The Inner Child has been a term used since the mid 80’s. It is not psychobabble or fringe therapy. The term, The Inner Child, came out of the recovery movement when it was finally recognized, understood and acknowledged by many psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists working in the field that saw a common denominator for those in recovery. The clients all had childhoods that in one way or another had been damaged by poor parenting and/or trauma. The trauma had features including neglect, abuse and abandonment. The abuse was either physical, emotional, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, and verbal or any combination or all. As a result, this left an adaptive child as opposed to an authentic child looking for love in all the wrong places. The search for wholeness created addictions along the way. Today we recognize this as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because the child in us had no way of protecting themselves when confronted with abuse or negligence perpetrated by the very people who were supposed to be loving and protective.
Let me make one thing clear. We are NOT blaming parents for interfering in the quality of the lives of their children as they were growing up because if we did, we would have to go back multi-generationally to their childhoods to realize how their history impacted their outcome. We are simply saying that intentions do not matter and those left with survival wounds from growing up in dysfunctional families were looking to escape their pain and sorrow and unconsciously chose paths that would relieve their suffering, often creating more problems; thus addiction and the recovery movement. What is relevant and important is they need to know what happened to them!
What we learned as therapists was there is a little lost child inside all of us that is seeking connection with our authentic self. A survival role was mastered on the way to growing up that served a very good purpose. It allowed for us to survive where if not developed, most of us would have not made it. However, what worked then, does not work forever. So there comes a time after we have grown up and have become adults that our childhood wreckage catches up with us and we are faced with loneliness, despair, fear, shame, guilt, and more often, acting out behaviors that are self destructive. What are those behaviors? Anyone reading this blog will know all or some of them: addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, work, exercise, gambling, food, people and even pain. It was once said that “bad breath is better than no breath at all.” So unwittingly, without intentions we find ourselves in one or more of the above additions. So many addicts are cross-addicted. We have become a culture of addiction. What is even more disconcerting is that our children are following closely behind us. Just look at our children and think about how difficult it is to get their I pads and other computer devices away from them. Our culture is losing its connection not with just our authentic selves, but with one another! Think of how many of you go to bed holding your lap tops instead of your partner.
This has led to some serious consequences. The need to be loved for the very person you are instead of what you do or don’t do somehow got lost along the way. Human beings are hard wired for connection, so when we disconnect, we too often go into crisis and look for something to make us feel better. We don’t know how to go into ourselves to self love because most of us were never given love or acceptance for being who we are. Our survival roles maintained so long, that we lost contact with the very person we are and were meant to be. We put out to the world what felt familiar and safe. Thus what we received from others was a response of what we exemplified as our true self. Many of you reading this blog will have grown up with role models that never modeled love or affection. Some of you grew up in homes where you didn’t matter as much as your mother or father; not just to just each other, but to themselves; the narcissistic parent who’s attention and needs came before yours or the alcoholic father who was never present or raging at your mother, your siblings or you. You thought that was normal. Didn’t every family have the same household? We only know what we know. Our minds as children are not yet developed to see another way. So we tend to either identify with the abuser or the victim, depending on how each of us is physiologically wired. That’s why brothers and sisters raised in the same family can have very different outcomes as adults. Our neuro-biology and environment both play a big part in the choices we make and who we become. So….on with the reparenting.
Without proper guidance of a therapist who is trained in the practice of Inner Child Work, it is not possible to achieve optimum results. It’s like reading a book on learning how to swim. The only way to learn how to swim is to get in the water with someone who can show you how. The same is true with reparenting your inner child. It takes a well trained therapist who can guide you through the process. Each therapist uses their own style and method, so each experience may vary from one to the other. I use a combination of hypno-therapy, NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming), EMDR, Gestalt therapy and other modalities that I think will be appropriate and tailor-made for each individual, as we are all different. The goal is to bring about the most change. It real terms these experiential, guided behaviors serve as ways to enter the unconscious where trauma is stored They serve as opportunities to release the unresolved conflicts to promote healing. It’s our unconscious that dictates our behavior, so it is essential to reach the unconscious to effect change.
