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These are roles that parts take on to protect the self from external threats, either perceived or real, and protect the internal system from exiled parts. These roles are taken on by aggressive protectors, distancing protectors, managers, firefighters, and/or exiled parts. Your inner Managers live in fear of the exiles escaping, and will try to avoid any interactions or situations that might activate an exile’s attempts to break out or leak feelings, sensations, or memories into consciousness. Different managers adopt different strategies and are forced into roles they do not enjoy but believe are necessary.

The primary purpose of all managers is to keep the exiles exiled, both for the protection of the exiles themselves and the protection of your system from them; keeping the feared feelings and thoughts from spilling over the inner walls, so that your system remains safe and able to function in your life; and pre-empt the activation of exiles by keeping you in control or out of danger (unknown or unpredictable situations) at all times and pleasing the people you depend on.

In order to maintain this kind of internal and external control, some managers can project the outward appearance and substance of success, providing you with the drive and focus to gain impressive academic, career, or monetary achievements. Success not only brings control over relationships and choices, but also can serve to distract from or compensate for your inner shame, fear, sadness, or despair. If you are dominated by a Passive Pessimist, Dependent One, or Worrier, your life may be characterized by a series of half-hearted attempts and failures, which provide you with protection from responsibility or disappointment.

Other common managerial tools or manifestations include: obsessions, compulsions, reclusiveness, passivity, emotional detachment and sense of unreality, phobias, panic attacks, somatic complaints, depressive episodes, hyper-alertness, and nightmares. The rigidity and severity of these various managerial strategies will match the degree to which the managers think (correctly or not) that you are in danger of being reinjured. Contributing to their rigidity and extremeness is the fact that they have more responsibility than they are equipped to handle. They not only have to deal with what they perceive as a dangerous outside world; they are plugging the leak in the dam that contains the exiles, and are desperate to protect the Self from these internal and external threats. In this position, managers are neglected, suffering, and scared, like parentified children in a dysfunctional family.

When you finally get to know the striving, perfectionistic, and approval-seeking managers in your inner system, they often describe similar feelings of having to hide their own loneliness and misery, because someone has to keep your life under control. They want to be nurtured and healed, but they believe they have to hide those vulnerabilities and sacrifice themselves for your inner system. The more competent they become, the more your system relies on them, and the more they become overwhelmed with their responsibilities and power. They come to believe that they alone are responsible for any success and safety you have experienced, and increasingly lose trust in the leadership of the Self.

Control and/or Manipulation

Often there is a part of you that tries to maintain control of all your relationships or situations, afraid that the smallest slight or frightening surprise might activate one of your young hurt parts. This manager may be highly intellectual and effective at solving problems, but is also obsessed with pushing away all feelings. This part is often referred to as “The Controller”, or something similar.

A part of you may strive for career success or wealth, in order to place you in a position of power and to distract you from difficult emotions. To motivate you, this “Striver” is often a bitingly critical taskmaster, never satisfied with performance or outcome.

Inner Critic

Your inner “Evaluator” part is perfectionistic about appearance and behavior, believing that if you are perfect and please everyone, you will not be rejected, neglected, abandoned, or hurt. These parts externalize blame. They continually find fault with people and the world. They are discontent, complaining, restless, and look down on most things. The extreme pessimist. They are intensely frustrated that our lives and others do not match our expectations and meet our high standards. They can be intense and vicious toward others and ourselves.

This part uses harsh judgements, complaints, negativity, nagging, nit picking, and/or character assassinations. It is often aggressive and demeaning. They use all manner of prejudices that involve “othering” to help us feel acceptable, included, safe and important. They are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, xenophobic, ageist, classist, and ableist. The inner critics are our ad hoc continual improvement committee. They are relentlessly vigilant, critical, often humorless and usually unpopular with other parts in the system.

When turned inward, this part skewers, demeans and condemns us. We can be at this part’s mercy when this part takes us over. This part may come from our parents (legacy burdens). One of the negative thinking patterns associated with this part might be “labeling.”

Critical or judging parts can become too strong in our systems because of childhood experiences in learning what we should and shouldn’t do. Taking in our parents’ admonitions about what is permissible and what is not, we gradually develop our own “inner judge” parts that remind us of the social rules of our family and community. It is of course vital that we develop these parts, for later they will help us learn how to be successful within our social context. It is, however, easy for our system to get out of balance in this process.

