Dr. Richard Schwartz joins Francesca to discuss legacy burden, implicit racism, privilege, social activism, and healing the planet.
Richard Schwartz, PhD, is the founding developer of Internal Family Systems (IFS), a therapeutic model that synthesizes systems thinking and the multiplicity of the mind, suggesting alternative ways of understanding psychic functioning and healing.
Dr. Schwartz co-authored, with Michael Nichols, Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, the most widely used family therapy text in the United States. He joins Francesca for a timely chat on how the Internal Family Systems Model is evolving to include cultural and collective trauma and legacy burdens. To keep up with Dr. Schwartz ongoing work, visit ifs-institute.com
To learn more about Dr. Schwartz’ Internal Family Systems Model, read this interview on our Awakened Heart Blog
We take in, often unconsciously, what are called legacy burdens, which come into us through events that happened to our ancestors, ethnic groups, or culture. The parts of us that have been demonized in our culture carry these burdens in terms of extreme beliefs and emotions which came from traumas, but the burdens are not to be confused with the parts or the true nature of these parts. That’s a big mistake that many systems have made, to assume the burden is actually the part. So, the rage isn’t a bundle of rage. It’s a part that tried to stand up to your abuser, and as a result, took on the abuser’s energy to protect you, and now carries all this rage, but that’s not the true nature of the part at all.
“How you relate to these parts will play out in terms of how you relate to people who resemble those parts. So, if you can have compassion for your rage, then when somebody is raging, you’re going to see that pain that is driving the person, and have compassion for them. If you can be with your exiles, your vulnerable hurting parts, in a loving way, then when somebody is in their exiles you can be there with them too.” – Dr. Richard Schwartz
For a deep dive into identity, oppression, and restorative justice, open yourself to Ep. 28 of ReRooted
Implicit Racism & Unburdening (9:55)
Dr. Schwartz discusses how the anti-racism movement has done a lot of good in terms of raising people’s consciousness and bringing issues to the surface, but it has also taught individuals to be very ashamed of their racist parts. There’s nobody in our culture who hasn’t absorbed some racist belief system, so we all have that attached to some part of us. When you are so ashamed of that part that you wind up locking it away and pretending you don’t have it, then it becomes implicit racism, where it has an underground effect on your thoughts and actions, which makes it even more sinister because you aren’t even aware of how it is steering your ship.
“I would encourage you to go to your racist part, and get all the parts that hate it and fear it to separate to the point that you can be in Self, and be at least curious. You start to talk to that part of yourself about the racist burden it carries, where it got it, and what it’s afraid would happen if it didn’t carry this for you. At some point it decides, often spontaneously, that it doesn’t want to carry this anymore, and then you help ship it out of your system. We have a process we call ‘unburdening’ for doing that, for actually sending these burdens out of the system, at which point the part will transform…It’s my belief that it’s possible to unburden large groups of people simultaneously.” – Dr. Richard Schwartz
Social Activism & Critical Mass (45:22)
How can we act from Self as an activist? How can we act without relying on the parts of us that are motivated by pain or righteous injustice? It’s important to keep those parts nearby so they can help us continue to see the injustice, but it’s crucial that those parts are in an unburdened state because when you access Self, you restore your connection to Mother Earth. When you relay your message and do your social action, if you do it from a place of love and connection it will be much more effective.
“It’s my belief that Self isn’t just an “us,” that there is a field of Self, that the planet has a Self, and that there is a field of Self around the planet, and that every time we unburden personally or we unburden groups, we are releasing more of that field onto this plane, onto this planet, and that once we get to a critical mass of Self, then things can change very fast, because that’s what happens in individuals. That’s what keeps me going. Even our little individual actions are adding to that larger field that can actually make things change on this planet.” – Dr. Richard Schwartz