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Posts Tagged ‘therapy skills’

I think therapists are re-parenting all the time they are in session with a client, and being keenly aware of that is part of using transference. Recognizing that transference is going on all the time in therapy allows the better therapists to be most effective. This is what is meant by “ It’s the relationship that heals,” not the particular therapeutic approach utilized.

It’s the therapists respect, interest, affection, effort put out to help; all of this and more is apparent to the client consciously or unconsciously. And all of this is saying “you are worthy, you are of great value as a person.” Your thoughts are interesting, your feelings matter, etc. etc. These messages are the ones the person should have gotten as a child are now being expressed by the therapist, overtly and not so overtly, verbally and non-verbally. That’s re- parenting. Knowing how to do this genuinely is an important therapeutic skill.

When I am meeting a client for the first time, I look to see what I label to myself as the “beauty” of this person. If I don’t see it right away, I consciously wait, because I know I will see it soon. If I can tell I am never going to like a person, for what ever reason, I don’t work with them. It happens very rarely. I know each person deserves to have their therapist like them and find them worthy.

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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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Practicing Mindfulness keeps your awareness of yourself and your immediate surroundings keen. Meditating on your breath, as Zen practitioners and others do, will increase your ability to focus your mind and your ability to make self awareness a habit.

Using The Observing Ego is a similar function although as you get more skilled, it can go deeper.  You can get adept  at knowing  about what your emotions are at any given time, by learning to read your own body energy.

Both of these functions encourage us to have a part of our awareness be located in the body where emotions reside and can be known: if you feel into a sensation in your body and keep your focus “smack dab” in the center of that sensation you will soon be able to identify what emotion that sensation represents. You can test your conclusion by making a simple statement and feeling what the energy does. For example – perhaps you notice a tightness  in your  throat and a heaviness in your solar plexus ( the area that is located just below your sternum).  You say to yourself or out loud “I’m sad about my job” and if nothing changes in your body energy you try “I’m sad about my dog”. When you say  the right thing, your energy will drop down and that is the affirmation that what you said is true.

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One way to do inner work is to have an ongoing conversation with your child self. It’s tricky to really do it correctly, though.  You can’t decide what you want the child to say, you have to “let it happen”.  If you do, you will find remarkable insight into your own unconscious, because it is from the unconscious part of your mind that your imaginary child self will speak to you.

So how do you “let it happen”? Some people can do this easily (and some people are probably best off doing their inner work another way, because it is virtually impossible for them to allow their mind to flow as is needed here – which is fine since there are other ways to do internal work).  But when you can let it happen – it is comparable to a day dream that is progressing on it’s own, without an agenda, and can be very useful.

So here’s an example of “letting it happen”. In a fantasy, go to your childhood home and look for your young self in your old bedroom. When you open the door, look around, is there anyone there? Is it a younger you? About how old is this part of you? (Here’s where you don’t decide – you look to and see.)

One person I know looked everywhere and couldn’t find her child – the room was empty. (That was a perfect message from her inner child – she had no relationship to herself in this emotional way). Eventually the person found the child hiding under the bed – backed away and facing the wall. By the time she had eventually gently coached the child away from the wall – she had learned a great deal about how frightened she was of her abusive family, even at a very young age.

Another example is a person finding a young teenager self in the backyard by her old swing set. She tried extending to the young girl self, only to have the teenage self blow up at her, furious, “If you don’t stop pushing me and making me work all the time, I’ll go kill myself. Then you’ll be sorry! You never let me have a any fun. All you care about is money!” The adult in this situation did over work and rarely gave herself  down time, no less time for fun. The adult was running from emotional self, and her internal pain with over work and busyness. The wisdom she needed came from her teenage self.

The goal of this kind of work is to get in close touch with your feelings and if possible, re-parent yourself. I have said to men clients “You be the good father  that your inner little boy never had, and if you get into places where you don’t know what to do or say, you can always check with Grandma. (That’s me, therapist and Grandma.)

Hurtful self talk is revealed here – as the adult may not know what is nurturing and supportive, if they rarely got caring or supportive words from their real parents. “Grandma” can intervene and teach the adult how to be a good parent.   Learning how to be a good parent to yourself can lead to positive self talk. You can practice it intentionally during these sessions with your inner child self, and kinder, more useful self talk will start to happen naturally.

A very powerful conversation with one’s inner child can occur after a relationship has been formed through several sessions of work. At this point the adult can ask the child to leave the hurtful, often abusive home “and come and live with me.” It is often very touching how gratefully and enthusiastically the child responds to this offer.  Some people make elaborate rooms for the little child in their imagination,  others prefer to simply visit the child in their new, safe environment and re-parent  him or her.

Some of my clients have picked up on this approach and done a wonderful job of learning much about their family of origin and what needed to be learned and unlearned in order to have a satisfying life as an adult.

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The Observing Ego

One of the most important skills  you can learn in therapy is how to develop an observing ego. Your observing ego has the ability to watch yourself, to observe your unfolding process, and in this way to know yourself on many levels.

The observing ego can be used in many ways:  (1) It can be used ‘after the fact’   –  like when you have remembered something upseting, perhaps in therapy or perhaps not,  and gone through your immediate feelings. Then it is most helpful to look back at what you thought and felt and understand what that all means about you.   (2) Your observing ego  can be used “in vivo.”  This is when your ability to see your self comes into action while  you are in the middle of real life and you need to understand what’s bothering you, what’s propelling you to act a certain way, etc. (3)  A more difficult use of the observing ego,  but a skill very much worth developing, is using it in relationships with other people. I call this “Minding The Store” and it has to do with observing what is going on between you and the other person.   (4)  Then there is the whole skill involved with having the ability to quite literally tune into your inner child, and see or hear what the child in you is thinking, feeling, needing, wanting, pursuing,etc. There is a blog called “An Ongoing Relationship with your Inner Child that teaches how to do  this , step by step. This lovely skill has many uses, including a method you can employ on a daily basis that amounts to developing a positive relationship with yourself and simultaneously healing the child in you from a difficult childhood or trauma.  Once mastered, this skill allows you an instant glimpse into your own psyche and your child within’s experience of whatever is going on in your present unfolding life.

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