Welcome back to the Therapy Spot! This week, I want to respond more deeply to an email I received from a listener. Here is the email:

Hi Beth — I’m doing IFS with a therapist here in the US and came across your site while doing some background research. Love your articles! But I had a question about your Powerless Penelope post. When you said, “Be the adult you wish would show up and save you in this problem right now,” I had almost a panic reaction! I feel like I don’t know what that adult would do. So… what do you do if your Penelope is so powerless that the thought of trying to look after her just makes her even more powerless and overwhelming?

First of all, I want to thank this listener for their question. (If you missed the post, I encourage you to read it now!) I want to take the opportunity to respond further, because the question evoked many thoughts in me.

Although it feels powerless, your Penelope part had a good intention. For example, by staying in bed, Penelope:

  • Protects you from the “too much is happening” nature of the world
  • Soothes you in the face of what feels like a mess
  • Helps you avoid a problem or situation that’s making you feel unhappy

Penelope is a young part who holds an old belief: “I can’t change this problem.” When Powerless Penelope shows up in your life, she doesn’t know how powerful you really are!

Deep emotions — the kind Penelope wants to protect you from — stem from knots of trauma in us. Circumstances, people, and even our own thoughts can trigger those knots. When these trauma knots surface,  you can use the IFS lens to be with them, alongside them. That way, you do not become them.


So how can you undo those emotional knots and find your inner adult? Listen along and find out.

Image Credit

Tantrum” by Flickr user Chirag Rathod is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.