties and thirties, in my forties, sometimes that's not super fighting good to me anymore.

AD:

I identify with that as a recovering people pleaser. You know, and yeah, finding out what was safe for me, which was to anticipate what actors in the home are going to be doing. Whereas when you have some volatile people, right. And kind of like anticipating those needs and it's so interesting to me because it turns out sometimes to be strengths that you bring into maybe workplaces in other parts of your life, but then also presents you know, the other side of the coin.

Sometimes real challenges in those workplaces or at home interpersonally, things like that. So I love hearing about this through the lens of of parts and parts work. And so I am eagerly hanging on just being a part of this podcast.

JW:

Yeah. So I as I was thinking about this interview, I was thinking, all right, I want to learn about your background. And so how did you grow up in a family where these sorts of things weren’t talked about? How did you get into this? And so you became a therapist, but when you first became a therapist, you didn't just immediately discover internal family systems. So can you tell us a little bit about this journey as a therapist for you? How did you start out or what sort of approach did you use starting out? And then how did you find out about internal family systems?

TS:

Yeah, so I used cognitive behavioral therapy. I was trained in dialectical behavioral therapy, which is DVT. I ran DVT groups. And so that CBT, you know, people that's probably pretty common in CBT. We learn to you know, we identify behavior, we identify feeling, identify thought. And we kind of we really analyze it and like, OK, you know, you want to stop being anxious.

OK, so the thought was that the behavior was the feeling. Let's analyze that to death and help you to not be anxious anymore. And I think there's you know, that's good. I mean, I think it's you know, there's some good things about that. And so I was doing that. I did that for years. And then I went to a seminar and and then I treat myself that way.

I treat my patients that way. I treat myself that way. And then I went to a seminar about kids treating kids. And this woman starts talking about so I live in New Hampshire, and Dick, the founder of IFS, had moved from Chicago to Boston. And so there was a lot of IFS stuff happening in Boston. So I went to a seminar and this woman says there's this new, well it had been around 30 years at that point, new therapy in Boston.

And it and it says she says something about curiosity and inviting people to be curious. And then she talked about a million other things. But that stuck in my head because I thought, what would it be like if I started being curious about that? Because that's not what I'm doing.

I'm challenging, I'm debating, I'm arguing with my clients about what they're doing. So what if I looked at that thought-feeling-behavior triangle and what if I began to be curious about it and I help my clients be curious about it? What I remember thinking, how it would feel different for me even as a therapist to bring curiosity to that and just what a different experience it would be in the therapy room to be curious. And so I went back to my office, I Googled IFS. I found out that Dick was coming to Cape Cod for a weeklong training in Cape Cod. And I went and it was amazing. It changed my life and I started IFS. You know, IFS is all about as therapist, we have to do our own work.

So I immediately got into seeing an IFS therapist and I did level one, level two, and then I helped with trainings and started the podcast and I wrote a book.

JW:

The thing I'm just imagining, one of the things that has really just impressed me about IFS is this curiosity piece. I really loved it. That was the first thing for you that really clicked. And then feeling into curiosity, what happens for me and I'm wondering if this was the case for you. There's a feeling of spaciousness, like it's like things kind of opened up.

And I can imagine when you describe CBT, DBT, a focus, it felt constricted, it felt tight, and then this curiosity feels like it's opening up.

TS:

I love podcasting, but a thing that you don't see on a podcast is our body. So your body just literally just softens. It literally was more spacious. You opened your arms, right? Our bodies are constricted when we think about the CBT triangle, and then we sort of open up as we think about being being curious and another way of saying that is our parts aren't necessarily necessarily curious, but our self is.

And so when we think about our parts, people think about like sort of the devil, an angel on our shoulder or even like the seesaw, like one part of me sort of I use my hands a lot. So one parts on my left hand parts in my right hand. When I think about being curious, I almost can move my hands outside of my body a little bit, even like kind of further away from me.

So sort of my hands are further away from me. And now there's space between me and my heart. Like, literally, right? My heart's here, my body's here, and my hands are a little bit more here. And so I can see and hear and be with these parts of me that I'm holding out my hands. I can really see them and be with them in a way that I can't be when they're when there's no space there.

AD:

I just want I just want to share really quick because I don't I don't think that we've gone into that. So so he is he is he brought Justin brought IFS to our home into his life and into our family. And so I have been learning through through his work, through our work together through Yes Collective, through the podcast, kind of along with everybody else in your life.

You know, I have been kind of brought into this and I have fallen in love with it. But I am not as well versed in it. You know, Justin read all the textbooks and the trainings and things like that. So I would say I'm the newer one here. So, Justin, he’s written these questions and he's deep in it, but I represent like the average everyday mom who's a part ofmYes Collective who's absorbing stuff. Yeah. So I thought maybe this would be a good place to just pause. And Tammy, I'm curious, how do you explain IFS to somebody who has never heard of it before? Like what's what's the fastest just quickest way that you can do it?

TS:

Yeah. I want to speak to the reason I started my podcast was because of Mom. So my mom my son's 11, but I was in a mom playgroup that, like, saved my life when he was a baby. And we met weekly and and I remember probably when he was about one or two thinking, you know, how do I these moms are smart, amazing people.

And, you know, we're staying at home with their kids or working part time. And they didn't have time to do the trainings that I was doing. Like they didn't have time to do that stuff or I had done. And so I thought, this is, you know, I just have such a heart for moms and such a passion for like helping moms, you know, getting this information and making this information accessible to moms because they're listening to podcasts.

They listen to podcasts as they and as they're taking their kid for a walk while they take a nap in the stroller. And, you know, it's so hard and so much the fast way to talk about IFS is to say just use food, because I think that we all sort of struggle with foods. I have a part of me and I could use this example yesterday I had these scones like thick, amazing, delicious scones and they were amazing.

And I love that they're so good. And then I had another part afterwards that was like really mean and called me really mean names. And then and then was like, you're never eating again.

Yeah. And so I have these two parts, right? The part that ate the scones and then the part that said really, really mean things to me and then told me that I was never eating again, which then actually triggered a part that then ate a whole bunch of other stuff last night. And then this morning: You're not eating today, right?

So here are these parts of me around food, right? The part of me that ate the scones, the part of me that criticized me about the scones and said you're never eating again. Part of me that wants to eat a brownie, part of me that says, no, you're only eating kale and I'm holding up my hands once my left hand wasn't married yet.

And so we all have these parts. And the part of me that ate the scones, it has positive intentions for me. It says, you like this, it is so good. It tastes so yummy and so yummy. It was really good. And then that was the first one was really going to be good. The second one was because I was pissed off, so that was the different reason.

It was an hour later and I was pissed off and I let this go and that has a good attention to it because it says, You know what we learned when we're little, that when you're pissed off or you're sad or you have any big feeling, this is what helps you feel better. So here's one. You're eating one scone because it's yummy.

We're hitting the other scone because it helps you feel better. And I can see that you're really upset right now. And then this part over here, the one is in my other hand, it says, But I know that you don't feel good when you eat that way. I know you don't feel good out. You feel good in your body.

Your clothes not fit you, but you also don't feel good in your body. Like, forget diet culture crap. You just don't feel good in your body. So I'm going to call your names because I know that's one way to get your attention because I want you to feel good in your body. So all of those parts, because that's actually three parts.

Three parts all have really positive intentions for me and then me, I'm the adult, you know, 40 something year old me who can listen to those parts and I can say all I hear how you're trying to help me. I can see and I can hear your positive intention for me. Let's all meet and talk and be together and see kind of how we can handle our decision about what we're ready today.

So you guys are making the decision. I'm making the decision. Adult Me is going to make the decision about what I'm going to eat today because these suckers, I can't let them make a decision about how many scones I eat today because that might not go well.


AD:

And that's beautiful. I love that. Yeah.

I just have to say, it's like the more novice one here getting into this work. I absolutely love it. And what I love so much about it is the gratitude and like really the recognition that all of these parts just want the best for us. And they've come on board with their own strategies to do that. And, and that we can, we can, we can hear them out, you know, that we can be grateful for that.

And then we can also hear them out. And that in in that space of that true self, we can we can help make sense of what they're all wanting and, and really asking for. It's really beautiful because it's not, you know, like, it's just so different to me. It could it be more different than I think what I have experienced and, you know, kind of like a standard whatever it might be, any of these other names, therapeutic methods are what people associate a lot of therapy with is I'm going to go somewhere where I’m going to be judged and I'm going to be labeled and then they’re going to try to fix me.

And what if my parts aren’t something that needs to be fixed you know? And what if it's not just me as one monolithic entity? What if there are all of these different parts and they all want what's best and it's just to me, it's like profoundly liberating and really freeing.

TS:

Really beautiful. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Right. Because we fix. So we're going to go ahead and fix that. Me and guess what? There's going to be another me that's going to have another strategy, right? So and I've done this list before, too, right? OK, so I'm not going to eat sugar. That's going to fix that.

But guess what? Another part's going to find some other loophole that's going to say, OK, well, actually what you're going to do now is you're going to binge on ranch dressing or something. You know, I mean, like all moldy vegetables, you know, so it's sort of like these parts are going to we can fit. And then it's another part.

