“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

― Maya Angelou


It was very pleasant this morning on our back patio. I was enjoying “You are the one you have been waiting for” by Richard Schwartz. Prior to getting my cup of coffee and book, I looked out the back slider and was reminded that the raspberries were ripe and needed to be picked. But I also noticed that the sprinklers were running. I asked my wife how long they would be on. She sets them manually.

“20 minutes,” she answered.

“Great, I’ll have a cup of coffee and read for a while and then pick the raspberries.” A part of me was expecting some kudos for being willing to do the picking this morning.

“They say you shouldn’t pick them when they’re wet,” she commented.

She had also told me that they should be picked in the morning when it is cool. The day before, I told her I was going to fertilize the lawn later. She suggested that wasn’t a good idea because it was too hot.

Each time she advised me against my intentions, something twisted a little tighter in me. I want to fertilize but it’s too hot. I want to pick raspberries but they’re too wet. I was going to pick raspberries the other day and it was too late in the day and too hot.

Twist, twist, twist. Tighter, tighter, tighter. I noticed irritation each time but managed to push back the triggered parts.

I set a timer on my phone. I had maybe 20 more minutes before I needed to shower and get ready for the day. The book was great. I highlighted some of it and thought about making a post on Facebook quoting Dick. When the timer went off, I closed the book, grabbed my highlighter and my empty coffee cup, and came inside. My wife was in the kitchen.

“We have a dilemma,” I heard myself say. “We can’t pick the raspberries later because its too hot and we can’t pick them early because they’re too wet. When are we ever supposed to pick our raspberries?” My tone was harsh and aggressive. I was surprised.

My wife answered evenly. “We have to pick them before I water.”

“Oh. Then dilemma solved!” I continued with my angry attitude and tone.

After setting my coffee cup in the sink, I went into the bathroom to take a shower and get ready for the day. I wondered what had just happened. Why was I so aggressive? Why was I so rude? Why had I treated my wife that way? And then I realized that a part of me had gotten triggered and had taken over. What, I wondered had triggered the part? I remembered other instances when this part had been activated. When she pointed out that I hadn’t properly washed a bowl a couple of years back, I heard myself respond, “I guess I just can’t do anything right!”

This was the same part of me.

I went inside my mind and asked, “What’s going on? Why are you so angry?” The part of me that was so angry has been working for years to resist being controlled. It tolerates and tolerates and twists and twists as I resist its efforts to take over. Until eventually, there is no more capacity, and this angry protector takes over and pushes back hard. From the perspective of this part, my wife was trying to control me.

From the perspective of Self, I know she wasn’t. She is a master gardener. She knows her stuff. And she likes the dishes to be clean. And she is organized. And she feels secure enough to give voice to her preferences. None of it is intended to control me. None of it.

Through the lens of an activated part, the view is distorted. Through the lens of True Self, the view is clear.

I told my angry part that my wife loves me, that she isn’t a threat. She loves me just as I am and has no agenda to change me or control me.

I felt that part of me relax. I went to the kitchen and apologized. “That was weird. A part of me took over and influenced me to say those things. This part thought you were trying to control me, but I let it know you weren’t. I’m sorry I spoke to you that way. How were you impacted by that? Do you have parts that got triggered?”

“I was surprised. I tensed up and could tell you were angry. I didn’t understand. Thanks for apologizing. I’m not hurt but I didn’t like it,” she said.

“I don’t blame you. I didn’t like it either,” I told her as we hugged and went about our day.

I’m glad I cleaned it up. I’m glad I noticed and I’m glad I acknowledged it. That’s a good start. But there is more work to be done.

What’s next is to get curious about the protective part that got triggered so I can find out what part of me it is protecting. And then, when the protector trusts me enough and is ready for some help, I will connect with the exile and help it let go of its unhealed pain, to let go of it’s very active and present past. Once the part of me it is protecting has been healed, the protecting part can relax and get a new job.

Of course, I don’t have to do that. I can just continue to erupt occasionally, damaging my relationships and pushing people away. That’s what I’ve always done.

But now that I know better, I can do better.


Some of the language and concepts I used to tell this story may sound odd to you. I’ve been using the Internal Family Systems model in my coaching since 2018. I am a Level 2 trained IFS practitioner, trained by the IFS Institute. If you would like to learn more about IFS, visit www.IFS-Institute.com or schedule a free 30-minute discovery session with me at www.BillsCalendar.com


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