A complicating factor is that our biological predisposition causes each of us to learn differently, depending upon the temperament we were born with. The difference between the introverted and the extroverted child is a good example. One effect of this temperamental difference is that introverts are much more reactive to external stimuli, such as the stern voice of the parent. If we apply that difference to the process of developing our inner critics and judges we find this temperamental difference can have a strong impact.

Anxious Worrier

The hyper-aroused “Sentry” feels in constant jeopardy, is on continuous alert for danger, and flashes worst-case scenarios in front of you while contemplating risks vs benefits.

Worried parts can become so extreme that they make day to day functioning very difficult and uncomfortable. These parts want to forestall negative surprises, they want to be sure we don’t get hurt and we don’t fail, they want to be sure we’re not oblivious or naive and innocent. They are anticipatory, often very physical, hard to ignore, alarmed about imaginary catastrophes, and full of warnings.

Worrying can take up a lot of mental energy. The worrying and anxious part prevents other parts from being present, even though these other parts are needed to judge what is a true danger. These anxious parts can also prevent useful managers from making a plan that will help us cope with possible problems. In its functional form, as we see in this illustration, the part that worries can look ahead and warn us of possible dangers. This can activate the needed parts, but it doesn’t exhaust the entire system and keep us awake at night.


These parts try to keep us connected and, in the loop, they often make us think of the welfare of others before letting us take care of ourselves. They are people pleasers and caretakers.

Agreeableness of the part is a trait that can be described as cooperative, polite, kind, and friendly. People with parts high in agreeableness are more trusting, affectionate, altruistic, and generally displaying more prosocial behaviors than others. People high in this prosocial trait are particularly empathetic, showing great concern for the welfare of others, they are the first to help those in need. Agreeableness is one of five dimensions of personality described as the Big Five. The other traits are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism.

People with type C sub-personalities often seem quiet, focused, introverted, and thoughtful. They may have trouble opening up emotionally and expressing needs, preferring to let others have their way in order to maintain group harmony. These traits can show up more specifically in the following behaviors: perfectionist tendencies; difficulty adjusting to unwanted change; taking an interest in small details; sensitivity toward the needs of others; outward passiveness; pessimism; a tendency to deny or avoid extreme emotions; and an internal sense of helplessness or hopelessness.

Passive Pessimism

The “Passive Pessimist” tries to avoid interpersonal risk, particularly situations that could arouse anger, sexuality, or fear. This can make you totally apathetic and withdrawn, so that you do not try to get close to anyone. This part erodes your self-confidence and sabotages performance, so that you won’t have the courage to pursue goals. It may seek out and highlight flaws in an object of desire, in order to undermine attempts to obtain it. In people who have been severely abused, this part can become an inner “Terrorist”, taking on qualities of the abuser and scaring the exiles into making the person even more withdrawn.


The “Denier” distorts perceptions to keep you from seeing and responding to risky feedback.

Sense of Entitlement

The “Entitled” encourages you to take whatever you desire, no matter who is wronged by the action (men are often socialized to rely on this manager).

Victim Role

I may not need to explain this.


Prestige and status. These parts keep us focused on how we look to others. They want us to have attention, approval, safety and love. They do things like criticize our looks, invite others to criticize our looks, encourage us to go shopping, fantasize ideal scenarios, warn us about negative scenarios, obsess over clothing and material goods, and haunt the mirror.

It’s human nature for us to want to be liked by others. We want to be happier and socially accepted. So it’s normal to think the grass is greener with more stuff. We like knowing we can keep up with peers and feel like we succeed in life. And we want our peers, whether family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors, to respect us. Unfortunately, ego, peer pressure, fear of missing out, wanting to have the best, or a combo of those emotions drive our natural desire to “spend to impress.”

And the pressures are even higher with social media platforms making it easy for others to show off. While I witnessed the rise of the social media industry and see plenty of good, I also see these platforms’ downsides to our society. Although I won’t get too philosophical and deep in the woods here, social media has made it easy for people to brag — both intentionally and unintentionally. You start noticing people in your network going on the latest expensive vacation, buying a fancy new car, splurging on newborn clothes at baby showers, upgrading to a big house, or buying some other latest material item.