Like, I'm not looking to fix them. It's another part, right? It's another part right. The part that says you're not eating anymore. That's the part that's trying to fix that part. Right? The one in my right hand is the one trying to fix the one at my left hand. And then we have we call that polarization sort of that's the seesaw that happens is there.

And they just kind of go back and forth up and down trying to fix each other without realizing that I'm here, too. I'm here. And look at me. Stop just looking at each other like that. Our parts just look at each other and battle. Look at me. I'm going to give you some gratitude. I'm going to listen.

Let's talk together and be buddies and let's see what we can do.

AD:

I love that. And it brings up something for me thinking you mentioned that you have been with your partner for a really long time.

TS:

Yes, we were for a very long time. But we're divorced now. Yeah.

AD:

Perhaps parts work helped get to the point of a divorce even, which I think is powerful to think about, too. I think about us. We've been together since college, too. And I think of the parts that we’re learning about and like, oh my God, all these parts have come up in us or presented in us, related to each other.

TS:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, your parts show up in your relationship, you know, so parts show up in your relationship, and then your parts are going to just, you know, like the part. Like, I have a partner now and my parts trigger his parts and his parts trigger my parts. Right. And then the more we can talk about that, the more I can say, OK, a part of me who is feeling this way. A part of me is when we're angry at you, a part of me is really disappointed because you said you would do this and you didn't do this. And so a part of me that's feeling really frustrated now, I have another part of me that doesn't want to be frustrated with you right now.

I really just enjoy my time with you. But if I don't speak for that frustration, I just try to enjoy my time with you. Then it's going to be kind of wonky and you're going to feel something. And then his parts are going to be like, I don't Tami's not really telling me something. I can feel like there's something in the his parts that I try to make up what it is.

And so then our parts are then just going to be reacting to each other and so when we can speak for our parts, that really helps, right? A part of me feels frustrated. Another part of me doesn't want to be frustrated. And then he can say, well, part of me was scared that you were feeling this. And another part of me said, Well, I don't even wanna talk to her then because she's mad at me.

So I don't talk to her when she's mad at me and when we can like, OK, so we are now looking, we're kind of having space, right? Here's my pass. I'm putting my apartment table, he's putting his parts on the table, and then him and I and our true self and Blake, we totally get why our sweat respond that way to each other.


JW:

I love that. Speaking for your parts, not from your parts has been I mean, it's so simple it has been such a game changer, and it's in relationships. It's huge because I can then express something that might feel dangerous, but it lowers the temperature to say I have a part instead of I, oh, I'm frustrated or I have, you know, I have a part that has a story.

I have a part that has a judgment. And, well, you have it lowers the temperature. And then it's like, OK, we can both, like, step back and we can look at this part and we can understand this part might be hurt or scared or.

AD:

What's so beautiful. It's not saying, you know, I or you, you know, and we on the break, break it down that way. I feel like it's a it promotes developing understanding, you know, allows for a lot more curiosity on everyone's parts.

TS:

Parts, I love that. And think about what curiosity brings to our relationships with our partners. Right it if we can be curious about why he didn't do the thing or why I thought he was going to take it did do the thing. If I can be curious about that that just brings so much instead of just bringing instead of a part of me telling me a story.

Right. Part of me telling me a story that says, well, he doesn't really like me or he would rather not talk to me. And and then I believe those stories or parts tell us stories and we tend to believe them. And instead of that, language, a part of me is telling a story right now, OK, that gives me some distance between feeling the story and realizing parts, telling a story.

AD:

I love that. I think we should put a pin in that. I'm thinking of experiences with our kids, you know what I'm saying? Like with Maisie to be able to say a part of me is telling me a story that you're refusing to do the dishes right now because of me, you know, or whatever it may be.

This is our 12 year old daughter. And yeah, I mean, I think it's just so so beautiful like it is this is, this is not how, you know, most of us grew up. That's definitely not how most of our parents grew up. Right. And it just it seems to be such a game changer because it gives her so much room that.

JW:

That's right. So what I'm feeling into here is my own journey with IFS and learning more about my parts and learning that almost every part that I really get to know is a part that has a lot of childhood baggage. Like when I really get to know a part, it might first present itself as like part of me, an adult, 45 years old, you know, concerned with having my daughter do the chores and, you know, because she said she was going to do the chores and we pay her to do the chores.

And, you know, but then it's like, I will then get a chance to sit with this part that's really triggered by her not wanting to do the dishes when I want her to do them. And then feel inside. And, and the, the deeper I get, the closer I get, the more curious I get and the more compassion I get around this part, the more I'll see that my concern is I'm not being heard. I'm not being seen. And then this part of the me is like, oh, my gosh. The memory that it has is, you know, of me as a kid with my mom. And and so then it's like, oh, my gosh, this has nothing to do with her. Yeah. So can you say a little something about about these, these young parts?

TS:

Yeah, that's beautiful. And that is exactly what happens. You know, she's not doing the dishes and she's not listening to me and then. Right. But if you pause and you, we might not be able to do it in the moment, right? Because she's not doing the dishes and really frustrated and all these parts really frustrated. But if we if we take some time, whether in the morning or sort of alone and takes some time and and we call it go inside and just pause it, OK, what what's coming up for me?

What does it feel like in my body when she doesn't do the dishes? Like we took a U-turn what's happening for me when she doesn't do that? What's the story that I'm telling myself? What does it feel like for me? Is there a memory connected to it? OK, I can now. I can remember that I'm 13 or I'm 12 and I'm getting in a fight with my mom and my mom doesn't hear me.

And so here is this memory. OK, so what's triggered in me is this 13 year old little boy, a 13 year old little boy, or a younger six year old little boy who doesn't feel hurt by his mom. And so I have then six year old feelings when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes. And so what happens in parenting a lot is I have six year old feelings, six year old feelings and thoughts and strategies so when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes.

And it triggers my six year old my six year old is going to stop around the house and is going to pout and maybe he's going to call her a she's just a big meanie doesn't listen anything I say and I might even see I might be embodying the six year old because I'm using the six year old strategies and how my six year old is parenting my 12 year old.

My six year old part is parenting my 12 year old child yes.

JW:

This is so powerful. This is it.


TS:

Happens for me too. So just describe my my 13 year old angsty teenager when she starts parenting. I mean it's it's and I and my son knows that right it triggers I must sometimes think it triggers sort of wise parts of him and I'm like I'm the teenager and he's the parent. Right and I can feel it sometimes when he's like, OK, what do we need to do right now?

JW:

Yeah, yeah. And so in effect, therapy event the trajectory then would be to help the client in in there. Well, we haven't talked about self or I mean you have referred to it but there's this really important quality that you've just talked about is just, just, just being us. But it's, it's this in internal family systems they call it capital S self, self energy.

And, and so it's really just about being connected to our core and then with compassion and curiosity, really seeing and hearing these young parts and allowing them to be heard and seen. And then what's the next step? I mean, what happens after that? How can these young parts, how can they be helped so that as we grow, I can start to parent my 12 year old from my true self, from my core, and not from this six year old part.

TS:

Yeah, yeah. So when we think about other types of therapies, what would happen is you would then tell me today if I'm your therapist and you're telling me about a six year old part of you that was triggered by your 12 year old part. Well, we wouldn't talk about it that way, but let's say you did our 12 year old daughter.

So what we would do in other therapies is you would tell me about the experience. I was six, my mom didn't hear me. This is how I felt about blah blah blah blah, right? That's kind of what we do. You sort of tell me the story of what happened but in effect what we do is we actually have you as your true self go into the story and be there with your six year old the way that that six year old needed.

So you're not telling me necessarily, you're actually in the story as your true self and you’re hearing him, you’re seeing him, you're understanding him, you're saying, and then he gets to tell you this is what it felt like when mom did this. And he gets to tell you everything that happened, everything that he wants you to know that that happened and how hard that was for him.

And then you you get to hold him, to hug him, to be there in a way that he needed someone to be. And that sounds a little bit hokey, but it is incredibly powerful. And then the self then says to that little boy, you want to come out of there? Yeah. You know, do you want to come out of that scene and come to the present to come out of that scene and come to the present where you feel me, right?

You feel my love and acceptance and my hearing you. And, you know, what do you want to do now? Do you want to come you know, you want to go to a fantasy place? Do you want to come into my house and do you want to just come sit next to me? You want to come into my heart?

And then that we call it unburdening and that the healing that happens is when we in ourselves go to those younger parts and unburden them, we witness them, hear them, unburden them, and bring them to the present. And then your six year old now is not Steinmeier. Six year old is hanging out with you at your feet. I keep pointing at my feet.

You're saying she was hanging out and playing with cars at your feet and just relaxing and feeling totally connected to you. So when your 12 year old daughter doesn't do the dishes, he is all set he's not. Yes. It's going to it's still going to be upsetting to you. Like sell still has emotions, but you're not going to respond from the six year old.

You're going to respond. Hopefully there might be another part will that might come up. Well, you get a response from your dad, from your true self. But this say like, honey, you know, we talked about it and so and we have a behavioral plan and so you don't have to do the dishes or you make any money. All right.

And so and then I'm not activated. Right. You don't do the dishes. You don't get any money. That's our behavior plan. There's no activation in my system. My six year old is fine. He's chillin at my feet, playing with cars.

