Learning About Internal Family Systems, Identifying Parts, and Honoring My SELF in The Process

My close friend Stephani has hipped me to the world of Internal Family Systems – IFS, and it’s changed my life. I will be candid, Stephani has been talking about doing “Parts Work” for as long as I’ve known her, but I had no idea what the context of “Parts Work” meant. As my relationship with Stephani has gotten stronger over the last few years, she’s helped me identify different parts of me when we’ve had conversations about life experiences.

Over time, it’s sparked my interest in wanting to get to the bottom of what “parts of me” even means.

The IFS – Institute Website Says

What is Internal Family Systems?

IFS 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.

Self is in everyone. It can’t be damaged. It knows how to heal.

By helping people first access their Self and, from that core, come to understand and heal their parts, IFS creates inner and outer connectedness. Read more about the aspects of the Evolution of the IFS model.

The more I learned about IFS, the more I began to identify different parts of me, and I started to evaluate what role these parts have played in my life currently and back to my childhood at my earliest memories. I am still at the beginning stages of learning about IFS, so my writing might be based on the level of understanding and experience I currently have with IFS. I feel the need to share this because I am still learning.

One of the many IFS dynamics I am drawn towards is the concept that we all have parts, and we all have SELF. Self is the true us and who we are. IFS guides each of us to know that we have no bad or negative parts, and all of our parts have served a great purpose. These parts have been protectors to help protect SELF from harmful experiences at some point along our journeys. They can surface at different areas of life as protectors, and sometimes they stay in the background, not surfacing at all.

Moving forward, I want to share some of the parts of me that I identify as I move forward with the Internal Family Systems Model. Example – I have already identified one of my teenage parts. I’ve named her and acknowledged different times when she shows up in my current life and what she protected me from in my teen years. I’ve been able to identify and tap into her feelings, and she’s already shared a lot of her role with other people. In doing this, she already feels she has a voice, which has never happened. She’s shared things about her that have been locked inside for 46 years. Sharing is healing, so even this small step has created an extended-release for me.

I’ve identified one of my five-year-old parts, and I’ve also named her. She played a pivotal role in my childhood. I want to share more about her in a separate article. I’ve identified one of my pre-five-year-old parts, and I haven’t come up with a name for her yet. She holds the terror and trauma from relinquishment separation from being given up for adoption. As I navigate my IFS journey and move forward with understanding these parts, I hope to know how these parts impact me to this day and what they have protected me from in the past.

This all might seem like a strange foreign language because I can relate. Those were my thoughts in the beginning. However, when I have tried EVERYTHING under the sun to heal my adoptee/relinquishee issues, and nothing has worked, it leaves me in a state of mind where I’m willing to try anything. The more I learn about IFS – the more it makes sense to me. It’s given me a new tool to discover and learn about layers of myself, which has given me a new fresh wind at trying to figure it all out. It’s given me a chance to provide a voice for all the parts of me who have so desperately wanted to be heard, but no one has been available to listen.  

Some of the questions I have –

Why am I the way I am?

Are my ways serving me a good purpose?

What do I need to identify and change?

Now I can begin to understand my sensitivities and where they come from?

Healing can happen from these discoveries. I’m excited to start the IFS process and share some of my self-discoveries with you. I feel this model might be something that other adopted individuals might consider learning more about. One thing is for certain; healing isn’t going to come knocking on our doors. It’s up to each of us to seek healing ways out, and that’s going to look different for each of us. As I move forward with learning more about IFS, and the process of seeing a new adoptee/therapist I want to share my discoveries with you all. Even if it helps one adoptee, it’s worth the share.

A special shout out to my close friend Stephani – Thank you for your willingness in sharing your parts with me, thank you for encouraging me to learn my parts. Thank you for listening to me share about my parts. Thank you for your transparency, and most of all THANK YOU FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP! XOXO P

To my fellow adoptees, do you know anything about IFS? Have you tried using it in the past? Are you currently using this model? If so, what’s your experience been like? Has it helped you? If so, how?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

That Moment I Wanted My Mom, Then I Remembered I Don’t Have One.

On February 19th, I had an accident where I slipped hard and fell on the ice, and I hurt myself badly. I was trying to get to work to take the lady I care for to get her Covid-19 Vaccine, and time was in a significant crunch. It was 6:30 AM on a Friday, and the sun hadn’t even started coming up yet.

As my feet slipped out from in front of me and my back and backside landed hard on my three front steps covered with ice. My left hand was mangled in the railing, my car key snapped off the keyring and flew in the snow. My right palm tried to help me land but ended up being bruised and hurt as well.

I tried to find my car key, but I was completely taken back, and now I didn’t even have a car key to get to work. I started to become frantic while my pinkie was bleeding, swelling, and causing me a lot of pain. My backside was doing the same.

