Max Littman, LCSW

June 13, 2024

The following conversation between myself and my writer/editor part is shared with the intentions of helping others connect with their own and other people’s internal systems and in helping my own parts feel in connection with the IFS and broader communities.

Me: Hi.

Writer/Editor Part (W/E): Hi there.

Me: Are you aware of the intent of this meeting between us?

W/E: I believe so. But maybe let’s say out loud together what we each are hoping to gain from or intend to bring to this meeting.

Me: Good idea. (Pauses for clarity to emerge). To get to know you better. To spend time with you. And other parts of me wish to share this conversation with others through the written form in order to offer to them an expanded awareness of and connection with their own systems. These parts of me also want to feel in connection with others and something larger than myself. Are you okay with our conversation being shared externally?

W/E: I think so. Do I have permission to omit or change sections of our conversation? And am I able to retract consent at any time in this process, including after it is posted?

Me: Of course. (A breath is taken). What intents or wishes are you coming into this conversation with?

W/E: As always, I hope to be as clear as possible. I like the idea of others connecting with us as a result of this project. (Pauses to think). I do also like us being able to connect to our own and a larger field of creativity. So maybe those things.

Me: Great! Anything else to share about that or anything else before we get started?

W/E: No, I think that’s good for now!

Me: What do you do for me?

W/E: I help you be clear and communicative with others, and yourself I think, mostly through the written form. I do some of that work by spoken word. My main goal is to help you feel understood and seen by others.

Me: How did you learn that this was needed?

W/E: Max, when he was really young, maybe 8 years old or even younger, had a hard time expressing his internal world, his emotions, what he imagined, what he wanted to see happen in the external world, and how he understood his internal world and the external world. 

It was very frustrating for him when adults did not understand or pay attention to what he needed or what he was trying to express. Sometimes all he needed was to be understood. I needed to come in and help with that. 

I was not immediately good at it. I got better over time, as I experimented for him, gathered more information about what worked and what didn’t. His mom helped a lot over the years. She sat with me and modeled, scaffolded. She interpreted what she thought I was getting at when writing papers in late elementary school and in middle school. Eventually, by the time Max reached high school, I was able to make first drafts without the need for her scaffolding. She would just do the editing which became less needed over the years. It felt I’d reached my apex when she reviewed our masters thesis on evidence based therapy for gay male clients. She had no edits to speak of!

Me: You keep referring to Max in the third person. I’m wondering: do you recognize me, Max, now across from you?

W/E: (Pauses and squints). Sort of.

Me: Am I the Max that you were referring to before?

W/E: No. He is much younger and more vulnerable. You seem to have your shit together. I’m not worried about you.

Me: (Laughs). This is true. (Pauses). Is that much younger, more vulnerable part of me still around? Is he still that vulnerable?

W/E: (Pauses). I don’t know. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him in a while. I’m not sure if he’s still that vulnerable. I’d like to think that I’ve become so effective at what I do for him, he hasn’t had to endure that sort of pain of being misunderstood so much. At least not due to his inability to express what’s happening inside.

Me: I’m checking to see if there’s any burden held anywhere in the system around not being understandable. (Pauses to feel into any burdens in the system). None are sensed, but the system is aware I’m open to the possibility there still is.

W/E: (Calm, appreciative).

Me: What else would you like me to know? What else would you like our readers to know?

W/E: That I work hard to leave space to allow others to have their own experiences. I’ve learned that Max, or maybe I mean we, all of Max’s parts, get a better connection with others when that space is left open. I wince at the memory of past writing and spoken conversations where I’ve sort of focused on getting at whatever is “the one truth” and ignore the being or beings on the receiving end and their perspectives or how they are taking in what I’m sharing. I’ve realized truth has many angles and perspectives and vantage points. I’m still interested in speaking as truly as possible. But that’s not the number one priority anymore. 

Me: What is it you mean by “truth”?

W/E: Ohhh. Good question! Hmmm. (Pauses to think). That which accurately depicts what is; maybe that? It’s a bit wordy, but it gets at what I want to say.

Me: Related to truth and connection, do you recall what you said at Susan McConnell’s Somatic IFS retreat? Something about the power of words to resonate in the body?

W/E: I do! That was one of my shiniest moments!

Me: Can you say more about what you said? Maybe repeat it and elaborate upon it?

W/E: Sure. (Pauses). “Words have a somatic impact and can create somatic resonance. What we say can create a deep felt sense of understanding. It can create a somatic connection to others.” I’m sure it wasn’t exactly those words, but they come close to what I meant and how I believe most people understood it. 

For context, we were in our ending circle and reflecting upon our week. As best I can remember, the topic of radical resonance, one of Susan’s five principles of Somatic IFS, was being revisited. Initially, I felt slightly threatened by the topic because, as I saw it, it was favoring the realm of the body over the written or spoken word. I have access to Max’s body, but is not so much the realm I swim in or my first language, so to speak. I live in the head and the clouds. Not the body. I can dip in and bring words to what is happening in Max’s body, but I don’t live there. 

I was involved in us reading Susan’s book Somatic IFS long before the retreat. I was deeply inspired by Susan’s ability to put words to what happens in the body and how it relates to parts. I think I said what I said at the retreat because I wanted to connect with those who favored the body over the written/spoken word and I wanted to bring attention to the fact that words and the body can be interconnected.

I don’t believe words by themselves have meaning or somatic impact. What we bring to them gives them meaning and somatic impact. If we have enough relatively similar experiences with certain words and intonations, words can have a somatic impact that is congruent with the speaker’s felt experience of what they are attempting to convey, whether that be in the written, spoken, or gestured form. Intent aligned with impact. If we speak the same language, whether that be English, Spanish, sign language, music, math, or science, the easier it is to have a somatic impact congruent with the felt sense attempting to be conveyed. 

Somatic impact congruent with what is trying to be conveyed is a key ingredient for connection. What I mean by somatic impact is that sensations are felt in our bodies, our organs, our skin, our muscles, and our tissues resulting from words expressed outside of us. Resonance is a word that encompasses all of that to me. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if a specific language is shared between others. I’ve witnessed people using different languages, English and Spanish for example, and somehow the somatic impact was congruent with what was being conveyed. There is some sort of universal language that transcends our physical world. 

Me: This all sounds really important to you.

W/E: The external world can be so constricting for Max’s parts and for other people’s parts. I don’t want that for them. Freedom is very important to me. I think freedom can be found in connection.

Me: I really appreciate that. Thank you.

W/E: (Smiles warmly). I don’t want to wear out our welcome with the readers. I know I and Max’s other parts start to lose our attention at this point when reading articles like this one.

Me: I get that. Is there anything more you want to convey before we convene?

W/E: (Pauses to collect its thoughts). Just that I hope what I’ve shared here is helpful in some way to other people and their parts. And that it sparks internal paths worth following for others. Hopefully in some way it helps others be more connected to their parts and to others’ parts. I hope this all is helpful in getting a clearer sense of what others’ parts need them to know.

Me: (Warmly) Thank you.

W/E: Thanks for this outlet.


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About me.

I provide group and individual consultation to mental health professionals. 

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