JW:

Yes. Beautiful. Yeah. So it's.

AD:

Really powerful.

JW:

Now, I have a curiosity because the whole theme of this month is around parent mental health, parents wellness. And so is is this what you just described? Is that how you would characterize parent mental health when like when we are able to show up through our core self, like this is parent mental health?

TS:

Well, I mean, that would be lovely. But sometimes parent mental health might just be recognizing that I have parts and my son has parts and it might just be that he's in a part right now. And if I join him and his part is going to be messy. And so if I can recognize that he's in a part and maybe I can just take a deep breath and see, I can be a little less and one of us can be a little less in parts and hopefully it's me because I'm the adult, then we might be OK.

I think sometimes that's all it is. That's right. He's multiple. I'm multiple. And can I take a deep breath, call my system down a little bit and I can parent from that place from a even if it's a little bit more self, a little less heart driven, then I can parent from that place in recognizing that he's in parts, too.

AD:

I love that. That really, really resonates with me as a mom. I don't have to be healed I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be, you know, kind of like I don't have to have, you know, all of my parts don't have to be the perfect, happy family, you know, at every given moment that it's really around awareness and having some tools, it sounds like.

So to work with, just even recognize that in those moments.

TS:

Yeah, definitely. And really softening that critic that says, this is how I have to be as a parent. This is what I this is what a real mom, true mom, good mom, whatever dumb language we're using, let's get rid of that language is like he's doing a pretty good job probably. And so if you're listening to his podcast, you're probably doing a really good job actually.

And so and so then I would say the first place to start probably would be what are those inner critic saying to you about how you're parenting and how you are and who you're supposed to be? Let's start there when you're trying to get to know your system. Let's start with those parts that say this is the type of mom I should be.

And here is all the ways I suck as a mom. Or Dad.

AD:

Would you write that down? Would you recommend even like journaling that out?

TS:

Definitely. I love journaling and how I journal is I write P for a part. You suck. That's what a part just told me. You suck. And another part, it's like stop being so mean yourself. Like really dialog that out. And I might even write part one, part two, part three, part four. Let them just say whatever they want to say unfiltered because they're saying it anyways.

So another part is trying to ignore them to say, I'd write it all out P1, et cetera. Take a couple of deep breaths and then I'd write. As for self, what a self. Even a self just says, I hear you. Thank you for telling me how you're feeling. I just want you to know that I'm hearing you. I'm here.

I'm here for it. Tell me what's going on. Tell me how you're feeling.

JW:

Do you have any tips or strategies for parents who are hearing this? Maybe for the first time was like, OK, I think I kind of understand the parts like that makes sense. And then then there's this the self. There's this, of course, self. I think that makes sense. But how can a parent know that, oh, this is my self here and not just another part.

TS:

Yes. I usually say, think of a time where you actually felt calm, creative, curious, compassionate, connected. Now, when is a time you felt that way? You know, when you went for a walk or when you saw a sun rise or a sunset or after a meditation or like when is the last time you felt that way?

What was that like in your body? Describe what that experience was like. And then as you're describing it, what are you feeling as you describe it? Because you start to feel it as you describe it, right? Because I could tell you about a situation that was really frustrating to me. And as I'm describing it, I'm feeling it.

I'm in it again. So the same thing happens with self I can just describe a time that I felt calmer and more compassionate, more connected to myself and to the universe. I could tell you about that, and then I can begin to feel it and then I want to really OK, what does that feel like? So that people have a sense of I know what it feels like to be in self even a little bit.

It's not like zero or a hundred, even a little that is self energy. I know what that feels like, OK, they know what it feels like and we know what it feels like to be in a part because we're we're more energized or more aggravate or there's an urgent feeling or there's sort of nasty thoughts going in our head and let's just start paying attention to what that what it feels like to be in those different parts with those voices sound like whether it's behaviors or thoughts.

Let's bring curiosity to what that's like because that's what's when I'm part driven versus when I'm self-driven. And it's not all or nothing, but just start paying attention to when I'm more kind of over here in my parts, when I'm more a little bit over here in myself, like, what does it feel like? What does it sound like?

AD:

Sounds like a really powerful take on mindfulness. Like it makes mindfulness makes sense to me if, you know, like being able to pay attention to these parts. And I love the idea of being able to do your own kind of like visualization. If you practice that, you know, when you know you be in the school, pick up line and, you know, practice that visualization of being in self, whatever, you know, modicum of that you can get.

I actually have a curiosity. I have a question that's come up so I absolutely so appreciate what you said earlier about just loving moms and wanting to work with moms and support moms. And that goal of your podcast and, and a lot of your work. I think it's so powerful and Yes Collective, we are aligned with your mission completely and one of the things that's really challenging for so many of us is I mean, Justin tried three times here in Savannah to get in to see a therapist and no one responsed. You know, these lines to get in the door are super long, so it can be really hard to find that help. And then and then for parents, you know, and for busy moms, it's like yeah, I want to go work with a therapist, but, you know, I'm a busy mom.

I don't have anything that's like so really pressing for me to get into that office. Right. But I want to do some of this work. And so can you maybe help me understand, like, are there parts of IFS that we can break down into small bites that we can start to do on our own? You know, things that we can do to bring awareness ourselves that can improve our our daily lives as moms help us connect with our kids, you know, our work as parents.

TS:

Yeah. I love this question so much. You answered it when you said I'm in the pick up line right? So you're in the school pick up line. And remember this time that I felt this calmness.

And so I'm going to be in the school pick up line and I'm going to think about the word calm. I'm going to breathe in calm. I'm going to notice what that feels like in my body. And I'm just going to sort of take in this calm and then I'm going to notice what else is there like what are what are the other parts that are there?

What else am I noticing in my in my mind. I think the two things that I would say are big takeaways are what is self feel like and then starting to map out the parts that I have. Right? So if I bring in the calm, I'm feeling that calm and I hear you have a zillion things to do when you got home.

OK, great. We call it like our parts that drive the bus. If I have a million things, you know, what are you doing right now? You should not be doing this. Call me like you should be reading a book right now or whatever. So just start mapping out your common parts because they're going to sound and look and feel the same.

So checking in with that self, what does that feel like? Breathing into that a little bit and start mapping out those parts and do it as you go if you can. I love journaling. I think journaling is a good way to help you just check inside. And the other thing, too, is your important you know, we have this thing as moms and dads that we're not important.

And so I need to make sure that everyone knows how everyone else has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that's fine. Like make sure everyone has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I think we're just wired that way. We have to make sure everyone else has our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I'm going to make sure I have my too.

And I'm going to sit down at the table too, and I'm going to have peanut butter jelly sandwich, too. And so I think that I think that's a big part of it is just knowing that my mental health is important because that's how I'm going to show up as a mom. And it's going to help me be a better mom, right?

Like if I want to be a better mom for my kid, then and I don't mean that in a guilty shaming way, but taking time for me, what would that looks like, even if it's in the car pickup line and breathing in the word calm, that's going to make a big difference in how I shop from my kid and then how I feel about myself as a parent.

AD:

That's so powerful to me. That resonates with the idea of self care and not to minimize manicures and bubble baths like, you know, I’m for all of that. But it it seems like that self care can take some work. You know what we're talking about doing this work? It is. It isn't just about barreling towards the one vacation a year or whatever it might be, right?

TS:

Definitely.

AD:

Every day support to yourself which involves doing it sounds like some of this inner exploration. And you're right then we we show up better for ourselves with ourselves within ourself, you know, and then within in our relationships and of course with our kids. And I find that the times when I might most sort of like, you know, kind of spiral more with parts is like when I when I realize that I reacted out of whatever it might have been, it might have been a six year old part or whatever it might be, you know, and just realizing that I have the ability to explore that and to be open about that with my kids and to reveal that experience that I'm having and be able to talk about it. And that's not having a perfect answer or anything like that. It's just taking that space in between stimulus and response and being open about it. And exploring it. Then being willing to, you know, apologize and being open like none of that is perfection driven. Right.

And I guess the curiosity that I have here is like, I'm all for therapy. I want us all to have universal access. But in the meantime, it sounds like these are some of the things that we can do to be doing this work ourselves. Like it doesn't have to be behind a paywall or or any of any of those things.

These are things that we can do daily.

TS:

Definitely. And I think that for the listeners, if they I want them to notice the parts that are coming up right now. “I don't have time. I'm too busy. What else what else would I have to sacrifice if I did that?” Just notice the list that you have going on in your head, because I know you do a list you have going on in your head for the reason why you cannot make yourself a little bit more of a priority.

And let's just write those things down because those are parts of you. And I would say ask you from your true self, ask those parts what are they afraid would happen if you took a little more time for yourself? And what would happen if you didn't get the dishes done? Or what if? Well, first of all, you will you'll get the dishes done.

But what would happen if you did in the end just start asking what would happen if that if I didn't do that? And let's just explore with some curiosity the parts of you that are that are scared or hesitant to make a little bit of changes even if it's a little bit of journaling, or maybe you're reading a book on IFRS, or maybe you're taking a taken some time to meditate a little bit, or just noticing the parts of you and so all the parts of you that are saying, no, no, no, no, no, let's explore those parts.