I remembered I had a spare key inside, but I had to find a battery. Thankfully, I was on my way to work, pretty banged up. I arrived one minute early. Over the next few hours, a football-sized bruise appeared, and the color changed from dark purple to almost black. The swelling was out of this world. I still had to work, which was not easy.

As the days passed, my pain set in, and I was beside myself. After nine days, I hoped my pain would be better, but I was still in a significant amount of pain. While the bruise was getting lighter, the knot in the middle of the bruise was the same size, about 5in x 6in, and the pain was still about an 8. I decided this past Sunday I was going to the ER to check it out to make sure nothing else was going on. I also wanted to discuss some pain medication for nighttime which seemed to make sleeping impossible.  

All CT scans came back normal, which I figured they would, and they ended up sending me home with some pain meds, and they wanted the hematoma that was causing so much pain to absorb itself back into the skin. In the meantime, they gave me a shot in my arm of pain meds.

This shot was so painful; I had immediate tears stream down my face, and at that moment, it hit me. Something that never hits me.

I wanted my mom.

This wasn’t the familiar daily feeling of wishing I had a mom as an adult; it was much deeper than that. I want a mom every day, and I’m constantly reminded I don’t have one but this was a deep and sad longing, one that has rarely ever come out in my adult life.

Is it a sign of healing?

Is it a sign of saving space for my inner child to come out?

 It was a new experience for me because my story is a story that has unfortunately set me up to live a life MOTHERLESS. As the thoughts of wanting a mother came over me, this deep sadness came over me. I was in the ER hospital room alone, and I realized I didn’t have a mom.

It’s not that my moms are dead, and I had a lifetime of beautiful memories with them, and they just no longer existed because they passed away. Both my adoptive mother and biological mother have passed away. It was more so the sadness set in that the biological mother I wanted and needed didn’t want or need me. And the mother that wanted me couldn’t care for me; she wasn’t there for me. She was mentally ill, and she was emotionally and mentally abusive in a lot of ways. She caused me a lot of childhood trauma, and I never felt connected to her or bonded with her. I felt like I was forced to bond with her, which was traumatic in its own way.

This reality set in, and tears were nonstop. I let myself cry and sit in the sadness. I couldn’t help but think about the last time being connected to my biological mother in a hospital, which was 46 years ago, the day I lost her on 8.13.74. Did you know the maternal bond that’s formed with your biological mother is the core bond that sets the tone for the path of your life? There is lack of resources for adoptees on this topic that directly connects adopted individuals who are relinquished by their biological mothers but there are many studies and articles for adoptive parents, and non adopted individuals.

Robert Winston and Rebecca Chicot explain –

“Infancy is a crucial time for brain development. It is vital that babies and their parents are supported during this time to promote attachment. Without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent and resilient adults.”The importance of early bonding on long term mental health and resilience in children.

David Chaimberlain, Ph.D. says –

“Separation of mothers and newborns is a physical deprivation and an emotional trail. Mothers know deep within themselves what scientists are just discovering – the relations between mothers and babies are mutual, reciprocal, even magical. A baby’s cry triggers release of the mother’s milk, the only perfect milk on earth for babies. In addition, there is a vital power in the baby’s look and touch to turn on feelings and skills necessary for successful mothering.”Babies Remember Birth.

Where does this leave relinquished newborns in regards to the prenatal and perinatal bonding and the traumatic separation at the beginning of life?

When I was a child, I used to have a reoccurring dream that I was about 4-5 years old, running down a maternity ward’s long hallway. Everything was white. I had a hospital gown on, no shoes, and the hallway went on forever and ever. I remember a clock being at the end of the hallway, and the time was disappearing minute by minute as I ran. I remember jerking all the curtains back, one by one in terror, as I searched for HER. It went on forever. I never did find her, but this dream was reoccurring through most of my life. Did this hospital visit connect me to that dream subconsciously? It’s hard to fathom I’m 46 years old, and discovering these connections and truths are still impacting me greatly.

I’ve recently started to become familiar with IFS – Internal Family Systems by recommended by a great friend, Stephani H. (TY STEPH!) Watching the video will explain what IFS is the best, but in a nutshell, you identify different parts of us that have been parts of us back to the beginning of our lives. It helps us learn our parts are all welcomed and a part of us.

Stephani mentioned that it was my inner child part that wanted my mom, and when she said that, it made total sense to me. It was the little girl in me that just really needed my mom with me, and the entire concept that she wasn’t there, and she has never been, and she never will be set in. It was a hard pill to swallow. I was in a significant amount of pain, and that didn’t help me any.

The best part is, I’m learning that my feelings of sadness are not feelings to run from; they are feelings to sit with. I didn’t realize that was my inner child feeling that way until after I was already home and Stephani mentioned it to me. I was blown away because it made total sense.

If I thought of that while I was at the hospital, IFS teaches us to talk to the parts, welcome them and give them what wasn’t given to me as a child. I didn’t realize it until I was already home, but my sadness consisted, and I got comfort in understanding the dynamics of my child part coming out while I was at the hospital.