It can mess with your mind a bit because you start to wonder if you are falling behind or doing something wrong in life that you are not on that level and you get bombarded with advertising every day. And shopping online is just a simple click away. The perfect storm for financial disaster! And there is nothing wrong with spending money on you from time to time. However, if you prioritize your finances correctly, feel free to spend on things you enjoy because life is short. The problem becomes when you start to jeopardize your financial well-being to follow what everyone else is doing, or “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Intimacy Distancer

These parts manage and regulate closeness in relationships to protect us from being too vulnerable and getting hurt. They can manifest as personality disorders and attachment pattern disorders. They do things like cultivate an angry edge that keeps us from wanting to be close to anyone and vice versa, act needy and overly attached, act overly sexual, act disinterested, act sleepy, act bored and disengaged, daydream when someone else is talking, form alliances with parts who focus on food or alcohol in social settings and focus on electronic gadgets.


Your “Codependent” part tries to keep you in a victim’s role to ensure that other people will take care of you and keeps you compliant, appearing helpless, injured, and passive.


“The Caretaker”, a part common in people who are abused, makes them always sacrifice their own needs so as to focus on and care for others. This part is likely to criticize you for being selfish if you ever assert yourself.

Humor Defense

These “Court Jesters” use humor in all kinds of ways to set a tone and influence others. They can be self-deprecating. They keep others happy and engaged. They people please, entertain others, and get attention for us so we can get our needs met. They provide a distraction from painful or uncomfortable moments and cover up feelings or distract us from internal feelings. They injure others so they will move away from us. They feel they must exact revenge to protect us.

Food Control

This manager is obsessive with food, either indulging or restricting as a way of distracting us from being overwhelmed by exiled feelings. They do things like make us: feel hungry even when we do not want to eat; long for and obsess over certain comfort foods; overeat even after we feel full; restrict amounts and types of foods, fear regarding food, avoidance of certain foods, feel sick after eating certain foods, restrict calories, binge on food, and purge our food.

Substance Use

These parts use mood-altering substances, legal or illegal, to avoid the overwhelming emotional pain, anxiety, fear, and inner conflict from exiles and other parts. They do things like use prescribed and/or unprescribed medications, other substances, and process addictions proactively to prevent system overload.


These parts often work in conjunction with parts who obsess about our appearance. They can also pinch hit for eating disorder parts. They hound us to exercise with a hyper-focus on health and wellness. They urge us to achieve unrealistic new fitness goals. They become panicky when we are ill or injured and critique our body for imperfections. They are obsessed with our weight and body parts (BMI, and fat percentages). They glorify, romanticize, and admire bodies that are shown in fashion or sport magazines, or in electronic articles and ads.


We now have a whole new dimension, a veritable looking-glass world, into which we can fall for endless distraction. Since for most people work and communication depend on electronic instruments like cell phones and computers, our parts who seek to distract us in this way operate virtually no holds barred with endless options. These parts make us take out our gadgets when we are at the office, when we stand in a line, when we are in unpleasant environments like airports, elevators, and busy, noisy public streets, when we are in conversation, while eating meals, while in school, at lectures, in libraries. In short, they will take gadgets out anywhere, anytime to look at them, play with them, or work with them.

Entertainment Technology

Netflix anyone? The human mind is engaged by stories, whether they are banal and cliched or original. Our electronic devices deliver an endless stream of visuals, words, music, real and fictional stories. These parts take us out to the movies, watching TV, cable or various other subscriber services. They live vicariously through movie characters and retell the stories of the shows we have just watched. They provide distorted realities and false hopes via reality TV. They make us relate to the characters depicted therein to learn, emulate and make sense of experience. The entertainment distorts our beliefs and perceptions of what is real and what is possible.

Spirituality Ego

These parts misuse mindfulness and meditation to bypass threatening feelings, fill a sense of emptiness, or as a facsimile for dissociating. They encourage us to disconnect from all thoughts and feelings, dissociate, and keep our mental processes abstract or vague. They distract us from emotional pain with hyper- or hypo-focusing. They encourage us to be stoic and to think instead of feel.


