How to Safely Stay in Your Adult Self and Protect Your Inner Child.

 

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“We often tend to ignore how much of a child is still in all of us.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children. ”
Jim Henson

What does the term ‘inner child’ mean?

The child that we once were still remains inside us all. She or he is still there, in memories, reactions, experiences. Perhaps this child partly resides in our unconscious mind:

“So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within
us.”

-Gaston Bachelard

Eckhart Tolle said that “The past has no power over the present moment.” However, the past will ‘flare up again’  if you, the adult, cannot prevent this from happening. If you lose your adult self, or do not have a strong enough set of coping mechanisms, the child that you were will be left alone.

Sometimes, people have been so badly traumatised in childhood that they need others to help them nurture their damaged selves. This is an absolutely understandable need for someone who has been hurt or abused in the past.

Lending Ego.

Then they may need therapeutic help. I like the concept of the therapist lending her ego’, that is, allowing the other person in therapy to ‘borrow’ their adult strength during this painful experience:

The notion of “lending ego” derives from the psychoanalytic tradition; and broadly conceived, it refers to a therapist’s functioning as an “auxiliary ego” for the patient. The patient is allowed to use or “borrow” the therapist’s presumably well-working mind and psychological capacities in order to enhance his or her own, relatively deficient, psychic functioning in particular domains. In effect, the patient is encouraged to think like the therapist, who presumably represents a good role model for mental health.

-Misch.

In a sense, we could extend this theory and say that as an adult, we sometimes might need  to ‘lend to our inner child’ our own, adult, protective ego or self.

Transactional analysis   is a kind of psychotherapy which views each of us as having 3 ego-states : parent, adult and child.

Counselling Directory explains these further:

  • Parent – Rooted in the past; a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt from our parents and other important people. This part of our personality can be supportive or critical.

  • Adult – Rooted in the present; relates to direct responses in the ‘here and now’ that are not influenced by our past. This tends to be the most rational part of our personality.

  • Child – Rooted in the past; a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt from our childhood. These can be free and natural or strongly adapted to parental influences.

When childhood, adapted behaviours and memories of trauma are rekindled, this can create difficulties in the present. The following case study illustrates this. (I have changed any identifiable personal details for confidentiality purposes.)

Childhood Fears in the Present 

The person in my therapy room was very afraid. Moira, an elegant, professional woman in her forties, happily married with three children, was curled up in her chair, weeping , trembling. The reason? She was contemplating meeting her abusive mother, whom she had not seen for some years.

Mother now lived in France, but she would see her at a wedding in London the following month. Moira wanted to attend and be strong enough to face her mother, but was terrified. Her fears were those of the child that she had been, revivified in the present.

An only child, she had been helpless and isolated with her powerfully undermining and narcissistic parent. She seemed now to have lost sight of her highly functioning, adult self.

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Over the next few weeks, we gently focussed on her awful memories and how powerfully they were affecting her adult life.

What frightened her most was the prospect of becoming a fearful, tearful wreck, in front of others. It took a while for her to realise this terror was, in fact, a memory. With help, she could regain her adult composure and, most importantly, hold onto this strong part of herself and not slip into her child persona.

She began to understand that she could use the strength gained over the past years. She had achieved this though her extensive education, her loyal friends,  years of psychotherapy, her supportive husband and being a mother.

It also became evident that the scenario she was envisaging had gone, that never again would she be a helpless child. Equally, her once strong mother was in reality older now, ill  and frail.

“Fear of breakdown is the fear of a breakdown that has already been experienced”
D.W. Winnicott

She was generally comfortable and secure in her adult identity in daily life. She wanted to be able to face her mother, exchange greetings, no more. She could have chosen to ignore her, blank her, but she did not feel this was right for her.

Having focussed on staying in her adult self and on protecting the frightened child aspect, she did manage to enjoy the wedding and cope with the meeting with her mother with dignity and strength. She also saw how ‘weak’ her mother appeared.

“She seems to have shrunk and her voice is less strident,” she told me. I think her mother had shrunk, perhaps physically, but certainly in the way Moira saw her. And Moira had grown psychologically.

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are”

Anaïs Nin

The confidence this gave her was enormous; she could overcome her childhood fears and recognise that the child she was would never be alone again. Time had passed, changes had occurred and Moira could now protect the damaged child that she was. 

