Delighting In A Lot Of Words


In our continuous journey to enhance therapeutic practices, I am excited to delve into a more profound method of client engagement that I have termed “Better Together.” This approach integrates the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model with the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) framework. In this blog post, I will demonstrate how I apply these concepts in a practical session with a representative client, Leia, highlighting the importance of presence and connection in therapeutic work. As you read, I invite you to reflect on your own experiences and share your thoughts on this integrative approach.


Delighting in a lot of words


In response to my curiosity, Leia shares many words about a moment of conflict with her partner. I listen intently, using my ears, eyes, body, and “third ear” while she talks. I hope to come into a deep resonance and understanding of the part of Leia who is talking. I trust that I will feel natural appreciation and delight if I can do that.

As Leia speaks, her body is tense, half-turning toward her partner. Her partner’s face and body are flat, devoid of energy, and unresponsive. Although sometimes she turns toward me, Leia’s face and eyes seemed only vaguely to register my presence. It appears as if she is alone in a vacuum. I feel she could continue talking indefinitely.

I ache in compassion for Leia’s desperation and loneliness as my jaw muscles tighten and my chest constricts, mirroring hers. I resonate with her feelings of hopelessness from a hollow sensation around my heart. Allowing her words to wash over me, I feel her pleading to be understood and supported. At the same time, I sense she is disconnected from everything around her, including me.

By appreciating that a self-like manager is talking, not Leia’s true Self (in IFS terms), I join her in a lifetime of experience having to fight to be heard and seen. I get the enormity of the generational and cultural burdens Leia is carrying in a world where others can’t be counted on just to be there. I feel awe and appreciation for what it has taken for Leia to be here, still fighting for the closeness and connection she deserves.

“You just shared a lot of words,” I interrupt, smiling with genuine openness and delight.

The place I say this from is crucial. If I had been annoyed, distant, overwhelmed by the content of all of her words, or put off in any way, I wouldn’t have been able to engage with her. Instead, I would have been paying attention to what was happening inside myself.

If I feel anything other than curiosity and delight, I work to understand what is happening with my parts, remind them of my presence, and give them the care they need to relax.

I imagine Leia’s self-like part has worked hard since Leia was a little girl, longer than she can remember, doing her best to be in charge of all of the parts in Leia’s system. I feel how hard this part is working to take care of Leia without expecting to be seen and supported for herself.

Listening closely, I tune into what this part hopes for as she talks. She hopes Leia will be seen as valid and reasonable in her need to feel close and cared for by her partner. If she tries hard enough, someone will take her needs seriously enough to do something about them.

At the same time, I resonate with her fears and feelings of hopelessness. She seems to be bracing for disappointment—no matter how hard she works to be heard, Leia will always be alone. I sense Leia’s parts are braced for her to be seen as unreasonable or undeserving, demanding too much.

In response to my interruption, Leia glances my way but continues talking. I understand this; it is hard to believe someone is with her, seeing and appreciating her. Not wanting her to feel alone in the room any longer, I invite her again to notice me:

“What you’re saying is so important. I’m so glad you’re here, sharing all of this.”

More spiritual than an EFT reflection, I offer, “My being is here with your being.” Different than an IFS move to identify a target part and then ask permission from other parts to have space to focus on it, I come forward to engage and support whatever part is engaging with me.

“As you share about this, which matters so much, I sense that it’s almost like you’re all alone, so you must work hard to get through to be seen. Kind of like you don’t expect anyone to be right here and see you with their own eyes, but you have to work hard to get them to see you. (Pause). Is that close?”

Much more than the words I use, as Leia senses my body in resonance with hers, she seems surprised to see me alongside her. I feel her self-like part blinking, waking up, and asking, “What’s going on here?”

It feels like a sacred privilege to be in this position, to come alongside parts that may never have had the experience of being seen and appreciated before. As long as my body remains in this resonant space, it will be easy to give her all the time she needs to trust—to believe that I am there for her, that I am capable of seeing her and taking care of her and her partner. For good reason, earning her trust will take time.

Being here with her is lovely; I’m in no rush.

As I have gone deeper in my journey as a human and a healer, I see myself less as a therapist and more as a spiritual guide. Do you relate to that?

If you want more support and inspiration to become more radical in caring for your clients, check out Susan McConnell. Her book, Somatic IFS, is excellent, and she offers live training.