How Internal Family Systems Parts Work Helps You Overcome Limiting Beliefs

Through life experiences, positive or negative, we form beliefs.

These beliefs affect how we view the world.

Many beliefs are so fundamental that they shape our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

As human beings, we also have needs.

These needs range from basic physical needs (food, water, shelter, etc.) and emotional needs (love, connection, safety, etc.).

When our needs aren’t met in childhood, we formulate beliefs to try and understand why this is happening and give meaning to those events. But there are also parts of ourselves that will adopt whatever beliefs are necessary to get those needs met and to survive the trauma.  

Oftentimes, we are not presented with healthy ways of coping as children and must adopt whatever beliefs we can to survive – even if they’re actually harmful. Although those beliefs are formed as survival strategies, which at one point serve a legitimate purpose, we eventually outgrow these limiting beliefs. As adults in a completely new environment where they’re no longer necessary, they can actually be extreme and self-destructive. 

Parts care about you. They want to protect you and help you. 

However, when parts believe that the toxic beliefs and coping strategies they’ve taken on are essential to the system’s survival, it can make them harder to clear. They can’t change until the parts are invited to unload the extreme beliefs and emotions they carry, and to tell their story. They’ve been through a lot, and deserve to be treated with compassion, understanding, and love. That’s where internal family system parts work comes in.


Parts, Survival Strategies, and Beliefs


According to the Internal Family Systems model, there are three primary types of parts: exiles (the inner child), firefighters (the fight, flight, or freeze response), and managers (the day-to-day management system). Each part plays a different role in protecting “the self” (the core person of who you are), carries their own extreme emotions and beliefs from the trauma, and manifests in different behaviors. 

These parts, in and of themselves, aren’t bad. As the founder of the Internal Family Systems model Richard Schwartz believes, parts are born within us, either dormant or active. These parts can live along with the self in harmony and assist in our daily lives–and are even necessary for our survival. That is why internal family systems parts work is so important.

In instances of trauma, these parts feel that they have to stand in the way of the self and take the punches of abuse, neglect, and so on. In consequence, they are thrown out of balance because the self is vulnerable and they must do whatever is necessary to protect it. 

Since they view the self as vulnerable, they lose trust in the self and feel that they must take over in order to ensure survival. They become frozen in time, unable to move past the trauma out of fear of recurrence. The limiting beliefs they hold become manifest, and this can lead to episodes where you feel like you aren’t yourself or act in irrational and self-sabotaging behaviors. They hang onto old stories, old coping habits, and old beliefs because that’s what has worked to protect the system in the past. 


Limiting Beliefs of Exiles


The exile is a part that carries the brunt of the pain, negative beliefs, and negative emotions caused by trauma. Exiles become isolated from the rest of the system in order to protect it from the pain and keep said pain from resurfacing. 


The exiled parts carry beliefs such as:


It’s not safe to be seen

I am not worthy

I am not enough

I am a bad person


This is where core toxic beliefs cause a general sense of disempowerment that shows up in daily life.


Limiting Beliefs of Firefighters


Firefighters’ beliefs primarily manifest in actions. These are the parts that cause irrational, manic, and addictive behaviors when out of balance. This is because their job is to put out the “fires”. If an exiled part is facing danger, leading to the system experiencing negative emotions and relived trauma, the firefighter will use any action and take on any belief necessary to protect the part and ease the pain. In unhealthy situations, this can manifest as drug usage, food addictions, violence, and other self-destructive behaviors. 


They carry beliefs such as:


The way to be heard is to yell and scream.

The way to be safe is to hide.

It’s not safe to be vulnerable.

Alcohol makes it stop.


This is where reactive outdated survival strategies manifest to keep the system safe.


Limiting Beliefs of Managers


Managers’ beliefs influence the day-to-day actions and feelings in our lives. Their job is to proactively manage the exiles and to prevent the self from experiencing any potential rejection or pain from any given situation or relationship. In unhealthy situations, this can show up as over-controlling behaviors and as the “inner-critic”. The beliefs they carry are oftentimes directly correlated with the beliefs of the exile and are used to try and overcompensate for the core, toxic beliefs. 


For example, they carry beliefs such as:


I should be doing more

I need to be successful

Nobody likes me

I am awkward


This is where managers regulate our emotional states at work and in social situations.


How Sovereign Mind incorporates Internal Family Systems Parts Work


The Sovereign Mind Method is a breakthrough technology that allows anyone to free themselves from self-limitation. We do this by permanently transcending self-limiting beliefs.

In many cases, part of us is truly not ready to let go of a belief.

It’s often a younger, still wounded part that truly thinks the belief is necessary for core needs being met, like safety, love, and identity.

We always welcome these parts with curiosity and compassion.

After all, there are “No Bad Parts” according to Internal Family Systems Parts Work founder Richard Schwartz.

Below we outline a simplified version of our process to help parts let go of toxic self-limiting beliefs.


The Parts Work Process to Overcome Limiting Beliefs


Step 1: Welcome the part with curiosity and compassion.


You might be surprised that a part of you wants to hold onto “I can’t trust myself” or “I am not enough”. Rather than judging the part, simply welcome it with loving curious awareness.


Step 2: Ask the part why it wants to hold on to the belief.


The answers are always different:

“If we let go of this belief, we won’t strive to be a good boy, and father won’t love us.”

“I don’t want to lose our freedom. I want to do what I want when I want!”

“It’s NOT SAFE to believe men can be trusted. We’re just going to get hurt again.”

No matter what the answer, thank the part for sharing its wisdom with you. 

You can see that it’s just trying to protect you from one of your core needs not being met.


Step 3: Ask the part to clarify what core needs are being met by this belief.


The answers will make sense based on the story the part just told you.

For example:

“It’s helping us be safe and loved.”

“It’s helping us be free and in control.”

“It’s helping us avoid pain.”


Step 4: Introduce new possible strategies to meet the needs the part is protecting.


For example:

“Could we possibly meet our needs for love and safety with our father by calling him and telling him that we love him? Or by reaching out to friends and family for support? Or by going to therapy?”

The part will always acknowledge the truth that there are other possibilities to meet your needs.


Step 4: Show the part that the old limiting belief actually gets in the way of what it wants.


For example:

“Can you see how holding onto ‘I am not good enough actually makes us feel less loved and less safe nearly all the time? For example, we pursue lower-quality romantic relationships and don’t stand up for ourselves very much.

The part will virtually always agree, because it’s self-evident that the belief is no longer serving the original intended purpose, but rather creating the opposite results.

Continue by asking this follow-up question: 

“Know that, is holding on to that belief the only way to meet our needs of love?”

The part will virtually always acknowledge “no, it’s not…” – now you’re one question away from letting it go forever!


Step 5: Ask the part if it’s willing to let go of the belief.


For example:

“Knowing that this old belief gets in the way of what we truly want, are you open to letting it go with me?”

At this point, the part genuinely feels ready to let it go.

And so you may!



For a lucky portion of the population, this process alone will eliminate the belief entirely.

For most of us though, even when all parts are ready to let go, the belief will still resonate in the body emotionally. That is to say, it’ll still “feel real”.

Beliefs are multi-sensory constructs.

Beliefs are created and rooted through your senses.

They don’t just make Logical Sense.

They make Visual and Emotional Sense too.

We believe what we see with our own two eyes, and what feels real in our bodies.

When you realize that nothing you ever saw or felt truly meant “I am not enough” – you’re free from the belief forever and it never comes back.

If that sounds too simple, I encourage you to read our success stories page

Hundreds of people have experienced life-changing healing through internal family systems parts work within the Sovereign Mind method.


Would you like to overcome your self-limitation?