Identifying and Accessing Parts of Your Subconscious

An Insight into Internal Family Systems


The journey to self-discovery and healing often leads us through the intricate corridors of our mind, especially the subconscious. The subconscious is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, memories, and instincts that lie outside our conscious awareness yet significantly influence our behavior and experiences. One therapeutic approach that offers a unique perspective on interacting with the subconscious is Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. This article explores the concept of identifying and accessing parts of the subconscious through the lens of IFS, providing insights into how one can get acquainted with these inner parts for personal growth and healing.

Understanding the Subconscious

Before delving into IFS, it’s crucial to grasp the nature of the subconscious. Unlike the conscious mind, which is our active thinking and reasoning part, the subconscious operates below the level of conscious awareness. It stores our deeper beliefs, past experiences, and automated responses. It’s like an iceberg, with the bulk of its mass hidden underwater, symbolizing the vast and influential nature of the subconscious.

Internal Family Systems: A Brief Overview

Developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz in the 1980s, IFS is a psychotherapeutic model that posits the mind as a multiplicity of sub-personalities or ‘parts,’ each with its unique characteristics and perspectives. These parts are categorized mainly into three types:

  1. Exiles: Parts that carry pain, trauma, and intense emotions, often suppressed to protect the individual.
  2. Managers: Parts that control and organize our daily lives, striving to keep us safe from harm and emotional pain.
  3. Firefighters: Parts that emerge in response to triggered exiles, often engaging in impulsive or destructive behavior to soothe or distract from the pain.

Central to IFS is the concept of the ‘Self,’ a confident, compassionate leader within, capable of healing and harmonizing the internal system.

Identifying Subconscious Parts in IFS

Step 1: Cultivating Self-Awareness

The first step in accessing the subconscious parts is to develop a heightened sense of self-awareness. This involves becoming aware of one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in a detached, non-judgmental way.

Step 2: Recognizing the Parts

As awareness grows, one begins to notice different ‘parts’ emerging in various situations. For example, a part may surface as a critical inner voice during a challenge, or another as a vulnerable feeling when remembering a past event.

Step 3: Understanding the Roles

Each part has a role, often formed in response to life experiences. Recognizing these roles helps in understanding why certain parts act or feel a particular way.

Accessing Subconscious Parts

Step 1: Creating a Safe Space

Accessing these parts requires a mental environment where they feel safe to emerge. This often involves practices like meditation or guided imagery.

Step 2: Dialogue with the Parts

Once a part is identified, engaging in a mental dialogue with it can be enlightening. This conversation aims to understand its concerns, history, and what it needs from the Self.

Step 3: Fostering Compassion and Understanding

Approaching each part with curiosity, compassion, and empathy is crucial. This attitude helps in healing and integrating the part into the overall self-system.

The Role of a Therapist

In IFS therapy, a therapist guides the individual through the process of identifying and interacting with their parts. The therapist provides support, ensuring a safe and empathetic environment for exploration and healing.


Identifying and accessing the parts of our subconscious is a journey of self-discovery that can lead to profound insights and healing. Internal Family Systems therapy offers a structured yet flexible framework for this exploration. By understanding and harmonizing our inner parts, we move towards a more integrated, healthy state of being, where the Self leads with confidence and compassion.

This exploration into the depths of our subconscious, particularly through the IFS model, can be a transformative experience. It requires patience, courage, and openness but promises a path to greater self-awareness and emotional well-being. As you embark on this journey, remember that each part of you, no matter how challenging, has a story to tell and a role to play in your larger narrative. With empathy and understanding, these parts can be integrated into a harmonious whole, leading to a more fulfilled and balanced life.