Basic Counseling Concepts—Boundaries, Survival, False Adult, Child extremes, Perfectionism
© Taft 1/31/2011--2/2013
Most of us are not grown up inside. We never learned the very simple tools of being a grown up because our parents were never taught to be grown ups.
What happens when an inner child part of you is in charge of your life?:
When a child part of you is doing her best to take care of your adult life she will be terrified, ashamed, and in survival. The adult you is not present, so you feel hollow and in some ways not real. When that part is a faux adult—a child who learned to pretend; to mask her real feelings; to be numb; and to believe that perfection is possible—then life is difficult and often miserable!
Feelings—adult feelings, child feelings, and the numbness of the adapted child. Core Feelings:
Happy, sad, angry scared, ashamed:
There are significant differences between the child versions of these feelings, and the adult versions. Your adult feelings are information that can help you negotiate life. Child feelings can be overwhelming and confusing. Like other child experiences they are usually in extremes. The adapted child who tries to stay safe by pleasing everyone is often numb. Numb is not a feeling—but a shield from feelings. It was not safe for the little child to be able to identify and feel her feelings. But for an adult it is essential.
Boundaries—a KEY to being grown up inside:
The child part naturally thinks everything is their fault and takes everything personally. When you can step outside of yourself and witness yourself doing that, you have a chance to have a Boundary: what other people say, do, and feel is almost always more about them and their history and beliefs than it is about you and anything you have said or done. What you say, do, and feel is almost always more about you and your history than anything anyone else has said or done. Having a boundary will help you avoid blaming others for your feelings, and obsessing that you have caused other people's feelings. Read that definition of a boundary several times. It is a KEY to becoming a grown up inside.
Witnessing your own feelings and behavior—a KEY to becoming grown up inside:
Each time you use your imagination to step outside yourself and notice or witness your own feelings and behavior, that witness is an aspect of your adult. The more you take time to really see yourself, the more you strengthen and develop that adult part, and it will be present and available more and more.
Perfectionism—a deadly disease:
Many times there is very little true adult part of you—or that part may come and go, so you are not able to be a consistent parent to your inner children. When a child has an inconsistent parent she is never safe. In order to cope she finds a way to act like a grown up on the outside, but she always feels like a fraud, because she knows she is not grown up. That false grown up needs to be in control of everything to survive and develops the belief that it is possible to be perfect and if only she can do or say the right thing she can make everything all right. Since she can never be perfect, she always judges herself a failure. The costs of perfectionism are very high for the person, but may be even higher for her children who are also taught (by example) that it is impossible to ever be enough. Attempting to give love or approval or recognition to a person in this situation is like pouring water into a bathtub with an open drain.
The importance of the inner child:
The inner child parts of you carry your instincts, memories, and emotions. Every time you step outside yourself to witness yourself and identify what feeling or feelings you are having, it is as if an adult part of you if finally listening to the children inside who feel very alone. Depending on your life story, these children parts may feel primarily angry, scared, ashamed, or scared. But at times they will have all of the feelings--happy, sad, angry, scared, and ashamed.
What to do when you realize you have a child in charge of your life:
When you can see that you have put a child in charge of your life, first picture her. How old is she? What is she like? What does she need? Then imagine someone who could give that child what she needs. This could be a real person or a character in a book. It might be your best friend in the third grade’s mother. It must be an adult who you respect and who the child would love to be with. In your mind's eye, send the child and the caretaker to a place they would love to go. Then take a breath and handle whatever is up as an adult. (See the "what to do" list.)