Join Krista Williams at Wanderlust Palmaïa in Playa del Carmen, MX — Dec 7-10, 2023. She’ll be leading an IFS session, as well as a workshop on Tarot & Archetypes, and of course hosting her super-popular pod: Almost 30. Join us!
We’re guessing that your Instagram feed is as replete with wellness leaders and influencers as ours is. And that you’ve probably noticed an uptick in references to a seemingly new wellness trend called IFS, though this methodology or theory has been around for decades. What, exactly, does IFS mean in a healing context, and where should one begin to peel back the layers on learning more? We turned to Krista Williams, an IFS-informed teacher and speaker, who will be leading a workshop on Internal Family Systems at our next festival.
Wanderlust: If you had a 60-second elevator pitch for IFS, what would it be? Talk to us like we’re your great aunt and don’t understand millennials or instatherapy speak.
Krista Williams: A lot of us know about the ‘inner critic’… the voice inside of us that doesn’t always feel so warm and fuzzy. It’s that part of us that keeps us in line, always has something negative to say and often is the voice that focuses on how we look, how we’re perceived, how successful we are…This idea of the inner critic, how it impacts us and most importantly how it’s NOT who we are, is a great example of Internal Family Systems. IFS is where we can have multiple experiences, multiple truths, and various ‘parts’ of us that can be activated at various points in our life. We can be both happy and sad when our first born child is graduating high school and going off to college, we can be scared and excited if we are going for that promotion at work. From a high level perspective, we know that our brain is a parallel processor and the mind can think in multiples.
Internal Family Systems is a life changing psychotherapy tool that conceives every human being as a system of protective and wounded inner parts (these various feelings and truths we can hold are seen as ‘parts’) and that we all also have a core Self. The core self is that undeniable aspect of who we are, the Self is felt when we feel things like compassion, curiosity, clarity, creativity, calm, confidence, courage, and connectedness. There will probably never be scientific proof that Self exists because of its elusive nature. It cannot be recorded externally and, therefore, it cannot be measured. All we know is that everybody seems to have the potential to be in that state and, when Self leads, changes and healing that were not possible before become available.
Within Internal Family Systems, the goal is to get to know all the aspects of who we are, by inviting them in, loving them, and embracing each feeling that we have.
The goal of Internal Family Systems is to become your own healer and to love yourself in any state, any emotion, any feeling, just as you are. Through the work you work with each ‘part’ to see what information you can glean for greater self acceptance. As an example: if you are someone who binges food, there is an aspect of you that finds binging for comfort, and then another part that no longer wants to binge. In IFS we would get to know (through curiosity, questioning, meditation and kindness) both parts in that scenario in order to understand, love and eventually create a new experience.
WL: Who or what was your first introduction to IFS?
KW: My first introduction to IFS was through my own experience in therapy. I have been working with a therapist I love for around 3 years and in our work my life has changed through this technique by applying it to my own life for my body struggles, relationship woes and general lack of worthiness and self love. From there, I’ve spoken to the Founder of IFS, Dick Schwartz, on my podcast, Almost 30 where I even did a live IFS meditation on our show. It was something that clicked for me in a way that has been profound.
WL: In what ways have you seen IFS support healing in a way that feels more authentic or practical than other methods?
KW: There are a lot of different tools, resources, books, healers, gurus and ways to support our journey in life, but what I love about IFS is that once you understand it, it becomes intuitive and you’re able to use it without anything else or anyone else, everyday.
The belief that we are our own best healers, and that we have all the tools we need to become whole, is one of my favorite aspects of IFS.
Understanding the simple principles of what it means to hold multiple truths, to love even the parts we deem unloveable, and to use mindfulness to un-blend ourselves from other parts in order to reconnect with our true essence. There’s nothing for you to buy, nowhere for you to go, and nothing more for you to do than to apply more compassionate awareness to yourself on a daily basis through the IFS method.
WL: How do you know if IFS is for you? Are there personality traits or particular issues/times of life where this particular method is especially effective?
KW: For anyone that wants to be their own healer, or find a way where in the moment they can find greater compassion for themselves then IFS can help you. If you have done work where you have reached a point in your process where you have done the things, but now need to access a deeper level of self love, then IFS can help. As I mentioned, to start, I think one of my favorite ways to use IFS is by identifying and working with the Inner Critic, which a lot of us can relate to. When we think about that Inner Critic voice and when it’s activated, we can use IFS to get curious about, make space for, and un-blend from the rest of who we are. Once we recognize, depersonalize from that voice we can eventually get to know, learn about and see what that voice is doing for us (which in most cases it’s trying to protect us from pain/hurt/rejection/abandonment the best way it knows how).
WL: Curious to hear your take on this: talk to us about the multidisciplinary wellness influencer. IFS is a relative newcomer on the scene. Do you think that adding more tools to your teaching toolkit is always a good thing, or do you see folks flitting from one modality to the next in search of the method that will stick? What’s your litmus test for a wellness leader that is walking the walk?
KW: IFS is a relatively established technique used in the therapy world for a while now, but as therapy has made it’s way more mainstream (thankfully to social media and the #instatherapy world). As someone that has been in the wellness space for a while, has learned a lot of things, practiced quite a bit of modalities and been introduced to many tips and techniques, I’ve found that it’s less of a ‘tool’ and more a shift in mindset. When I think about the tools I have leveraged, it’s in order for me to get something, or to be something different. IFS is about loving what is. It’s not about changing, it’s about accepting. There is no running, or being in the mind so much as it’s being present with the feelings, the body and the truth. I have found in my work that it’s been something very integrative, seamless and most importantly… kind.
Krista Williams is the Co-Founder of Almost 30, a global community and brand, providing online learning and resources for navigating life’s transitions. Almost 30 the Podcast is a top spirituality and wellness podcast that has amassed over 100M downloads. She is the co-creator of Morning Microdose, a daily dose of inspo ranked top new podcasts by Spotify. Krista leads global retreats, speaks all over the world, and is the visionary for Modern Tarot and The Life Edit, which provides tools for conscious, intentional living. She has deep training in various energy healing methods and is Internal Family Systems informed. She is a lifelong empath, rebel, teacher, healer and goofball.