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“To abandon the child ‘within’ means that the adult ‘without’ will be an adult in name only. And frankly, I can only name a handful of things that are that tragic.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.”

H. Raven Rose

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Once the adult feels secure in herself, then she can let her child aspects play and be liberated, enhancing her adult life :

“We nurture our creativity when we release our inner child. Let it run and roam free. It will take you on a brighter journey.”
Serina Hartwell

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Do you have anything to add? Have you had experiences of inner child work in therapy? Do share in the comments section below if you can. Thanks. Linda.

7 Ways to Manage Grief

 

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Image: Conrad Summers. Angel Of Grief. Flickr.

“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.”

Grief is the Thing with Feathers

The process of grief is a painful and difficult one. The loss of someone close can precipitate years of heartache and sadness.

In his book (below), Max Porter writes about the process of a young father’s grief after the sudden loss of his wife, the mother of his two young sons. The father is a literary academic and is writing a book about the poet Ted Hughes.

At a particularly despairing time, along comes Crow, a character from Ted Hughes’ poem of the same name. Grief is both harassing and protective, a jumble of contradictory feelings; the entity of Crow symbolises and embodies these aspects.

Crow both haunts and helps the family and will not leave until they have made some kind of recovery from their desperate grieving. This is an imaginative, haunting, sensitive and brilliant study of the grieving process.

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How can we manage such feelings? How can we gain some kind of equilibrium when it feels as though our world  has been turned upside down?

There are certainly no easy answers, no magic remedies; but I have listed below 10 points that may offer some help and comfort to those who are grieving.

  1. Remember that there is no one way or right way to grieve. Each person’s grieving is unique to them, in both form and process.

Other people may have all kinds of well-meaning advice to offer, but if their advice feels intrusive, pressurising, or just inappropriate for you personally, then it is important to disregard it. Some friends may feel easy to be with, able to take their cue from you, follow your lead. Others may be less available, or less able to respond to your needs at this time.

2.   Expect to feel and let yourself feel whatever emerges: shock, denial, guilt, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, anger, anxiety, feeling that one is going mad, extreme vulnerability.

The loss of someone close may make you feel as though your world has come to to a halt:

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Funeral Blues. (extract) Auden.

3.  Allow yourself time. Grief cannot be hurried. This may be a long and tortuous process.

However, many refute the saying that ‘time is a great healer”:

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

 

Time by itself will not make you forget. However, if the time is spent in ways that facilitate healing (see below) then, in time, there will be more likelihood of  attaining some peace.

4. Talk about your thoughts and feelings if you can. If not, you may, indeed, need to give yourself more time. However, you might find it helpful to express yourself in different creative ways, perhaps through writing or painting. You might try meditation. Cry if you can, but it is also acceptable if you cannot.

5. See a doctor, counsellor, or a group or individual therapist, especially if you think have depression. It is very important to get psychological help if you are finding that your grief feels immovable and too big to manage on your own.

6. Self care is important at this time. Try to not smoke or to drink too much, but maybe accept it if occasionally you do overdo it.  Try to exercise, have nourishing food and get enough sleep; if you cannot sleep, you  may need help from your GP.

7. You will in time find that, in some way, you can move on and gain some kind of peace and acceptance of your loss. If you have allowed yourself the space and facilities to grieve,  “With time, the veil of sorrow will lift.”  Nothing is permanent.

This does not mean you will forget the pain and sorrow and , at times, that grief will be triggered again. Maybe there will be a scent, a piece of music or a place that will revivify memories:

“In grief, there is no stage called closure.” David Kessler.

In time, however, you may find that:

“Your grief will become your companion…The part of you that is compassionate, and strong, and deep.” (Florence)

Unknown

 

“If grief is deep and imponderable, it is because love is deep and imponderable, too.
The world presents us with opportunities for connection, and the flip side of these is the impermanence of opportunity…
The Buddha taught that at bottom, the more we love that which we lose,
the more grief we feel. The world is living and dying, full of birth and loss,
tragedy and change. It is “first truth” that runs like a tragic thread, through all of our lives.”
Michael Stone

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Have you found ways of managing grief that have been helpful? Please contribute to this so we can have a discussion! Linda.

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7 ways to manage Grief

This is why your home is so important to you – Finding a Home Inside Oneself. Part 2.

Finding Our  Inner Home.