In the course of more than thirty-seven years, I have been certified in all the above modalities and had the privilege of being the first associate in the United States to John Bradshaw in 1989. It was through his mentoring and training that I was able to help my clients and take them further than any other form of therapy I had ever learned. Until now, some twenty-five years later, nothing else works better. The cognitive behavior follows the Original Pain Work which deals with family of origin experientially; not just talk therapy! What does this mean? The client needs to go back and visit the wounded child from either or both parents to give back the shame and pain bestowed upon them when they were too young and powerless to defend themselves. Now in the present, the therapist guides the adult back to his/her childhood with resources that he/she did not have as a child and teaches them to reparent their wounded child. This is one of those subjects that is almost impossible to write about because it is feeling work. The neo-cortex doesn’t get it. It happens at the lower levels of the brain: the reptilian and the limbic system. The most important part of this work is to have a benign witness for it to be effective and the therapist holds the space so the client can do the work without shame or judgment.
For further information, please contact me through this web site or email.
Why is Change So Difficult?
In my thirty-seven years of private practice the most difficult thing for people to do is change. Whether it’s changing patterns of behaviors, partners, jobs, homes, change is usually faced with resistance. Human beings are creatures of habit. Habits are learned behaviors that are hard to change because we humans do better when we are feeling familiar with our circumstances, homes, partners, and even destructive behaviors! Familiararity gives us a false sense of security. What we learn as children paves the way to adulthood. Our role models set the examples we tend to copy. It’s not “Do as I say; not as I do”! Children tend to do as they see what is done in their families of origin and become what they were told not to do because they mimicked the behaviors they witnessed. Words are not remembered; behaviors are! Those patterns of behavior, whether good or bad become imprinted at a very early age and without debriefing and having corrective experiences, they tend to be maintained even if they have life threatening consequences. Why is this?
To know the answer we first have to understand the brain. Our brains are divided in three distinct parts: the Reptilian, which is the oldest part that is instinctual, habitual and automatic. It doesn’t have the capacity to think, problem solve or be reasonable. It just reacts to danger. The questions it asks, is “Am I safe and will I survive?” Lions are coming! Get out of the way! The next evolved part is called the Mammalian, or the Limbic system. It is the seat of our emotions and all it cares about is if it’s painful or pleasurable. Human beings tend to go for pleasure and away from pain. The most recent part of the brain is the Neo-Cortex and the Frontal Lobe. It’s the thinking part and asks the question “is it reasonable and logical?” It cares not about emotion or even fear. Those are left to the two lower parts, the limbic and the reptilian. The Neo-Cortex and the Frontal Lobe figure things out based on logic and reason. But….we use all three parts if we are an integrated human being. We are aware of our thoughts that produce our feelings that make us behave based on our feelings and thoughts, whether they are real or imagined. The brain can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Too often the triune brain doesn’t work together so we often do things that are not in our best interest because we are more interested in the familiar and the pleasure. If we are fear-based as so many of us are if we came from dysfunctional families, (which we all did to a greater or lesser extent), we tend to hold on to the familiar rather than try something new. When change needs to happen we tend to feel agitated, fearful, deprived and often depressed. So how do we solve this? How can we make change a challenge, fun and successful?
The first thing we need to ask ourselves is do we deserve to change? Do we think well of enough of ourselves that we want to take care of our body, mind and spirit, because it has been proven that they ONE! As a psychotherapist, I notice that those people who have a high self-esteem, self-worth and value themselves, tend to create and maintain healthy behaviors because they want to look better, feel better and live longer, healthier lives. It’s a way of life for them. They don’t suffer or feel like they are missing something. Instead, they feel they are gaining something: self worth! Change is something they embrace, not fear. It’s those who have a low self-esteem or think of change as a form of deprivation, i.e., “I can’t have the chocolate cake, or I can’t eat the extra portion of bread” as a form of deprivation as opposed to loving themselves and reframing their thoughts to sound like it’s just not worth the consequences. People who have a high self-esteem reframe that thinking into doing something positive for themselves as opposed to thinking of it as deprivation. Deprivation breeds fear and feelings of scarcity. Self deprivation is not accepted as easily as feeling worthy or looking better and feeling better. So to change a behavior, we must change the belief system.
