• Helen Marcus

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA for brevity!) is one of my favourite programmes. People in the public eye are given the opportunity to explore their family tree, often uncovering the hidden history of their ancestors. Through documents and photos they ‘hear’ part of their family story – sometimes shocking and heart-breaking, often inspiring.

It strikes me how much people are impacted when they hear and connect to these stories – how moved they are by the plight of people they have never met but have begun to form a connection with. They often talk at the end of their discoveries about a more expanded sense of themselves and where their own story fits into the whole, the personal characteristics they can now makes more sense of.

Just as people make these meaningful connections with their history and individuals in their family so we can connect with the parts of us that make our inner family – some we are very aware of in our day to day life, others seem more distant, and yet others we haven’t met yet. We often encounter parts such as an inner critic, a perfectionist, a ‘just get on with it’ part and a creative part, and many others.

Every part of us has their story to tell – experiences, thoughts, beliefs and memories – that are unique to them and enriching to us when we are able to connect and hear their story in an open hearted way. We can learn how they came to be as they are, if they are like the ‘black sheep’ of the family or been put on a pedestal, which parts are in touch with each other and which are very isolated. Unlike the participants in WDYTYA, we don’t have to make our best guesses about our inner family, or wish there had been some way to go back in time to help them. We can ask our parts what it has been like for them to have these experiences and to take on these roles? What have the repercussions been? How can we help them now?

This, to me, is the beauty of Internal Family Systems. It is a way of forming real, meaningful and healing relationships with our own inner family. And, like the people in WDYTYA, experience an expanded and more connected sense of our selves.

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