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Home is so Sad.

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was: 
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

Time passes. We change. Home changes. Yet, the longing for home is a familiar theme across literature, poetry, drama, music and art.

Sometimes, this might feel like an unmet need, one that is impossible to satisfy externally. People erect magnificent edifices as their homes, each bigger than the one next door.

Yet there is often still a desire to seek further. What is the meaning of this desire?

Collinson explains:

“This is because home, the real home we are seeking is something within ourselves and our own being.  Symbolically, it is the center of the mandala.  Home is connection with the centre of our own being; it is to be accepting of and at home with the deepest part of the self.  But to find that, we must undertake an inner journey.”

Collinson.

For this journey into the self, we might use meditation, religion, psychotherapy. This journey is surely one where we must discover for ourself; we are at the centre of the mandala.

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It is true that a home inside the self is what many people might be seeking when they come for psychotherapy. In this case, home means so much more than a place, a building, bricks and mortar. This home is related, not to physical space, but to psychic space.

This home is about feelings, unrequited and unmet; it is about memories, some traumatic, some wonderful, yet gone forever. It is also about unresolved loss and grief, perhaps guilt at letting go of loved ones.

It can also be related to fear of change and a need to live in the past. There might be a fear of letting go of objects and people that may once have felt secure.

People with such issues often want to shed their ‘baggage’, as it is often described, but they feel unable to put it down, to feel relieved of their burdens, to relax into their internal space and their present lives.

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Perhaps it relates to a fear of growing older and of the responsibilities of adulthood. Just as some people hold onto material objects and hoard them, so we can do this in a psychical way, holding onto the past. We may hold onto both good and bad experiences, which prevent us moving forward in the present.

“There’s nothing more difficult than saying goodbye to a house where you’ve suffered.”
Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

The ‘rubbish’  that blocks the room in the image below may be compared to the psychological jumble of ‘messy’ feelings from the past that people bring into therapy. This past luggage blocks the person from moving on and really living, just as the junk is doing in the picture.

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Household of Compulsive Hoarders Donald Trung. Wikimedia Commons.

The journey is one into acceptance of the reality of the self, past and present. For the home that has been longed for is a kind of displacement, a dislocation of feelings onto a fantasy, an idealisation. The longing for home is a longing for a place that has gone, that belongs in the past.

Places change, the people in them change, yet often the idea of home remains unchanged, the same in our memory. Years later, one’s childhood home will look different in reality. Some things will look smaller, other things bigger. Buildings may have altered, been destroyed, or extended, repainted, redesigned, just as we have redesigned ourselves, since.

Loss of Home.

Losing one’s home can precipitate depression and fear. Such distressing experiences as eviction, fire, flood, demolition, divorce can all result in loss of one’s home and all are traumatic and highly unsettling. Hopes and dreams are shattered, as is “the rhythm and comfort of everyday activities.” (Thompson).

We are a part of our environment and it is important to us. Moving house is one of the greatest stressors, along with death and divorce. Some people refuse to leave their home when it is threatened, even risking their lives.

People need a place to go to, to return to, where they can feel warm and safe. With no place to call their own, many people feel disorientated, lost, unwanted. How many people want to return home to die? It is as if they can then rest easier, knowing they have departed the world from a cherished and familiar place, perhaps surrounded by loved ones.

Home is……

Home is not only represented by bricks and mortar. There are many ways of describing home.

People, and objects, may be defined as home. Here are some quotations which illustrate this fact:

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”
Stephanie Perkins

“Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home–they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space.”

― Jeanette Winterson

“Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.”

Jenn Granneman

“Home was not the place where you were born but the place you created yourself, where you did not need to explain, where you finally became what you were.”
Dermot Bolger

“Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home—my only home.”
Charlotte Brontë.

I don’t care if we have our house, or a cliff ledge, or a cardboard box. Home is wherever we all are, together,”
James Patterson

“I don’t mean what other people mean when they speak of a home, because I don’t regard a home as a…well, as a place, a building…a house…of wood, bricks, stone. I think of a home as being a thing that two people have between them in which each can…well, nest.”
Tennessee Williams

 

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Photo by Rustic Vegan on Unsplash

“Your true home is in the here and the now.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

This is why your home is so important to you – from a Psychotherapist’s Perspective. Part 1.

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“Be it ever so humble, There’s no place like Home.” 