I have recently decided to give IFS therapy a try, and in the last month of learning about it, it is a miraculous and fantastic tool. I don’t want to share much here, but I plan to write about my experience with IFS because I want other adoptees to consider using it as a healing tool.

At a very young age, I was disassociated from the entire concept of wanting and needing a mother to protect myself. When those feelings came, it caught me off guard. I’m usually a strong person, and tears are something in the past I have held inside. But this time, these feelings wouldn’t let me. Even when I tried to stop crying, the feelings of wanting my mom overwhelmed me. I’m 46 years old and still navigating the aftermath of adoption.

As I learn more about IFS, self & my parts, I want to share them with you! I’m also starting therapy with a new therapist who is an adoptee! I am excited about this process. It seems I’ve done a lot of self-work, but I have never done trauma work. I have work to do. I think acknowledging these parts is the first step, and making the choice to sit with them, and no run is the next step. What’s next? I hope to share with you what the process looks like by trauma informed therapy, IFS and other techniques I am using to navigate the healing process from an adoptees perspective who also lives a life sober of alcohol.

Adoptees, have you ever been in a situation where you wanted your mom on a deeper level? Did these feelings surprise you? I would love to know how you describe them? What helps you navigate them when they come?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Join Us in Celebrating the Launch of the Adoptee Remembrance Day Website Powered by Adoptees Connect, Inc.

We are eager and enthusiastic to unveil the Adoptee Remembrance Day website with you! As the very first Annual Adoptee Remembrance Day launched in 2020, it’s created a firestorm of activities across the globe that take part in this day. Such a symbolic day for the adoptee community needed its very own space to share upcoming news, events, articles, and all things – Adoptee Remembrance Day.

What is Adoptee Remembrance Day?

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th serves several purposes.

It raises public awareness of crimes against adoptees by adoptive parents, an action that current media does not recognize. It also allows us to publicly mourn and honor the lives of our brothers and sisters who we have lost who might otherwise be forgotten. It raises awareness about adoptee suicide, shining a light on a difficult topic. Through these actions, we express love and respect for the adoptee community. Adoptee Remembrance Day reminds others that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends, and lovers. Adoptee Remembrance Day gives our allies a chance to step forward with us, memorializing those who have died too soon, and it also recognizing the loss all adopted people experience, before they’re actually adopted.

While this topic remains sensitive in nature, adoptees who are murdered by their adoptive parents is increasing around the world. It is a time to honor their legacy by setting aside a day just for them. While those who have passed away before us, are no longer able to speak and share their stories or voices, there are many adoptees today who are paving the way for the voiceless to become strong enough to share their voices and stories. We are the voice of the voiceless.

We also recognize that there are international adoptees who are living without citizenship and/or have been deported due to mistakes by adoptive parents, adoption agencies, attorneys, and ultimately, the U.S. adoption system. Some international adoptees must survive abuse and neglect, including in regards to their citizenship, from their adoptive parents. We honor the adoptees who did not survive or are struggling to survive their deportations to countries they left as children where they have no support network and limited access to support services, including mental health care, clothing, food, and shelter. Lack of citizenship is a tragic and often unacknowledged issue facing the adoptee community. Please visit Adoptees for Justice to learn more.

This is what Adoptee Remembrance Day is all about.

While our first annual Adoptee Remembrance Day in 2020 was a day that was echoed all around the world, it is evident that it was only the beginning. As the years pass, our hope is this day grows larger and continues to expand across the globe. We hope that the truth about relinquishment trauma is recognized, acknowledged, and addressed as a critical component before any adoption ever takes place. We want to raise awareness of the complexities that adopted people experience by hearing the voices of those who have the lived experiences, the adopted individuals themselves. We want to honor those adoptees we have lost from suicide and at the hands of their adoptive parents by setting a day aside to recognize them and the loss we feel without them.

We are honored to share the first story on the new Adoptee Remembrance Day website by the highly thought of Sara Graves. Sara has agreed to share her story publicly, and we couldn’t be more proud of her and honored to share it as we unveil the new website. We admire her willingness to share her story and applaud her strength in this process. To help us celebrate Sara and her story, please visit the Adoptee Remembrance Day website and leave her a message of support and love. You can view Sara’s story by clicking here.

Don’t forget to follow the Adoptee Remembrance Day website and the Facebook page. You can RSVP to the next Adoptee Remembrance Day by clicking here. Have an idea for the next Adoptee Remembrance Day? Please submit it here.

To everyone who has participated on this day, thank you. We’re sending love and light around the world, and as adoptees share their truth, our voices get stronger together. Adoptee Remembrance Day 2021 is only a few months away. Please reach out to us if you would like to get involved by sending us a message here. – Pamela Karanova, Adoptees Connect, Inc.

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