Let's start there and find out what's what are their fears and some of the fears are going to be you're going to start crying and never stop crying. Well, that's, that's never happened. Anybody I get that is a fear. But also I want you to un blend in you and your authentic self, see if you can if you can comfort, support and affirm the parts of you that have those concerns and fears.

JW:

I love that just real, real quick. That part to me is coming up is so important that if I have a part and I'm feeling judgmental about that part, I want that part to go away. I want that part to change whatever it is, then I'm in another part. And I love that idea. And so so if I can then as you noted, the curiosity, the compassion, the calmness, if I'm feeling those or this part, then I can have that relationship, that that healing relationship.

AD:

Can you can you adjust for the listener who's more like me let me make that very, very clear. So you're saying that when you are in like capital S so that you are not in judgment? Yeah, it's it's it's just automatically a compassionate, sort of like open state. So if you notice that you're in judgment around a part, then that's a signal to knowing that you're actually in your you're right now thinking through a part or instead of being in that and you too, or you're not realizing it.

So it's like a flag for you.

TS:

Definitely, definitely. And that's why I said when you journal, you can actually journal like parts having conversation with each other because then there probably is a lot of parts kind of bouncing back and forth like, oh, you don't have time for that. Well, I really need to have time for that. But it did that right to those that kind of that like dialog is going to be back and forth.

And so there might be a bunch of back and forth between parts before self can kind of come in and say, I hear you, I get it. Let's talk about this. Like and so I think that's such a good point because because when self is there, there's going to be more space, there's going to be some softening, there's going to be a little bit of light, a lightness in your system, versus with the parts just kind of going back and forth.

AD:

I have a question then. Are there different types of like archetypes or types of parts that are like really common for us all? Or are parts super diverse and as diverse as we are or both?

TS:

It's probably both, but I think that we all have like critics. I think there's often really like I've never been surprised that a person has a path and I'm like, Wow, I've never heard of that before. Totally mean my ex. I think I think that, you know, we all have critics. I think there's always judgmental parts which can kind of go with the critics.

And and I think that probably someone way smarter than me could probably kind of lay out the different kind of topics of different parts. But I think that there are critics are probably.

JW:

And the managers. Right, the ones that want to keep us on track and want to make sure that we're good and others.

AD:

Are these like always there for protection? And then we have you know, other parts that play other roles, you know, around. I mean, yeah, it's got to be parts that are like joyful and and other things, too, right?

TS:

Right. So we have two different types of parts. We have manage managing parts, but we have two, which is probably a sort of a different thing, but we have two different types of parts. One is called managers and one is called firefighters. And so the managing parts are the ones that manage our lives to make sure, OK, so my food example, so the the part of me that was saying, OK, you're not going to eat again tomorrow, I guess tomorrow you're not going to eat.

Here's how we're going to handle that. Here's how we're going to handle from now on, make sure that you lose weight because you had years gone by, blah, blah, blah. That's a manager. I'm going to manage your life so that you don't ever feel what we call the exiles. Exiles are those parts we kind of like push in the basement, the ones with really big feelings, the ones that often have shame, not feeling heard, that six year old not feeling heard, not feeling seen, lots of shame, feeling unloved. Those are our exiles. Those are our younger parts. And so our managers and firefighters protect us from the big feelings of the exiles.

So the managers manage our lives so we never feel the exiles. And if firefighters come up when we do feel the exiles. So my firefighter was that second scone and a second scone when I was pissed. There was a lot of big feelings, which if I was if I would have stayed with that, I probably would have went to some exile there for sure.

But that firefighter part, that's here because I was having big feelings and an exile was triggered and I ate that scone and there's my firefighter trying to take care of that fire. I'll put that fire out and I'm going to be fine. There's my manager. I'm fine. Everything's fine. And so my firefighter came in to make sure that I'm fine.

All is well. And so does that make sense? So we got the firefighters to come in after the exile's triggered. We're the managers that make sure the exiles are never triggered. Then those exiles who need us, our authentic self, to go to them and be what they need it, hear their stories and take them out of those places.

AD:

That was that was fantastic.

I feel like I got a good lay of the land. I really like that. Like, that's amazing for me to work with. When I do my work, I can start to see kind of like, who's who and these companions I have.

TS:

I love the companions.

JW:

Tammy, so I want to be sure that we get your quick fire answers to the three questions that we ask every guest when they come on the show. So first, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

TS:

I love this question. My my thought was you're doing a few things really, really well. Maybe one. Maybe just one.

JW:

Awesome. And then, is there a recent quote that you've come across that's changed the way you think or feel?

TS:

Well, I read this quote in this book the other day. It is called This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson, which is a fantastic book. And I read this this quote, and I've been sitting with it for a while. I think it's interesting. And she says, Loneliness is best shared with aloneness, which is to say a meaningful connection to ourselves.

And I thought that speaks to IFS perfectly, right? Like if I'm having some feeling, even if it's loneliness, the cure to that is to be alone and go inside and have self be and connect to all the parts, right? Self, connecting to our hurting parts is how we're how we are healed. It’s self connecting to those hurting parts.

JW:

Self connecting to hurting parts. Beautiful hopeful. Empowering and hopeful because the message is that your healing is going to come from within.

TS:

From you. Right from your authentic self, which is your like the divine inside of you. It’s your spiritual life, whoever that is inside of you, your soul. That's where the healing comes from is that which is already there. It's already there. You don't have to make it. It's already there. Even as you're busy and you're making a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s still there.

JW:

It's still there. I love it. I love it. Tell me the final question we have. We ask this one because for a lot of parents, parenting can be very hectic, very crazy, a lot of taxing moments and so it's nice to just step back and reflect like what is so wonderful about kids. And so what is your favorite thing about kids?

TS:

The first word that came to my mind is play. Here's I think we have lost how to play. And when I used to sit down with my son and play, I would organize his his cars by color because I don't know how to play, how to so I watch him play. How is he playing with his cars? And I still would kind of clean up a little bit as I'm playing.

I think that's one of the things that I love about kids is they invite our younger parts to come out and play.

JW:

I love that. Tammy, real quick, playfulness, would you categorize that as one of the qualities of capital S self?

TS:

Totally. So playfulness so that we all have the Ps. So we have the five Ps the playfulness, patience, persistence. Those are some of the Ps. So playfulness is definitely a quality of self.

AD:

Oh, I love hearing that. Thank you for adding that in. I’m now interested in the qualities of self. Save that for another time.

JW:

Oh, yes. Oh, well, we would love to have you back on tap.

TS:

That would be great.

JW:

I feel like we just scratched the surface oh, thank you so much for joining us. This is really a wonderful gift.

AD:

And thank you for your amazing work. I feel like we're so and I feel so grateful to have connected with you and I look forward to connecting further.

In this episode

We are incredibly honored to kick off parent mental health awareness month with Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy. Most importantly, Tammy is a mom who brings her work home—all of the skills, insights, and practices she uses to help other parents live more present and connect lives are the same ones she uses at home with her family. We loved digging into all the wisdom Tammy has around parenthood, stress, healing emotional wounds, and cultivating more compassion, curiosity, and playfulness in our lives. Without further ado, here is the insightful, wise, and wonderful Tammy Sollenberger.

Listen here

About our guest

Tammy Sollenberger, a licensed therapist, author, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Certified Supervisor, and the host of The One Inside, an amazing podcast where she talks with the leading figures in Internal Family System therapy.

Show notes

  • Tammy's personal website: https://tammysollenberger.com
  • Tammy's book, The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self is available here
  • According to the IFS Institute, Internal Family Systems therapy is "a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts. We believe the mind is naturally multiple and that is a good thing. Just like members of a family, inner parts are forced from their valuable states into extreme roles within us. We also all have a core Self."
  • Find out more about Tammy's podcast, The One Inside
  • Tammy mentioned Sarah Wilson's book This One Wild and Precious Life

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW):

Tammy, what led you to devote your life to mental health and wellness in general?

Tammy Sollenberger (TS):

Well, I just feel like it's something that fires me up. You know, I feel strongly about how we treat people with mental illness. I think that we all have mental health, not just mental illness, but we all have mental health as part of our is part of who we are. Right. Like we're mental where physical or psychological and so it's not just mental illness, but, you know, I think that I think I was one of those people in high school that, you know, all their friends came to with their problems.

It just felt just really natural. It's just I love people. I love getting to know people. I'm just naturally really curious about people. And I love helping people. And I feel like I have a passion for helping people live the lives that they want to live.

JW:

So you experienced this all the way back in high school that it just the idea of wanting to be there for other people, wanting to be a sounding board, wanting to hear other people's knowledge.

TS:

It's funny. I don't know that I wanted to. It just felt like it. How embarrassing. I mean, like, I just was just like a natural, like, all, you know, it's just something that happened. And I ended up going into broad. I end up going to broadcasting, actually, cause I wanted to work in TV. So I sort of that just sort of naturally happened.

And then I wanted to work in TV, and I ended up working at a college. I ended up taking psychology classes. And then I was like, I want to do this, whatever this is, this is what I want to do. And then I ended up becoming a therapist, you know, taking that track and becoming a therapist.

