IFS Parts Examples

How Managers, Firefighters and Exiles Manifest Themselves According to IFS Therapy

Internal Family Systems therapy, or IFS, states that multiplicity of the human mind is a normal condition. IFS therapy says that each one of us has multiple personalities that run our lives. In addition, there’s a Self beneath them that is who we really are, and this Core Self has the 8 Cs and 5 Ps of IFS.

IFS parts are in essence sub-personalities that, if non-extreme, bring is joy, awe, curiosity and spice up our behaviour and view of the world.

Multiplicity of the Mind and Sub-Personalities

The idea of multipliciy of the mind is not new, and can be traced to our language – we often say “a part of me thinks this and that”, and we generally understand that sometimes we act in a different way than usual.

This sometimes results in us being extra funny, or having a surprisingly positive set of character traits popping up.

Parts Make Up Our Persona

Overall, these parts of us contribute to our character and makes us who we are, revealing our unique persona. However, in certain cases and often as a result of trauma, we can store memories, or in this line of thought, subpersonalities, that are damaged in some way.

According to IFS therapy, this is when Parts take on extreme roles to protect the internal family of sub-personalities and the Self. They do so, because they don’t trust the Self to deal with problems and trauma.

Working With Parts via Parts Work

This whole abstraction of the human pshyche makes it possible to address Parts directly, either through talk or writing (journaling). In IFS therapy this is called Parts work.

Types of Parts in Internal Family Systems

The Protectors & The Exiles

IFS parts can be categorized in three categories – Managers, Firefighters and Exiles.

Managers and Firefighters are also categorized as Protectors, as you see in the IFS infographic here. 

The reason they are called Protectors is that they both guard the persona from any emerging emotional outbursts of Exiles. However, their methods of doing so differ.

While both types of Protectors guard against emerging emotions from the Exiles, Managers would do so through scrutinizing, criticizing and planning. Firefighters emerge when planning doesn’t work anymore, and they would try to “fight off the fire” with very drastic methods. 

A Representation of IFS Parts & The Self 

Illustration: IFS Parts Diagram

The IFS therapy model can be presented like the Parts gravitating around the nucleous of the Core Self.

The three types of Parts gravitate around the Core Self much like planets. 

Each Part has a role in keeping an equilibruim of the psyche, if of course isn’t taken to an extreme.

This printable poster is also available on Etsy, and as a ready to ship actual IFS therapy print.

IFS Parts: Managers

The Inner Critics of the System

In Internal Family Systems therapy Managers are the Protector parts that run а person’s life and try to keep things under control. This usually means avoiding the other types of Parts such as Firefighters and Exiles.

The Managers can keep us busy and productive, discipline us and make to some extent our lives easier. Sometimes that happens through the so-called Inner Critic voice. 

Managers are parts that can resemble the Core Self, and tend to occupy the personality, especially in times of stress. However, they are not the Self and they also tend to be controlling and overly perfectionistic. They can also avoid risks and be rigid or conforming.

In Jungian psychology terms, Managers represent an ego-self that is separate from the Self, but tends to try to run the show.

Extreme Parts in IFS Therapy

Parts Wounded by Trauma

If a Part has been wounded by past trauma, or has a very wounded Exile to deal with, it would take an extreme role. Thus, protectors like Managers become extra controlling and pedantic, while Firefighters use extreme methods to cope. The latter would include emotional outbursts or addictive behaviour.

Parts Work as Working with a Family System

Internal Family Systems therapy treats a person’s psyche similarly to a family. The so-called Parts work (also done through journaling) is essentially working with Parts as if they are in a family.

In family therapy members take on roles if there’s a person in the group that demands that in some way.

Disruptors in Family Systems

That is to say, in family therapy it is well-known that when a member of the family is acting in an unhealthy way, everyone shifts their behaviour.

Certain roles are played out in the family to compensate for the member of the family that’s showing extreme traits.

For example, a parent can be narcissist, which makes the whole family act in certain ways as a result of the narcissist’s demands.

Extreme Roles of Parts

So in a similar fashion if a Part has been damaged by past trauma, it takes the extreme Exile role. The Exile is oftentimes a Part frozen in time, believing that the whole person they represent is way younger.

Exiles and Trauma

How Trauma & Stressful Events Trigger Exiles

Despite Exiles staying hidden, they can pop in stressful situations. When a triggering event produces stress, Exiles may take over the whole persona.

Then a person acts in ways that are unusual for them, or extreme. This comes together with a huge amount of emotional pain.

In language we say things like “I wasn’t myself when I did this”, and we sometimes can’t understand our own actions and behaviour.

Firefighters in IFS Therapy

The Ones that Come to The Resque

The third type of Part in IFS therapy is the Firefighter, which is also usually concerned with keeping the Exiles away. However, the Firefighter also behaves in a more explosive and disorganized way than a Manager.