These parts flourish in families and settings that celebrate and survive on cognitive strengths (e.g., the child of a professor who grows up in a university town). They overthink as a way of overriding or interrupting feelings. They look down on people who don’t rely on thinking parts as much and help us feel special. They value knowledge and achievement over feelings and intuition. They form alliances with the critics, power brokers and appearance parts.


Some protectors help us overuse religion, idealize religious leaders, long for redemption, long for community, meaning and purpose in life, and care about belonging at the expense of a sense of self and connection to people who are different. They make us feel right and righteous. They can make us feel held. They banish the doubt of a belief system and make it difficult to challenge long held beliefs that are irrational or illogical. They distract us from a sense of emptiness and loneliness. They form alliances with political protectors.


These parts are adept at seduction and spend their time recruiting lovers to pack inner emptiness with conflict, excitement, and attempts at connection. They focus on: sexual attraction; longing and desire; games of seduction; passionate sex when reuniting after quarrels (make-up sex); and the physiological release of hormones and neurotransmitters during and after orgasm.


These parts like to feel powerful. Their goal is to dominate self and others. They love being in control. They do things like: keep vulnerability out of sight at all costs; blame vulnerable parts for getting us hurt; and attacking and shaming other people who display vulnerability.


These protectors want us to become rich or successful, to feel admired and never feel rejected. They promote a grandiose sense of our value inside and interpersonally to counter the worthlessness of our exiles and the shaming of our inner critics. They promote the idea that failure is terrible and deny mistakes or failure. They punish others, children, subordinates, students, etc., for making mistakes or failing. They avoid apologizing as it appears as vulnerability or weakness. They form alliances with power brokers.

Political Ego

Like religious protectors, our political protectors help us find leaders, belong, have community, purpose and structure when feeling empty and alone. These parts make us feel our side is right and that we are righteous and superior. They think they can explain right and wrong and good and bad. They banish the doubt of a belief system and make it difficult to challenge long held beliefs that are irrational or illogical. They distract us from a sense of emptiness and loneliness. They form alliances with religious protectors.


These parts do not like us to be seen, to compete, or to threaten others in any way. They keep us invisible, safely under the radar. They promote the feeling that attention is dangerous and avoid letting us be seen. They discourage ambition and refuse to strive for any goal. They avoid letting us feel good about accomplishments and tell us that others will be hurt by our success. “Don’t rock the boat.” Inability to set boundaries and be assertive to ask for what they need.

Exiled Anger

Parts who felt angry at mistreatment are often young. They may have stepped forward to protect another young part and been exiled because their anger was unsafe. They often continue to be treated like Kryptonite in the system because anger itself is viewed as a perpetrator behavior. They are smoldering, resentful, and feel slighted. They interrupt others and push back aggressively. They easily express their disdain and explode at the slightest provocation. They form alliances with other aggressive protectors.

Revenge Seeking

When we are mistreated, rendered helpless by someone more powerful, humiliated, or made to feel worthless one common response is to want revenge. Revenge parts are vindictive, use sarcasm to gain power and try to even the playing field. They humiliate anyone who feels threatening and preoccupy our mind with fantasies of being powerful and taking revenge, which in the extreme can include hurting or killing someone else.


The idea of suicide is often a comfort to people who are in extreme pain, emotional or physical. They offer a theoretical (soothing to think about) exit from unending and seemingly insoluble suffering and an actual (emergency) exit from unending and seemingly insoluble suffering. They promote the ultimate escape. They want revenge, seek connection and want others to react to us or rescue us. They use suicidal rehearsals in order to alert others so that we can get our needs met. They form alliances with self-harm protectors. They will rarely want to intentionally end life, rather talk about suicide as a way of connecting to others. They can also form alliances with guilt tripping parts.

Self Harming

Also a firefighter, unless the behavior is proactive.

Somatic Complaints

Health worries and concerns, what was once called hypochondriac. 

Inner Shame

Add more information

Social Media

Connection seeking, likes, comments, follows, need I say more?

Shame and Blame

It’s not me, it’s you, I’m not the problem, I don’t have a problem, it’s you and everyone else that’s the problem. Also a firefighter unless it is being proactive.

Please Help Me Add More

During your IFS sessions with parts work, while drawing the map when you’re exploring your internal system, if you chance upon managers I have not listed here, I would love to get your permission to add them to my list.