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Posts Tagged ‘personal growth’

It is clear to me almost the first session which couples are going to get what they want out of couple therapy relatively quickly and who is going to be coming for a long time. It has to do with a willingness to be open to new ideas, a willingness to make changes and to learn new things, and a willingness to make the effort to have this happen.

Another huge piece is to stop blaming your partner and for what’s wrong in the relationship and look to yourself to see what you can do differently.

It takes a certain amount of strength in self, ego strength some people call it, to be able to do this without collapsing on the one hand or blowing up on the other. Good couple therapists know this and provide vehicles for the couple to build personal strength so that they can grow, as partners, in their communication and caring for one another.

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Snakes live in the forest. Every day they travel over rough ground – pebbles, rocks, fallen trees with uneven bark. Every Spring they get a new skin, and it happens this way:  the old skin stretches and loosens. It eventually detaches, over time, from the snakes body, and  the new skin  shows up underneath.

The old skin never falls off until the new skin has had the time to toughen up and manage the rough terrain the snake goes through. When It first appears, the new skin is delicate and pink, but by the time it is ready to protect the snake from it’s daily environment, it has become brown and strong.

It’s never the therapist’s job to pull he skin off a snake.

 

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The most exciting thing about learning how to have an Ongoing Relationship with Your Inner Child is that, done correctly, you will be accessing your unconscious mind. By doing that you will get clues about what needs your attention and what is the next step of your personal growth.  Here’s how you do it.

Start out sitting in a room by yourself. Take a few breaths, and focus on long, slow exhalations to relax.  Set the intention in your mind that you want to meet your Inner Child for the purpose of helping yourself grow into your full potential.

Imagine your Inner Child has been called into  this room where you are sitting, and watch who comes  through the door in your mind’s eye. This is the first step of the tricky part, of allowing access to your unconscious.  It is easy to make up a particular image ….perhaps an image of a happy, robust child without a care in the world. That is, very likely, an example of  deciding what you want to happen and picturing that.  That’s not what this is about.  This exercise is about letting go of control and allowing something to happen in your imagination,  not making it happen.  To do that,  set your intention, and perhaps look over at the  door to this room, and wait. Wait to “see” who comes in. The key word here is “wait” and “see” what happens of its’ own accord.

This is  the beginning of getting information from your unconscious. If your inner child is bruised, that may tell you something you didn’t even know. If your child is extremely shy, that may be tell you to think about how your parents treated you about friendships.

In session with me, all ages and descriptions of children show up:  A toddler – bewildered and scared, a 7 year old – untrusting but curious. Some Inner Children accept the invitation from their adult self to come over and sit next to them, or on their lap, quite readily.  Soom refuse in a variety of ways: they look down or shake their head, or sit in a corner with their back to the adult.

One you see your Child, you need to look a see what age your child is, the expression on their face, what they say, if they speak to you, and their general demeanor. Begin to develop a rapport and relationship with your Inner Child. Your job is to be the best parent ever and be supportive and giving of all things you didn’t get when you were little.

What you learn about your feelings from your Inner Child who shows up in your room with you speaks to what needs attention in your life today.  If your Child lacks confidence at age 11, you may indeed find that same sort of insecurity in yourself now, and  now is  the  time to address  this.  If he/she was neglected you may feel hungry for attention, or easily feel abandoned in your relationships today.  Probably it’s time to attend to this in your relationships. That’s why your unconscious brought this to your attention in the exercise.

This is where your abilities as a nurturing parent  show up. Your “job” is to explain to your Child of the past that you, as an adult, are here to help them in any way they might need you. You may have to work at getting  your child to feel comfortable enough to listen to you ( go sit on the  floor with them, or, tell them it’s OK to sit separately for a while if that suits the Child’s needs best).  Some people’s  Child takes a long time and much interaction to get comfortable. Others are over on the couch (or  chair) lickity split –  snuggled in with you (their helpful adult)  and eager to find out what’s going to happen next. Most are somewhere in between.

Another, and powerful, way to do this is to see yourself coming into your own bedroom as you remember it when you were a kid.  First step – look for the Child. Is she/he sitting on top of a made bed playing with something and looking up to see you with interest?  Some people find  their Inner Child hiding under  the bed, scared to come out. How is that like you today? Others find that there is no child in the room – an interesting statement of how much self awareness  they have of their feeling self.  That adult might search the house of their childhood to find their Child.

