9 Best Self-Help Books to Heal Old, Painful Traumas

Richard Schwartz, PhD, established an entire school of therapy—Internal Family Systems, or IFS for short—after determining that the “mono-mind paradigm” is a myth, that we’re all made up of many different “parts” that interact with each other in different ways. In other words, these are the voices we hear in our heads, the loudest ones being those who criticize how we’re showing up in the world. In No Bad Parts, Schwartz fully articulates this profound system, explaining, “The mono-mind paradigm has caused us to fear our parts and view them as pathological. In our attempts to control what we consider to be disturbing thoughts and emotions, we just end up fighting, ignoring, disciplining, hiding, or feeling ashamed of those impulses that keep us from doing what we want to do in our lives. And then we shame ourselves for not being able to control them. In other words, we hate what gets in our way.” In Schwartz’s model, as a result of traumatic events, we turn parts of ourselves into “Exiles,” and then guard them with parts functioning as “Firefighters” and “Managers.” As we look to heal, it’s our job to reintegrate our Exiles, and thank the “Firefighters” and “Managers” for their service and then reassign them to more productive roles. As the title of his book suggests, Schwartz doesn’t believe in bad parts, arguing that, “1. Even the most destructive parts have protective intentions. 2. Parts often froze in past traumas when their extreme roles were needed. And 3. When they trust it’s safe to step out of their roles, they are highly valuable to the system.” While it sounds heady, IFS is both fascinating and one of the most effective therapy modalities for addressing trauma—there are IFS-certified therapists across the country. Schwartz also made an Audible, Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts, where he leads many powerful meditation-based exercises for accessing and reintegrating exiled parts, if this is work you want to undertake on your own.

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