Thursday, January 7, 2010

Inner Child


Sunset Northern NH

Today's appointment with the therapist was, ostensibly, to discuss our new living arrangements with MIL.  It began, however, as a rant of frustration with my younger son who'd agreed to attend the therapy session then bailed last minute because he was out late partying.

My therapist is a wise man.  The anger I was feeling towards my younger son came blurting out first and next thing I know, I'm asked to examine the feelings behind the anger:  disappointment in my son, insecurity about my parenting skills.  He then proceeded to have me break down the insecurity as it related to being a child.  What's the earliest incident of insecurity I remember?  I immediately focused on my discomfort in Jr. High, as a nerdy, unattractive girl with few social skills outside my own small circle.  From there I remembered an incident in the 4th or 5th grade where the cliquey group of kids to whom I did not belong, they called themselves "The Royal Family", persuaded me to join them in pelting my best friend with orange peels during a lunch time fracas in the girls bathroom.  My best friend!  It bothered me forty years til we re-connected and I wrote to her about it, apologizing.

I was asked about my home situation at that time, how did my parents get along?  I replied that my father would pick fights with my mother when he was tired or in a bad mood.  He'd browbeat her and she'd protest but take it, rarely fighting back.  There were no obscenities or physical abuse, just anger directed at Mother.  I hated it and wanted her to leave him.  

The therapist asked me to be the nine year old, to get in touch with the feelings I had then.  Hard to do.  Eventually he pointed out how being a young child in an unstable family situation would imprint insecurity and teach me to retreat from standing up for myself, etc because that was my role model. This leads to anger and lashing out, etc.  I protested saying I'd found my voice as an individual when a teenager and probably went too much the other way...standing up for myself to the nth degree, getting in people's faces (including my fathers') when I felt I'd been wronged.  He showed me how I carried this insecurity and anger to the present day, suppressing my fear/anger/insecurities with the real situation and later lashing out at a loved one.  It's a learned pattern.

I am now asked to "be with that little 9 year old girl" whenever these feelings arise.  I am to provide a safe place for her to come and be protected.  I am to learn to help her.  It's a tall, weird order but I think I can do this.  I'm just amazed at how much I still have to learn about myself, others and life.

Incredible series on this subject on PBStv right now.  Check local listings for:


This Emotional Life explores ways to improve social relationships,
learn to cope with depression and anxiety and become 
more positive, resilient individuals.



Part 1: Family, Friends and Lovers demonstrates that relationships
are not only important, they are central to our emotional well-being. 
Part 2: Facing Our Fears examines negative emotions such as anger,
fear, anxiety and despair and how they play a part in the balance of life.
Part 3: Rethinking Happiness offers research supporting the theory 

that many people look for happiness in the wrong places.









22 comments:

Minka said...

I think happiness is overrated anyway. Or better said, the definition of "happy" is quite blurry. What does it really mean? The picture of "happy" in many people's minds is a wrong one. There is not one big happy feeling one can reach and keep, is there? Only small nice things and the awateness of the beauty around you and your good luck. And loving yourself and being pleased with yourself. Loving is ok, but being really pleased with yorself (in a good way, not with total absence of healthy self-criticism) is the hard part, I think. Or is it just the Catholic part of me, feeling guilty of something all the time?

California Girl said...

Minka: it's "the Catholic part of" you. hahahahaha! me too only I'm Protestant. Protestants have some seriously severe sects too.

Minka said...

We're bonde!!!d (I used to watch Oprah, sorry). LOL

ArtSparker said...

Displacement is a tough one. As with so many things, easier for me to see it in others than in myself.

Noni at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Oooooh... the Inner Child work... some of the hardest and most rewarding therapy I have ever done/endured. That stuff will take you to your knees sometimes. My question is: when do we ever get past ALL the baggage?? Dangit. I have to admit, it was worth the effort.

Hug little CG for me today! You are awesome to have contacted your friend and apologized for the orange peel incident... and to have been brave enough to tell us about it. I'm cheering you along in this Inner Child journey.

Deborah said...