Build a rapport with your Inner Child.  Get into the habit of checking in to see what they are doing and where they are ( physically) in relationship to you.  I’ve had clients  go sit on the bed of their childhood at night and talk over the Child’s  problems of the day, soothing and comforting and explaining. One woman who was an artist found pictures her child had drawn for her all over the bedroom floor. Another client checked in with her Inner Child every morning; the child was about 8 months old.   The adult self was troubled with depression at this time, and when she tried to cajole her Inner Child to look at her, the Child slumped away, dull and unresponsive. She kept the Inner Child with her during the day, imaging dancing with her slowly or sitting with her in a swing. One morning when she woke up  the Inner Baby was on her chest with it’s little arms around her neck, her face borrowed into the adult self’s neck. That day the depression lifted.  Having a conscious relationship with yourself is a healing in itself.

Some people don’t have much of a nurturing adult within themselves, don’t know how to be nurturing since they didn’t get much, or any, of it themselves. They may want to go into therapy to discover what they did experience as a child, overcome the results that show up in their life now, and learn to be kind to themselves.

People who have had abuse in their childhood may find this exercise too difficult to do alone. It’s too frightening to see your Inner Child in great need, and if you were emotionally or physically hurt as a  child, consider a getting a therapist to help you. No one should deal with an abusive childhood all alone.

 

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This article is going to list a number of suggestions about how to do your part of the work necessary to making your therapy a success.  My list will be more or less in order of what needs your attention, but after the numbers 1 through 3, you can determine the order of importance yourself.

  1. Decide if this therapist is a very good choice for you, or not. Notice if you feel comfortable with this therapist, if you “click” with her/his personality.  Don’t settle if you just don’t really like this person, or if you get the feeling she/he doesn’t much like you. Also ask yourself if  this person is a good choice for you in terms of knowledge, experience and competence in whatever  areas you need.  For example, if you know you are going to be doing trauma work, don’t let some young therapist “learn on” you.  If she/he hasn’t got trauma training and experience, look elsewhere.  If you think this therapist is a really good fit but later change your mind, reconsider the fit. Also look into my article about negative transference, which I won’t go into here, but is often why people leave their therapist when they would have gained more by staying.
  2. If one of these areas is weak, I recommend you keep looking for another therapist who can fill both requirements for trust building ( personality and knowledge).  You can, of course, go through the process of speaking your mind to the therapist and asking them to improve whatever it is you find them lacking, but this will likely only lead to the therapist’s growth, and not yours.  I don’t think it is a good idea to  bolster the therapist ( as you may have had to do with your parent(s)?)  Therapists  don’t get to learn on the job while you are paying for their help. You deserve to have a therapist who is ready to go with you, and to be the leader in the therapy.
  3. Once you’ve made your choice and are building trust, get engaged with your work. Getting engaged means thinking along with the therapist, answering questions thoughtfully , bringing up thoughts you have about yourself that pop into your mind, and  saying when you think the therapist is going in the wrong direction, or going somewhere you aren’t ready for, etc. etc. Engaging with your whole self, thoughts and feelings, and speaking of them so the therapist  knows for sure what your reaction is to whatever is going on, is probably the most helpful thing you can do to get the most out of your therapy.  Your thinking along with the therapist and saying what occurs to you makes for  two brains working instead of one. And your brain knows you!  I have clients who are interested with a passion about what’s going on in session and are deeply involved,  and others who honestly believe that if  they show up and listen, that’s all they have to do “to get better.”  There’s nothing further from the truth.
  4. The issue of trust is significant.  It may take you awhile to trust the therapist enough to speak up about what you are thinking, or cry when you feel tears, but if you aren’t ready and aren’t ready and this goes on for weeks, either bring this up or go find a different therapist. . Therapists are trained to tune in to their client’s and it’s their job to help you feel at ease by letting you know you that are interesting to him/her, and that you are accepted as you are. If you continue to feel less than comfortable with the therapist as a person, it could be the wrong therapist for you, or it could be something from your history that could be addressed successfully.
  5. Remember the therapist is hired help.  It’s the therapist’s job to reach you, whatever level of emotional intelligence you are at. The therapist needs to explain things so you understand. You don’t have to impress them, or not hurt their feelings, or be concerned how you express yourself. The therapist is supposed to come to you, where you are in every aspect, not the otherway around.