“A gentleman’s home is his castle.’

‘Home is where the heart is.”

“Home and dry.”

What do you associate with home? Perhaps that depends on what kinds of homes you have experienced. Were they warm and welcoming, or cold and forbidding?

The popular notion of home, with all its associations, appears to be about warmth and safety, a place to escape to, relax in, be cosy and comfortable. There will be a fire in the hearth, a cat on the rug, hot drink steaming, furry slippers.

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The house has long been known to reflect its owners. In psychoanalytical terms, Jungian theory sees the house as reflective of the whole of the self. In fact, there are houses that do resemble people, with what appear to be facial features.

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“….there is the more obvious role as the home as the projection of self. The facade is quite literally the face, the expression with windows for eyes and a door for a mouth and, once inside, each room has a role in the representation of a part of our inner lives. The hall represents a shadow of the time when a home was a single living space containing every activity; it announces arrival and departure.

The kitchen is a space of transformation and alchemy, of raw materials into sustenance, but it is also the space of the mother and of refuge, the warm, secure womb. The bedroom is fraught with a complex symbolism of birth, sleep, sex, dreams and death. The cellar represents the dark recesses of the subconscious upon which our public lives are precariously built; its counterpart is the attic, with memories and secrets of the past. And so on.”

Heathcote.

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When Jung built his own house, he was aware of how it represented aspects of his inner world. He knew that the unconscious expresses itself outwardly through symbols and that each tower and addition he made was meaningful in terms of his own psyche.

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                          Jung’s House. Bollingen Tower. Wikimedia Commons.

Jung added various towers over the years. In 1955, after his wife’s death he made the final, symbolic extension to his house:

………..I added  an upper storey to this section, which represents myself, or my ego-
personality. Earlier, I would not have been able to do this; I would have regarded it as presumptuous self-emphasis. Now it signified an extension of consciousness achieved in old age.

Jung.

Jung also wrote about his powerful dream of descending through the storeys of his house, which he interpreted as reflective of moving through different layers of his unconscious mind.

Leaving Home.

Some find it difficult to leave their home; it is a kind of protection from what might feel like an ‘un-homely’ world.

“Traveling is all very well if you can get home at night. I would be willing to go around the world if I could be back in time to light the candles and set the table for dinner.”

Gladys Taber

Others may be really afraid to leave home, feeling the world outside is dangerous and unfriendly.

For many people, leaving home is a rite of passage. It is often described as ‘flying the nest’:

“You have to go out on your own
So you can find your way back home…”

Barry Manilow- Somewhere Down The Road

 

At this current time, many young people in their late teens have to stay at home, as they are denied this important rite of passage though lack of funds.

Travelling Home.

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Of course not everyone’s childhood home is a happy place. There are people who cannot make a home. Fixed roots for them may feel like blocks of cement, tying them down. For them, the open road is home. This often feels freeing.

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“We both have no home to go back to… so we can go anywhere at all.”
Kazuya Minekura

“There is no comfort anywhere for anyone who dreads to go home.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

 

Sadly, others have no choice but to attempt to make themselves a makeshift home on the streets.

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Photo: pxhere. Carlos ZGZ

Without some kind of  home, for whatever reason, people often feel lost and insecure. It appears to be a primitive feeling. Perhaps the home really does symbolise the womb in our unconscious.

There does also appear to be, for many people, a need for their own specific territory; boundary disputes between neighbours can be intense and angry.

In Short : 16 reasons your home is so significant.

Attachment– deep feelings/memories from childhood about home. Feelings of love.

Family/people/friends we live with/nurturing relationships

Routine

Control– home might feel like a place where you have some personal power.

Neighbours

Neighbourhood – amenities like restaurants, GP, bus route etc.

Security, safety, both physical and emotional. Cosiness.

Ownership– ‘our own little corner of the world.’ A part of a massive whole.

Belonging

Belongings– eg photographs, important possessions which are infused with life and memories. Importance also of pets, garden, etc.

A reference point; roots; the centre of our lives.

Containment

Familiarity (and ‘home-cooking!)

Refuge, retreat –

“He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” (Goethe)

Memories

Identity– home often feels like a part of the self. 

 

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” – Jane Austen.

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Photo by Peter Boccia on Unsplash

Anything to add? Do leave a comment below on your experiences of home. Thanks, Linda.