Firefighters are often seen as secondary emotions, quickly stepping in to extinguish the fire of vulnerability using reactive tactics like anger or other harmful behaviors. However, certain approaches prove ineffective when working with firefighters. Here are a few things to avoid:
1. Reasoning with FF: It's challenging to convince a firefighter that the war ended years ago. Even if we logically demonstrate that things have changed, they still perceive the war as ongoing and believe they must do anything to protect the client from vulnerability. Additionally, pushing others away when triggered is unproductive.
2. Power struggles with FF: Attempting to outsmart a firefighter is a losing game. Therapists can become burned out and frustrated. Firefighters possess an endless bag of tricks, such as running traumatic images or movies, self-harming behaviors like burning or cutting, or engaging in self-destructive binges.
3. Eliminating FF: When faced with a rocky ship in unstable waters, it may be tempting to throw the loudmouth troublemaker overboard. However, firefighters often receive a bad reputation from both society and other parts within the individual. Appreciating these parts can lead to positive changes in the system. For instance, clients struggling with pornography often despise their firefighting part. Yet, by appreciating this part and not conflating it with their burden or behavior, clients have witnessed a decrease in their porn use.
Successful Techniques That Work
1. Disciplining FF: Engaging in power struggles with firefighters is unwise, but clients can establish boundaries and discipline them in a manner similar to disciplining a child. By providing prior warnings, respect, and careful explanations of boundaries' purpose, small positive steps can be taken. Discussing the presence of protectors in therapy sessions beforehand, naming them when they arise, and exploring their needs while requesting space or a step back exemplify setting boundaries ahead of time.
2. Asking FF to explain their conduct: Understanding the ultimate purpose of firefighters is vital for disarming them and comprehending their automatic protective reactions. Addressing their protective goals is essential. Here are six protective goals to help understand FF better:
- Absorbing trauma: FF carry pain for young exiles, aiming to distract them or others from vulnerability. This can manifest as physical pain, emotional distress, or specific behaviors. The emotions carried by FF become distorted and transformed, no longer reflecting the initial emotion experienced by the exile.
- Using self-injury as protection: While self-injury serves as protection, FF must learn that it is an ineffective strategy. This behavior often triggers other parts, and understanding the fears associated with not engaging in self-injury is crucial.
- Imitating the abuser: FF may imitate the abuser due to parts downloading information from parental figures. Helping parts see themselves accurately and providing emotional truth can offer clarity and promote self-energy, ultimately breaking the strong bond formed through imitation.
- Attempting to distract: Distraction lies at the core of every firefighter's purpose, as they strive to divert attention away from pain. Identifying the behaviors used by FF to distract is important.
- Trying to stop memories: FF may emerge when painful memories arise, hindering the processing of these memories. Recognizing this and utilizing techniques like the GPS method can help navigate this challenge.
- Protecting other people: FF and exiles often harbor anger and rage. While this protective anger may strain relationships, it is crucial to address and acknowledge these emotions. Feeling anger doesn't automatically cause misfortune for others.
In conclusion, understanding and appreciating firefighter parts is essential for establishing a harmonious therapeutic relationship. Although initially challenging, firefighters can become valuable allies in the journey toward healing. By employing successful techniques such as disciplining FF and asking them to explain their conduct,
therapists can foster a safer and more supportive environment for clients. Deepening our comprehension and empathy for these protector parts aids in calming the protective system. For further exploration of these topics, the book "The Mosaic Mind" is recommended as a valuable resource.