For example: What is a belief system of someone who eats too much? Too often it is either, I was always a chubby kid, or I’m lovable just the way I am or my whole family is over- weight, so I inherited their genes. These responses are rationalizations or justifications for maintaining their eating habits. More often it is emotional eating that becomes the addiction; using food to fill up the emptiness. Nature abhors a vacuum, so food takes care of the emptiness. Often they believe that they will never be thin. They have tried so any times, lost and gained so many pounds that permanent change is just impossible. So they capitulate to their belief system. So when a belief system is set in place, it is followed by a value which then engenders an intention and finally a behavior. The cells in our brains develop addictions to the behavior once installed and they don’t know how to stop multiplying and reinforcing the behaviors. They have been conditioned over time to continue the patterns that make us feel good for the moment, then bad after the moment passes. “Why did I eat that?” “I am going to hate myself in the morning!” Regret begets depression; depression begets anxiety and anxiety perpetuates the addictive behavior that has been set in motion. The only way they are satisfied is to continue the same behavior. Einstein said that when we do the same things over and over and expect a different result, that’s insanity! The instant gratification we receive has a higher pay off than the long term benefits of change, however, only if we believe that it does!
So where does change come from? Somewhere in the neo-cortex and frontal lobe we “think” about change and “choose” to change because we care about ourselves. It becomes a decision. When this light goes on, attitude becomes the tool that keeps the fire burning. Attitude can shift our brains and trick them into a new belief system. “I love myself, I care about my health and my time on earth, and therefore I am going to take better care of myself because I am worth it.” Once this new belief system is installed into our brain, we integrate the new behaviors because we have a new belief system, “I deserve to look and feel good, which then imbibes a new value, “I am worth it!”, which generates a new intention, “I can do this for myself because I want to stick around to see my grandkids get married, which then generates the new behavior, “The cake is not worth my sugar, triglycerides and my cholesterol skyrocketing.”
It’s not as difficult as YOU THINK and it’s worth the effort to change your beliefs to create a new behavior. It takes time to install so developing new forms of behaviors are important. What are they? Daily meditation, Yoga, exercise, social interaction, creativity, positive affirmations, good nutrition, gratitude and mostly, re-parenting your inner child! Everybody knows this. The key is to imbibe it. It was Descartes who said, “I think, therefore I am”. It is I, Joan E Childs who says,”I am, therefore I think!” So instead of feeling deprived, one feels empowered, energized, accomplished and confident. When this happens, your motivation generates the installation of change and the new you is born!
The poet says, “What I do is me for that I came.” Believe in yourself! YOU ARE WORTH IT!
Watch youtube: Nicholas James Vujicic
See the movie: WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW? DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Read: The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, MD
Next week: Re-parenting the Inner Child
On July 2, 1998, my beautiful thirty-four year old daughter, Pam, a PhD and clinical social worker, leaped to her death from a 15th story window. Although her death gave every appearance of suicide, her executioner was her Bipolar 1 disorder. By the time she passed, her disease had caused many delusions with few intermittent lucid moments. I don’t believe that my daughter chose suicide. I believe it was her delusional state, the illness that took her life.
I am writing this blog as on the eve of my presentation at the Miami International Book Fair where I will present my book, WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder. I hope it will offer you information, understanding, and comfort.
This is not an easy subject to write about, or to read. However, it is essential that we lift the cloak of shame and stigma from the face of mental illness. I write this blog with the intention of doing just that. I will be sharing more information weekly about bipolar disorder and suicide in the weeks that follow.
The loss of a loved one is difficult for most of us to cope with. Shock, grief and mourning are processes we all must deal with. However, a life that ends in suicide is horrific. It is a chronic struggle for the family, particularly the parents, as well as the siblings, extended family and friends. No one is spared. A life that ends in suicide is unbearable. The “what if’s” perseverate in the windows of your mind relentlessly.
