What Bob Falconer’s approach to UBs can teach us about Trump, his supporters, and our American community.

Max Littman, LCSW

June 4, 2024

Trigger warning: this article discusses Donald Trump.

My parts have very strong reactions to Donald Trump. I imagine most people’s parts do too. My parts’ primary reactions are fear and anger. The fear is focused upon the political and social power he has accumulated and wields so chaotically. The anger is toward harms he has incited without remorse or significant legal, social, and political repercussions (e.g. consequences impactful enough to stop his widespread damaging behaviors). 

My parts rejoiced at Trump’s guilty conviction. Seeing and hearing his first public response to his guilty conviction in the New York “hush money” trial, albeit expected, garnered the usual internal reactions of fear and anger. He skirted accountability as usual, placed blame on others, and touted himself as the answer to Americans’ problems. However, I was surprised to notice within myself some curiosity, creativity, and, dare I say it, compassion. What I noticed emerge were questions I’d heard before in Robert Falconer’s book on unattached burdens (UBs): why is it that people in America are attached to him? More microscopically, why do people’s parts need him and his parts? What protection are exiles getting that they cannot currently receive from an individual’s protectors alone?

My main curiosity was: what can Bob Falconer’s approach to UBs teach us about Trump, his supporters, and our American community?

Historically, IFS practitioners were trained to simply expel UBs like swatting a fly or treating a common cold with rest and fluids. UBs are identified when they show no good or benevolent intention for any parts or the system at large, and when they either answer “no” to the question of whether they are a part at all, or skirt the question entirely. Demos involving UBs show Dick flushing these foreign energies out by confidently and fearlessly telling them they need to get out of the client’s system.

In my view, Falconer’s approach is more compassionate, investigative, and all encompassing. In his book The Others Within Us Falconer lays out his recommended process to expelling foreign energies in a step by step format. His process is summarized as follows:

  1. Work with your own fear and then your client’s fear.
  2. Assume the being is a part unless proven otherwise.
  3. Create distance between the person and the UB and attend to any parts that are invested in the UB being there.
  4. Offer healing to the UB and help it to release into light and compassion.
  5. Help the system rebalance to the UB being gone.
  6. Invite guides and guidance in.
  7. Help the system tend to any damage that the UB has left in its wake.

Falconer has implied how some pretty terrifying UBs embody such intensity because they themselves have suffered greatly and, as a result, have accumulated intense burdens. They can latch onto and inhabit others’ systems as an attempt to alleviate their own burdens. Granted, these UBs are often unaware of or untrusting of Self. We as healing facilitators, and the Self energy of our clients, are in unique positions to offer healing to a UB. Once a person’s parts have more trust in Self and stop feeding the UB with their (understandable) reactions, the UB can begin to see for itself that what Self has to offer is more appealing and promising than the strategies it’s been using by its lonesome to alleviate its own burdens.

Here, I invite the reader to begin to imagine Trump as a foreign energy, a UB, that has entered the internal systems of American residents. See what parts of you react to this invitation, maybe intellectual parts, or skeptical parts, or other protectors; see what concerns they have or what they want you to know about giving you space to engage with this inquiry, and see if they’ll give you permission to do so, maybe just until the end of this article.

Recall, Dick Schwartz has pointed out that the external systems in American society and politics are quite similar to, if not the same as, the dynamics of our internal systems (e.g. reactive parts, preventative parts, exiled parts, polarizations, etc.). 

I invite you to imagine all American residents, regardless of citizenship status, as parts of the external system of the United States. There are many of us that fear and don’t like Trump. There are many that like, support, and defend Trump. Although Trump was born into and from our American system, meaning he is part of the external American family, his history and his deeds are not and have never been in direct relational contact with most people. He is mostly experienced indirectly through the media and governmental systems.

Trump has a very traumatized internal system with intense burdens. Dick has on multiple occasions shared how fearful, angry, and reactive his own parts get toward Trump. And yet, he has also said that he has compassion for Trump, recognizing that he has exiles that were burdened by a terrible childhood with a terrifying father. Like many UBs, he is terrorizing the systems he inhabits as a means to alleviate his own burdens. Based on what we know of his personal history, his burdens likely consist of never being good enough and being a shameful, inhuman creature if not embodying brute, unwavering force and strength.

Why do people’s parts like, support, defend, identify with, condone, and/or vote for Trump? The answer is highly complex and varied. Some possibilities include:

  • Parts holding shame about a lack of education
  • Parts holding shame about a lack of material wealth
  • Parts that fear social, political, and cultural change
  • Dependent parts that prefer authority figures that exert large amounts of control
  • Perpetrator parts that resonate with the way Trump’s parts handle his burdens
  • Angry parts who place blame on career politicians for social and financial hardships

That being said, I’m less interested in firming up an accurate answer than I am in accessing trust and confidence in the belief that people’s parts have good and entirely understandable reasons for supporting Trump (e.g. Falconer’s third step in his UB protocol). Another way of saying it: how do I connect to a larger field of Self energy when my parts are so intensely triggered by Trump?

The answer is simple, but not easily carried out: connecting with my own parts who react to Trump and his supporters (e.g. Falconer’s first step in the UB protocol).

I invite the reader to notice how they felt just before reading this article and how they are feeling now. How are your parts doing now as compared to before? Is any more space, curiosity, or compassion available when it comes to Trump and his supporters? Or maybe less or relatively the same as before? What might that mean for your internal system and our external community? If there is more space available now inside, are parts noticing it? If they are noticing, how are they responding? What do they need from you now?

I invite you to follow any trailheads that you may have discovered. May following these trails lead to more release of Self into our internal and external worlds, and an ability to connect with those outside our socio-political silos. And finally, I invite you to consider: where might this curiosity and openness lead us?

For feedback and comments, I can be reached at max@maxlittman.com.

About me.

I provide group and individual consultation to mental health professionals. 

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