JW:

So I've got some questions about how you got to where you are today. But before I do, I want to ask first about mental health and the stigma that a lot of parents carry around mental health. And I'm wondering so I wanted to ask this early on, because I was curious if this was a part of your personal history that you grew up in a family where there wasn't a lot of stigma around mental health, where everyone talked about it really freely and openly.

Was that your experience?

Audra DiPadova (AD):

Was that yours?

JW:

No.

TS:

Is that anyone’s?

JW:

Yeah. So what was that like then? You grew up in, I guess, a pretty normal family at least for for us, where.

TS:

You could say typical.

JW:

Yeah. Where this wasn't talked about, where if you did have to go see a therapist, there was something wrong with you. And so then how do you go from that sort of normal paradigm to then moving into a space where you are in the mental health field?


TS:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think that, you know, there's some statistic and I'm not gonna get this right, that something like ninety percent of people that go into the mental health field do so because they had mental health challenges in their own family. And I think that was true for me in some way that it just wasn't talked about, you know, it sort of wasn't talked about that my mom was struggling or, you know, that people in my family were struggling and it just wasn't talked about it.

And so the first thing that comes up for me, is a question is space, that when there was space between my family of origin and me when I was in college, I was living with my husband at the time, and there was some space. I got married really young. So there was some space between my family of origin and myself so that when I took a psychology class that there was space for me to explore that without the voice of “We don't talk about that.”

JW:

So I can imagine a sort of freedom then as like, oh my gosh, we get to talk about something that we never got to talk about before. Was it challenging bringing that back home when you would go back home and would you want to talk about it? Would you want to open it up?

TS:

I think parts of me you know, our parts are so smart and they know what's what's safe to talk about, what's not safe to talk about. And so I think parts to me were like, these are things that are not safe to talk about at home. So I could go and go and learn about these things.

And then when I go to like my mom's for dinner, let's say I'm not going to talk about those things because those things aren't safe to talk about. That's not true now, and this was a long time ago, but that was true at the time. And our parts are very clever in filtering us and saying, these are things these this is how you act right?

You can go off to college. You could be a certain type of person at college. And then you come home to your family of origin and you're going to be your parts are going to say, here's who you have to be in order to be safe around these people.

And we learned that growing up. We learned that as kids, here's how I have to be and here's how I have to think and feel and act in order to be safe. And then that's one of the things that IFS teaches us. I learned to be a good girl and overpower guys and, you know, just be sweet.

And that's how I learned to be in my family. That keeps me really safe and that's fine and good until it's not finding good In my twenties and thirties, in my forties, sometimes that's not super fighting good to me anymore.

AD:

I identify with that as a recovering people pleaser. You know, and yeah, finding out what was safe for me, which was to anticipate what actors in the home are going to be doing. Whereas when you have some volatile people, right. And kind of like anticipating those needs and it's so interesting to me because it turns out sometimes to be strengths that you bring into maybe workplaces in other parts of your life, but then also presents you know, the other side of the coin.

Sometimes real challenges in those workplaces or at home interpersonally, things like that. So I love hearing about this through the lens of of parts and parts work. And so I am eagerly hanging on just being a part of this podcast.

JW:

Yeah. So I as I was thinking about this interview, I was thinking, all right, I want to learn about your background. And so how did you grow up in a family where these sorts of things weren’t talked about? How did you get into this? And so you became a therapist, but when you first became a therapist, you didn't just immediately discover internal family systems. So can you tell us a little bit about this journey as a therapist for you? How did you start out or what sort of approach did you use starting out? And then how did you find out about internal family systems?

TS:

Yeah, so I used cognitive behavioral therapy. I was trained in dialectical behavioral therapy, which is DVT. I ran DVT groups. And so that CBT, you know, people that's probably pretty common in CBT. We learn to you know, we identify behavior, we identify feeling, identify thought. And we kind of we really analyze it and like, OK, you know, you want to stop being anxious.

OK, so the thought was that the behavior was the feeling. Let's analyze that to death and help you to not be anxious anymore. And I think there's you know, that's good. I mean, I think it's you know, there's some good things about that. And so I was doing that. I did that for years. And then I went to a seminar and and then I treat myself that way.

I treat my patients that way. I treat myself that way. And then I went to a seminar about kids treating kids. And this woman starts talking about so I live in New Hampshire, and Dick, the founder of IFS, had moved from Chicago to Boston. And so there was a lot of IFS stuff happening in Boston. So I went to a seminar and this woman says there's this new, well it had been around 30 years at that point, new therapy in Boston.

And it and it says she says something about curiosity and inviting people to be curious. And then she talked about a million other things. But that stuck in my head because I thought, what would it be like if I started being curious about that? Because that's not what I'm doing.

I'm challenging, I'm debating, I'm arguing with my clients about what they're doing. So what if I looked at that thought-feeling-behavior triangle and what if I began to be curious about it and I help my clients be curious about it? What I remember thinking, how it would feel different for me even as a therapist to bring curiosity to that and just what a different experience it would be in the therapy room to be curious. And so I went back to my office, I Googled IFS. I found out that Dick was coming to Cape Cod for a weeklong training in Cape Cod. And I went and it was amazing. It changed my life and I started IFS. You know, IFS is all about as therapist, we have to do our own work.

So I immediately got into seeing an IFS therapist and I did level one, level two, and then I helped with trainings and started the podcast and I wrote a book.

JW:

The thing I'm just imagining, one of the things that has really just impressed me about IFS is this curiosity piece. I really loved it. That was the first thing for you that really clicked. And then feeling into curiosity, what happens for me and I'm wondering if this was the case for you. There's a feeling of spaciousness, like it's like things kind of opened up.

And I can imagine when you describe CBT, DBT, a focus, it felt constricted, it felt tight, and then this curiosity feels like it's opening up.

TS:

I love podcasting, but a thing that you don't see on a podcast is our body. So your body just literally just softens. It literally was more spacious. You opened your arms, right? Our bodies are constricted when we think about the CBT triangle, and then we sort of open up as we think about being being curious and another way of saying that is our parts aren't necessarily necessarily curious, but our self is.

And so when we think about our parts, people think about like sort of the devil, an angel on our shoulder or even like the seesaw, like one part of me sort of I use my hands a lot. So one parts on my left hand parts in my right hand. When I think about being curious, I almost can move my hands outside of my body a little bit, even like kind of further away from me.

So sort of my hands are further away from me. And now there's space between me and my heart. Like, literally, right? My heart's here, my body's here, and my hands are a little bit more here. And so I can see and hear and be with these parts of me that I'm holding out my hands. I can really see them and be with them in a way that I can't be when they're when there's no space there.

AD:

I just want I just want to share really quick because I don't I don't think that we've gone into that. So so he is he is he brought Justin brought IFS to our home into his life and into our family. And so I have been learning through through his work, through our work together through Yes Collective, through the podcast, kind of along with everybody else in your life.

You know, I have been kind of brought into this and I have fallen in love with it. But I am not as well versed in it. You know, Justin read all the textbooks and the trainings and things like that. So I would say I'm the newer one here. So, Justin, he’s written these questions and he's deep in it, but I represent like the average everyday mom who's a part ofmYes Collective who's absorbing stuff. Yeah. So I thought maybe this would be a good place to just pause. And Tammy, I'm curious, how do you explain IFS to somebody who has never heard of it before? Like what's what's the fastest just quickest way that you can do it?

TS:

Yeah. I want to speak to the reason I started my podcast was because of Mom. So my mom my son's 11, but I was in a mom playgroup that, like, saved my life when he was a baby. And we met weekly and and I remember probably when he was about one or two thinking, you know, how do I these moms are smart, amazing people.

And, you know, we're staying at home with their kids or working part time. And they didn't have time to do the trainings that I was doing. Like they didn't have time to do that stuff or I had done. And so I thought, this is, you know, I just have such a heart for moms and such a passion for like helping moms, you know, getting this information and making this information accessible to moms because they're listening to podcasts.

They listen to podcasts as they and as they're taking their kid for a walk while they take a nap in the stroller. And, you know, it's so hard and so much the fast way to talk about IFS is to say just use food, because I think that we all sort of struggle with foods. I have a part of me and I could use this example yesterday I had these scones like thick, amazing, delicious scones and they were amazing.

And I love that they're so good. And then I had another part afterwards that was like really mean and called me really mean names. And then and then was like, you're never eating again.

Yeah. And so I have these two parts, right? The part that ate the scones and then the part that said really, really mean things to me and then told me that I was never eating again, which then actually triggered a part that then ate a whole bunch of other stuff last night. And then this morning: You're not eating today, right?

So here are these parts of me around food, right? The part of me that ate the scones, the part of me that criticized me about the scones and said you're never eating again. Part of me that wants to eat a brownie, part of me that says, no, you're only eating kale and I'm holding up my hands once my left hand wasn't married yet.

And so we all have these parts. And the part of me that ate the scones, it has positive intentions for me. It says, you like this, it is so good. It tastes so yummy and so yummy. It was really good. And then that was the first one was really going to be good. The second one was because I was pissed off, so that was the different reason.

It was an hour later and I was pissed off and I let this go and that has a good attention to it because it says, You know what we learned when we're little, that when you're pissed off or you're sad or you have any big feeling, this is what helps you feel better. So here's one. You're eating one scone because it's yummy.

