Stage 4 Users Guide Stages 4 and 5 will help you replace your pattern with the corresponding healthy capacity in a situation that is coming up soon in your life.
Choosing Practice Situation Page. You choose a situation that will come up in the next week or two in which the pattern usually gets triggered, and you practice living from the capacity instead. The situation you choose for your practice can be:
1. A specific incident that you know is coming up (such as a meeting with your boss)
2. A series of incidents that you know are coming up
3. A type of situation that is likely to arise soon and will probably happen multiple times (such as someone criticizing you)
I recommend that you choose an easier Practice Situation to start with. You can work up to more difficult situations later.
Stage 4 gives you an opportunity to work through the fears (or other motivations) that drive the problematic pattern behavior in that Practice Situation. This helps free you from the usual triggering of your pattern so that the healthy capacity can be activated instead.
Working Through Motivation Page. You see a list of the motivations for your pattern that you checked off during Stage 1. Associated with each one is a link to a Stage 4 step sequence for working through the fear or other motivation.
There are three main working-through step sequences:
1. Working through a fear about what will happen in the Practice Situation
2. Working through an inner conflict between two parts about how to behave in the Practice Situation
3. Working through an attempt to escape from underlying pain that comes up in the Practice Situation
There are six main types of fears that you might need to work through:
1. Fear of harm—being attacked, judged, shamed, or violated
2. Fear of being manipulated—being dominated, exploited, betrayed, smothered, or made to feel guilty
3. Fear of failure
4. Fear of the negative consequences of success
5. Fear of rejection—including abandonment, dismissal, and not being cared for
6. Fear of feeling too much underlying pain
On the first Stage 4 page, you have chosen a Practice Situation coming up soon in which you would like to act from your healthy capacity in place of the pattern.
The protector that enacts the pattern is concerned about a childhood situation. It believes that similar situations in your life today will be just as dangerous, harmful, or hurtful as what happened back then. Or it may be afraid that you will fail, be rejected, or experience pain that you can’t handle. This is why the protector is hesitant to allow you to act from the capacity today. However, its concerns come from the past and may not be relevant to your present situation.
You are an adult now and can either choose different situations or respond differently so the part’s usual problematic behavior isn’t needed. You also have much more inner support and capacity to handle situations than you did as a child. And if a situation arises that poses a problem, you may be able to figure out how to handle it successfully. Therefore, this protector is trying to protect you from something that probably won’t happen, or at least not as badly as it expects.
In these step sequences, you work through the protector’s fears and negotiate with it to allow the healthy capacity in the Practice Situation.. This work is based on my book Negotiating for Self-Leadership in IFS.
Here are the fear sequence pages:
Step Summary Page. This page explains the working-through sequence and outlines the steps.
Fear Realistic? Page. You decide which of the protector’s fears are realistic and which aren’t. Since these fears come from the past, some of them will simply not happen in the Practice Situation. Other fears may actually be realistic, so you will have to figure out how to deal with them.
For example, Emily was going to a family reunion. Her People-Pleasing Part was afraid of her being yelled at and hit because that’s what her father did to her as a child. However, she realized that there was no danger of that happening at the reunion. She was also afraid of being judged and shamed, and these fears were realistic. Her brother might indeed judge her, and her sister might actually shame her.
If the protector’s fears aren’t realistic then you can reassure it about that in the guided meditation that is coming up. The next three pages generally apply to realistic fears. You are exploring ways to reassure the protector that it is OK to let go even if its fears are somewhat realistic.
Risk Worthwhile Page. Engaging in your Practice Situation can, ultimately, be a very helpful step in relaxing the pattern and helping your capacity to emerge more. Because of its fears, the protector may try to keep you from entering the Practice Situation or to keep your capacity from being active in it. On this page, you decide if it would be worth your while to face the situation or enact your healthy capacity even if the things that the protector is afraid of (such as being shamed or abandoned) do happen.
For example, there are circumstances where it would be tolerable if someone judged you because you would learn from putting yourself in a difficult situation. For example, Janet has to make a presentation at work where she is likely to be judged by some people, yet it is still important to deal with this situation. She can work on learning to tolerate criticism and celebrate her courage in taking that risk.
Handling the Pain Page. You decide if you could handle the shame, fear, sadness, inadequacy, or other pain that might get triggered if your part’s realistic fears came true.
Preventing Harm Page. You formulate a plan for how to prevent what the protector is afraid of from happening or how to protect yourself if it does. For example, Bill will assert himself in such a way as to keep from being shamed. Or if Brad tells Sally that her ideas are stupid, her plan will be to take a moment and think through whether or not she agrees with him. And if she doesn’t, she will tell him that she doesn’t agree and assert her idea.
