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Inner Wilds Alchemy: Rogue IFS Session Case Study
One quick look at how, within an IFS context, I pushed out of the restrictions and found an intuitive approach forward.
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s article, Inner Wilds Alchemy, where I use IFS and Existential Kink to point towards a cycle of inner moves that can drive soulmaking and integration. I’m not sure how useful this current article will be if you haven’t read the previous one.
A lightning storm was brewing near the base of my spine, on the right side. I could sense an electric serpent in there, raging and wanting to lash out.
I was lying on a carpeted floor while an IFS guide offered questions about my experience. “Where do you feel the storm?” “How do you feel about it?” “Can you find the part of you that feels that way?” and so on.
Y’know: IFS stuff.
The electric serpent was getting frustrated, I could feel it. All these soft questions, this concern for validating every peripheral emotion around it, this endless dancing around The Core Thing. Just come in and deal with The Actual Thing. But now I had to separate out from that frustration, adding one more step to the rigamarole.
There was a scared Part that needed to be assuaged. A cluster of Parts that presented as a village in the path of the storm, situated in the front of my hip. An annoyed Part, who just wanted to get the serpent dealt with one way or the other. I unblended from each part, one by one, and dealt with their concerns, one by one.
By the time I got down to the lightning serpent himself, the storm around him had gone surprisingly quiet. Earlier, I’d been moving my body, growling, twitching, just to deal with the rush of energy coming up from the storm when I tried to touch it directly. Now, I could barely get a flicker from it.
A few deep breaths, dropping in a little further. I sat patiently with the area where the lightning storm had been, just to the right of the base of the spine. Where’d you go? Why is there nothing to deal with now?
Oh. Of course. He’s sulking. The serpent and his lightning storm had been excited, energized, ready and willing to share power and energy and raw force with the rest of me, to uncork the bottle it had been trapped in for so long. He’d been all ready to go. —And then, instead of responding to him, I’d kept him in the waiting room, basically running through paperwork with a half dozen other minor parts that were feeling things about him. He’d been inviting me to partake in his world, to understand him as he understands himself—and instead, I’d gone full bureaucrat with him: not until we’ve filed the proper paperwork with all the other parts.
He didn’t want to come out to play anymore.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened, either. Not even the first time it had happened with an inner reptile, actually.
Working with a previous IFS guide, I’d come across a red dragon locked in a dungeon cell. It wanted out, wanted a voice, wanted to express itself—and rather than allowing it to have its tortured say, we spent a lot of time systematically, assiduously going through every other Part that came up and had a feeling about the dragon. I ended up with a whole little crowd of Parts surrounding the dungeon cell, hearing all their concerns one by one before managing to open the cell door and see the dragon.
When I did get into the cell, nothing much happened. All that fire, eros, longing, and raw energy that I’d felt on first approach: it had been sapped by all the anodyne arbitrations with other Parts. It took work to get the dragon to come out again.
In both of these cases, I was urged to sit patiently, give the serpent room to speak, ask it questions, and wait for it to feel comfortable.
In both cases, I could feel the serpent getting increasingly irritated at being handled with kids’ gloves, like he was some fragile little creature. Like I was there to keep him at a distance, keep safely separated from him when all he wanted to do was share something powerful and direct.
And in both cases, nothing much happened until I finally followed my own instincts, dropped the carefully distanced approach, and re-blended with the serpent.
I opened myself up, set an intention towards feeling and flowing with the driving force that animated the serpent, and waited for where the flow would take me. Pretty immediately, things kicked into high gear.
The lightning serpent took over, pushing itself through my body, making me growl and twist and arch—I grabbed handfuls of carpet and pulled as hard as I could, feeling the electricity trying to exert itself through every fiber of my body at once. Floods of memories and impulses rushed through me, some of them autobiographical and some of them seemingly from other lives, imagined lives, or possible lives.
I felt the ways the serpent wanted to flow through my life, empowering and energizing it. And I felt—very directly, with no separation—the ways that flow was blocked, over and over again. Sometimes, I myself blocked it. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes out of needless reflex. Other times, the world around me blocked it: relationships with others, the affordances of the environment, expectations and perceptions and rules. The blocked bitterness of these frustrated impulses was building up in my chest, my throat.
Then, without prompting, a pull-back occurred, of itself. Just as I was getting a glimpse of overwhelm, the voices of many other aspects of myself spoke up: “You [serpent] don’t get to make all the decisions on your own—this life belongs to all of us, we have to take each other into account. That’s why you don’t get to do what you want all the time.”
The serpent wordlessly responded something like “I don’t ever get to make decisions, you all keep me under lock and key. Include me in the process, or I’ll take over the whole damn thing.”
A lot of energy had to work itself out at this point. An old imaginal ally of mine, the bison, stepped in and acted as a lightning rod, absorbing and grounding all the energy, allowing it to integrate healthily and at a slower pace. The energy of the serpent was charging through the rest of the system, and the rest of my system allowed it, took it in, rather than reflexively shunting it away.
I came out of the trance with the help of the IFS guide, did some slow breathing, punched some pillows, and sat in somatic meditation for awhile, letting everything settle. The rest of the day, I could feel—for lack of better language—the bison charging through my spine, moderating the energy and allowing it to slowly absorb.
The goal of any inner work technique should be to get the practitioner to a point where they can freestyle with it. That’s my goal with Somatic Resonance, with my aptly named Imaginal Freestyle sessions, with my 1:1 work—all of it.
And judging from the results on this poll, it’s also straightforwardly the thing that works best.
Hopefully, this article gives you some ideas on how even starting from an IFS base, you can develop and use intuitions that lead you out into wider possibilities. By not only separating out different aspects of yourself, but then intentionally re-blending with particular inner figures to feel their life force and drives, you can integrate difficult energies and experiences more organically into your inner wilds.
In the next article, I’ll strip away the IFS base, and describe how I do Inner Wilds Alchemy using a dream I had last night.
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