We're hitting the other scone because it helps you feel better. And I can see that you're really upset right now. And then this part over here, the one is in my other hand, it says, But I know that you don't feel good when you eat that way. I know you don't feel good out. You feel good in your body.

Your clothes not fit you, but you also don't feel good in your body. Like, forget diet culture crap. You just don't feel good in your body. So I'm going to call your names because I know that's one way to get your attention because I want you to feel good in your body. So all of those parts, because that's actually three parts.

Three parts all have really positive intentions for me and then me, I'm the adult, you know, 40 something year old me who can listen to those parts and I can say all I hear how you're trying to help me. I can see and I can hear your positive intention for me. Let's all meet and talk and be together and see kind of how we can handle our decision about what we're ready today.

So you guys are making the decision. I'm making the decision. Adult Me is going to make the decision about what I'm going to eat today because these suckers, I can't let them make a decision about how many scones I eat today because that might not go well.


AD:

And that's beautiful. I love that. Yeah.

I just have to say, it's like the more novice one here getting into this work. I absolutely love it. And what I love so much about it is the gratitude and like really the recognition that all of these parts just want the best for us. And they've come on board with their own strategies to do that. And, and that we can, we can, we can hear them out, you know, that we can be grateful for that.

And then we can also hear them out. And that in in that space of that true self, we can we can help make sense of what they're all wanting and, and really asking for. It's really beautiful because it's not, you know, like, it's just so different to me. It could it be more different than I think what I have experienced and, you know, kind of like a standard whatever it might be, any of these other names, therapeutic methods are what people associate a lot of therapy with is I'm going to go somewhere where I’m going to be judged and I'm going to be labeled and then they’re going to try to fix me.

And what if my parts aren’t something that needs to be fixed you know? And what if it's not just me as one monolithic entity? What if there are all of these different parts and they all want what's best and it's just to me, it's like profoundly liberating and really freeing.

TS:

Really beautiful. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Right. Because we fix. So we're going to go ahead and fix that. Me and guess what? There's going to be another me that's going to have another strategy, right? So and I've done this list before, too, right? OK, so I'm not going to eat sugar. That's going to fix that.

But guess what? Another part's going to find some other loophole that's going to say, OK, well, actually what you're going to do now is you're going to binge on ranch dressing or something. You know, I mean, like all moldy vegetables, you know, so it's sort of like these parts are going to we can fit. And then it's another part.

Like, I'm not looking to fix them. It's another part, right? It's another part right. The part that says you're not eating anymore. That's the part that's trying to fix that part. Right? The one in my right hand is the one trying to fix the one at my left hand. And then we have we call that polarization sort of that's the seesaw that happens is there.

And they just kind of go back and forth up and down trying to fix each other without realizing that I'm here, too. I'm here. And look at me. Stop just looking at each other like that. Our parts just look at each other and battle. Look at me. I'm going to give you some gratitude. I'm going to listen.

Let's talk together and be buddies and let's see what we can do.

AD:

I love that. And it brings up something for me thinking you mentioned that you have been with your partner for a really long time.

TS:

Yes, we were for a very long time. But we're divorced now. Yeah.

AD:

Perhaps parts work helped get to the point of a divorce even, which I think is powerful to think about, too. I think about us. We've been together since college, too. And I think of the parts that we’re learning about and like, oh my God, all these parts have come up in us or presented in us, related to each other.

TS:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, your parts show up in your relationship, you know, so parts show up in your relationship, and then your parts are going to just, you know, like the part. Like, I have a partner now and my parts trigger his parts and his parts trigger my parts. Right. And then the more we can talk about that, the more I can say, OK, a part of me who is feeling this way. A part of me is when we're angry at you, a part of me is really disappointed because you said you would do this and you didn't do this. And so a part of me that's feeling really frustrated now, I have another part of me that doesn't want to be frustrated with you right now.

I really just enjoy my time with you. But if I don't speak for that frustration, I just try to enjoy my time with you. Then it's going to be kind of wonky and you're going to feel something. And then his parts are going to be like, I don't Tami's not really telling me something. I can feel like there's something in the his parts that I try to make up what it is.

And so then our parts are then just going to be reacting to each other and so when we can speak for our parts, that really helps, right? A part of me feels frustrated. Another part of me doesn't want to be frustrated. And then he can say, well, part of me was scared that you were feeling this. And another part of me said, Well, I don't even wanna talk to her then because she's mad at me.

So I don't talk to her when she's mad at me and when we can like, OK, so we are now looking, we're kind of having space, right? Here's my pass. I'm putting my apartment table, he's putting his parts on the table, and then him and I and our true self and Blake, we totally get why our sweat respond that way to each other.


JW:

I love that. Speaking for your parts, not from your parts has been I mean, it's so simple it has been such a game changer, and it's in relationships. It's huge because I can then express something that might feel dangerous, but it lowers the temperature to say I have a part instead of I, oh, I'm frustrated or I have, you know, I have a part that has a story.

I have a part that has a judgment. And, well, you have it lowers the temperature. And then it's like, OK, we can both, like, step back and we can look at this part and we can understand this part might be hurt or scared or.

AD:

What's so beautiful. It's not saying, you know, I or you, you know, and we on the break, break it down that way. I feel like it's a it promotes developing understanding, you know, allows for a lot more curiosity on everyone's parts.

TS:

Parts, I love that. And think about what curiosity brings to our relationships with our partners. Right it if we can be curious about why he didn't do the thing or why I thought he was going to take it did do the thing. If I can be curious about that that just brings so much instead of just bringing instead of a part of me telling me a story.

Right. Part of me telling me a story that says, well, he doesn't really like me or he would rather not talk to me. And and then I believe those stories or parts tell us stories and we tend to believe them. And instead of that, language, a part of me is telling a story right now, OK, that gives me some distance between feeling the story and realizing parts, telling a story.

AD:

I love that. I think we should put a pin in that. I'm thinking of experiences with our kids, you know what I'm saying? Like with Maisie to be able to say a part of me is telling me a story that you're refusing to do the dishes right now because of me, you know, or whatever it may be.

This is our 12 year old daughter. And yeah, I mean, I think it's just so so beautiful like it is this is, this is not how, you know, most of us grew up. That's definitely not how most of our parents grew up. Right. And it just it seems to be such a game changer because it gives her so much room that.

JW:

That's right. So what I'm feeling into here is my own journey with IFS and learning more about my parts and learning that almost every part that I really get to know is a part that has a lot of childhood baggage. Like when I really get to know a part, it might first present itself as like part of me, an adult, 45 years old, you know, concerned with having my daughter do the chores and, you know, because she said she was going to do the chores and we pay her to do the chores.

And, you know, but then it's like, I will then get a chance to sit with this part that's really triggered by her not wanting to do the dishes when I want her to do them. And then feel inside. And, and the, the deeper I get, the closer I get, the more curious I get and the more compassion I get around this part, the more I'll see that my concern is I'm not being heard. I'm not being seen. And then this part of the me is like, oh, my gosh. The memory that it has is, you know, of me as a kid with my mom. And and so then it's like, oh, my gosh, this has nothing to do with her. Yeah. So can you say a little something about about these, these young parts?

TS:

Yeah, that's beautiful. And that is exactly what happens. You know, she's not doing the dishes and she's not listening to me and then. Right. But if you pause and you, we might not be able to do it in the moment, right? Because she's not doing the dishes and really frustrated and all these parts really frustrated. But if we if we take some time, whether in the morning or sort of alone and takes some time and and we call it go inside and just pause it, OK, what what's coming up for me?

What does it feel like in my body when she doesn't do the dishes? Like we took a U-turn what's happening for me when she doesn't do that? What's the story that I'm telling myself? What does it feel like for me? Is there a memory connected to it? OK, I can now. I can remember that I'm 13 or I'm 12 and I'm getting in a fight with my mom and my mom doesn't hear me.

And so here is this memory. OK, so what's triggered in me is this 13 year old little boy, a 13 year old little boy, or a younger six year old little boy who doesn't feel hurt by his mom. And so I have then six year old feelings when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes. And so what happens in parenting a lot is I have six year old feelings, six year old feelings and thoughts and strategies so when my 12 year old doesn't do the dishes.

And it triggers my six year old my six year old is going to stop around the house and is going to pout and maybe he's going to call her a she's just a big meanie doesn't listen anything I say and I might even see I might be embodying the six year old because I'm using the six year old strategies and how my six year old is parenting my 12 year old.

My six year old part is parenting my 12 year old child yes.

JW:

This is so powerful. This is it.


TS:

Happens for me too. So just describe my my 13 year old angsty teenager when she starts parenting. I mean it's it's and I and my son knows that right it triggers I must sometimes think it triggers sort of wise parts of him and I'm like I'm the teenager and he's the parent. Right and I can feel it sometimes when he's like, OK, what do we need to do right now?

JW:

Yeah, yeah. And so in effect, therapy event the trajectory then would be to help the client in in there. Well, we haven't talked about self or I mean you have referred to it but there's this really important quality that you've just talked about is just, just, just being us. But it's, it's this in internal family systems they call it capital S self, self energy.