Meditation Page. Based on what you work out in the previous steps, you do a guided meditation that involves reassuring the protector that it can let go of its problematic behavior in the Practice Situation and allow you to enact the healthy capacity instead. For example, Emily reassures her People-Pleasing Part that she won’t be yelled at during her family reunion and if her siblings judge or shame her, she will call them on it and ask them to stop. She asks it to not take over and instead to allow her to be assertive in that situation.
In some Practice Situations, a part behaves in a certain way because it is in conflict with another part. The first part (Part A) believes it must behave as it does to counter the Part B’s dysfunctional behavior. IFS says that the two parts are polarized. For example, a person’s Food Controller may be polarized with their Indulger Part regarding how much to eat.
Other Part Problematic? Page. You consider whether the Part B is actually a problem or whether Part A is misperceiving it. This can happen because Part A has fears from the past that are not accurate in the present. For example, perhaps Janet doesn’t really have a problem with overeating, but her Food Controller Part believes she does because she had food issues as a teenager.
Or if Part B really is a problem, you will need to work on its pattern to help resolve the conflict. For example, if William does have a problematic Indulger Part, he will need to work on the Indulger Pattern before he can expect his Food Controller to let go of its extreme position. If you do switch to working on Part B’s pattern, STJ will save a Restart Point for you. Then when you finish with the Part B, you can use the Restart Point to return to this page and continue with Part A’s pattern.
Meditation Page. After working on changing Part B, you do a guided meditation to work through the conflict between the two parts. This involves IFS polarization work (See my book Resolving Inner Conflict.)
When the pain of an exile (wounded child part) is starting to arise in the Practice Situation, the protector may believe that you can’t handle this pain. It may be afraid that you will be very hurt or overwhelmed by this pain, which is probably what originally happened when this pain arose during childhood.
Therefore, the part may try to suppress the pain, distract you from the pain, or soothe the exile in a problematic way (such as stuffing yourself with food). In IFS terminology, this part is a firefighter. For example, when you feel shamed by someone, your Foggy Pattern might get triggered to dissociate so you don’t experience the shame. As a result of this escape defense, the healthy capacity cannot emerge.
However, you are an adult now, with greater inner resources and external support to help you successfully handle any pain that may arise without the need to escape from it. This step sequence will help you negotiate with the protector so it will relax and allow you to handle your pain in a healthier way. This, in turn, will enable your capacity to become active in your Practice Situation.
The following are the steps in the sequence:
Taking Care of Pain Page. You learn how to self-soothe and take care of the exile’s pain in a healthy way. This includes developing a loving relationship between you (in Self) and the exile.
Can You Handle Pain? Page. You decide whether you can handle the pain in the Practice Situation without resorting to the protector’s escape measures.
Meditation Page. Based on the previous steps, you do a guided meditation in which you reassure the protector that it doesn’t need to escape the pain in the Practice Situation and it can allow you to enact the healthy capacity.
There are a variety of other Stage 4 working-through pages, briefly discussed below, which are not as complex and detailed as the step sequences so they are just single pages.
In Service Of Page. You may have one pattern in service of another. For example, you might get angry in order to aid you in controlling other people. This would be the Angry Pattern in service of the Controlling Pattern. When this is the motivation for a pattern, it is most helpful for you to switch and work through the pattern it is in service of, and then come back and finish your work on the original pattern. The system will save a Restart Point to make it possible to come back to this page.
Opposite Extreme Page. Occasionally the motivation for a pattern may be to avoid being like a parent that brought you shame or harm. For example, Jane had a mother who was wimpy and powerless. She failed to protect Jane from her father when he got abusive. Jane felt angry about this and was also ashamed of her mother’s weakness. A part of Jane swore never to be like her, so Jane ended up going to the opposite extreme and becoming aggressive and controlling.
This page helps you to explore what this parent was like and what your motivation was for becoming the opposite of them. This can then be worked through in the homework practice you set up in Stage 5.
Additional Stage 4 Pages
Working through fears of hurting someone, being assertive, or being attacked by an Inner Critic.
Working through problematic attempts to get connection, self-esteem, or revenge
You can choose to work through as many of these Stage 4 sequences or pages as will be helpful.
Follow-up Page Once you have finished one of these working-through sequences or pages, you return to a follow-up page where you can choose another one. If you only did a single page workthrough and you didn't link from that page to work on another pattern, this may not be enough to prepare you for Stage 5. I recommend either doing a step-sequence workthrough or a single-page workthrough that involves working on another pattern.