Feeling stuck is one of the most common reasons people come to therapy. They wonder why they continue to find themselves in unsatisfying or even toxic relationships. The origins for the "stuckness" have roots in childhood trauma, which can range from the obvious, like an abusive parent to the subtle, such as a psychologically absent parent. Whether or not we are aware of it, we devised certain coping tools (aka defenses) to help us tolerate the situation.
In trauma-informed psychotherapy, we understand that most adult problems stem from unconsciously continuing to use these same tools that are now actually getting in the way of achieving what we really want. An oversimplified example is a person who grew up with a raging parent. In order for that child to survive, s/he would have to "turn off" that part of themselves that signals danger or else risk constant emotional overload. Now, as an adult, that person engages in unhealthy relationships because they never turned their danger signal back on.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a model of therapy discovered by Richard Schwartz. IFS gives us tools that actually heal. It posits that everyone has parts, that this is a normal and natural state. Sometimes, our parts get stuck in time, traumatized and alone. These overwhelmed, frightened, lonely parts are called "exiles." We also have "protectors," who do what they need to in order to keep the exiles and their burdens out of conscious awareness. They do this in a myriad of ways that turn out to often be the reasons people seek therapy! In addition to exiles and protectors, IFS says we all have a Self, characterized by the 8 C's: curiosity, compassion, creativity, calmness, courage, clarity, confidence, and connectedness. Self, which is present in everyone, and remains undamaged regardless of what has happened to us, is the healing mechanism. By bringing Self energy to our protectors and exiles, this beautiful force already in us allows our parts to let us know what they need to heal.