And, and so it's really just about being connected to our core and then with compassion and curiosity, really seeing and hearing these young parts and allowing them to be heard and seen. And then what's the next step? I mean, what happens after that? How can these young parts, how can they be helped so that as we grow, I can start to parent my 12 year old from my true self, from my core, and not from this six year old part.

TS:

Yeah, yeah. So when we think about other types of therapies, what would happen is you would then tell me today if I'm your therapist and you're telling me about a six year old part of you that was triggered by your 12 year old part. Well, we wouldn't talk about it that way, but let's say you did our 12 year old daughter.

So what we would do in other therapies is you would tell me about the experience. I was six, my mom didn't hear me. This is how I felt about blah blah blah blah, right? That's kind of what we do. You sort of tell me the story of what happened but in effect what we do is we actually have you as your true self go into the story and be there with your six year old the way that that six year old needed.

So you're not telling me necessarily, you're actually in the story as your true self and you’re hearing him, you’re seeing him, you're understanding him, you're saying, and then he gets to tell you this is what it felt like when mom did this. And he gets to tell you everything that happened, everything that he wants you to know that that happened and how hard that was for him.

And then you you get to hold him, to hug him, to be there in a way that he needed someone to be. And that sounds a little bit hokey, but it is incredibly powerful. And then the self then says to that little boy, you want to come out of there? Yeah. You know, do you want to come out of that scene and come to the present to come out of that scene and come to the present where you feel me, right?

You feel my love and acceptance and my hearing you. And, you know, what do you want to do now? Do you want to come you know, you want to go to a fantasy place? Do you want to come into my house and do you want to just come sit next to me? You want to come into my heart?

And then that we call it unburdening and that the healing that happens is when we in ourselves go to those younger parts and unburden them, we witness them, hear them, unburden them, and bring them to the present. And then your six year old now is not Steinmeier. Six year old is hanging out with you at your feet. I keep pointing at my feet.

You're saying she was hanging out and playing with cars at your feet and just relaxing and feeling totally connected to you. So when your 12 year old daughter doesn't do the dishes, he is all set he's not. Yes. It's going to it's still going to be upsetting to you. Like sell still has emotions, but you're not going to respond from the six year old.

You're going to respond. Hopefully there might be another part will that might come up. Well, you get a response from your dad, from your true self. But this say like, honey, you know, we talked about it and so and we have a behavioral plan and so you don't have to do the dishes or you make any money. All right.

And so and then I'm not activated. Right. You don't do the dishes. You don't get any money. That's our behavior plan. There's no activation in my system. My six year old is fine. He's chillin at my feet, playing with cars.

JW:

Yes. Beautiful. Yeah. So it's.

AD:

Really powerful.

JW:

Now, I have a curiosity because the whole theme of this month is around parent mental health, parents wellness. And so is is this what you just described? Is that how you would characterize parent mental health when like when we are able to show up through our core self, like this is parent mental health?

TS:

Well, I mean, that would be lovely. But sometimes parent mental health might just be recognizing that I have parts and my son has parts and it might just be that he's in a part right now. And if I join him and his part is going to be messy. And so if I can recognize that he's in a part and maybe I can just take a deep breath and see, I can be a little less and one of us can be a little less in parts and hopefully it's me because I'm the adult, then we might be OK.

I think sometimes that's all it is. That's right. He's multiple. I'm multiple. And can I take a deep breath, call my system down a little bit and I can parent from that place from a even if it's a little bit more self, a little less heart driven, then I can parent from that place in recognizing that he's in parts, too.

AD:

I love that. That really, really resonates with me as a mom. I don't have to be healed I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be, you know, kind of like I don't have to have, you know, all of my parts don't have to be the perfect, happy family, you know, at every given moment that it's really around awareness and having some tools, it sounds like.

So to work with, just even recognize that in those moments.

TS:

Yeah, definitely. And really softening that critic that says, this is how I have to be as a parent. This is what I this is what a real mom, true mom, good mom, whatever dumb language we're using, let's get rid of that language is like he's doing a pretty good job probably. And so if you're listening to his podcast, you're probably doing a really good job actually.

And so and so then I would say the first place to start probably would be what are those inner critic saying to you about how you're parenting and how you are and who you're supposed to be? Let's start there when you're trying to get to know your system. Let's start with those parts that say this is the type of mom I should be.

And here is all the ways I suck as a mom. Or Dad.

AD:

Would you write that down? Would you recommend even like journaling that out?

TS:

Definitely. I love journaling and how I journal is I write P for a part. You suck. That's what a part just told me. You suck. And another part, it's like stop being so mean yourself. Like really dialog that out. And I might even write part one, part two, part three, part four. Let them just say whatever they want to say unfiltered because they're saying it anyways.

So another part is trying to ignore them to say, I'd write it all out P1, et cetera. Take a couple of deep breaths and then I'd write. As for self, what a self. Even a self just says, I hear you. Thank you for telling me how you're feeling. I just want you to know that I'm hearing you. I'm here.

I'm here for it. Tell me what's going on. Tell me how you're feeling.

JW:

Do you have any tips or strategies for parents who are hearing this? Maybe for the first time was like, OK, I think I kind of understand the parts like that makes sense. And then then there's this the self. There's this, of course, self. I think that makes sense. But how can a parent know that, oh, this is my self here and not just another part.

TS:

Yes. I usually say, think of a time where you actually felt calm, creative, curious, compassionate, connected. Now, when is a time you felt that way? You know, when you went for a walk or when you saw a sun rise or a sunset or after a meditation or like when is the last time you felt that way?

What was that like in your body? Describe what that experience was like. And then as you're describing it, what are you feeling as you describe it? Because you start to feel it as you describe it, right? Because I could tell you about a situation that was really frustrating to me. And as I'm describing it, I'm feeling it.

I'm in it again. So the same thing happens with self I can just describe a time that I felt calmer and more compassionate, more connected to myself and to the universe. I could tell you about that, and then I can begin to feel it and then I want to really OK, what does that feel like? So that people have a sense of I know what it feels like to be in self even a little bit.

It's not like zero or a hundred, even a little that is self energy. I know what that feels like, OK, they know what it feels like and we know what it feels like to be in a part because we're we're more energized or more aggravate or there's an urgent feeling or there's sort of nasty thoughts going in our head and let's just start paying attention to what that what it feels like to be in those different parts with those voices sound like whether it's behaviors or thoughts.

Let's bring curiosity to what that's like because that's what's when I'm part driven versus when I'm self-driven. And it's not all or nothing, but just start paying attention to when I'm more kind of over here in my parts, when I'm more a little bit over here in myself, like, what does it feel like? What does it sound like?

AD:

Sounds like a really powerful take on mindfulness. Like it makes mindfulness makes sense to me if, you know, like being able to pay attention to these parts. And I love the idea of being able to do your own kind of like visualization. If you practice that, you know, when you know you be in the school, pick up line and, you know, practice that visualization of being in self, whatever, you know, modicum of that you can get.

I actually have a curiosity. I have a question that's come up so I absolutely so appreciate what you said earlier about just loving moms and wanting to work with moms and support moms. And that goal of your podcast and, and a lot of your work. I think it's so powerful and Yes Collective, we are aligned with your mission completely and one of the things that's really challenging for so many of us is I mean, Justin tried three times here in Savannah to get in to see a therapist and no one responsed. You know, these lines to get in the door are super long, so it can be really hard to find that help. And then and then for parents, you know, and for busy moms, it's like yeah, I want to go work with a therapist, but, you know, I'm a busy mom.

I don't have anything that's like so really pressing for me to get into that office. Right. But I want to do some of this work. And so can you maybe help me understand, like, are there parts of IFS that we can break down into small bites that we can start to do on our own? You know, things that we can do to bring awareness ourselves that can improve our our daily lives as moms help us connect with our kids, you know, our work as parents.

TS:

Yeah. I love this question so much. You answered it when you said I'm in the pick up line right? So you're in the school pick up line. And remember this time that I felt this calmness.

And so I'm going to be in the school pick up line and I'm going to think about the word calm. I'm going to breathe in calm. I'm going to notice what that feels like in my body. And I'm just going to sort of take in this calm and then I'm going to notice what else is there like what are what are the other parts that are there?

What else am I noticing in my in my mind. I think the two things that I would say are big takeaways are what is self feel like and then starting to map out the parts that I have. Right? So if I bring in the calm, I'm feeling that calm and I hear you have a zillion things to do when you got home.

OK, great. We call it like our parts that drive the bus. If I have a million things, you know, what are you doing right now? You should not be doing this. Call me like you should be reading a book right now or whatever. So just start mapping out your common parts because they're going to sound and look and feel the same.

So checking in with that self, what does that feel like? Breathing into that a little bit and start mapping out those parts and do it as you go if you can. I love journaling. I think journaling is a good way to help you just check inside. And the other thing, too, is your important you know, we have this thing as moms and dads that we're not important.

And so I need to make sure that everyone knows how everyone else has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that's fine. Like make sure everyone has their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I think we're just wired that way. We have to make sure everyone else has our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I'm going to make sure I have my too.

And I'm going to sit down at the table too, and I'm going to have peanut butter jelly sandwich, too. And so I think that I think that's a big part of it is just knowing that my mental health is important because that's how I'm going to show up as a mom. And it's going to help me be a better mom, right?