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Sometimes clients tell me that they are afraid to change, even if the change they are talking about is something they have wanted for a long time, it’s still frightening to do.  I often say things like  “you don’t have to change until you are ready,” and then I tell this story:

Snakes live in the forest. They spend all day traveling over rough, uneven ground. They go over fallen branches with hard bark, sticks, rocky areas, sharp pebbles and all sorts of terrain.

Every spring the snake sheds her skin. The old skin loosens as she travels over the rough ground. The baby new skin beneath it has to get strong enough to handle the terrain before the old skin finally peels off.

It’s never the therapists job to pull the skin off a snake.

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So what is the purpose of therapy, anyway? What is it supposed to do for you?

Therapy gives you choice. It allows you to have choices instead of  automatically thinking/feeling /acting  from what your history taught you  – about yourself, other people and the world.

Your history, in this case, means your childhood.  During those early years you learned by experience what the world is like, what  to expect from other people,  and who you are.  For an example: for the child who was expected to mommy’s little helper and take care of her younger siblings learned that to be a good person was to figure out what someone else needed and do it for them. Maybe she learned to put her own preferences  and needs in the background, to never complain or think of herself first,  to think of herself as valuable only  in the ways she  could serve others.
So she grows up to be a what we all call a caretaker, giving “selflessly”, and  depressive without knowing why.  After all, everyone she knows says she is wonderful!  She finally decides to get her own career, and, you guessed it, she becomes a nurse. More depression.

She comes to therapy and discovers what she thought were her own choices where based on what she learned as a child  and decides to throw it all off.  Her kids do more chores around the house. Her husband comes into therapy with her because she is fed up of his self centered ways and expectations that she be his maid, lover on demand, and the one who takes care of the kids. She gets a new hair cut, loses weight,  quits the subservient good girl role at work and becomes an administrator…..you get the picture.

Therapy teaches you how your childhood effected you and gives you choices about what you want to do, who you want to be.  How does it do that? Look around at other blog entries, and if you have specific questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to explain.

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Positive self-esteem is developed in many ways in children.  If your parents value you and respect your feelings, thoughts, preferences and proclivities, while challenging you  with age appropriate, achievable goals – you will likely develop good self-esteem. This positive  sense of who you are  becomes a natural part of yourself – something you take for granted and something that holds up against life’s disappointments and failures.

Negative self-esteem can develop in a myriad of ways.  It is pretty obvious, if you have been reading much of my blog, how being emotionally, physically or sexually abused teaches the child that they are  worthless, and  that  certainly will grow  roots of poor self-esteem.  One of my Stories for the Unconscious The Good Prince” illustrates how negative self-esteem can develop in a person  who is, by all outward measures, very loved and given lots of positive regard by his parents; but wasn’t allowed to find his true self.

I have seen over the years in my practice this exact problem in some adults of wealthy parents. In this situations,  the parents wanted control of their child and didn’t allow the child to investigate his /her own proclivities and learn his /her own strengths and talents. These parents have many values and directives that they press upon their child. As the child grows older,  the parents continue to hold the child hostage by the magic of their  money and the threat of taking it away.  Other parents  control the child by dint of their own personality – and use love, approval or fear as the currency of their control.  Most children are influenced  to some degrees in this way in that we take on our parents values. (” Of course they expected me to go to college, they talked about it ever since I can remember” – can be a positive value and directive.  Oops! I guess my values are showing here!)

The difficulty lies for kids whose parents take so much control that their child, in order to win acceptance , pushes the best parts of themselves “underground” where the parents can’t see it. The abused child does this so the parents won’t damage that part of them.  For example, the boy who has talent as a writer and whose father would surely ridicule and beat him so he won’t embarrass Dad by being a sissy. This kid could shove that talent so deep inside himself that he wouldn’t  even know he can write well until he takes a college course in creative writing.   The Good Prince put his real self underground in response to the enormous pressures of  inheriting the Crown.

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