I believe everyone grieves in his or her own way. There is no right or wrong. Losing a child to suicide is unnatural. Parents are supposed to die before their children. In my family, her father and her four siblings experienced the loss and grief uniquely. Even today, more than sixteen years later, I still hear from her friends and clients letting me know that Pamela is still remembered for the way she impacted and transformed their lives.
There are 5 Stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, ON DEATH AND DYING: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. Not everyone experiences all five stages. However, it is essential to grieve in order to move forward. I experienced all of them over a period of time. Grieving is the healing feeling.
Here are a few suggestions for healing after an unexpected loss:
1) Find solace and comfort in helping others
Being a psychotherapist, I know how important it is to stay “present,” physically and emotionally for my clients. I found that in spite of my grief, allowing people to see my authenticity and essence as a grieving mother and their counselor helped them with their losses. Unwittingly, I modeled grief and loss in a way that was healing for them as well as me. I found strength by helping my four other children who needed their mother for comfort to help alleviate their suffering. This helped with my healing as well.
2) Find strength to communicate your feelings
After suffering such a huge and unexpected loss, I encouraged my family to show their feelings and grief so they could continue with their lives while mourning and healing. We spent many months sharing and discharging our thoughts and feelings with each other. Our tears and words washed away our sorrow. Grieving is the healing feeling. You can’t move on without grieving. It hurts, but it sets you free.
After the funeral and Shiva, (the seven days of mourning that follows in Jewish tradition), I took to the computer. Grievers are nocturnal, so sleepless nights were inherent to my loss. I was compelled to write about my pain and suffering. Seven years later, my catharsis became my book, WHY DID SHE JUMP? I had no intent to write a book; certainly not of this subject, but it was as if a muse or force called to me to write my feelings, express my emotions, and mend my broken heart. It was my catharsis.
4) Attend a grief support group
When attending a local grief support group, I saw parents grieving twenty years after they lost a child to suicide. I decided that was not going to be me. I had a life to live and wanted no part of inconsolable grief. Between my friends, family, colleagues and clients, I had my own personal support group. The more I shared the easier it became to accept Pam’s death.
5) See a grief counselor
Although seeing a grief counselor that I could confide in was helpful, it was my work, family and friends who were of the most benefit. A qualified grief counselor can facilitate the normal stages of grief and help you in your recovery. You can’t grieve alone.
6) Become a survivor not a victim
As time passes, we have to choose whether to be a victim or a survivor. For me, there was no choice. Other people depended on me. My children needed me to champion them. Although they were all adults at this time, they needed my strength to support them through their grief. My clients needed me. I showed them that we are all susceptible to losing a loved one and yet, have the capacity to move on with life. I shared my sorrow with them openly, with tears and memories. I answered their questions, and in a way, they were helping me as I was helping them deal with their losses, whether it was a death, divorce, loss of income or a miscarriage. Losses come in many ways, and my loss was NO GREATER than theirs. Losses cannot be compared. They were grateful without feeling guilt for witnessing my grief.
The “what ifs” came for a long time, but after many months I came to terms that I had done everything I could with the resources I had at the time. I learned to forgive the doctors that never seemed to be able to find the right medication or a cure. I forgave the hospitals and the sub-standard health system that caused her to fall through the cracks. I forgave her for leaving us so abruptly, without even a note to say good-bye. But most of all, I forgave myself for not being able to save her. This was her destiny and I was powerless to change it.
8) Create something in loving memory of your loved one
I created a center with the local mental health association to educate and provide resources to the community where families in crisis could get help for understanding and treating mental illness. The PAMELA ANN GLASSMAN EDUCATIONAL CENTER of THE MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH FLORIDA provides workshops, seminars and lectures to help both professionals and the community learn more about mental illness and resources available in the community.
I never created a shrine of Pam. Instead I planted a tree in a park in Valle Crusis, NC, in her memory, a place where she had often gone to find strength and solace. The plaque at the foot of the Oak tree reads:
IN MEMORY OF
PAMELA ANN GLASSMAN
AN ANGEL TO REMEMBER
I have a home nearby, and when I am there alone or with others, I visit and meditate, sharing the changes and events that have occurred in the years since she has passed. I always see a butterfly.