Like if I want to be a better mom for my kid, then and I don't mean that in a guilty shaming way, but taking time for me, what would that looks like, even if it's in the car pickup line and breathing in the word calm, that's going to make a big difference in how I shop from my kid and then how I feel about myself as a parent.

AD:

That's so powerful to me. That resonates with the idea of self care and not to minimize manicures and bubble baths like, you know, I’m for all of that. But it it seems like that self care can take some work. You know what we're talking about doing this work? It is. It isn't just about barreling towards the one vacation a year or whatever it might be, right?

TS:

Definitely.

AD:

Every day support to yourself which involves doing it sounds like some of this inner exploration. And you're right then we we show up better for ourselves with ourselves within ourself, you know, and then within in our relationships and of course with our kids. And I find that the times when I might most sort of like, you know, kind of spiral more with parts is like when I when I realize that I reacted out of whatever it might have been, it might have been a six year old part or whatever it might be, you know, and just realizing that I have the ability to explore that and to be open about that with my kids and to reveal that experience that I'm having and be able to talk about it. And that's not having a perfect answer or anything like that. It's just taking that space in between stimulus and response and being open about it. And exploring it. Then being willing to, you know, apologize and being open like none of that is perfection driven. Right.

And I guess the curiosity that I have here is like, I'm all for therapy. I want us all to have universal access. But in the meantime, it sounds like these are some of the things that we can do to be doing this work ourselves. Like it doesn't have to be behind a paywall or or any of any of those things.

These are things that we can do daily.

TS:

Definitely. And I think that for the listeners, if they I want them to notice the parts that are coming up right now. “I don't have time. I'm too busy. What else what else would I have to sacrifice if I did that?” Just notice the list that you have going on in your head, because I know you do a list you have going on in your head for the reason why you cannot make yourself a little bit more of a priority.

And let's just write those things down because those are parts of you. And I would say ask you from your true self, ask those parts what are they afraid would happen if you took a little more time for yourself? And what would happen if you didn't get the dishes done? Or what if? Well, first of all, you will you'll get the dishes done.

But what would happen if you did in the end just start asking what would happen if that if I didn't do that? And let's just explore with some curiosity the parts of you that are that are scared or hesitant to make a little bit of changes even if it's a little bit of journaling, or maybe you're reading a book on IFRS, or maybe you're taking a taken some time to meditate a little bit, or just noticing the parts of you and so all the parts of you that are saying, no, no, no, no, no, let's explore those parts.

Let's start there and find out what's what are their fears and some of the fears are going to be you're going to start crying and never stop crying. Well, that's, that's never happened. Anybody I get that is a fear. But also I want you to un blend in you and your authentic self, see if you can if you can comfort, support and affirm the parts of you that have those concerns and fears.

JW:

I love that just real, real quick. That part to me is coming up is so important that if I have a part and I'm feeling judgmental about that part, I want that part to go away. I want that part to change whatever it is, then I'm in another part. And I love that idea. And so so if I can then as you noted, the curiosity, the compassion, the calmness, if I'm feeling those or this part, then I can have that relationship, that that healing relationship.

AD:

Can you can you adjust for the listener who's more like me let me make that very, very clear. So you're saying that when you are in like capital S so that you are not in judgment? Yeah, it's it's it's just automatically a compassionate, sort of like open state. So if you notice that you're in judgment around a part, then that's a signal to knowing that you're actually in your you're right now thinking through a part or instead of being in that and you too, or you're not realizing it.

So it's like a flag for you.

TS:

Definitely, definitely. And that's why I said when you journal, you can actually journal like parts having conversation with each other because then there probably is a lot of parts kind of bouncing back and forth like, oh, you don't have time for that. Well, I really need to have time for that. But it did that right to those that kind of that like dialog is going to be back and forth.

And so there might be a bunch of back and forth between parts before self can kind of come in and say, I hear you, I get it. Let's talk about this. Like and so I think that's such a good point because because when self is there, there's going to be more space, there's going to be some softening, there's going to be a little bit of light, a lightness in your system, versus with the parts just kind of going back and forth.

AD:

I have a question then. Are there different types of like archetypes or types of parts that are like really common for us all? Or are parts super diverse and as diverse as we are or both?

TS:

It's probably both, but I think that we all have like critics. I think there's often really like I've never been surprised that a person has a path and I'm like, Wow, I've never heard of that before. Totally mean my ex. I think I think that, you know, we all have critics. I think there's always judgmental parts which can kind of go with the critics.

And and I think that probably someone way smarter than me could probably kind of lay out the different kind of topics of different parts. But I think that there are critics are probably.

JW:

And the managers. Right, the ones that want to keep us on track and want to make sure that we're good and others.

AD:

Are these like always there for protection? And then we have you know, other parts that play other roles, you know, around. I mean, yeah, it's got to be parts that are like joyful and and other things, too, right?

TS:

Right. So we have two different types of parts. We have manage managing parts, but we have two, which is probably a sort of a different thing, but we have two different types of parts. One is called managers and one is called firefighters. And so the managing parts are the ones that manage our lives to make sure, OK, so my food example, so the the part of me that was saying, OK, you're not going to eat again tomorrow, I guess tomorrow you're not going to eat.

Here's how we're going to handle that. Here's how we're going to handle from now on, make sure that you lose weight because you had years gone by, blah, blah, blah. That's a manager. I'm going to manage your life so that you don't ever feel what we call the exiles. Exiles are those parts we kind of like push in the basement, the ones with really big feelings, the ones that often have shame, not feeling heard, that six year old not feeling heard, not feeling seen, lots of shame, feeling unloved. Those are our exiles. Those are our younger parts. And so our managers and firefighters protect us from the big feelings of the exiles.

So the managers manage our lives so we never feel the exiles. And if firefighters come up when we do feel the exiles. So my firefighter was that second scone and a second scone when I was pissed. There was a lot of big feelings, which if I was if I would have stayed with that, I probably would have went to some exile there for sure.

But that firefighter part, that's here because I was having big feelings and an exile was triggered and I ate that scone and there's my firefighter trying to take care of that fire. I'll put that fire out and I'm going to be fine. There's my manager. I'm fine. Everything's fine. And so my firefighter came in to make sure that I'm fine.

All is well. And so does that make sense? So we got the firefighters to come in after the exile's triggered. We're the managers that make sure the exiles are never triggered. Then those exiles who need us, our authentic self, to go to them and be what they need it, hear their stories and take them out of those places.

AD:

That was that was fantastic.

I feel like I got a good lay of the land. I really like that. Like, that's amazing for me to work with. When I do my work, I can start to see kind of like, who's who and these companions I have.

TS:

I love the companions.

JW:

Tammy, so I want to be sure that we get your quick fire answers to the three questions that we ask every guest when they come on the show. So first, if you could put a big Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

TS:

I love this question. My my thought was you're doing a few things really, really well. Maybe one. Maybe just one.

JW:

Awesome. And then, is there a recent quote that you've come across that's changed the way you think or feel?

TS:

Well, I read this quote in this book the other day. It is called This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson, which is a fantastic book. And I read this this quote, and I've been sitting with it for a while. I think it's interesting. And she says, Loneliness is best shared with aloneness, which is to say a meaningful connection to ourselves.

And I thought that speaks to IFS perfectly, right? Like if I'm having some feeling, even if it's loneliness, the cure to that is to be alone and go inside and have self be and connect to all the parts, right? Self, connecting to our hurting parts is how we're how we are healed. It’s self connecting to those hurting parts.

JW:

Self connecting to hurting parts. Beautiful hopeful. Empowering and hopeful because the message is that your healing is going to come from within.

TS:

From you. Right from your authentic self, which is your like the divine inside of you. It’s your spiritual life, whoever that is inside of you, your soul. That's where the healing comes from is that which is already there. It's already there. You don't have to make it. It's already there. Even as you're busy and you're making a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s still there.

JW:

It's still there. I love it. I love it. Tell me the final question we have. We ask this one because for a lot of parents, parenting can be very hectic, very crazy, a lot of taxing moments and so it's nice to just step back and reflect like what is so wonderful about kids. And so what is your favorite thing about kids?

TS:

The first word that came to my mind is play. Here's I think we have lost how to play. And when I used to sit down with my son and play, I would organize his his cars by color because I don't know how to play, how to so I watch him play. How is he playing with his cars? And I still would kind of clean up a little bit as I'm playing.

I think that's one of the things that I love about kids is they invite our younger parts to come out and play.

JW:

I love that. Tammy, real quick, playfulness, would you categorize that as one of the qualities of capital S self?

TS:

Totally. So playfulness so that we all have the Ps. So we have the five Ps the playfulness, patience, persistence. Those are some of the Ps. So playfulness is definitely a quality of self.

AD:

Oh, I love hearing that. Thank you for adding that in. I’m now interested in the qualities of self. Save that for another time.

JW:

Oh, yes. Oh, well, we would love to have you back on tap.

TS:

That would be great.

JW:

I feel like we just scratched the surface oh, thank you so much for joining us. This is really a wonderful gift.

AD:

And thank you for your amazing work. I feel like we're so and I feel so grateful to have connected with you and I look forward to connecting further.

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

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