Firefighters are the ones that step up with addictive behaviour and actions when Managers aren’t able to keep the pain from the Exiles away anymore.

For example, in an attempt to not let an Exile surface, a Firefighter can make a person act in a non-productive and even harmful way. This includes drinking, drugs, agression and other harmful behaviour.


8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self for Professional Use

By the way, if you ever need the 8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self printable poster edited, or if you need “casuallyluxe.com” removed, you can always contact me at casuallyluxxe@gmail.com

Internal Family Systems Parts in Action: Example

IFS Parts Example: How They Trigger Each Other

IFS Therapy Posters by CasuallyLuxe - IFS Explained

The most easy to understand example of IFS parts is the one of bulimic’s cycle of binge eating.

Imagine a scenario where a person with bulimia engages in a cycle of binge eating triggered by unresolved trauma stored in their Exile.

Within this framework, the individual possesses various subpersonalities or Parts—specifically, Managers and Firefighters—whose role is to prevent the emergence of emotions linked to past trauma.

1. A person with an eating disorder would try to control their eating habits, sometimes going to an extreme. This is because a Manager is trying to control the situation. A managerial part would try to avoid any other part such as a Firefighter or an Exile going online. The Manager would also employ an Inner Critic type of voice to shame the person into eating strictly.


2. Eventually the person feels some extreme emotional stress of some sorts – for example, love disappointment, troubles at work, family, etc. This is when the Exile’s pain would surface. As emotional stress intensifies, the Manager’s Inner Critic is not able to control the situation anymore.


3. Enter the Firefighter Part, which intervenes desperately to alleviate the Exile’s pain. This Firefighter’s copying mechanism of choice is overeating. The Firefighter compells the person to binge eat. In this phase, the individual acts contrary to the Manager’s directives.


4. After the binge eating episode the person feels extreme remorse and starts self-criticizing, going back to the Manager Part that is extra vigilant in pointing out all eating-related mistakes, plus a few more.


5. The cycle is now set as the next time stress occurs, the Manager has been extra critical of the person and it’s easier to fall into the trap of the eating disorder.

IFS Explained Video: Parts Example

 You can also watch this IFS therapy explained video that I just found that also gives a nice example of Parts in action.

IFS Therapy Mugs, Internal Family Systems gift ideas

If you are interested in Internal Family Systems therapy, you can also shop IFS therapist gifts such as IFS therapy mugs. Shop the 8 C’s and 5 P’s of the Self IFS therapy mug on Etsy.

IFS Therapy Mug 8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self

8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self IFS Therapy Mug

This 8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Self IFS therapy mug may be a nice high quality therapist gift. One side shows the 8 Cs of the Core Self, and the other illustrates the 5 Ps of the Core Self.

Of course, this IFS therapist's mug has the artwork of my original printable Internal Family Systems posters. However, I have redesigned the original artworks to illustrate better the principles of IFS on a mug.

Of course, you can also check a similar version of the art on Etsy as well, along with the 8 Cs and 5 Ps of Self IFS therapy mug.

IFS Therapy Model Mug - Internal Family Systems Mug

IFS Therapist Gift Idea - IFS Therapy Model Explained Mug

This coffee mug shows a newer design of my printable IFS therapy posters. This mug works as a great minimalist, high quality IFS therapist gift idea.

In this case I have redesigned the illustration of the Internal Family Systems model. So you can see the IFS model overview in a neat two-part illustration showing the Managers and Fireighters along with the Exiles. Also, on the other side you will see the artwork of the Core Self according to IFS therapy. Click on the link to see it fully represented on Etsy.

Self-Leadership Mug - Internal Family Systems Therapy Mug

Self-Leadership Mug for IFS Therapists

This stylish and minimalist mug illustrates the self-leadership principle explored in IFS therapy. However, the concept of self-leadership is explored in other therapy modalities. Thus, this is not only a gift for an IFS therapists, but an elegant gift for other professionals as well.

Self-Led Mug Funny Coffee Mug for IFS Therapists

Self-Led Fun Coffee Cup for IFS Therapists

The Self-Led fun coffee cup for therapists has the mirrored Self-Led design on one side. As can be seen, this is a witty remark on the concept of being self-led in Internal Family Systems therapy. A fun gift for IFS therapists who will naturally read one side of the cup when facing a mirror. Click to see this fun coffee cup on Etsy, where it's presented on both sides.

Internal Family Systems Therapy 8 Cs and 5 Ps of IFS - Printable Posters

8 Cs and 5 Ps of the Core Self, Printable Wokrksheet Set

Purchase this IFS poster set by clicking this link.

In addition to being suitable for printing as IFS worksheets, they are designed separately for a few formats available on Etsy with high quality resolution:

  1. 🔹 Tabloid (US poster size).
  2. 🔸 18 x 24 inches (US print size)
  3. 🔹 A3 (European size).
  4. 🔸 US Letter print size.
  5. 🔹 A4 print size.
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