Max Littman, LCSW

May 26, 2024

Dick Schwartz mentioned some time ago that he wanted to write a book on the physics of the internal world. I wish I could fully remember where and when he made this statement, but the idea has lingered with me. A part of me is still wishing for this book. And another part has contemplated and imagined what would be in it and how it could be helpful to our parts.

Slowly, I’ve explored and noted the differences between the external world and the internal world, attempting to apply my learnings to help the parts of my clients, consultees, and myself.

Physics, the study of matter, energy, and the fundamental forces of nature, uses mathematical models and laws to understand the behavior and properties of the physical universe. I believe that matter and energy work differently in the internal world than in the external world.

Based on observation, experience, readings, and trainings, I’ve noted the following about inner physics:

  • Parts cannot die. They may be unable to be accessed at times or can integrate into Self energy when unburdened. But they cannot die. 
  • The use of force is ineffective (e.g. making parts change or go away). 
  • The intensity of a protective part’s reaction to a triggering event matches the intensity of terror, shame, and pain experienced by an exile holding a burden.
  • Truth and love are the same. (This one is hard to explain. It is more something to be experienced).
  • Each system is balanced by energies of order and ease (e.g., managers and firefighters, both burdened and unburdened). Even if there is an imbalance (e.g. an extreme protector), both energies are present in the internal world.
  • Parts are more powerful to exact change in the external world; Self is more powerful in influencing change in the internal world. 
  • Parts can exact change in the external world on behalf of Self which is often more effective than parts attempting external change alone without Self. 
  • Shame and powerlessness are experienced as worse than physical death.
  • What is not feared cannot hurt you in the internal world.
  • The internal system is porous (and parts and ancestral energies filter the flow of energy in and out of the internal system).
  • The human mind is multiple in order to effectively navigate the external world. (aka, why parts exist)

Before reading on, maybe take some moments to notice what resonates, what does not, and how your parts are responding.

We live in an external world that can often be constraining, difficult, harsh, cruel, unfair, dangerous, harmful, confusing, unpredictable, disappointing, and unforgiving. As a white, cis-male with many other significantly privileged identities, and who works mostly with well resourced clients, I only see a small fraction of the constraints the external world has to offer. 

I believe that our parts, their burdens, and their burdened beliefs develop as a result of what happens in the external world. Parts, burdens, and burdened beliefs are critical to safely navigating the external world. However, the internal world works differently than the external world. Parts are often not aware of this fact. When they are shown the difference in how the internal world functions, their relationship to both the internal and external world changes. I find that very hopeful.

Through experimentation, I’ve found that my clients and their parts find it helpful to know about these inner physics. Parts of myself and clients that often find inner physics helpful are frightened parts and Self like parts (e.g. caretakers). 

Two important steps in this process are getting informed consent from parts to share about the physics of the inner world and asking parts afterward how the information is impacting them. Some parts may be relieved by the truths of how the internal world works, while others may find it threatening and it may even bring up shame for them. I’ve found it common for thinking, problem-solving, and achievement-oriented parts to feel upset when the physics of the internal world is revealed. I take a moment to inquire how parts respond to the information I share, apologize if the intent did not match the impact, validate the experience the part has, and affirm that its strategies are extremely useful in the external world and have helped keep the system alive and functioning.

For example, I once spoke to a client’s internal caretaker part, which had the agenda of calming an exile. I informed the caretaker that using force in the internal world is ineffective. First, I checked if this part was open to receiving some potentially helpful information. After it consented, I explained that while force can be effective for external change, it doesn’t work internally. I acknowledged its good intentions and clarified that using force internally, such as trying to make a part feel differently, often leads to further shaming a part already burdened by shame. I explained the forceful approach sends the unintended message that it’s not okay to simply be and feel as one does. The caretaker part immediately understood and softened, allowing both my Self energy and my client’s to connect with the targeted exile.

In another, more complex example, I engaged with a client’s thinking part. With consent, I shared the same anecdote about the ineffectiveness of force in the internal world. Before seeking consent, I voiced a prediction that the thinking part might not like the information but might find it helpful in the long run. After sharing, I asked how the part was responding. The thinking part felt upset, angry, and insecure. I validated its feelings, apologized for the impact, and further explained my intent and how it might have affected it. I acknowledged its effectiveness in navigating the external world and its ongoing importance. Additionally, I recognized that my information might have triggered feelings of shame in the thinking part. Though the thinking part remained upset, its shame was witnessed and not compounded.

I’ve found this approach especially useful in situations where parts feel trapped by forces that are constraining in our current external world. These situations include feeling stuck in jobs where profits are valued over human needs, feeling ignored and/or unseen by family members who are struggling with their own cultural and personal burdens, financial constraints, unemployment, parenting struggles, social injustice, crimes against humanity, election dread, and the climate crisis. 

Even when the external world is extremely constrained, there is freedom available in the inner world. Sharing how the internal world works can bring awareness to this freedom (e.g. Self energy).

My invitation to the reader is to notice the light inside the internal world and to attune to how parts respond to it.

For feedback and comments, I can be reached at

About me.

I provide group and individual consultation to mental health professionals. 

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