I think it's amazing how much we can learn about ourselves given the right kind of guidance. After the fact, it seems impossible not to have known about it before. Awareness is the biggest aid to change, I think.

And I could relate to your disappointment and irritation with your son - been there a few times.

Very interesting post - thanks.

Baino said...

I've never seen a therapist. Despite being terribly depressed earlier this year and being sorely tempted. The ones I know are all mad and just want to prescribe prozac.

I'm having issues with my son as well. He's a good boy but lazy and unmotivated. We're very much alike and I have to be careful how I approach criticism of him. I know I offload a lot of my baggage onto my children, one copes with it, the other doesn't. It's not easy. Not easy at all.

Nancy said...

It's so hard to comfort that little child inside of us sometimes. Thanks for the lead on the PBS programming. I can never get enough of this stuff.

Judy said...

"Know thyself".... is powerful stuff!

Coffee Messiah said...

We happened to see the one about work relationships and that poor young woman fighting depression.

My family was much like yours (except my dad was worse with my mom) and sadly, because of his past, he's still trying to figure it out, although all his participants are now long gone.

It's work, but what isn't these days.....

Shattered said...

Oh... that inner child. We all have one, or a few. ;) It is amazing, when guided, how we can learn self-care, isn't it? I am new to your blog and I have really enjoyed reading here today.

gemma said...

Use your anxiety as fodder for your art....and best wishes to you and yours.

lettuce said...

i've learned such a lot in the last 5+ years about how such experiences shape us....

but i still believe freedom and change are possible, well usually.
well, hopefully...

Ruth said...

I like how Eckhart Tolle calls this "the pain body." That describes it so well. We all have something in us, a living pain that has roots to long ago, and it really is hard work to face it like this. Bravo.

I also like what I read in Michael Brown's The Presence Process. He describes that hurting child in you as lying on a bed, sick. And you - your real self (divine self, I think) - is the mother sitting on the edge of the bed, nursing, listening, asking questions, talking as you would to a child. No judgment or "oh you'll feel better soon." Just, "oh, that feels so bad doesn't it?" and "I'm here, tell me more . . " like that. Visualizing that has helped me more times than I can tell you.

Thank you for your openness. It really helps me.

California Girl said...

Ruth, my therapist always asks me to "set aside...judgments", e.g. I am frustrated w/ this particular feeling, and "make them wait in another room." He then instructs me to "sit with the child and take care of her; be there for her; let her know...there for her and listening." Very much like what you describe and it's very helpful. Requires strong visualization skills and practice but I eventually get there. I did it once for my husband whose 6 yr old was suffering from his parents' divorce and his abandonment to neighbors for a time. He was furious with the child, wanted him to "get over it". Our therapist turned to me and said what do you feel towards this child and I replied, "protective, empathetic, love". I've seen one side of my husband quite differently ever since that session.

Greg said...

I admire the hard work you are putting in, life is not always easy...

Marguerite said...

You are lucky to have such a good therapist. I think we all could use some therapy, but just never get around to it. Interesting post!

Ima Wizer said...

Without therapy (12 years) I'd be a maving raniac!

The Clever Pup said...

Completely unrelated. This is about the "what type are you" quiz

Type your name (first and last) on the black space on the left where you are prompted to.

type in the password "Character" without the quotes.

Then he will ask you 4 questions.

The questions will appear in fairly large print on the left. Click on the one which most suits. I hope that works.

Hazel

The Peach Tart said...

It sounds like your therapist is wise and taking you down the right path.

distresseddamsel said...

It's amazing how our adult attitudes and quirks could all be traced to out childhood experiences. But as easy as it seems to appear when you are reading it, I know for a fact that revisiting the past and looking hard at all those painful experiences is like having the wounds bleed again. It takes a lot of time and conscious effort. But with your will power to move on, it ain't impossible.

maggie said...

Hi
Feel like there isn't anyone who would not benifit in having a therapist to help us see the beliefs and patterns we take on in our younger years that might have helped then but cripple us as adults. Thumbs up to you for looking for another way to deal with your anger. It is always an honour to have someone share their struggles and solutions in such an honest and open way. Thank you.

Christina

Christina
by Cole Scott